The Baldwin Library
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WHO WERE THE FIRST MINERS?
; ^^ 1 -^^-
THE PRAIRIE DOG
r .__ .____ _____.._.... ___
THE FIRST MINERS?
Well suid, old mole (anst ork i' thle earth so fit
A worthy pioneer "
T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERN'IOSTEIE ROW;
EDINBURHI: AND NEW YORK.
WHO WERE THE FIRST MINERS?
THE BLIND MOLE CASTS COPPED HILLS.
a F all the seasons of the year, surely Spring is
h the most glorious. Does any other make
an equal impression on the imagination
a and heart of man ? The long dreariness
S of Winter is ended, and the gloom which,
like the dulness on the face of Nature,
has more or less prevailed over our spirits, passes
away. We feel a fresh vigour in our frame, a
renewed elasticity in our minds : we begin to
hope once more. How can it be otherwise ?
When we watch the trees putting forth their buds
and the flowers their blossomns-when we see that
the brooks wear a brighter sparkle-when we
know- that the air is merry with the songs of
birds-when we gaze delightedly as the mist
gathers its trailing wreaths of silver up the green
6 A MORNING IN APRIL.
hill-sides--when we perceive it lifted up from
valley and plain like a crystal veil which has
hitherto concealed their picturesque outlines,-
how can we do otherwise than rejoice with a
most innocent gladness ? how can we do other-
wise than exult that the beauty of earth and
heaven has come back to us once more ? As the
rainbow throwing its many-coloured arch across
the cloudy firmament is a token that the earth
shall never again be wasted by destroying waters;
so is the return of Spring a sign that God's mercy
shall never fail us, but that our hearts shall always
have cause for thankfulness and hope.
It is a morning in April, and sweet sights and
sounds summlon us abroad. As we tread the
beaten path beside the old hedgerow, we hear the
familiar voice of the cuckoo, though we cannot
see his form. We note that a beautiful shadow
of greenery is beginning to fall upon the woods
and groves around us-a tender green, which has
something very charming in its delicacy. The
leaves of the eln are more than half-developed;
the long drooping foliage of the silver birch drops
over its golden flowers; the ash, always shy and
timid, is less forward than any of its fellows-
less forward even than the oak, which is never in
a hurry to put out its glossy, metallic-looking
leaves. Observe how the clusters of the labur-
num drop gold among the gardens and plantations;
RIIUAL SIG(ITS AND SOUNDS. 7
how the leaves of the beech sparkle in the sun-
shine; how the fruit-trees-plum, and cherry,
and apple--look as if they had been clothed in
a fairy attire of pink and white. And what a
fragrance comes upon the fresh morning breeze !-
sweeter than any incense poured out before the
shrines of heathen temples. No wonder that the
bees whirl about and around the honied ft. .,
and hasten to rifle them of their scented treasures.
But not only are the bees on the alert; all
animated nature is astir. The beetle comes forth
to sun itself in the increasing radiance of the
day. The spider has begun to deck the hedges
with the silver lines of its wondrous woof. How
greedily the cattle refresh themselves with the
juicy grasses How pleasant it is to see the
green slope dappled with the sportive ]ani is, and
to mark the wild antics of the colts as they dis-
port themselves in the sheltered paddock And
then the birds! They are all around us and
8 THE COMPANIONS OF THE SPRING.
above us, singing as if they could never give full
expression to all the happiness with which their
tiny bosoms throb. Ever and anon we catch
sight of the white wing of the swallow, as he
flies to and fro with materials to build his nest.
Sparrows are perched on every bough, or on the
thatched roof of the barn, or the house-tops, or
among the dense ivy and laurel which have
clambered up the old church-tower. Flitting
., > . ." ..
SPAr [ROWS ON IIOUNIE,-TOP.
from spray to spray, like a disembodied spirit,"
the white-throat dazzles us with her snowy breast.
