Popular Science Monthly/Volume 22/March 1883/Queer Phases of Animal Life
|QUEER PHASES OF ANIMAL LIFE.|
OUR nearest relatives in the large family of the animal kingdom are undoubtedly the frugivorous four-handers, with some of their nocturnal congeners, but it would be difficult to classify the quadrumana after the degree of that relationship: no naturalist could name the most man-like ape. It is a reticulated rather than a graduated system of affinity, as Carl Vogt expresses it; the type of the human form is a center from which the connecting lines diverge in various directions. To every supposed characteristic of our physical structure some genus or other of the multiform family has been found to exhibit a parallel; only the combination of these attributes distinguishes man from all monkeys.
The Latin word simia is derived from simus (fiat-nosed), and Ælian considered the prominence of the human nose as a prerogative of our species; but Sir Stamford Raffles discovered a nose-ape, the Bornean representative of the genus Semnopithecus, a big, long-tailed brute, with a truly Roman proboscis and the narrow nostrils of the Caucasian race. In proportion to his size, the white-handed capuchin-monkey of Western Guiana has a higher forehead than the two-legged inhabitants of his native woods; and the anatomist Camper demonstrated that, with respect to the length of the tail-bones, immortal man forms the connecting link between the lower apes and the orangs. The Arabs, who question the human pedigree of the beardless Ethiopian, would have to hail the wonderoo as a man and a brother; and the male orang-outang, too, can boast of a chin-tuft that would do credit to a modern senator.
It would, indeed, be a mistake to suppose that all monkeys are naturally mischievous. The little Tamarin (Midas rosalia) handles its playthings more carefully than most children, and the females, especially, seem almost afraid to stir without their keeper's permission. Gratuitous destructiveness is rather a distinctive trait of the African quadrumana, and their representative in this respect is, perhaps, the Cercopithecus maurus, the Moor-monkey, or monasso, as they call him in Spain, a fellow who seems to consecrate his temporal existence to mischief with an undivided and disinterested devotion. This maurus and his cousin, the rock-baboon, are the terror of the Algerian farmer; but the baboon contents himself with filling his belly, while the other tears off twenty ears of corn for one he eats, and often enters a fig garden for the exclusive purpose of stripping the trees of their leaves and unripe fruit. In captivity he can not be trusted even with a leather jacket, and, finding nothing else to spoil, does not hesitate to exercise his talent upon his younger relatives, to the detriment of their woolly fur. Still, his intelligence and restless activity make him a prime favorite of the fun-loving Spanish sailors, and in the Andalusian seaports every larger household has a monasso or two—monos de cadena, "chain-monkeys," as the dalers call them, a Moor-monkey and a cadena being as necessary concomitants in civilized regions as a king and a constitution. A rupture of the concatenation creates an alarm, as if the chained beast of the Apocalypse had broken loose, and, if an unchained monasso gets a five minutes' chance at a kitchen or a parlor, he can be relied upon to commit all the havoc a creature of his strength could possibly execute in five times sixty seconds; an instinct bordering on inspiration seems to tell him at the first glance where and how to perpetrate the greatest amount of actual damage in the shortest possible time. In a harbor-hotel of Cartagena I saw a mono whose terpsichorean talents had made him a more than local celebrity. He could dance the Moorish zameca, besides the bolero and fandango, and was sometimes released at the request of his admirers, who pitied his constant collisions with the lock of his drag-chain; but on such occasions the landlady used to charge a real extra, for even her presence did not prevent the mono from indulging his ruling passion. Under pretext of returning the caresses of his visitors, he managed to abstract their buttons, upset a flower-pot or two, or interrupted his performances to make a grab at a litter of poodle puppies on the veranda. His scar-covered skull proved that the lot of the transgressor is hard; but the
depilated condition of his neck was owing to a peculiar trick of his, as the posadera explained it. He would hug a post near his couch under the veranda, and, stretching his head back and his tongue out, would twist his neck to and fro, as if in the agonies of strangulation. During a temporary absence of their mother he once succeeded in deceiving the children by these symptoms of distress; they loosened his chain-strap an inch or two, but happily took the precaution to shut the house-door and the cellar-gate. But they had forgotten the poultry house; and when the lady returned in the evening her sixteen hens had been converted into Platonic homunculi—"bipeds without feathers and without the power of volitation." On another occasion he came near setting the house on fire by drenching the cat with the contents of a large kitchen-lamp. Still, after trying sundry other four-handers, the lady declined to part with her monasso, though she lamented his utter want of principle, like the Devin du Village:
"Hélas! que les plus coupables
Toujours sont les plus aimables!"
