« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
he made great haste to devour it, having his eyes all the time directed towards me. By the distance I had to go before I could approach him, he judged of the time that he had to eat it alone ; and I, indeed, arrived too late. Sometimes, however, when he was deceived in his calculation, and when I came upon him sooner than he expected, he instantly endeavoured to conceal the morsels from me: but by means of a blow well applied, I compelled him to restore the theft; and in my turn becoming master of the envied prey, he was obliged to receive laws from the stronger party. Kees entertained no hatred or rancour; and I easily made him comprehend how detestable that base selfishness was of which he had set me an example.”
This is all very fine, but we confess that we think poor Kees hardly used in this matter ; nor are we aware of any law, written or unwritten, human or Simian, by which the conversion of the root, which he had sagaciously found, to his own use could be made a theft, or by which the prize could be ravished from him, except indeed by the “good old law” that “sufficeth” people in such cases
“ the simple plan,
And they should keep who can.”
But to return to Le Vaillant's entertaining narrative.
“ 'To tear up these roots, Kees pursued a very ingenious method, which afforded me much amusement. He laid hold of the tuft of leaves with his teeth ; and pressing his four-paws firmly against the earth, and drawing his head backwards, the root generally followed: when this method, which required considerable force, did not succeed, he seized the tuft as before, as close to the earth as he could ; then throwing his heels over his head, the root always yielded to the jerk which he gave it. In our marches, when he found himself tired, he got upon the back of one of my dogs, which had the complaisance to carry bim for whole hours together : one only, which was larger and stronger than the rest, ought to have served him for this purpose; but the cunning animal well knew how to avoid this drudgery. The moment he .perceived Kees on his shoulders, he remained motionless, and suffered the caravan to pass on, without ever stirring from the spot. The timorous Kees still persisted; but as soon as he began to lose sight of us, he was obliged to dismount, and both he and the dog ran with all their might to overtake us. For fear of being surprised, the dog dexterously suffered him to get before him, and watched him with great attention. In short, he had acquired an ascendancy over my whole pack, for which he
was perhaps indebted to the superiority of his instinct; for among animals as among men, address often gets the better of strength. While at his meals, Kees could not endure guests; if any of the dogs approached too near him at that time, he gave them a hearty blow, which these poltroons never returned, but scampered away as fast as they could.
It appeared to me extremely singular, and I could not account for it, that, next to the serpent, the animal which he most dreaded was one of his own species : whether it was that he was sensible that his being tamed had deprived him of great part of his faculties, and that fear had got possession of his senses, or that he was jealous and dreaded a rivalry in my friendship. It would have been very easy for me to catch wild ones and tame them; but I never thought of it. I had given Kees a place in my heart, which no other after him could occupy; and I sufficiently testified how far he might depend on my constancy. Sometimes he heard others of the same species making a noise in the mountains; and, notwithstanding his terror, he thought proper, I know not for what reason, to reply to them. When they heard his voice they approached : but as soon as he perceived any of them he fled with horrible cries ; and, running between our legs, implored the protection of everybody, while his limbs quivered through fear. We found it no easy matter to calm him ; but he gradually resumed, after some time, his natural tranquillity. He was very much addicted to thieving, a fault common to almost all domestic animals; but in Kees it became a talent, the ingenious efforts of which I admired. Notwithstanding all the correction bestowed upon him by my people, who took the matter seriously, he was never amended. He knew perfectly well how to untie the ropes of a basket, to take provisions from it; and, above all
, milk, of which he was remarkably fond : more than once he has made me go without any. I often beat him pretty severely myself; but, when he escaped from me, he did not appear
tent till towards night.” “ Milk in baskets !" why, truly, the term “basket” as applied to vessel for holding milk appears to require some explanation ; but it was really carried in baskets woven by the Gonaquas, of reeds, so delicate and so close in texture that they might be employed in carrying water or any liquid. The abstraction of the milk, &c. we consider as a kind of set-off against the appropriation of Kees's favourite root by his master.
The pertinacious way in which Kees bestrode Le Vaillant's dogs will recal to the remembrance of some a monkey that was, and perhaps still is, riding about London, in hat and feather, with garments to match, upon a great dog, with the usual accom
paniments of hand-organ and Pan's pipe. Upon these occasions the monkey evidently felt proud of his commanding position ; but ever and anon we have seen him suffer from one of those sad reverses of fortune to which the greatest among us are subject. In the midst of the performance, while the organ and pipe are playing, and the monkey has it all his own way, and, elevated with the grandeur that surrounds him, is looking rather aristocratically at the admiring crowd, some good-natured but unlucky boy throws the dog a bit of cake, in his zeal to pick up which the latter lowers his head and shoulders so suddenly as infallibly to pitch his rider over his head. We have thought more than once that there was a sly look about the dog as he regarded the unseated monkey, utterly confounded by his downfal and the accompanying shouts of laughter from the bystanders.
We shall now proceed to give sketches of the most remarkable species of monkeys in the New World, as well as of those in the Old Continent and its Islands; merely observing, en passant, that though zoologists declare that there is but one European species,* another, at least, is to be met with in our quarter of the globe. The Demopithecus of Aristophanes, “ qui vel fraudatione vel adulatione erga populum simiam se exhibet,” is, assuredly, not yet extinct; on the contrary, it still is, and seems at all times to have been, common in Ireland ; nor is it by any means of rare occurrence in Great Britain, especially about the period of a general election.
* Macacus sylvanus, Lacépède-the Barbary Ape which has established itself on the rock of Gibraltar.
High on the twig I've seen you cling,
THE TWO MONKEYS.
Many of the forests of South America flourish in all their primitive grandeur. Immense tracts are covered with vegetable forms in every stage of luxuriant development. Towering trees, their trunks embraced by gigantic twiners and garlanded by a profusion of plants,* in whose curious and splendid blossoms Nature seems to have imitated in the wantonness of her prodigality almost every variety of insect shape, shoot up and darken the light of day with their broad shadows.
In these boundless contiguities of shade,” which have never echoed to the woodman's axe, the most perfect silence reigns during the day; a silence, unbroken save by the crashing fall of some ancient tree prostrated by the weight of years, and carrying with it in one vast ruin all that it had long fed and fostered. But, if all is silent during the day, at night
“ The wonted roar is up amidst the woods,
And fills the air with barbarous dissonance ;" for in the depths of these solitudes live the Howling Monkeys, to whose voice the voice of the Rev. Gabriel Kettledrummle would be but as the sough of the wind in the bracken.
* The Orchidaceous Epiphytes. So great is their number in humid situations that a thousand species may, it is asserted, be found in Tarma, Huanuco, and Xauxa alone. They abound in the recesses of tropical forests; but, in the Orchidaceæ, imitation is not confined to images of the insect world, as those will acknowledge who have seen the flower of the Peristeria, enshrining the semblance of a milk-white dove, which seems actually to hover above an altar; wax could hardly be modelled into a more perfect representation.
We have already stated that the South American monkeys are all blessed with tails, but they are deprived of those brilliant blue and red callosities which give so much splendour to the integuments of many of the Old World family, and recal sometimes a part of the costume of a certain unearthly pedestrian; for his femoral habiliments
were blue, And there was a hole where the tail came through.” Neither do they rejoice in cheek-pouches : they are, consequently, unable to keep anything in the corner of their jaws, or to furnish forth any
rebuke to the Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns of the several courts in this best of all possible worlds.
The Howlers," as they are termed, claim our first attention. They are the largest of the American Simiade,* and the fierce brutality of their disposition, joined to their low facial angle, remind the observer of the baboons of the old continent, whilst their gregarious habits and nocturnal howlings agree with the manners of the Gibbons. The yells uttered by these Howlers in the dead of the night are described as absolutely appalling. They strike upon the ear of the uninitiated benighted traveller as if they were not of this world ; and even to the naturalist they are terrible.
Nothing," says Waterton, speaking of the Mono Colorado, or Red Howler, "nothing can sound more dreadful than its nocturnal howlings. While lying in your hammock in these gloomy and immeasurable wilds, you hear him howling at intervals from eleven o'clock at night till day-break. You would suppose that half the wild beasts of the forest were collecting for the work of carnage. Now it is the tremendous roar of the jaguar as he springs on his prey; now it changes to his deep-toned growlings as he is pressed on all sides by superior force; and now you hear his last-dying moan beneath a mortal wound.”
When Humboldt and Bonpland landed at Cumana they saw the first troops of Araguatos,t as they journeyed to the mountains of Cocallor and the celebrated cavern of Guacharo. The forests that surrounded the convent of Caripe, which is highly elevated and where the centigrade thermometer fell to 70° during the night, abounded with them, and their mournful howling was heard, particularly in open weather or before rain or storms, at the distance of half a league. Upwards of forty of this gregarious species were counted upon one tree on the banks of the Apure;
* Genus Mycetes.
+ Mycetes Ursinus. It is nearly three feet in length, without including the tail.