« PreviousContinue »
exceeding an hazel-nut, appearing like a knot of raw silk, of an exceeding close texture. I put one of these into an unstopped bottle, and, forgetting to watch it minutely, I at length found it as follows: From the mouth of the bottle to a shelf above, was about eighteen inches; and I found the eggs hatched, and not less than several hundreds of connecting lines of communication between the bottle and the shelf, covered in every direction with the infant swarm, entirely yellow. From this I think it evident, that the power of ejecte ing the web is exercised at an early stage of life. I think too, from every consideration, that their preying on each other is a matter beyond a doubt.
I have somewhere read, that the garden spider uniformly makes his web of great or small dimensions, according to the approaching degree of sunshine or rain, and thus, with the utmost precision, foretels the weather. This I have not yet proved, but am much inclined to give credit to the assertion.
MR. Editor, In your last, your correspondent Robert Bloomfield, confesses himself at a loss to know, how the garden spider conveys his web across a distance of five feet, without any thing to support himself. Perhaps the following illustration may be acceptable. When the spider begins its web, it places itself upon the end of a branch, and there fastens several threads, which she lengthens to two or more yards, leaving them to float in the air: these threads are wafted by the wind from one side to another, and lodged on a wall or tree, or any other substance, first met with, to which they are secured by their natural glue; the spider then draws them to her, to try if they are sufficiently fast, and finding them so, they become a bridge for. her to pass along at pleasure:,she then crawls to the middle of this thread, and fastens another to it, by which she descends till she meets a solid body to rest on, or leaves it, as the first, floating in the air, to be fixed by the same means; in the same manner other long threads are secured from the centre, till it is sufficiently firm for her to spread her small circular ones, by which the geometrical fabric, the air built castle, is completed. Yours,
SAGAGITY OF BRUTES.
Mr. Editor, The interesting anecdotes respecting the canine race, with whicha you lately favoured the public, may be very suitably followed up by the following instances of sagacity and sensibility in other animals, which I think will afford considerable gratification to your readers.
THE ELEPHANT. The elephant is supposed to be the largest of any quadruped in the known world; and seems to be the wisest also. The observation is Cicero's, whose words (De Nat. Deor. 1.) are, Elephanto belluarum nulla providentior. At figura que vastior ? All the amiable, and all the furious passions, are to be found in this animal; and its docility is wonderful; for, when properly tamed, he is capable of being instructed and disciplined into a vast variety of entertaining and useful qualifications.
Do him a material injury, and he will act as if he had been tutored by the late Lord Chesterfield : i. e. if it be in his power, he will immediately revenge the affiont; but if restrained for the present, either by motives of prudence, or by inability to wreak his resentment, he will retain the offence in his memory, for years together, and take care to repay it with interest, the first favourable opportunity. I have heard or read of a boy, who wantonly struck the proboscis, or trunk, of an elephant; and then courageously secured himself, by running away. Seven years afterwards, the lad was playing near the side of a river; and had, probably, forgot his past misdemeanor. But the elephant had a better memory; and making up to the young delinquent, grasped him with his trunk, and very sedately carried the sprawling captive to the water, where he ducked him once or twice over head and ears, and then quietly setting him down again on terra firma, permitted him to walk off without further hurt.
It is said that, in those countries where elephants' abound, such of them as are tame, go about the streets, like any other domestic ► animal: and it is common for people to give them fruit as they pass.
In time, they commence absolute beggars, and will put in the extremity of their trunks at doors and windows, in hope of receiving the little benevolences which custom has inured them to expect. After waiting a short while, if nothing is given them, they withdraw
their trunks, and pass on to the next accessible house. It is related, that some taylors were at work on a oard, bwithinside of a window, whose casement stood open. A passing elephant stopped, and put in his trunk. One of the men, instead of conferrig a douceur, gave the animals trunk a scratch with his needle. The injured party took no present notice of the provocation, but patiently walked away. He repaired to a neighbouring stream; and, having filled his capacious trunk with a large quantity of water, returned to the window, where he coolly avenged himself, by spouting the Auid artillery on the aggressor and his comrades, for their late breach of hospitality. If we do not relieve the indigent, they at least have a right not to be insulted. And, very frequently, the meanest are able, sooner or later, to retaliate with usury the contempt they undeservedly receive. · Every beggar is not honest. Nor are all elephants actuated by a strict sense of moral delicacy. Their smell is very acute; and if a person has any fruit or cakes about him, they shew, by the quick and judicious application of their trunks to the proper part of his dress, that they are adepts in the art of picking pockets, with excel. lent dexterity.
Elephants, like men, have, (if I may be allowed the expression) their virtues and their vices; though, to the honour of the former be it observed, the vices of an elephant bear but small proportion to his virtues. There have been instances of these creatures, who, in the first hurry of rage for ill-treatment, have killed their keepers, But their subsequent remorse has been so insupportably keen, that they have refused to take any sustenance, and literally starved themselves to death. A lesson to persons of violent passions; who, if hurried away by the impetuous torrent, either of excessive and unguarded anger, or of headstrong and irregular desire, are liable to the commission of irreparable evil, and may, in a single moment, lay the foundation of irremediable ruin. I have read of an heathen, who, when he found himself unduly fermented by wrath, would never utter a single word, until he had first deliberately run over in his mind all the letters of the alphabet. I have read of a christian, who, when endangered by similar temptation, would not suffer himself to speak a syllable, until he had silently repeated the Lord's prayer.
Elephants are singularly grateful, and have a very deep sense of friendship. They have been known to lay the death of a brother elephant, or of a kind keeper, so much to heart, as to pine away from that time forward.
In some countries, we are told, elephants supply the place of executioners. They are trained, at a given signal, to lay hold of the criminal with their trunks, by a strong suction; and either dash him violently against the ground, or toss him aloft in the air, until repeated contusions put a period to his life. Mankind are very
prone to value themselves on their supposed civilization; and yet, 'by artful practising on the ferocity of inferior animals, they sometimes teach brutes themselves to be still more brutal.
Clumsy as elephants are, they may be taught to dance, both singly and in companies; and they move, on these occasions, with singular exactness and order. They are not insensible to the harmony of music: and if properly inured, keep time with their feet, in a manner which discovers great powers of judgment. If I rightly remember, bishop Burnet informs us, in his travels, that he saw an elephant play at ball, with all the ease and expertness of a man. But Plutarch, in his life of Pyrrhus, mentions a much nobler instance of elephantine understanding and adroitness: accompanied by such magnanimous courage and fidelity, as would have redounded to the honour of a Sertorius, or of an Alexander. When Pyrrbus stormed the town of Argos, a number of accoutred elephants, according to the custom of those times, formed a part of his military apparatus. One of these creatures, perceiving that his rider was fallen, invited him, by every effort in his power, to remount. But finding soon after, that he, (viz. the rider) was dead of the wounds he had received; the animal, in a transport of grief and rage, rushed furiously on friends and foes, without distinction: and, taking up the body with his trunk, made good his retreat, and rescued the remains of his breathless master from further violation, by faithfully and heroically conveying them from the scene of action.
The method by which wild elephants are taken, deserves to be noticed. A narrow inclosure is made; one end of which is left open, for entrance; and, at the extremity of the other, several tame female elephants are placed. Between both (i. e. between the entrance and the extremity where the females are fixed) a large pit is dug, whose surface is lined with a slight bridge work, so neatly turfed, that it has all the appearance of firm ground. Allured by the females, the male elephants make towards the place, but are suddenly intercepted by the unsuspected snare. Proper persons, who are stationed to watch the event, start from their conceal
ments; and, with exulting shouts, mock the indignant distress of their unwieldy prisoners.
Elephants are tamed, chiefly hy hunger, and by blows; they are said to be extremely fond of pomp, and to receive very pleasurable ideas from the exhibitions of splendor. Hence the natives of East India, who hold the doctrine of transmigration, imagine, that these animals are animated by the souls of departed princes. For this reason, they are treated, especially in the kingdom of Siam, with distinguished respect; and some of the handsomest are decorated with rich ornaments, and even dignified with titles of honour. An elephant of quality is known by the rings of gold, silver, or copper, with which his tusks are adorned. There is something very humiliating to the pride of human reason, in conduct so extravagantly absurd as this.
Elephants are extremely long-lived. It is affirmed, that they will reach to one, two, or even three hundred years of age. If this be fact, and it rests on very respectable testimonies, it is probably true of those elephants only, which are permitted to live according to nature, unspoiled by the artificial and false refinements of our management. It will admit of little doubt, that, on the sum total, those beasts are happiest, who have least connexion with man, Not a single brute, from an elephant to an animated speck, but is eventually the worse, if it fall within the circuit of human government. Let us endeavour to make our male-administration as easy and as little mischievous to them as we can.
To have a just idea of this, it is necessary that we should divest ourselves of every prejudice; and in arraigning the character of a man, whom death has prevented from appearing in his own defence, justice ever requires, that if we do not put the most favourable construction on his actions, we should, at least, treat them with impartiality.
To speak candidly, then, Mahomet might be a religious and a moral man. His father left him in rather penurious circumstances, but profiting to the utmost by the education his friends could afford him, and always preserving a most unexceptionable character, he rose to be factor of a rich widow, whom he afterwards married; and hecoming, by this connexion, a person of some consequence in his country, he felt it his duty to devote himself to its welfare.