The anthropoid apes are a somewhat taciturn race, but a chimpanzee's murmur of affection is very expressive, and quite different from his grunt of discontent. A sick orang-outang sheds tears, moans piteously, or cries like a pettish child; but such symptoms are rather deceptive, for the orang, as well as the chimpanzee, is a great mimic, not of men only, but of passions and pathological conditions. Two years ago I took temporary charge of a young chimpanzee who was awaiting shipment to the Pacific coast. His former landlord seemed to have indulged him in a penchant for rummaging boxes and coffers, for whenever I attempted to circumscribe the limits of that pastime my boarder tried to bring down the house, metaphorically and literally, by throwing himself upon the floor and tugging violently at the curtains and bell-ropes. If that failed to soften my heart, Pansy became sick. With groans and sobs he would lie down in a corner, preparing to shed the mortal coil, and adjusting the pathos of the closing scene to the degree of my obstinacy. One day he had set his heart upon exploring the letter department of my chest of drawers, and, after driving him off several times, I locked the door and pocketed the key. Pansy did not suspect the full meaning of my act till he had pulled at the knobs and squinted through the key-hole, but, when he realized the truth, life ceased to be worth living: he collapsed at once, and had hardly strength enough left to drag himself to the stove. There he lay, bemoaning his untimely fate, and stretching his legs as if the rigor mortis had already overcome his lower extremities. Ten minutes later his supper was brought in, and I directed the boy to leave the basket behind the stove, in full sight of my guest. But Pansy's eyes assumed a far-off expression; earth had lost its charm; the inhumanity of man to man had made him sick of this vale of tears. Meaning to try him, I accompanied the boy to the staircase, and the victim of my cruelty gave me a parting look of intense reproach as I left the room. But, stealing back on tiptoe, we managed to come upon him unawares, and Pansy looked rather sheepish when we caught him in the act of enjoying an excellent meal.
In Hindostan monkeys enjoy all the privileges of a Mohammedan lunatic, being permitted to rob the orchards with impunity, decimate the rice-crop, and rob all the birds'-nests they want; but, not content with levying out-door contributions, they pillage the cottages of the natives while the proprietors are at work in the fields; nay, they often manage to despoil the larder of the foreign residents, or black-mail their children if they leave the bungalow with a lunch-basket or a pocketful of nuts.
The Rev. George Thielmann, of the Moravian mission, who passed several years in the Eastern Punjaub, describes the despair of his German cook at the impudence of the light-fingered gentry. "I do not see how the natives can stand it," said she; "f they take those baboons for Christians, they ought to have a penitentiary in every village." If she went to the door to answer a bell, the macaques entered the kitchen through the rear window; going to look after her sun-dried peaches, she found that the Bhunder apes had been beforehand with her; and if she left her bedroom-window open she was awakened
by a committee of Honumans taking an inventory of her wardrobe. One day she left the gardener's dinner under a tree where he used to take his siesta, but, returning with a dessert of German doughnuts, she was just in time to see a troop of Rhesus baboons running off with the dishes and bottles.