Hovering above yonder patch of furze, now rich
with its golden ingots, the linnet sings with might
and main ; while from the very cope, as it seems,
of the deep blue sky, the lark's song falls upon us
like the echoes of a heavenly harp.
"The winter is over and gone," says Solomon;
"the ll....-. i appear on the earth, and the time of
the singing of birds is come." The .'.. ,* i': appear
OUTBURST OF THE FLOWERS. 9
on the earth This circumstance alone would
make Spring very dear to us; for we learn to
know how large a space in our heart is filled by
the flowers during the flowerless months of win-
ter: and hence the coming of the snowdrop or
the blossoming of the crocus is an event which
fills us with admiration.
The flowers appear on the earth : the tall
cowslip, with its freckled beauty; the wild hya-
cinth, its pliant stalk bending beneath its weight
of bells ; the exquisite lily-of-the-valley, whose
pure loveliness no words can fitly describe ; the
yellow daffodils, which pass away so soon; the
cuckoo-flower, or "lady-smock all silver-white ;"
and the beautiful primrose, with its green leaves
10 SOMETHING STRANGE IN THE MEADOW.
and star-like yellow flowers. Thus comes the
Spring-the exultant Spring,-
All garnished with garlands-goodly sight !-
Of all the fairest flowers and freshest buds
"Which the earth brings forth."
But this book is entitled, Who were the First
Miners ? and you will ask me, gentle reader,
what have miners to do with spring ? Well, the
miners of whom I am going to speak have very
much to do with spring. It is then that they
begin their labours; that, after their winter-rest,
they once more ply the tools and implements
with which an All-wise Power has provided them.
Remember that long before man dug caves in the
rock, or bored tunnels through the hill, or exca-
vated deep mines and galleries underground, there
were industrious-ay, and skilful--Miners at
work, from whom Man himself may have gathered
some useful hints.
If you cross a meadow in the merry time of
spring-and especially a meadow lying at no
"great distance from a wood or plantation-you
will find it covered with a row or two of heaps of
fresh earth, which quite spoil the uniform green-
\ness of its surface. If you are a town boy,"
and have read little of natural history, these little
mounds of mould will greatly puzzle you, and I
daresay you will wonder why the farmer allows
"them to lie upon his field. But go into the wood,
TIE BLIND MOLE'S WORK. 11
the orchard, or the garden, and you will see the
same curious phenomenon; and on inquiring of
the country children, you will be told that they
are the work of the blind mole which casts up
the copped (or rounded) hills." Yes; they are
the work of the Mole, one of the most remarkable
and indefatigable of the First Miners.
We will endeavour to examine his mode of
working; but, first of all, we must say something
about the miner himself.
The MOLE (Latin, Ttl)pa) belongs to a genus
of quadrupeds of the ur'ler Insectivori (that is,
insect-eaters), and the family Tl'pidce. All the
members of this family live, or chiefly live, under-
ground; and their Creator has admirably adapted
their organization to their peculiar mode of life.
The Common Mole-of which we have here to
speak-is abundant in all the more temperate
regions of Europe; is abundant in England, and
in all Scotland except the extreme north ; but is
never found in Ireland, nor has he made his way
to some of the Scotch islands. He is rather a
handsome animal; generally of a uniform black
colour, but sometimes of a gray, or yellowish
white, or even orange-yellow. His fur is smooth
as silk or velvet, and lies quite evenly in every
direction; and as the short hairs grow perpen-
dicularly from the skin, the fur is kept clean as
12 A VORACIOUS QUADRUPED.
the animal moves to and fro in his underground
galleries. His great work is .1i. n In this
he chiefly employs his fore-paws; and they are
admirably adapted to the purpose. They are not
only very broad, but are turned outwards, so as
to facilitate their owner in throwing back the soil
he excavates. His muscles are very strong, and
the neck is strengthened by a peculiar 1 one. His
snout is also strong, and of remarkable flexibility.
