Изображения страниц
[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

dancing in a ring when, according to custom, human heads just captured in battle were suddenly presented.

The appearance of the heads was a sign for the music to play louder, for the war cry of the natives to be more energetic, and for the screams of the dancers to be more piercing. Their motions now became more rapid, and the excitement in proportion. Their eyes glistened with unwonted brightness, the perspiration dropped down their faces; and thus did yelling, dancing, gongs, and tom-toms become more rapid and more violent every minute, till the dancing warriors were ready to drop. A farewell yell, with emphasis, was given by the surrounding warriors; immediately the music ceased, the dancers disappeared, and the tumultuous excitement and noise were succeeded by a dead silence.

A quarter of an hour elapsed, and the preparations were made for another martial dance. This was performed by two of the Rajah's sons. They came forward, each having on his arm one of the large Dyak shields, and in the centre of the cleared space were two long swords lying on the floor. The ceremony of shaking hands was gone through; the music then struck up, and they entered the areħa.

Nimble Movements and Loud War Cries.

At first they confined themselves to evolutions of defence, springing from one side to the other with wonderful quickness, keeping their shields in front of them, falling on one knee, and performing various feats of agility. After a short time, they each seized a sword and then the display was very remarkable, and proved what ugly customers they must be in single conflict. Blows in every direction, feints of every description, were made by both, but invariably received upon the shield. Cumbrous as these shields were, no opening was left; retreating, pursuing, dodging, and striking, the body was never exposed.

Occasionally, during this performance, the war cry was given by the surrounding warriors, but the combatants held their peace; in fact, they could not afford to open their mouths, lest a point should be exposed. It was a most masterly performance.

After a while these performers became too tired to proceed without refreshment, and their place was taken by four or five others, carrying blocks of wood having a feather at each end. The foreign guests took these objects to represent canoes, but were told that they were rhinoceros hornbills, and were thought by all competent judges to be fine works of art. Suddenly a number of gongs were beaten, and over the mass of human beings arose swords, heads, rhinoceros hornbills, and cat-o-ninetails in profusion, the Dyaks being for the time half mad with excitement.

[ocr errors]



Wonderful Revelations in Natural History-Vast Multitudes of Living CreaturesEarth, Air and Water the Home of Life-Colossal Monsters of Forest and Jungle -The Towering Giraffe-Ludicrous Movements-A Beautiful Creature-Power of Self-Defense-The Giraffe in the Old Roman Circus-A Swift Chase and Capture-The Striped Zebra-The Most Beautiful of Quadrupeds-The King of Portugal and his Four Zebras-A Creature Hard to be Tamed-Animal Sacrifices in Eastern Countries—The Ponderous Rhinoceros-Made to Fight in the Roman Coloseum-A Monster Almost Iron-Plated-Haunts of the Clumsy Beast-Hunting the Rhinoceros-Fatal Stroke with a Sword-Story of a Terrible Encounter-The Voracious Crocodiles-Killed at Roman Games-Arabs Wounded by Crocodiles-A Friendly Bird-The Attack with a Dagger -The Famous Gavial of India-A Reptile on Wings-The Flying Frog--A Reptile with Exquisite Colors.


JAVING given a full description of the antediluvian world and the singular animals-monsters they may truly be calledwhich inhabited it; having depicted the extraordinary changes which have been going on for many ages, resulting in the formation of our globe as we see it at the present time; having witnessed the great convulsions which have desolated cities and destroyed multitudes of human beings, and beheld the fiery outburst of volcanoes with their startling phenomena; having traversed distant realms and observed the curious features in the life of savage tribes, we are now to turn our attention to the animal creation in its present aspects, and notice the latest and most extraordinary developments in the great realm of natural history.

In whatever direction we turn our eyes, we everywhere meet the varied forms of animal life. Earth, air, water, are all alike occupied by multitudes of living creatures, each fitted especially for the habitation assigned to it by nature. Every wood or meadow, every tree or shrub, or tuft of grass has its inhabitants; even beneath the surface of the ground, numbers of animals may be found fulfilling the purposes for which their species were called into existence. Myriads of birds dash through the air, supported on their feathered pinions, or solicit our attention by the charming song which they pour forth from their resting-places; while swarms of insects, with still lighter wings, dispute with them the empire



of the air. The waters, whether salt or fresh, are also filled with living organisms; fishes of many forms and varied colors, and creatures of yet more strange appearance, swim silently through their depths, and their shores are covered with a profusion of polypes, sponges, star-fishes, and other animals. To whatever elevation we attain on the mountain-sides, to whatever depth in the ocean we may sink the lead, everywhere shall we find traces of animal existence, everywhere find ourselves surrounded by living creatures, in a profusion and variety which may well excite our wonder and admiration.