From the moment that a young monkey is weaned he has to steal, for Dr. Brehm's observation applies strictly and literally to every species of quadrumana; the mother-monkey robs her own child, and forces it to eat its food by stealth. The proprietor of the "Zoölogical Coffee-Garden," in Savannah, Georgia, has been very successful in rearing young monkeys, and the visitors of his happy-family department can witness the same scene thrice a day—a number of half-grown capuchin babies fleeing from the wrath of their own parents. As soon as the dinner-bucket is brought in, the youngsters hide in the corner and watch their opportunity, for while their seniors are feeding there is no hope of a crumb or a drop of milk; but sooner or later the old ones are sure to fall out, and during a general scrimmage for a tidbit the children sometimes get a chance at the bucket, and take care to make the best of it. But woe unto them if their progenitors catch them in flagranti! Sires, mothers, and aunts combine to avenge the sacrilege, and the noise of the punishment often sets the whole menagerie agog. I have seen a she-macaque jamming her bantling up against the wall and extracting from its cheek-pouches the gifts of a charitable visitor, together with all the crumbs and scraps the little one had gleaned from the floor, and then adding outrage to injury by cuffing the victim's ears.
The English word stalwart is derived from stael-worth— i. e., worth stealing; and the same criterion seems to be a monkey's standard for the value of earthly things in general. Any novel, movable, and portable object at once excites his interest. If the digestible qualities of the novelty seem doubtful, he appears to act on the principle that in the mean while it can do no harm to appropriate it. North of the Rio Grande most capuchin-monkeys are martyrs to rheumatism, and three poor cripples of the Cebidæ species had been assigned winter quarters in the kitchen of a New Orleans boarding-house. They could be trusted, as their complex ailments disqualified them from running and climbing, their only mode of progression being a sidelong wriggling on their haunches and elbows. But one day the landlady heard a frightful caterwauling, and, entering the kitchen in haste, was surprised to see one of her patients on top of the chimney-ladder, while another was rolling about in a fit of fantastic contortions. The cook had left on the floor a bucketful of Pontchartrain crabs, and during her momentary absence the monkeys had fallen victims to the cause of free inquiry. Somehow or other the cook's manœuvres had drawn their attention to the bucket, and, having managed to upset it, their ring-tails had got entangled with the not less prehensile crustaceans.
The tardo (black sloth) has a peculiar talent for making himself invisible. Even a medium-sized tree, without an excessive supplement of tangle-vines, has to be inspected thoroughly and from different points of view before a slight movement in the upper branches attracts your attention to a fluffy-looking clump, not easy to distinguish from the dark-colored clusters of the feather-mistletoe (Viscum rubrum) which frequents the tree-tops of this mountain-region. Closely resembling clusters of feathery leaves and feathery hair are often seen side by side on the same branch. Which of them is the animated one? A load of buckshot may fail to settle the point. I have seen a troop of
idle soldiers bombarding a sloth-tree for half an hour with the heaviest available missiles without being able to force the stronghold of the occupant, who only tightened his grip when a well-aimed stone crushed his head visibly and audibly. But with a good rifle you may dislodge the most tenacious tardo by hitting his branch somewhere below his foot-hold, for a fractured caucho-stick will snap like a cabbage-stalk. Thus displanted, the falling sloth clutches at the empty air or snaps off twig after twig in his headlong descent, but generally manages to fetch up on one of the stout lower branches, and at once hugs it with all the energy of his prehensile organs; and there he hangs, within easy reach of your arm, perhaps, but without betraying the slightest concern at your approach. The human voice has no terrors for the stoic tardigrade; menacing gestures fail to impress him. A blank cartridge exploded under his nose will hardly make him wink, unless the powder should singe his eyelids. He permits you to lift his claw, but drops it as soon as you withdraw your hand. If you prod him, he breaks forth in a moan that seems to express a lament over the painfulness of earthly affairs in general rather than resentment of your particular act. By-and-by his love of caloric may lure him back to the sunny side of the tree, but no incentives a tergo will accelerate his movements. His claws are a quarter of a foot long and rigidly tenacious, and, once unhooked, he forthwith transfers his attachment to your own person. After spreading his talons fan-shape, he clasps your arm with an intimacy that seems intended to reassure you of his peaceful intentions, but will gradually draw himself well up, as if unwilling to interfere with your locomotive facilities.
