Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

There is a blue leg--two of them, though not years past, man, is that you would not cheat well matched. I see whose they are. They the world out of its honors.

But then if you are carrying a soldier to his agent for the fifti- had done so, by this time you would have been eth time to inquire whether the Pension-office found out. Jog on, long leg. The French has placed him on the roll. The last time he Academicians are talking about you now, a litinquired a letter from the Commissioner was tle, though they know nothing about your name shown him to the effect that the sworn affida- or person. Prepare yourself, old glum, with vits of three respectable soldiers who saw him some babies and a fireside. Without an Aurobayoneted did not prove any thing, but he must ra the fogs of your long night will hover over get the captain or some other officer he served your coming noon; but she would shine them under to certify to the facts “on his honor.” away, and give you a morning for the long and He is thinking now whether his agent wrote to cheerful day which will come for you yet. But the Commissioner what he told him to say, viz.: he is gone to his star-gazing. That one of his officers was a man of honor, There's a leg that does me good. It is clothed and would not certify because he did not per- in coarse and dirty cloth, but comes to a neat, sonally witness the wounding; and the other, fair fit. It is rapid, yet I see by the passive inwho did, refused the favor of a certificate. And step that it is fatigued. It is going home to he told him to say, moreover, that the oath of a sweet kisses and a hot supper. It has bustled private soldier was better than the word of hon about a shop all day, and was glad when the six or of an officer. But, poor fellow! what do you o'clock bell rang. The industrious and skillful know of law? You had better give up looking mechanic always adjusts his clothes, washes his for your pension. Every body knows you were hands, and presents a respectable mien when he hurt in battle, but you are an unpopular fellow goes home. He knows where little Kitty will with your officers, and you can not get your meet him, how Neddy will run, and the baby pension without them.

will peep. IIis wife is not waiting for him, for There's a leg that will win. It is a long leg, I see by that leg that I am thinking about the with a bad piece of old dry-goods on it. It is right man. She will look at the clock, and then not springy, agile, or quick; yet not sluggish, bring in the tea, because she knows just when nerveless, and insensible. It carries an unhap- he will come. This evening she allows fifteen py man, who has always been worsted, but who minutes later, because George is to go to a booknever stays whipped. He takes long, camel- store over on Grand Street for a copy of a new like strides, putting his foot here and there ir- book of the rudiments of science for children, regularly, but always—just like that now - and to see a sick woman over on the Bowery. with a dogged conclusiveness and a fair, flat She feels pleased, for she has good news to tell emphasis. He is all head and feet when he him. She has just been told by the agent that walks, the rest of him taking all adventitious the landlord (mirabile dictu!) has lowered the rent shapes, but these two extremities being ever in consideration of their careful tenancy, and consistent with each other, like opposite poles agreed for another year at a handsome abateof a battery. His voice is unmusical—I can With this difference George is to buy see it in the crook of his knee now—and his drawing materials for Jane, some additional manners undignified. His clothes are decent, furniture for the parlor, and pay for photographs for he is too unaffected to dress in ostentatious for distribution among kindred and friends, berags, and too negligent of social favor to dress sides an increase in the amount of the customgenteelly; and as barely decent, he is never ary charities, and have yet a smart sum for the looked at except when he unconsciously pro- savings-bank. Go on, George! You are the vokes derision by acting as if he were some- typical citizen. On you and your likes rest all body. He never can comprehend how he should the glories of nations and peoples. From fire. be so strangely misunderstood by all the world; sides such as yours emanate all the institutes of and now, at forty, he begins to feel as if he public order, public good, and public will. Let did not care. He does not see his way clearly all the learned, the great, and the rich pass away, through the world, but plods on. He will not and you would still be a nation, great as ever, a conform to the world, and does not dream of society perfect as ever, a people miglity as ever. the world conforming to him. He does not Go home, George, where you belong. care much about it. His ambition died with That leg, now, is a brisk one. Pretty as a his youth, and he is a lonely bachelor. That patent medicine bottle, it comes down into the leg has length of days and invincible tenacity. neatest little boot of all the world, and pats Other men will be declining when his strength along with a thousand supernumerary little will be at its height. Go, old fellow, and mar- jerks, as if, like an echo, it would die if it ry! Forty is only a little too old for you. For stopped, or as if, like the dancing moon in the the world will shortly take a turn that will give water, it had so many motions that it did not you some hand in its affairs. Such a leg as know what to do with them. That is a young

a that never got cold since the world was made leg. Its nerves are strung at the golden thumbwithout a great fuss being made over it by the screws by the rosy fingers of Hope, who trails king, the bishop, and the biographer, unless her shining gossamers, thick as hair on the casualty locked its pulse before old age. The head, through the soul of that youngster, and reason you have not been famous for twenty | shuts out all winds but the breeze of her own

ment.

account.

impalpable wand with which she shakes the having—as those legs unmistakably have on shining delusion into infinite complexions for all occasions—self-possession enough about him his rapture. Is she a deceiver? No. He de- to know how to escape. Yet those legs are delceives her. He abjures conscience and reason icately moulded-I see by the knee-pan-but and devolves upon Hope the responsibility for muscular, I see by the calf. The instep is flathis happiness through life. She is doing as best tened by the habit of gait, but its mobility in the she may. But, young man, hold still a mo- air shows its high arch, an unerring mark of ment. Listen! If only you could keep your manhood, of nerve, and of daring. This cowlegs still, your head would soon reckon up your ard was born to no weakness but a humane hor.

Whose boots are those ? Whose ror of the brutal and sanguinary, and an exquiwatch is that? Whose money is in your pock- site sense of outward contact, spiritual or physet? “Necessities to a gentleman.” Eh? No-ical. That he should shrink from violence thing is necessary that is not right. "Trifles should have but exalted the courage to which easy to reimburse.” Yes, but to whom easy? he was born. But the vulgar notion of courNot to the poor, and the rich are those who age—that is, a love of fighting, he never thought have, not those who expect riches. I see you, of questioning; for what priest, or poet, or hislong years hence, in situations too terrible to de- torian ever did ? and as he was most distinctly scribe to you. But I see you, at the best, long conscious of an unspeakable horror of a fight, years hence, in shabby and threadbare clothes, he never undertook to withstand danger like with cast-down countenance, wasted form, and others, until, in course of time, acquired a feeble step, soliciting humble but honest employ- habit of living in a state of apprehension, which ment, with a real desire to begin a new life. made it the principal business of his life to foreBut your heart will be too heavy with its burden sce and escape danger from every thing. Come, of bitter regrets.

Gentlemen's clothes, watches, man, don't be afraid; you are young yet-put and pocket-money you will not have. That leg down your foot like a man, walk with your legs, I see now, so elastic and elegant, will be trem- swing your arms, look straight ahead, fill your bling and languid, awkward with shame and lungs and allow your abdomen to go about its ugly with premature age. Why not put off the business. There's pluck enough in you for a fine things now? Think what you would make terrier; though your wife don't believe a word by it. All prepossessions in your favor, years of it, and never did, poor girl! She found out of industry and opportunity before you, and all your imagination, your taste, your love of exthe blessings and powers of youth still yours-cellence, and, especially, your love for her. what should you care for boots, watches, and But that you concealed three years for fear Bob pocket-money with that leg I see on you now? Davis, a rival, would knock you down. Now Take the habiliments and lose the legs, or throw I'll give you a definition of bravery. You go aside the habiliments for a while and save both home and ask your wife whether it is satisfacthem and the legs. Save your legs, did I say? tory. If she says so, all right. Act on it. Say Your honor-your soul, boy! Save it. But he this: A brave man is one who will not desist don't hear me.