Nor are these phenomena confined to any region of the earth; on the contrary, the diversity of climate only adds to the variety of objects which the zoologist is called upon to contemplate. Thus the bold voyager of the inclement regions of the North, in losing sight of those productions of nature which met his eyes at home, finds, as it were, a new creation in his new abode,-seals, by the hundred, basking in the scanty rays of the Arctic sun, or diving into the deep waters in search of their finny prey, and the whale, rolling his vast bulk in the waves, and ever and anon driving high into the air his curious fountain of spray. The air is peopled by innumerable flights of marine birds; the sea by still more countless swarms of fishes; and the land affords a habitation to the elk and the reindeer, the Arctic fox, and other creatures peculiar to those regions.

Amazing Abundance of Animal Life.

If we turn our steps southward, to the tropical regions of the earth, the abundance and variety of animated beings increase more and more. Here the colossal elephant and the unwieldy rhinoceros, crash through primeval forests; the lion and the tiger, and other predatory beasts, prowl through the thickets, seeking for their prey; on vast plains, countless herds of antelopes browse in fancied security, or dash swiftly past at the approach of danger; gigantic snakes lie coiled in horrid folds among the bushes, or hang from the trees awaiting their victims. The air and trees. swarm with birds of gorgeous plumage, and insects of strange forms and brilliant colors. Nor are the waters less bountifully provided with inhabitants: every form with which we are acquainted in our own seas is here represented, but with still greater profusion and variety.

Full nature swarms with life.
Through subterranean cells,

Where searching sunbeams scarce can find a way,
Earth animated heaves. The flowery leaf

Wants not its soft inhabitants. Secure
Within its winding citadel, the stone

Holds multitudes. But chief, the forest boughs,
That dance unnumbered to the playful breeze,
The downy orchard and the melting pulp
Of mellow fruit, the nameless nations feed
Of evanescent insects. Where the pool
Stands mantled o'er with green, invisible,
Amid the floating verdure, millions stray.

Thus we are encompassed with the marvelous. On every hand there are creations, some of extraordinary magnitude, others of surprising minuteness, which awaken our curiosity; and in studying these varied forms of life we find a new wonder at every step.

An Animal of Remarkable Height and Beauty.

It makes little difference where we begin in our delineation. We will take a trip to the tropics, and get a view of one of its most curious and interesting animals-the giraffe. The giraffe-which has been humorously described as "an antelope run to seed"-is fond of a wooded country. The leaves of trees are its principal food, and especially a species of miGreen herbs are also very agreeable to it; but its structure does not admit of its feeding on them in the same manner as our domestic animals, the ox or the horse. It is obliged to straddle widely; its two fore feet are gradually stretched widely apart from each other, and its neck, being then bent into a semicircular form, the giraffe is thus enabled to collect the grass. The tongue, also, has the power of motion to an extraordinary degree, and, at the same time, one of extension, so as to perform, in miniature, the office of an elephant's proboscis. Coiling this member round the branches of trees, it draws them down between its very movable and flexible lips, and thus nips off the tender portions. The tongue can taper to a point, and is capable of being formed into a ring.

This remarkable animal is distinguished from all the other ruminants or cud-chewing animals, by several important characteristics. The body is short and supported upon very long legs; the dorsal line slopes downward toward the rump, the withers being greatly elevated, and from this it was long confidently asserted that the fore-legs were much longer than the hinder pair, although this is not the case. The neck is excessively long, and the countenance exceedingly gentle and pleasing in its expression, the eyes being remarkably full and lustrous. The giraffe is the tallest of all ruminants, the males not uncommonly measuring fourteen and sometimes eighteen feet from the top of the head to the ground. The females are usually a foot or two shorter.

The giraffe is not a very swift animal, and when pursued its gallop is described as exceedingly ludicrous, the hind-legs being brought forward

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »