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He takes another oath; and to ratify that oath, and show that he means to be worthy of his office and of the City of London, he commissions the Recorder to invite the judges to dinner. This invitation is delivered in quite as solemn a tone as the oath, and the oath is taken in the same business-like mannner in which the invitation is given. A foreigner would be at a loss to know which of the two is the most solemn and important.
These ceremonies over, the procession returns, increased in splendor and magnificence. The fairer portion of humanity join it in their state coaches—the lady mayoress, the aldermen's and sheriffs' wives; and after them come royal princes, ministers of state, the judges of the land, and the foreign ambassadors. The procession over, they all sit down to dinner.
THE SLOTH. THOSE who have written on the sloth, have remarked that he is in a perpetual state of pain; that he is proverbially slow in his movements; that he is a prisoner in space; and that, as soon as he has consumed all the leaves of the tree upon which he has mounted, he rolls himself up in the form of a ball, and then falls to the ground. This is not the case.
If the naturalists who have written the history of the sloth had gone into the wilds, in order to examine his haunts and economy, they would not have drawn the foregoing conclusions ; they would have learned, that though all other quadrupeds may be described while resting on the ground, the sloth is an exception to this rule, and that his history must be written while he is in the tree.
This singular animal is destined by nature to be produced, to live, and to die in the trees; and, to do him justice, naturalists must examine him in this upper element. He is a scarce and solitary animal, and being good food he is never allowed to escape. He inhabits remote and gloomy forests, where snakes take up their abode, and where cruelly stinging ants and scorpions, and swamps, and innumerable thorny shrubs and bushes, obstruct the steps of civilised man. Were you to draw your own conclusions from the descriptions which have been given of the sloth, you would probably suspect that no naturalist has actually gone into the wilds with the fixed determination to find him out and examine his haunts, and see whether nature has committed any blunder in the formation of this extraordinary creature. He, indeed, appears to us forlorn and miserable, ill put together, and totally unfit to enjoy the blessings which have been so bountifully given to the rest of animated nature; for he has no soles to his feet, and he is evidently ill at ease when he tries to move on the ground, and it is then that he looks up in your face with a countenance that says, “Have pity on me, for I am in pain and sorrow.”
It mostly happens that Indians and Negroes are the people who catch the sloth, and bring it to the white man: hence it may be conjectured that the erroneous accounts we have hitherto had of the sloth, have not been penned with the slightest intention to mislead the reader, or give him an exaggerated history, but that these errors have naturally arisen by examining the sloth in those places where nature never intended that he should be exhibited.
However, we are now in his own domain. Man but little frequents these thick and noble forests, which extend far and wide on every side of us. This, then, is the proper place to go in quest of the sloth. We will first take a near view of him. By obtaining a knowledge of his anatomy, we shall be able to account for his movements hereafter, when we see him in his proper baunts. His fore-legs, or, more correctly speaking, his arms, are apparently much too long, while his hind-legs are very short, and look as if they could be bent almost to the shape of a corkscrew. Both the fore and hind-legs, by their form, and by the manner in which they are joined to the body, are quite incapacitated from acting in a perpendicular direction, or supporting it on the earth, as the bodies of other quadrupeds are supported by their legs. Hence, when you place him on the floor, his belly touches the ground. Now, granted that he supports himself on his legs like other animals, nevertheless he would be in pain, for he has no soles to his feet, and his claws are very sharp, and long, and curved; so that, were his body supported by his feet, it would be by their extremities, just as your body would be, were you to throw yourself on all fours, and try to support it on the ends of
your toes and fingers--a trying position. Were the floor of glass, or of a polished surface, the sloth would actually be quite stationary; but as the ground is generally rough, with little protuberances upon it, such as stones, or roots of grass, &c., this just suits the sloth, and he moves his fore-legs in all directions, in order to find something to lay hold of; and when he has succeeded he pulls himself forward, and is thus enabled to travel onwards, but at the same time in so tardy and awkward a manner as to acquire him the name of “sloth.”
Indeed, his looks and his gestures evidently betray his uncomfortable situation; and, as a sigh every now and then escapes him, we may be entitled to conclude that he is actually in pain.
Some years ago I kept a sloth in my room for several months. I often took him out of the house and placed him upon the ground, in order to have an opportunity of observing his motions. If the ground were rough, he would pull himself forwards, by means of his fore-legs, at a pretty good pace; and he invariably immediately shaped his course towards the nearest tree. But if I put him upon a smooth and well-trodden part of the road, he appeared to be in trouble and distress : his favorite abode was the back of a chair; and, after getting all his legs in a line upon the topmost part of it, he would hang there for hours together, and often with a low and inward cry, would seem to invite me to take notice of him.