By some of our earlier poets he was called the
"blind mole," but he can see -'ifti.. ntly for his
underground life ; and he has two very small
black eyes, which when necessary lie can draw
back into their orbits until they are hardly visible.
His senses of hearing, smell, and taste are very
keenly developed. Ah, what sharp teeth he
has !-the dog-teeth, as they are called, being
long and sharp, the cutting-teeth small and biting;
so that he can feed not only on earth-worms, his
chief food, and a little on grubs, but also on.
frogs, birds, and small quadrupeds. He is an
animal of great voracity ; this voracity being
forced on him by nature, for he is unable to en-
dure any long fast-hunger ends in death. In
his extremity he will attack and devour even his
own kind. The moment he has succeeded in
killing any bird or quadruped, he tears open its
belly, thrusts in his head, and gorges himself with
its blood. But his chief food is earth-worms;
DIGGING AND WATCHING. 1 3
and it is in search of these that le mines under-
ground in the very remarkable way I am about
MIPLE AND SNAKE.
It has very justly been said of him, that he
does not merely dig tunnels in the ground, and
sit at the end of them like a spider in the recess
of its web; but forms a complicated subterranean
dwelling-place, with chambers, passages, and other
14 UNDERGROUND LABOURS.
arrangements of wonderful completeness. Regular
roads lead to his feeding-grounds; he establishes
"a system of communication as elaborate as that of
"a modern railway-or, to speak more correctly,
as that of the subterranean net-work of metro-
politan sewers. I have examined several mole-
hills, and though they have .ii,. 1-.1 in size and
detail, I have always found them constructed on
the same leading principle.
The rapidity with which the animal works is
really astonishing ; in one night he will traverse
a space of twenty to thirty feet in length : in
Scotland the gardeners say he is working towards
the water. You get up in the morning, and find
your lawn completely disfigured by the traces of
his progress. In seed-time he does much damage
by his expeditious underground labours.
But there is not much to interest you in any
of the heaps of earth which he throws up as he
drives his tunnels through the soil. They are the
shafts through which he ejects the soil and pebbles
he has scooped up. Dig down about eighteen
inches, and you will come upon a hole. This-as
by thrusting a stick in you can easily discover-
simply leads into one of the tunnels, while the
tunnel guides you to the animal's real abode.
The hill under which this abode is constructed
is usually concealed in some secret corner-under
a tree or a shrub, or sheltered by some over-
TI E C ENTRiAL CIAM lRAE. 15
hanging bank. Carefully removing the raised
earth, we come upon a central chamber, whose
.MOLE AI E-Ii
,, ,: ,,i' : :, , ,
,MOLE AND,.LE-I! I ..
ceiling is nearly on a level with the ground round
about. Two circular galleries inclose this inner
16 GALLERIES AND PASSAGES.
fortress-one just equal with the ceiling, and the
other at some height above. The upper gallery
is much smaller than the lower. The one is con-
nected by the other with five short descending
passages ; but the only entrance into the mole's
stronghold is from the upper' gallery, out of which
three passages lead to the roof Hence, when a
mole enters his fortress from one of his tunnels,
he has first to make his way into the lower gal-
lery ; next, to ascend to the upper gallery ; and
so dip down into the Bluebeard's chamber.
Another entrance into this chamber, however,
is sometimes provided from below. From the
centre a passage sinks a few inches downwards;
and then, curving upwards, opens upon one of the
larger tunnels. But observe, I pray you, that of
these tunnels-generally seven or eight in number,
and all radiating in different directions-not one
ever opens into the lower gallery exactly opposite
any of the entrances into the upper gallery.
The walls of all these passages, and the roof of
the central chamber, become smooth, hard, and
polished in time, through the constant pressure of
the mole's fur ; and even after the heaviest rains,
the earth will not give way.