But, as Stanislaus Augustus said from sad experience, "Innocence is no excuse before the tribunal of war," and, in the tropics at least, a state of nature is a state of incessant warfare. In spite, therefore, of all his precautions and his monopoly of an almost unlimited food-supply, the sloth is found nowhere in great numbers; his enemies are too many for a creature that can neither fight nor fly. The harpy-eagle
skims the tree-tops of the tierra caliente, or falls upon him like a flash from the clouds; the lynx lurks in the twilight of the shade-trees; the sneaking ocelot explores the inmost penetralia of the liana-maze; if he meets him, he meets his death. Carnivora have to combine caution with sudden swiftness to catch a monkey in daytime, but sloth-hunting is a search rather than a chase; small palm-cats or sluggish bears may take a morning ramble through the branches of his chosen tree, and, if they espy the poor leaf-eater, his capture follows as a matter of course; they need not pursue him, they can collar him at their leisure; a hungry bear collects a family of sloths as he would gather a bunch of grapes.
Still, Fate has granted the much-bereft edentate one compensation—a cheap one, indeed, but still an offset to many defects—a most contented disposition. On the morning of an unusually cold April day I was summoned to a neighboring town, and took a look at my tool-house menagerie before I left. Finding that the female sloth had monopolized the family couch, I carried her mate up to an empty garret, and attached his claws to a mantel-piece, where he could warm himself by putting his back against a flue of a hot-air chamber. An unexpected delay prevented my return that night, and when I got home the next morning I entered the garret with sore misgivings about the survival of my tardo. But, no; there he hung, on the very same spot and in the same attitude, imbibing caloric at every pore, and purring to himself in dreamy beatitude—a tardo temporarily satisfied that life was worth living.
A striking contrast to the sluggishness of the sloth is presented by Dr. Oswald's description, in another part of the book, of the Honuman monkey at play.
Without wings, agility could hardly go farther; from the stand-point of a practical anatomist, it is almost inconceivable how muscles and sinews, apparently so very similar to our own, can execute such movements. Without the least visible effort, the marvelous half-bird darts through the air in a wide zigzag, merely touching a branch here and there; upward suddenly with a series of mighty swings, regardless and apparently forgetful of obstacles; down with a gradationed spring that looks like a single leap; up again with a flying rebound through a tangle-work of branches, yet at the same time watching his comrades, aiming and parrying slaps or dodging a shower of missiles; then, with a sudden grab, a quick contraction of the hind-legs, and the acrobat sits motionless on a projecting branch, watching a movement in the grass that has not escaped his eye during his headlong evolutions.
A bat is a living anachronism; there is something obsolete and paradoxical in every part of its organization. Skin wings were quite in vogue in the days of the Devonian monster-period, but have gone out of fashion among the representative creatures of our latter-day world; and it is a curious fact that all winged mammals have become nocturnal, as if they could not compete with the talents of their daylight contemporaries. The winged lemur (Galeopithecus volans), the flying-fox, and the flying-squirrel, are all moonshiners, and dread sunlight as miracle-mongers dread the light of science; but they all have the exaggerated optics of an owl, evening-eyes, that catch every ray of the fading twilight, while the eyes of the bat proper are as rudimentary as those of a mole, or of the strange fishes that were discharged from the subterranean tarns of Mount Cotopaxi.
As the Euclidean punctum is defined as a point without extension, the voice of a bat might be called a sound without vibrations—a shrill, sudden squeak, unlike any other sound in nature or art. Though piercing enough to be heard from afar, it is too abrupt to guide the ear in any special direction; you can put a wood-bat in a narrow box, and the box on the table, and bet large odds that the incessant shrieks of the captive will not betray its hiding-place; to nine persons out of ten the sound will seem to come from all parts of the room at once.