from a just purpose in consequence of peril to More legs—that is a coward's. His knees his person. If you stick to that your neighbors are lifted high at each step, while the lower leg will find you as brave as themselves. And if and foot dangle, and the latter slaps the ground you stick faithfully to it you will, as any manlike a shingle. He walks with his abdominal but partic the great murderers of history muscles and helps them with his shoulders, would have been-be pretty sure to get to the which he does by relaxing the breast muscles end of life without one single fight. But slap, and turning his elbows outward. The step is slap goes the poor fellow's feet on the sidewalk, heavy and decisive once made, because the and other men's legs thicken the throng. crcature has not courage enough to qualify it. Here is a leg to write a book on. That is a Poor coward! The scorn of women, the sport thing of power. It is long, sinewy, and easy in of wags, the tool of tyrants. Cowards are not motion, but with a marching precision that always born so, as it is certain that the brave wastes not a fibre's tension. The foot is plantwere not always born to intrepidity. Will no. ed so firmly and regularly that the ground seems body speak a word for this worst punished of all always to smooth itself where this man walks. offenders ? Shrinking sensibility in childhood No inequality in the pavement disconcerts the can be turned into cowardice by calling it by so perfect action of the limb; and there is a conshameful a name. The child does not doubt sciousness of power in the gait that inspires an that it is really natural irresolution; and to be instinctive action in all the neighboring legs to lieve you have not the courage to do it, is saying get out of the way. The person moves fast, but that you are afraid to do it. These legs in all the legs do not seem to be quick because they their life, perhaps, have encountered no danger measure the time and space, and fit both without but what it was possible to fly from; and they any jerking. That man is a born leader. Among fled, of course, because their owner, believing all mankind he is most certain to find his level. himself a born coward, had sense enough not to Men, however proud, delight in being proud of expose himself. That his passion of resistance some greater object than themselves. What is is moderate argues not against his capacity for voluntarily conceded is not so great as what can iron firmness, but conclusively in favor of his oblige concession. Greater self-confidence than

He's gone.

a

“HM

mine obliges me to concede leadership to you, I ty-four, on the fifth twenty-five, on the sixth Iron-leg. Arrogance is your greatness--and thirty, and on the seventh thirty-one worms. great it is as the world goes; for by that you These quantities, however, seemed to be insufhave the most skillful, the strongest, the most ficient, and, as the bird appeared to be losing gifted hands in the community where you re- plumpness and weight, the Professor began to side to turn your grindstone. Imputed talents weigh both the bird and its food, and to tabushow in you fruits like real ones do in others, late the results of these weighings. By this because you conduct a kind of presidency over table it appears that though the food was inthe riches of other minds, and even claim that creased to forty worms, weighing twenty pennydoing so is exercising the highest talent of all. weights, on the eleventh day the weight of the Grant you, Iron-leg, it is the talent of kings and bird rather fell off, and it was not until the rulers; but you will never get a presidency over fourteenth day when the bird ate sixty-eight the intellectual progeny of the tramping old star- worms, weighing thirty-four pennyweights, that gazing bachelor, whose legs I saw a while ago, his weight began to increase. On this day the nor over the poet's song, the painter's pencil, or weight of the bird was twenty-four pennyweights; the philosopher's microscope. You

he therefore ate forty-one per cent. more than Bless me! Here is my coffee and toast, cold his own weight in twelve hours; weighing aftas a dog's nose! Now I must be after my own er it twenty-nine pennyweights, or fifteen per legs.

cent. less than the food he had eaten in that time. On the fifteenth day a small quantity of

raw meat was offered to the bird, and it beTHE FOOD OF BIRDS.

ing found that this was readily caten it was COW rich our Lord God must be !” says afterward employed to the gradual exclusion of

Martin Luther in his Table-Talk; “I worms. do verily believe that to feed the sparrows in As an offset to the objection that the earthGermany costs Him more than all the revenue worm contains but a small amount of solid nuof the King of France."