I have paid some attention to the habits of
moles, and to the construction of their ingenious
domiciles ; but I confess I am at as great a loss
as other naturalists to determine the use of all
SOME OBVIOUS REFLECTIONS. 17
the tunnels and cells which I have been attempt-
ing to describe. As Mr. Wood says, the only
object that can at present be surmised is, that
their rightful owner may rest safely in his strong-
hold, tasting the reward of repose which sweetens
labour," and, in case of alarm, may escape through
one or other of the radiating passages. But I
say, with Mr. Wood, that I don't know--I am not
at all sure-whether the mole does always retire
to his fortress in order to rest. I am inclined
to agree with professional mole-catchers, that he
contents himself with lying in the main gallery.
The mole works and rests by periods of three
hours each, making no differeence-why should
he ?-between day and night.
Certain obvious reflections are suggested by
the wonderful work which this quadrupedal miner
What a singular effort of inborn skill, for in-
stance, is shown in the fortress, with its central
chamber, and the circular galleries that surround
and defend it Consider the wide area of ground,
in proportion to his size, which a single mole will
occupy with his tunnels and passages, driven in
every direction, and sunk at various depths, ac-
cording to the state of the soil and the number
and position of the worms which form his staple
food. Sometimes he makes his way along the
18 A FIRST-RA'TE WORKEi.
very surface of the ground, his back visible as he
passes, and so makes a shallow trench rather
than a tunnel. Sometimes, as in very dry
weather, he is obliged to dive deeply into the
earth before he can find the worms, which detest
drought, and cannot exist but in damp situa-
The muscular exertion used by the mole is
really tremendous ; but it would not enable him
to go through with his arduous task but for the
extraordinary vivacity of his nature. He is a
first-rate worker, throwing himself with all his
energy into whatever lhe undertakes. His labour
seems to give him a positive pleasure ; and I can
fancy that he finishes off his chambers, and his
nursery-for he does not forget this necessary
appendage-and his walks and tunnels, with as
much delighted carefulness as a sculptor employs
in giving the last touches to some beautiful marble
He carries this fervour of disposition into his
feeding, as we have seen ; he carries it also into
his love-making. About the middle of June, or
in the early part of July, he falls in love ; and
lie falls in love most furiously. At that fatal
time no two moles can meet one another without
instantly desiring to come to close quarters ; and
.o they fight, and rend, and tear, and scratch, and
bite, and wound, heedless of the injuries they in-
TIE FIRST MINERS. 19
flict upon one another-heedless of everything
but the fierce agony of the struggle. They fight,
not only in their burrows, but in the open air;
in which case they may easily be caught, for
keen of hearing as they are at other times, their
mad encounter seems to deafen them to outward
sounds and blind them to approaching enemies.
You see, then, that these miners are a strange
and remarkable race. But their peculiarities
have nothing to do with their work, which is, at
the least, as strange and remarkable as themselves.
Do you not think so ? They began their under-
ground labours before man appeared upon the
earth ; and therefore we may rightly speak of
them, and the animals resembling them in their
method of work, as the FIRST ?M:'. i -
S_. ... .. -- __.-_- i
I1 E First Miners form a numerous and in-
"teresting class. We have placed the
Mole at their head; but we are not sure
that in mining powers he actually sur-
"passes the 1:.1._! The excavations
accomplished by the latter are really astonishing,
when the size of the animal is considered.
The Badger (scientific name, Il-'. ., is a genus
of the great bear family or Ursidce, and forms a
kind of connecting link between that family and
the itlstelidce, or weasel and otter family. That
is, though in most respects he resembles his cousin
the bear, in some he is like unto his cousin further
removed, the weasel. But he is still more akin
to the skunk, though his odour is not so over-
poweringly disagreeable. He differs from the
bear in the shape and character of his teeth, which
are better adapted than those of the former for
vegrtal !e food. Don't think, however, that he is
A CURIOUS BILL OF FARE. 21
a mild, gentle-mannered animal, living, like a
hermit, only on roots and water. All our i -,
are fierce-tempered and cruel, and your badger,
though willing enough to feed on strawberries,
and honey, and beech-mast, and fruits, loves a
hearty banquet on more stimulating fare-such as
mice, young birds, frogs, snails, insects, worms,
-- ,, .
