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CAPTURING A CONDOR.
MAYNE REID was born at Ballyroney, Ireland, April 4, 1818. In 1840 he came to America and lived in New Orleans. In 1847 he was a soldier of the United States army in the war with Mexico. In 1849 he returned to England, and there settled down to a literary life. He is the author of many stories of wild adventure in many countries.
His books are the delight of spirited young readers. The present extract is taken from “ The Forest Exiles."
Captain Reid died Oct. 22, 1883.
The new-killed animals, along with the red skin of the bull, which had been spread out on the ground at some distance from the hut, had already attracted the condors; and four or five of these great birds were now seen hovering in the air, evidently with the intention of alighting at the first opportunity.
An idea seemed to enter the head of the vaquero, while his guests were still at breakfast, and he asked Leon if he would like to see a condor caught. Of course Leon replied in the affirmative. What boy wouldn't like to see a condor caught? The vaquero said he would gratify him with the sight; and, without staying to finish his breakfast, he started to his feet, and began to make preparations for the capture. How he was to capture one of these great birds Leon had not the slightest idea. Perhaps with the “ bolas," I thought he. That would have done well enough if he could only get near the condors; but these birds were sufficiently shy not to let any man come within reach, either with bolas or gun. It is only when they have been feasting, and have gorged themselves to repletion, that they can be thus approached; and then they may be knocked down, even with sticks.
1 vä kā'ro; a herdsman.
As yet the half dozen condors hovering about, kept well off the hut; and Leon could not understand how any one of them was to be caught. It was by a stratagem the bird was to be taken.
The vaquero laid hold of a long rope, and, lifting the bull's hide upon his shoulders, asked Guapo to follow him with the two horses. When he had got out some four or five hundred yards from the hut, he simply spread himself flat upon the ground, and drew the skin over him, the fleshy side turned upward.
There was a hollow in the ground about as big as his body, — in fact a trench he had himself made on a former occasion, — and when lying in this on his back, his breast was about on a level with the surrounding turf.
His object in asking Guapo to accompany him with the horses was simply a ruse to deceive the condors, who from their high elevation were all the while looking down upon the plain.
But the vaquero 1 boʻlás; a weapon of iron balls attached to a leather cord.
covered himself so adroitly with his red blanket, that even their keen eyes could scarcely have noticed him; and as Guapo afterward left the ground with the led horses, the vultures supposed that nothing remained but the skin, which from its sanguinary color appeared to them to be flesh.
The birds had now nothing to fear from the propinquity of the hut. There the party were all seated quietly eating their breakfast, and apparently taking no notice of them.
In a few minutes' time, therefore, they descended lower and lower — and then one of the largest dropped upon the ground within a few feet of the hide. After surveying it for a moment, he appeared to see nothing suspicious about it, and hopped a little closer. Another at this moment came to the ground,
which gave courage to the first, -- and this at length stalked boldly on the hide and began to tear at it with his great beak.
A movement was now perceived on the part of the vaquero ; the hide “lumped” up, and at the same time the wings of the condor were seen to play and flap about, as if he wanted to rise into the air but could not. He was evidently held by the legs! The other bird had flown off at the first alarm, and the whole band were soon soaring far upward into the blue heavens.
Leon now expected to see the vaquero uncover himself. Not
Not so, however, as yet. That wily hunter had no such intention ; and although he was now in a sitting posture, grasping the legs of the condor, yet his head and shoulders were still enveloped in the bull's hide. He knew better than to show his naked face to the giant vulture, that at a single peck of his powerful beak would have deprived him of an eye, or otherwise injured him severely.
The vaquero was aware of all this, and therefore did not leave his hiding place until he had firmly knotted one end of the long cord around the shank of the bird ; then, slipping out at one side, he ran off at some distance before stopping.
The condor, apparently relieved of his disagreeable company, made a sudden effort, and rose into the air, carrying the hide after him. Leon shouted out, for he thought the vulture had escaped; but the vaquero knew better, as he held the other end of the cord in his hand; and the bird, partly from the weight of the skin and partly from a slight tug given by the hunter, soon came heavily to the ground again.
The vaquero was now joined by Guapo; and, after some sharp maneuvering, they succeeded between them in passing the string between the nostrils of the condor, by which means it was quietly conducted to the hut, and staked on the ground to the rear, to be disposed of whenever its captor should think fit.
AN ERUPTION OF MOUNT VESUVIUS.
EDWARD BULWER LYTTON was born in London, May 25, 1803. In early childhood' he became intensely fond of books. His admiration of great poems led him to the writing of verse. At the age of seventeen he published his first book, a book of poems. Unhappy events in his life stimulated him to literary production, and between the years 1828 and 1873 he published many novels. Of these “ The Last Days of Pompeii” is perhaps the most widely known. His books number more than sixty. He was twice elected to parliament, and achieved some distinction
as an orator. In 1866 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Lytton. He died at Torquay, England, Jan. 18, 1873.
[In the year 79 of the Christian Era occurred that most disastrous eruption of the burning mountain which buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. On the day of that event, according to the following narrative, certain condemned men were to be killed by wild beasts in the vast amphitheater of Pompeii. A great concourse had assembled to witness the scene.]
The awful night preceding the fierce joy of the amphitheater rolled drearily away, and grayly broke forth the dawn of the Last Day of Pompeii! The air was uncommonly calm and sultry; a thin and dull mist gathered over the valleys and hollows of the broad Campanian fields.
But yet it was remarked in surprise by the early fishermen, that, despite the exceeding stillness of the atmosphere, the waves of the sea were agitated, and