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might see what they actually were feeding on; for I did not at all fall into my friend's idea that they were grazing on his clover. By watching in their line of flight from the field to the woods, and sending a man round to drive them off the clover, I managed to kill eight of the birds as they flew over my head.
I took them to his house, and we opened their crops to see what was in them. Every pigeon's crop was as full as it could possibly be of the seeds of two of the worst weeds in the country, the wild mustard and the ragweed, which they had found lying on the surface of the ground, as these plants ripen and drop their seeds before the corn is cut.
Now, no amount of human labor and search could have collected on the same ground, at that time of the year, as much of these seeds as was consumed by each of these five or six hundred wood-pigeons daily, for two or three weeks together. Indeed, during the wole of the summer and spring, and a great part of the winter, all pigeons must feed entirely on the seeds of different wild plants, as no grain is to be got by these soft-billed birds, except just after the sowing time, and when the corn is nearly ripe, or for a short time after it is cut. It would be unfair not to make allowance for so many advantages. St. John.
The grub of the cockchaffer commits great ravages both upon grass and corn, by gnawing the roots of the plant. Entire meadows are sometimes denuded by it. The rook eats these destroyers by thousands, and by one act gets food for himself, and protects the wheat which is the staff of life to man. They are the grubs which chiefly attract him to follow the plough; and when he plucks up a blade of grass or corn, it is almost invariably for the sake of some description of worm which is preying on the root. The plant which he eradicates will be found on examination to be dead or dying ; and by devouring the cause of the mischief, he saves the rest of the field from blight.
Unobservant farmers, who never look beyond the surface, often mistake the policeman for the thief. Luckily, their power to injure their benefactor is not equal to their will, or they would exterminate him altogether, and leave the depredator unmolested to consume the whole of the crop. When an unhappy success has attended efforts of this kind, the evil consequences have been signal and immediate.
After the inhabitants had attempted to extirpate the little crow from Virginia at an enormous expense, they would gladly have given twice as much to buy back the tribe. A reward of threepence per dozen was offered in New England for the “purple grackle,” which commits great havoc among the crops, but protects so much more herbage than he destroys, that the insects, when he was gone, caused the total loss of the harvest; and obliged the colonists to get grass from Pennsylvania, and even to import it from Great Britain.
A few years since, an act was passed in France to prohibit the destruction of small birds. In a particular district of France, the harvest being swept away in its finest green stage by millions of hungry reapers, the earth had ceased to yield its increase.
Extensive inroads like these upon the economy of nature reveal to us its wisdom, and clearly show us that if one while it is a blessing that particular animals should eat, at another it is a benefit to the world that they should be eaten. A flight of rooks render more service than all the cultivators of the soil put together, and if the poor birds are occasionally mischievous, they are richly worthy of their hire. Make the largest possible allowance for their consumption of a portion of that crop, the whole of which they preserve, they are still the cheapest laborers employed on a farm.
Pages would be required to tell the mistakes committed in the blind rage for destruction, and in the readiness of the lords of creation to believe that everything that takes what he takes is a rival and a loss. Even wasps, which find no friend, chiefly because they are armed with a sting, though, unlike man, they rarely or ever use it unprovoked, are an important aid in keeping, certain tribes within bounds. For the food brought in by them is chiefly caterpillars and insects.
In France, the butchers are very glad to have the wasps attend their stalls for the sake of their services in driving away the flesh-fly; and it is said the farmers in some parts of the United States are so well aware of their utility in this respect, as to hang in their sitting-rooms a hornets' nest, the occupants of which prey on the flies without molesting the family.
SIR GAMMER VANS.
AN OLD IRISH STORY. LAST Sunday morning, at six o'clock in the evening, as I was sailing over the tops of the mountains in my little boat, I met two men on horseback, riding on one donkey; so I asked them, could they tell me whether the little old woman was dead yet who was hanged last Saturday week for drowning herself in a shower of feathers ? They said they could not positively inform me, but if I went to Sir Gammer Vans, he could tell me all about it.
“But how am I to know the house," said I. “Ho, 'tis easy enough,” said they, “for it's a brick house, built entirely of flints, standing alone by itself in the middle of sixty or seventy others just like it.” “Oh, nothing in the world is easier,” said I. “Nothing can be easier,” said they; so I went on my way.