Many of their habits, too, distinguish the cheiropters from all other creatures of our planet. Aristotle classed them with the birds; and in one respect they might even be considered the representatives of the class, being par excellence creatures of the air. All winged insects can run or hop; the sea-gull runs, swims, and dives; but, with the sole exception of the Javanese roussette, bats are completely "at sea" in the water, and almost helpless on terra firma; they eat, drink, and court their mates on the wing, and the Nycteris Thebaïca even carries her young on her nightly excursions. Nay, bats may be said to sleep in the air, for they build neither day-nests nor winter-quarters, but hang by the thumb-nail, touching their support only with the point of a sharp hook. But this hand-hook connects with muscles of amazing tenacity. In cold climates, where bats have to club together for mutual warmth, fifty or sixty of them have been found in one bundle, representing an aggregate weight of about fifteen pounds, all supported by one thumb-nail! The "head-centers" must sleep as warm as a child in a feather-bed; but it is hard to understand how the outsiders can survive the cold season, for, in spite of its voracity, the bat accumulates no fat, and the flying-membrane is a poor protection against a North American winter. The only explanation is that their winter torpor is a trance, a protracted catalepsy, rather than a sleep; hibernating bears and dormice get wide awake at a minute's notice, but I have handled bats that might have been skinned without betraying a sign of life, and needed more than the warmth of my hands to revive them, for their wings were quite brittle with rigid frost. Bats prefer a cave with tortuous ramifications that shelter them against direct draughts, but still with a wide though not too visible opening, as they do not like to squeeze themselves through narrow clefts. A dormitory combining these requisites is sure to attract lodgers from far and near; the northern entrance of the tunnel grotto of Posilippo and the Biels-Höhle in the Hartz are tenanted by hundreds of thousands of bats that avoid all the neighboring caverns; and our Mammoth Cave, with its countless grottoes, has only two bat-holes, whose occupants have never been known to change their quarters.
Nearly all the South Asiatic vegetarians treat mischievous animals with a more than Christian forbearance; but the worshipers of Brahma have, besides, been taught to regard certain species of the brute creation as half divine, and consequently altogether inviolate, and entitled to the active charity of every true believer—the most privileged of the zoölogical demi-gods being the bhunder-baboon (Papio Rhesus), the Honuman (Semnopithecus entellus), the Brahmin cow, the pigeon, and the common crocodile. In Hindostan the public spirit of wealthy philanthropists rarely rises above the orthodox conservatism of the national mind; bequests are not devoted to public improvements, but rather to the maintenance in statu quo of incorporated incorporated societies and multitudes of secular and clerical mendicants; and Sir Emerson Tennent estimates that the produce of fully ten per cent of all the stipends of a most charitable population of one hundred and sixty millions is consecrated to the support of lazy or mischievous brutes.
Like Italian lazzaroni, city baboons live in cliques—clannish communities, very exclusive in times of scarcity, and always rather disinclined
to enlarge their membership except by natural increase and advantageous alliances, as with fat house-baboons with a roving disposition. Four-handed vagrants are promptly stopped and cross-examined: no mercy for the homeless stranger suspected of speculating upon a share of their scanty sportules, while the household pet with his brass collar and sleek pouch is merely scrutinized with silent envy. The half-grown bhunder-monkeys are so pretty that they are often domesticated, but their relatives dislike to part with them—from motives that have nothing to do with "philoprogenitiveness."