tritious matter, the bird was fed upon the twen. What do all the birds eat ? Where do they ty-seventh day exclusively on clear beef, in quanall find food enough to support their own lives tity twenty-three pennyweights; at night the bird and the lives of their young ? These are ques- weighed fifty-two pennyweights, this being but tions which are continually coming up in every little more than twice the amount of flesh conday life, together with that other set of reproach- sumed during the day, no account being taken ful queries as to why the birds don't cat up the of the water, earth, and gravel, of which large caterpillars and canker-worms, and let alone quantities were daily swallowed. This presents cherries and strawberries. In view of the very a wonderful contrast with the amount of food general interest which attaches to the matter, required by the cold-blooded vertebrates, fishes, and of the frequency with which the above- and reptiles, many of which can live for months mentioned questions are asked, it seems strange without food, and also with that required by that so small an amount of organized knowledge mammalia. A man at this rate should eat about bearing upon this subject has as yet been col- seventy pounds of flesh per day, and drink five lected.

or six gallons of water. As to the large amount of food which some With regard to the question, how can this imbirds are capable of absorbing there is a set of mense amount of food required by the young thoroughly scientific experiments by Professor birds be supplied by the parents? Professor Treadwell, of Cambridge, upon the young of Treadwell enters into the following computation : the American robin. A couple of vigorous, Suppose a pair of old robins with the usual numhalf-grown birds having been selected in the ber of four young ones, these would daily reearly part of June, the Professor began to feed quire, according to the consumption of the bird them with earth-worms, giving three of these subjected to experiment, two hundred and fifty to each bird the first night; next day he gave worms, or their equivalent in insects or other them ten worms each, which they ate ravenous- food ; suppose the parents to work ten hours, or ly; but thinking this quantity of food to be six hundred minutes, to procure this supply; greater than that which could naturally be sup- this would be a worm in every two and four plied by their parents he limited the birds to this tenth's minutes; or each parent must procure allowance. On the third day he gave to each a worm or its equivalent in less than five minbird eight worms in the forenoon; but in the utes during ten hours, in addition to the food afternoon he found one of them becoming feeble, required for its own support. But after all the and soon after it refused food and died; on Professor is compelled to confess his inability to opening it, he found the crop, gizzard, and in- reconcile the calculation with actual observation testines entirely empty, and concluded therefore of robins, which he has never seen return to that it had died from want of sufficient food, their nests oftener than once in ten minutes. the effect of hunger being perhaps increased by The bird experimented upon by Professor cold, as the thermometer was only about 60°. Treadwell attained its full size on the thirtyThe other bird, still vigorous, he put in a warm- second day after having been captured, after er place, and increased its food, giving it the which time it ceased to increase in weight; its third day fifteen worms, on the fourth day twen- diet from this time on amounted on the average

to eighteen pennyweights of beef or thirty-six of the vireos and wood-warblers no doubt find pennyweights of earth-worms per day. From an abundance of moths and other insects to supthe fact that the bird thus continued in its con- ply their wants; while the dietary of the varifinement, with certainly much less exercise than ous woodpeckers seems to be tolerably well unin the wild state, to eat one-third of its weight derstood, though it has lately been asked by a of clear flesh daily, the Professor concludes that distinguished ornithologist whether, after all, the the food consumed by it when young was not country boy's name, “sap-sucker,” as applied much more than must always be provided by to some of the woodpeckers, is altogether a misthe parents of wild birds.

nomer? But it is more particularly with regard to the But how is it with the swallows? Take the quality of the food of birds that we know so little. hardy “white-bellied swallow" (Hirundo bicolor) In the pewee and the king-bird the naturalist for an example, as he follows the sun northward sees a couple of large “fly-catchers," of exceed- with a seemingly most indiscreet haste. What ingly interesting habits, to which the largest does he find stirring in the insect line during courtesies should be extended; while in the eyes the first days of his arrival? What do the blueof many farmers these birds are simply malevo- birds eat from day to day during their long so. lent destroyers of bees; and it may well be pos- journ? And so on with all the rest. sible that, by destroying insectivorous insects With regard to the robin all these questions as well as becs, thesc birds really do more harm have been answered very satisfactorily—at least than good, looking of course from the lowest in so far as a single locality is concerned-by utilitarian point of view.