:a t '- v ,, '"b.
and the larva of wasps and bees. In fact, to
quote an old proverb, all is fish that comes to
his net; and to quote another, he finds hunger
the best sauce, and is by no means particular
about his bill of fare.
Would you know a badger if you saw one ?
I think not; and, therefore, I shall describe
22 LOOK ON THIS PICTURE.
him to you. Fancy an animal about two feet
and a half in length, and, at the shoulders, eleven
inches high. The general shape of his body is not
unlike that of an otter, and as he walks on the
whole sole of his foot, and not merely on the front
part of it, his body is thus brought much closer
to the ground than might have been expected
from his length of limb. He has a long tapering
head, with a narrow muzzle, quite pointed at the
tip; his tail is a ridiculous apology, a mere
stump ; his skin is very thick and tough, and
covered with long grayish-brown hair on the
upper part of the body, and long black hair be-
neath, reaching to the ground as the animal walks
along. His head is white, but marked on each
side with a longitudinal black band. On each
foot are five toes, and these are well suited for
his burrowing and b.1 __i habits. Owing to his
peculiar formation, his gait is slow and apparent-
ly painful; he drags himself along rather than
Badgers-or as they are called in Scotland,
broclks-are not now very numerous in Great
Britain. They are nocturnal and solitary in their
habits, sallying forth alone, after dark, in search
of prey. They shrink, as might be supposed,
from the neighbourhood of men, who are some-
what partial to the excitement of a badger-hunt;
and dig out their mines or burrows in the silent
THE BADGER'S CHARACTER. 23
wildernesses of the woods, or in the thick planta-
tions which cover the sides of the remotest hills.
Before I describe his mine, let me note one
singular peculiarity which is not found in any
other members of the great bear family. Beneath
the tail is placed a kind of bag, or gland, for the
secretion of a peculiar and very evil-smelling su)!-
stance. This scent is supposed to be of use in
guiding the male badger to his mate during their
nightly walks abroad"
When he begins to excavate a mine, he first
digs out a shaft or entrance, running sideways,
and with several winding, to a depth of six or
seven feet. He then constructs his various pass-
ages and galleries, extending often over an area
of thirty feet, and these lie connects with several
cells or chambers, which lie uses for purposes of
retirement. One is the nest, or nursery, and its
floor is snugly covered with a layer of soft grass
An able naturalist sketches the character and
habits of the badger in graphic language. Heavy,
sleepy, and slothful, endowed with but a moderate
degree of intellect, and with instincts dull and
obtuse, he yet possesses a character and qualities
which, if not peculiarly interesting and intelligent,
are far from being disgusting and ferocious; and
if he do not boast the admirable sagacity and
lively attachment of the dog, he is yet free from
24 THE BADGER AT HOME.
the cunning and rapine of the fox, and the fierce-
ness and treachery of the cat.
This character seems to us at once too favour-
able and too unfavourable. His carnivorous tastes
are surely a proof of a certain degree of fierce-
ness, while his well-constructed domicile testifies
to a certain degree of activity and liveliness.
His favourite haunts, continues our authority,
are obscure and gloomy. With his long and
powerful claws he digs for himself a deep and
extensive abode, consisting of more than one
apartment, the single entrance to which is by a
deep, oblique, and even tortuous excavation. The
general form of his long but robust body, the long
taper muzzle terminating in a movable snout, the
hard coarse hair, the loose and leathery skin, the
low squat limbs, and the fossorial* character of the
claws, combine to fit the badger for an under-
ground abode, and enable him to form that abode
by his own labour.