The sloth, in its wild state, spends its whole life in trees, and never leaves them but through force, or by accident. An allruling Providence has ordered man to tread on the surface of the earth, the eagle to soar in the expanse of the skies, and the monkey and squirrel to inhabit the trees; still these may change their relative situations without feeling much inconvenience : but the sloth is doomed to spend his whole life in the trees; and what is more extraordinary, not upon the branches, like the squirrel and the monkey, but under them. He moves suspended from the branch, he rests suspended from it, and he sleeps suspended from it. To enable him to do this, he must have a very different formation from that of any other known quadruped.
Hence his seemingly bungled conformation is at once accounted for; and in lieu of the sloth leading a painful life, and entailing a melancholy and miserable existence on its progeny, it is but fair
to surmise that it just enjoys life as much as any other animal, and that its extraordinary formation and singular habits are but further proofs to engage us to admire the wonderful works of Omnipotence.
A BEE HUNT. The beautiful forest in which we were encamped abounded in bee-trees; that is to say, trees in the decayed trunks of which wild bees had established their hives. It is surprising in what countless swarms the bees have overspread the far west, within but a moderate number of years. The Indians consider them but the harbinger of the white man, as the buffalo is of the red man; and say, that in proportion as the bee advances, the Indian and buffalo retire. They are always accustomed to associate the hum of the bee-hive with the farm-house and flower-garden, and to consider those industrious little insects as connected with the busy haunts of man: and I am told, that the wild bee is seldom to be met with at any great distance from the frontier. They have been the heralds of civilisation, steadfastly preceding it, as it advanced from the Atlantic borders, and some of the ancient settlers of the West pretend to give the very year when the honey-bee first crossed the Mississippi.
The Indians, with surprise, found the mouldering trees of their forests suddenly teeming with ambrosial sweets; and nothing, I am told, can exceed the greedy relish with which they banquet, for the first time, upon this unbought luxury of the wilderness. At present, the honey-bee swarms in myriads in the noble groves and forests that skirt and intersect the prairies, and extend along the alluvial bottoms of the rivers. It seems to me as if these beautiful regions answer literally to the description of the land of promise, “a land flowing with milk and honey ;" for the rich pasturage of the prairies is calculated to sustain herds of cattle as countless as the sands on the sea-shore, while the flowers, with which they are enamelled, render them a very paradise for the nectar-seeking bee.
We had not been long in the camp, when a party set out in quest of a bee-tree; and being curious to witness the sport, I gladly accepted an invitation to accompany them. The party was headed by a veteran bee-hunter, a tall, lank fellow, with a homespun garb, that hung loosely about his limbs, and with a straw hat shaped not unlike a bee-hive. A comrade, equally uncouth in garb, and without a hat, straddled along at his heels, with a long rifle on his shoulder. To these succeeded half a dozen others, some with axes, and some with rifles; for no one stirs far from the camp without his fire-arms, so as to be ready either for wild deer or wild Indians.
After proceeding for some distance, we came to an open glade on the skirts of the forest. Here our leader halted, and then advanced quietly to a low bush, on the top of which he placed a piece of honey-comb. This, I found, was the bait or lure for the wild bees. Several were seen humming about it, and diving into the cells. When they had laden themselves with honey, they would rise into the air, and dart off in a straight line, almost with the velocity of a bullet. The hunters watched attentively the course they took, and then set off in the same direction, stumbling along over twisted roots and fallen trees, with their eyes turned up to the sky. In this way they traced the honey. laden bees to their hive, in the hollow trunk of a blasted oak, where, after buzzing about for a moment, they entered a hole about sixty feet from the ground.
Two of the bee-hunters now plied their axes vigorously at the foot of the tree, to level it with the ground. The mere spectators and amateurs, in the meantime, drew off to a cautious distance, to be out of the way of the falling tree and the vengeance of its inmates. The jarring blows of the axe seemed to have no effect in alarming or disturbing this most industrious community. They continued to ply at their usual occupations; some arriving, full freighted, into port; others sallying forth on new expeditions, like so many merchantmen in a money-making metropolis, little suspicious of impending bankruptcy and downfall. Even a loud crack, which announced the disrupture of a trunk, failed to divert their attention from the intense pursuit of gain. At length, down came the tree, with a tremendous crash, bursting open from end to end, and displaying all the hoarded treasures of the commonwealth.
One of the hunters immediately ran up with a wisp of lighted hay, as a defence against the bees. The latter, however, made