The holy children are their mediators, their apple and bread winners. The entreaties of the little beggars are not easy to resist: they will climb you after the manner of pet squirrels, embrace you with one arm and beg with the other, accompanying their gestures with a deprecatory mumble that becomes strangely expressive, as if they were pleading extenuating circumstances, if you offer to strike them. Even the idol-hating Mussulman is thus often beguiled into a liberality which his conscience may be far from approving. If the little spongers have struck a bonanza, they swallow in situ all they can find room for, well knowing that upon their return the contents of their cheek-pouches will be claimed by their relatives, for even a mother monkey has no hesitation in plundering her own child in that way. To avoid coercive measures, the poor kids surrender their savings voluntarily and with great dispatch at the approach of the ruthless parent. Like our artist-mendicants who keep a beggar-boy ad captandum, old baboons sometimes kidnap a baby of another tribe, keep a strict watch on its movements, but urge it with slaps and grunts to work the passers-by. Crippled baboons, too, are a most welcome acquisition to any clique. These twice-worthy objects of charity have their regular headquarters, where they can be found at any time of the day surrounded by eupeptic relatives who hope to participate in the largess of the pious. The poorest huckster will stop his cart in a gate-way to hand his tribute to a decrepit bhunder-monkey who supplicates him with outstretched hands. No true believer must stint his gifts upon such occasions; and so well does the hairy mendicant know the stringency of that duty that he flies out into a paroxysm of virtuous wrath if any passer-by should dare to disregard his appeal. The relatives promptly yield their aid, and fruit-carts are in danger of being monkey-mobbed if the driver hesitates to propitiate their resentment by a liberal contribution.
In a sparsely settled but tolerably fertile country animal refugees soon accustom themselves to the vicissitudes of their wild life. The ten months' drought of 1877, which almost exterminated the domestic cattle of Southern Brazil, was braved by the pampa cows, whom experience had taught to derive their water-supply from bulbous roots, cactus-leaves, and excavations in the moist river-sand. Solid food is only a secondary requirement; with a good supply of drinking-water many animals would beat Dr. Tanner's time. But how the Syrian Khamr dogs manage to make out a living only the gods of the desert know. They rough it in regions where no human hunter would discover a trace of game, and where water is as scarce as in the eternal abode of Dives; nay, they multiply, for the Khamr bitch, like other poor mothers, is generally overblessed with progeny; six youngsters a year is said to be the minimum. A sausage-maker would probably decline to invest in Khamr dogs; the word leanness does not begin to describe their physical condition; strappedness would be more to the purpose, if an Arkansas adjective admits of
that suffix—skin and sinews tightly strapped over a frame-work of bones. I saw their relatives in Dalmatia, and often wondered that they did not rattle when they ran; but Dalmatia is still a country of vineyards and sand-rabbits, while the Syrian desert has ceased to produce thorn-berries. Without moisture not even a curse can bear fruit. Where food is plenty, wind and weather seem to modify the physique of a tramp animal. Most wild dogs are bushy-tailed, gaunt, and fox-headed, and for some occult reason almost invariably black-muzzled. It is their clan-mark: judging from the snout alone, few naturalists would be able to distinguish a tramp-dog from the pampa cur, the Khamr hound, the dog-wolf (Canis anthus), or the Abu Hossein (Canis lupaster). It does not improve their appearance; in connection with their wolfish eyes, it reminds one too much of a hyena-head.
The question whether there are any untamable animals requires a nearer definition of the somewhat ambiguous adjective. Untamable, in the sense of undomesticable, I believe there are none. With the proviso of a guarantee against socage-duty or a change of their natural habits, few animals would decline the hospitality of the homo sapiens, especially in countries where the sapient one has become the monopolist of all the good things of this earth. Let any one sweep the snow from his balcony, scatter the cleared space with crumbs, and put the balcony-key where the children can not find it, and see how soon his place will become the resort of feathered guests—not of town-sparrows only, but of linnets, titmice, and other birds that are rarely seen out of the woods. A little discretion will soon encourage them to enter the window and fetch their lunch from the breakfast-table—by and-by even in the presence of their host—for the fear of men is a factitious instinct, unsupported by the elder intuition that teaches animals to distinguish a frugivorous creature from a beast of prey. With so simple a contrivance as a wooden box with a round hole, starlings, blackbirds, martins, crows, jays, and even owls, can be induced to rear their young under the roof of a human habitation; squirrels, hedgehogs, and raccoons soon find out a place where they can get an occasional snack without having to pay with their hides. Hamman, the famous German skeptic, used to feed a swarm of sea-gulls, often the only visitors to his lonely cottage on the shore of the Baltic. The neighbors suspected him of necromantic tricks, but he assured them that his whole secret consisted in never interfering with his guests—keeping a free lunch on hand, and letting them take their own time and way about eating it.