In his subterraneous chamber lie sleeps during
the greater part of the day, coming abroad only for
a short period in the evening or the night to seek
If you want to catch a badger, you must place
a sack at the entrance to his mine on some moon-
lit night when he is out feeding. The mouth of
the bag must be outwards, with a running string
Fossorial: adapted for digging 'from a Latin word).
HOW TO CATCH HIM. 25
around it. Two or three couples of hounds are
then let loose at some distance, and as soon as the
badger hears their cry, he hastens home with all
speed, and runs straight into the sack or bag,
which is closed behind him by the tightening of
the running string at its mouth. And thus you
secure your badger.
THE PRAIRIE-DOG, OR WIISH-TON-WISH.
r TRAVELLER, who has crossed the
-, broad green prairies of the Far West,
S.4: gives the following interesting account
of the animal known as the Prairie-
S dog :-
S "In this waste there was not either
lird or beast to be seen, except the prairie-dogs.
I do not know how these little animals obtained
this absurd appellation, as they do not bear the
slightest resemblance to the canine species either
in formation or habits. In size they vary ex-
tremely, but in general they are not larger than a
squirrel, and not unlike one in appearance, except
that they want his bushy tail; the head is also
somewhat rounder. They burrow under the light
soil, and throw it up round the entrance to their
dwelling, like the English rabbit: on this little
mound they generally sit, chirping and chattering
to one another, like two neighbour gossips in a
THE PIAIIE-DOG. 27
village. Their number is incredible, and their
cities (for they deserve no less a name) full of
activity and bustle. I do not know what their
"occupations are ; but I have seen them constantly
running from one hole to another, although they
do not even pay very distant visits. They seem,
on the approach of danger, always to retire to
their own homes : but their great delight ap-
parently consists in braving it, with the usual
insolence of cowardice, when secure from punish-
mnent; for, as you approach, they wag their little
tails, elevate their heads, and chatter at you like
a monkey, louder and louder the nearer you come.
3ut no sooner is the hand raised to any missile,
whether gun, arrow, stick, or stone, than they pop
into the hole with a rapidity only equalled by
that sudden disappearance of Punch, with which,
when a child, I have been so much delighted in
the streets and squares of London."
The Prairie-dog is not a member of the canine
race; but derives his name simply from a sup-
posed similarity between his warning cry and the
bark of a small dog. He belongs to the marmots,
a genus of rodent (or gnawing) animals, found in
Europe, Asia, and America. His scientific name
is Arctomys latrans.* He lives in the extensive
prairies which extend along the banks of the Mis-
souri and its tributary streams; hundreds of them
Or, according to some naturalists, Spermophilus ldlovicianus.
28 A SNUG HABITATION.
forming a regular colony, whose habitations spread
over an area several miles in extent. The animal
is about sixteen to twenty inches in length, with
reddish-brown fur on the upper part of his body,
and whitish underneath. His tail is short, and
banded near the tip. His head is short and fiat;
short are his legs; short and thin his tail; his
PRAIRIE-DOGS AT DOME.
body heavy he has four toes on each of his fore-
He digs a burrow of good capacity, and evi-
dently running to no small depth, as one such bur-
row has been known to suck in five barrels of water
"without crying, Hold, enough It is dug in
an oblique or sloping direction, at an angle of
about 45', for five or six feet, then it bends sud-
UNWELCOME COMPANIONS. 2!)
denly, and gradually rises upward. The earth
thrown out in the course of this mining process
is accumulated at the mouth of the burrow, where
it forms a mound like a mole-hill, on the summit
of which sits the industrious miner, and, when an
intruder comes in sight, utters a warning cry.
Immediately all the other marmots disappear into
their burrows, and the scene, but a moment ago so
animated, becomes a silent and solitary waste.