Now, this Sir Gammer Vans was a giant and bottle-maker; and as all giants who are bottle-makers usually pop out of a little thumb bottle from behind the door, so did Sir Gammer Vans. “How d'ye do ?" says he. “Very well, I thank you," says I. “Have some breakfast with me?” “With all my heart,” says I. So he gave me a slice of beer, and a cup of cold veal; and there was a little dog under the table that picked up all the crumbs. “Hang him," says I. “ No, don't hang him," says he, "for he killed a hare yesterday; and if you don't believe me, I'll show you the hare alive in a basket.”
So he took me into his garden to show me the curiosities. In one corner there was a fox hatching eagles' eggs; in another, there was an iron apple-tree entirely covered with pears and lead; in the third, there was the hare, which the dog killed yesterday, alive in the basket; and in the fourth, there were twenty-four hipper-switches threshing tobacco, and at the sight of me they threshed so hard that they drove the plug through the wall, and through a little dog that was passing by on the other side. I, hearing the dog howl, jumped over the wall, and turned it as neatly inside out as possible, when it ran away as if it had not an hour to live.
Then he took me into the park to show me his deer; and I remembered that I had a warrant in my pocket to shoot venison for his majesty's dinner. So I set fire to my bow, poised my arrow, and shot amongst them. I broke seventeen ribs on one side, and twenty-one and a half on the other; but my arrow passed clean through without ever touching it; and the worst was, I lost my arrow: however, I found it again in the hollow of a tree.
I felt it, it felt clammy; I smelt it, it smelt honey. “Oh, ho!” said I, "here's a bee's nest,” when out sprung a covey of partridges. I shot at them: some say I killed eighteen; but I am sure I killed thirty-six, besides a dead salmon which was flying over the bridge, of which I made the best apple-pie I ever tasted.
Notes and Queries.
ANSWERING A PLAIN QUESTION.
ONE day Cuvier, a noted French naturalist, having joined a deputation from the Institute, came to St. Cloud to compliment the Emperor. The latter hardly perceived him, when he went straight towards him.
“Good morning, M. Cuvier ; I am very glad to see you. What have you done last week at the Institute ?” “Sire, we have been much engaged with the beetroot-sugar.” “That is right. And does the Institute think that the soil of France is suitable for the culture of the beetroot ?"*
In order to answer this simple question, Cuvier began a geological dissertation on the soil ; then he passed to the natural history of the beetroot; and when he came to his conclusions, the Emperor had not been listening for some time.
The silence of the Professor made the Emperor aware of his inattention: “ That is wonderful, M. Cuvier !” said he to him. « But does the Institute think the soil of France fit for the ! culture of beetroot ? "
The philosopher, thinking that some preoccupation had absorbed the attention of the Emperor, began his dissertation
* Napoleon introduced the culture of the beetroot into France in order to render that country independent of supplies of sugar from the English colonies.
anew. Napoleon again fell into a hopelessly absent state; and when Cuvier had finished talking, he said—“Thank you very much, M. Cuvier; and the next time I meet your colleague, I will ask him whether the soil of France is suited to the culture of beetroot.”
THE THAMES AT LONDON. HOWEVER much the Thames, as it approaches London, may lose in romance, it gains in the grandeur and importance of its appearance. Its breadth increases with every step. Navigable to the length of 180 English miles, with a tidal rise to the extent of seventy miles, the Thames takes the largest merchantmen to the immediate vicinity of London Bridge; and as the tide is going out, it takes them back, without the help of oars, sails, or steam-tugs. Nature has made the Thames the grandest of all trading rivers ; it gave it a larger share of the ocean tides than it ever bestowed on any other river in Europe.
At the Land's End the tides from the Atlantic are divided into two distinct streams. One rushes up the Channel, and round the North Foreland into the mouth of the Thames; the other beats against the western coasts of England and Scotland, and taking a southerly direction down the eastern coast, this tide too enters the basin of the Thames. Hence the tides in the Thames are formed of two different ocean-tides; they are equal by day and by night, and so powerful is the rush of the tide from the North Foreland to the metropolis, that it flows at the rate of five miles an hour.
But here is the steamer smoking away right at our feet. There is a rush of persons from the shore, and a rush of persons to the shore. We pay one penny, scramble down a variety of steps and stairs, and jump on board just as they are casting off. There is no whistling or ringing of a bell, no noise whatever. We are already steaming it up to the far west.
The bank on our left offers no interesting points on which the eye might dwell with pleasure. Manufactories, breweries, and gas-works dispute every inch of ground with the ugliest storehouses imaginable. The sight strikes one as that of a large city in ruins. But on our right we see St. Paul's rising from an