The same magic had probably bewitched the pets of Miss Meiringer, the daughter of a German colonist of New Freyburg, Brazil. Her father was a self-taught naturalist, and his collections have been described by several South American travelers; but in the opinion of the natives his curiosity-shop was eclipsed by the menagerie of his daughter, who had tamed some of the wildest denizens of the forest, though evidently on the suaviter in modo plan, since most of her pets boarded themselves, or only took an occasional breakfast at the fazenda. Among her more regular guests were a couple of red coaties, or nosebears, several bush-snakes, and one large boa, a formidable-looking monster with the disposition of a lap-dog, for at a signal from his benefactress he would try to curl himself up in her apron, with a supernumerary coil or two around her knees.There is hardly any doubt that animals must possess some means of communicating their ideas. Arsenic has no perceptible taste or odor, and an ounce of it mixed with a bushel of corn-meal will destroy a cart-load of sewer-rats in a single day; but all professional vermin killers agree that such receipts lose their efficacy in a very short time. Somehow or other the survivors manage to trace the mischief to its cause; and old rats have been observed in the act of driving their young from a dish of poisoned hash. When the British first effected a settlement in Singapore, the traffic in monkeys soon became a regular branch of industry. The ubiquitous Chinamen used to go on
trapping expeditions to the hills, at a time of the year when the mountain macaques were rather hard up for provisions and could be baited with "fuddle-cakes"—i. e., rice-bread soaked in a mixture of sugar-and-rum. The trapper used to hide behind a tree, and let the monkey assemblage enjoy his bounty till their antics suggested that it was time for him to rush in, like Cyrus into the banquet-hall of Belshazzar. Experience, however, soon taught the little mountaineers to change their tactics. Instead of devouring the fuddle-cakes on the spot, they learned to gather them up and defer the feast till they reached a retreat where they could hope to be left alone in their glory. But the trappers, too, have since changed their plan. They manufacture a sort of narrow-necked jars, about the size of sarsaparilla bottles, and, after filling them with a mélange of sirup and alcohol, they tie them firmly to the root of a tree and withdraw out of sight. The monkeys come down and sip the nectar, a little at a time, till many a mickle has muddled their perceptives to the degree which the founder of Buddhism would have called the first stage of Nirvana—indifference to earthly concernments in general. The trapper then approaches and collects his guests, whose exalted feelings often manifest themselves in a peculiar way. Some receive their captor with open arms, some hug their bottles with approbative
grunts, while others lie on the ground, contemplating the sky in ecstatic silence.
Practical naturalists are generally the most successful trappers, for Lord Bacon is probably right, that observation is quite as prolific a mother of inventions as necessity. Only observation could have revealed the fact that little song-birds can be attracted by the sight of a bird of prey. A common chicken-hawk will serve that purpose. Fasten a tame hawk to a bush, and before the end of an hour all the finches and thrushes in the township will find it out and meet in general convention—an indignation-meeting, perhaps—though it is hard to understand what they can hope to accomplish against an enemy who could kill a score of them in ten minutes. But the experiment never fails: a hawk, an eagle, but especially a ferocious-looking old horn-owl, will allure birds at a time when they would disdain to neglect their domestic business for the sake of any tidbit. An owl-riot they seem to consider as a sort of public duty which must take precedence of all other affairs, for even migratory birds will stoop from their flight through air and light to screech around an old night-spectre. In Northern Italy, where game is scarce, every farmer has a tame buba
and a potful of bird-lime, and thousands of northern songsters, hastening fondly home from their winter-quarters on the Mediterranean, fall a victim to their ruling passion and perish in exile—"butchered to make a Roman holiday."
- This article is made up from the text of Oswald's "Zoölogical Sketches" (noticed in our pages last month), by permission of the publishers of the volume, Messrs. J. B. Lippincott & Co., of Philadelphia, to whose courtesy we are also indebted for the accom-panying illustrations. Eds. P.S.M.