Professor Jenks, of Middleborough, MassachuEverybody is aware that the crow cats a few setts, whose very interesting report to the Massagrains of corn at the time of planting, and that chusetts Horticultural Society will be found in the robin eats cherries and strawberries with the published Journal of that Association. Proavidity when these are to be had, but what do fessor Jenks, having determined to make the food most of us know of the food of the crow, or of the of the robin a subject of special investigation robin, during the other fifty weeks of the year, throughout an entire year, in order that some more than that the latter is occasionally to be positive conclusion might be arrived at in referseen regaling himself upon earth-worms and the ence to the utility of this bird to the borticulformer upon carrion ? that the contents of the turist, adopted the following plan of investigastomachs of a dozen or two of crows have been tion: (1.) to obtain birds at daybreak, mid-day, examined and recorded by naturalists? and that and sunset; (2.) to obtain birds from both the the species is accused of sucking the eggs and village and the country; and (3.) to preserve in destroying the young of various small birds alcohol the contents of each gizzard. Beginwhich nest upon the ground ? By the standard ning with the first week of March, 1858, speciworks upon Ornithology we are told that the mens were actually examined at least weekcrow devours insects, grubs, worms; that he ly, and most of the time daily, to December, destroys mice, moles, and other small quadru- and during the winter monthis at least semipeds; and that he will eat snakes, frogs, and monthly. the like, as well as fruits, seeds, and vegeta- As far as the specimens procured at daybreak bles. But the testimony is so meagre that we were concerned no positive information seems to may well pause to question its worth when called have been obtained, since the gizzards of these to sit in judgment upon the moot question wheth- are represented to have been either entirely er or no, year in year out, the crow does com- empty or but partially distended with well-macmit more of good than of evil as regards man- erated food. But the birds killed in the latter kind.

part of the day were uniformly filled with food Then there is the cherry-bird, with his strik- which had been only recently taken. Numbers ing traits of beauty, beneficence, and evil, to- of male robins made their appearance at Middleday sweeping away the canker-worms as with borough early in March, but it was not until the fire and sword; and to-morrow cleaning out the second week in April that any female birds were cherry-trees as effectually as if a flight of locusts noticed. From the early part of March up to had passed over the land; and again, a few the first of May not a particle of vegetable matmonths later, feasting upon the cedar-berries in ter was found in the gizzard of a single bird. the same reckless way And yet how little do Nine-tenths of the whole mass of food examined we really know of the ordinary food of the cher- during this period consisted of a single kind of ry-bird; for with the foregoing items we have larva, the Bibio albipennis, of Say, though a accounted for only three or four weeks of his great variety of other insects in all stages of yearly life. It is note-worthy, by-the-way, that, growth and development were also met with. with the Baltimore oriole, the cherry-bird is Of the larva in question from one to two hundred one of the very few members of the feathered specimens were frequently taken from a single tribe which will greedily eat the hairy caterpil- gizzard, and usually when this larva was found it lars which infest our orchard trees.

was the only food in the stomach. During the The American goldfinch, or black-winged month of May the Bibio larva entirely disappeared yellow-bird, with his notorious liking for the from the gizzards, being replaced, up to the 21st seeds of dandelions, lettuce, and the thistle, can of June, by a variety of insects, or worms only, be followed through a month or two, and some including spiders, caterpillars, and beetles of

family Elateride, the parents of the well-known most truly carnivorous—which do not at times wire-worm so destructive to corn and various partake of insects as food. seeds at the time of planting.

The more carefully one studies the subject, The earth-worm, though a favorite food for so much the more astonishing does the place the young bird, was found to be eaten but spar- which is occupied by insects in the alimentation ingly by the adult. After the 21st of June the of birds appear. As every one knows, there Professor began to find strawberries, cherries, are stated seasons of the year when certain kinds and other pulpy fruits, though these were still of insects make their appearance in large nummixed with insects in the majority of instances; bers, and at these times it would almost seem birds captured at a distance from gardens and that the very abundance of this food induced fruit trees having less fruit and a larger num- the birds to partake of it. For example, durber of insects in their gizzards than those taken ing the interval when the June-bug is abundant near the village, the robin not being an extens- portions of this insect can be found in the stomive forager. This mixed diet continued from achs of the greater number of the birds which the ripening of the strawberries and cherries inhabit France at that season of the year; and until October, the vegetable portion consisting, the beetle in question is then found also in the during August and September, in great part of stomachs of many quadrupeds, from the little elder-berries and poke - berries. During the shrew-mouse up to the wolf. month of October the vegetable dict wholly dis- M. Prevost asserts his ability to demonstrate, appeared, its place being supplied by grasshop- so soon as the details of his researches are made pers and other orthopterous insects. Early in public, that birds are in general much more useNovember the robins which have passed the sum- ful than hurtful to the husbandman, and that mer among us migrate southward--the few im- even the damage committed at certain moments migrants from the north, which are seen by us by the grain-eaters proper is largely compenduring the winter months, managing at that time sated for at other times by the consumption of to eke out a miserable existence upon bay-ber- insects by these rery birds. He insists, moreries, privet-berries, and juniper-berries. over, upon the necessity of seeking for new

Somewhat similar in conception to the re- methods of protecting those crops which are liasearches of Professor Jenks, though of much ble to be injured by the feathered race, instead wider scope, are those to which M. Florent Pre- of resorting, as now, to the suicidal policy of vost has devoted himself in France. As one of destroying or seeking to destroy the latter. the naturalists in charge of the famous collec- The influence of food in determining the vagtions at the Garden of Plants in Paris this ob- abond life which is led by many kinds of birds server has had a peculiarly good opportunity to is remarkable. While some animals, without study the question now under discussion. Dur. change of habitation, make out to obtain nouring nearly thirty years he has taken pains to ishment throughout the year by resorting to collect and preserve the contents of the stom- different kinds of food according to the season, achs of all the birds which have been brought to others confine themselves exclusively to such the Museum, to say nothing of large numbers aliments as can be obtained only under peculiar of specimens procured specially by himself and conditions of climate, their food being found by the foresters of numerous public and private only at stated periods in any one country. Now, estates who have interested themselves in his in the case of quadrupeds, when a given species behalf.

can not adapt itself to changing circumstances, It is to be regretted that the complete details can not obtain continuously the food suitable of M. Prevost's researches have not been pub- for its maintenance, hibernation is the usual lished. As yet we have only an abstract of his resource: the animal simply sleeps through the results, and the promise of a circumstantial ac- unfavorable season. But with birds this curious count of his studies at some future day. Among phenomenon of hibernation does not occur-at the more note-worthy of M. Prevost's conclu- least naturalists have not been able to detect sions may be mentioned the fact that the food of any evidence of its existence; not even enough birds varies according to the age of the bird as to account for the widely-spread popular belief well as according to the season of the year, or prejudice that swallows pass the winter in the the observation of Professor Jenks, that earth-mud of ponds; but instead of that, and equally worms are caten by young but not hy old bins, dependent upon the question of nourishment, being evidently nothing more than the particular we have the still more remarkable phenomenon case of a general law. M. Prevost has acer- of migration, when, following the calls of huntained also that the young of the greater num- ger, the feathered myriads pass to and fro over ber of granivorous birds are really fed upon in the countries of the earth. sects, and that even the adults themselves are One curious point noticed by M. Prevost furinsectivorous during the breeding-season. A nishes a remarkable contrast to the insatiable familiar instance of which we have in this coun- hunger and lack of endurance exhibited by the try the common chipping sparrow; and the same young robins of Professor Treadwell: it is, that remark applies to those species of birds which some species of birds are capable, at certain in early spring devour the buds and young leaves' epochs, of living for a long time without food, of trees. It was found also that there are but their stomachs being found to contain at these few of the birds of prey-even those which are seasons no alimentary matter whatsoever, but

« AnteriorContinuar »