The prairie-dog, strange to say, does not possess
a home exclusively his own; for the burrowing or
Coquimbo Owl (Athene canicularia), and the for-
midable Rattlesnake, take forcible possession of it,
devouring the inmates, and thus obtaining "board
and lodging" at a marvellously cheap rate. At
least, this is certainly the case with the rattle-
snake, for the bodies of young marmots have been
found in its stomach. The proof in the case of
the owl is not so satisfactory ; but there is some
reason to believe that he now and then snaps
"up an infant marmot while its body is soft and
I have said that he owes his name to the short
yelping sound which he is fond of uttering, and
which bears some resemblance to the bark of a
young puppy. Even in captivity," we are told,
" he utters this short, impatient yelp, which may
generally be extorted from the little animal by
placing the hand near his cage. Though gentle
30 A CURIOUS SCENE.
and l I i. I t.ii to his keeper, he dislikes strangers;
and if their fingers approach the bars of his house
too closely, lie barks at the intruders like an angry
squirrel, and scratches smartly at their hands with
his sharp and powerful claws."
Notwithstanding his many foes-some of which,
as we have seen, positively install themselves in
the midst of his household-the prairie-dog is
a very prolific animal, multiplying rapidly, and
carrying his excavations to really considerable dis-
tances. The truth seems to be, that when once
the prairie-dogs settle themselves in what they
conceive to be a comfortable and appropriate
locality, their increase seems boundless, and the
little mounds of earth, planted like circular bat-
teries near the mouth of their burrows, stretch as
far as the eye can reach.
There are several kinds of marmots in North
America. All are rodents ; all dig burrows; but
none are so interesting in their habits--none ex-
cavate their subterranean abodes on so vast a scale
-as the Wish-ton-wish.
SUPPOSE every one of my readers knows
..'., something about the ways and manners
-*-- I of this familiar animal; but those who
,. are acquainted with him only in a
domesticated state will be surprised
that I should include him among the Miners.
Let me tell you, my young friends, that you can
never thoroughly understand the characteristics of
an animal unless you have studied him in his
wild condition. The rabbit, penned up in a
wooden hutch, where he has scarcely room to hop
about, cannot be compared with the lively but
sagacious creature which sports at his ease among
the sands of--let us say, Gullane, near North
Berwiek, in Scotland--or of Freshwater, in the
Isle of Wight.
I have no objection to rabbits in their native
abodes-in a warren, as it is called ; but I have
a strong objection to them in my kitchen-garden,
32 IN A RABBIT-WARREN.
where the damage a couple will contrive to effect
in a single night is really painful to contemplate.
And, let me tell you, it is no easy matter to expel
them from a locality of which they have once
taken possession. You may try gun, and ferret,
and trap, but some of them generally contrive to
escape ; and if they happen to be of opposite sexes,
they will soon re-stock the neighbourhood-they
breed so very rapidly.
What says Mr. Bell ?
In sandy heaths, covered with large bushes of
furze, they often multiply to a great extent, as
the soil is easily removed, and the dense furze
affords a secure cover to their retreat, and a whole-
some, ready, and never-failing food; for the young
tops of the plants are found constantly eaten down,
and the bushes present the appearance of a solid
mass, with the surface even and rounded, as far as
the rabbits can reach them standing on their
hinder legs. I have often seen them engaged in
this pleasant occupation; but the moment I have
attempted to draw near-hey, presto they have
scudded away, like ships before the wind, and
vanished into their thousand burrows.
They make extensive inroads, however, upon
corn-fields and plantations, where they effect con-
siderable mischief by devouring the newly-sprung
corn, and barking the young trees. They gene-
rally retire within their burrows during the day,
MULTIPLICATION OF RABBITS. 33
--this is true only of the middle of the day and
afternoon,-coming abroad in the twilight and
early morning to feel.
,.; ;i .7. .E r .
birds and beasts of prey, on the other, sought
ll.\ FEITS AT PLAY.
It has justly been said, that the rapid multi-
plication of the rabbit would soon render him one
of the greatest scourges of our agriculture, were
he not, on the one hand, destroyed by numerous
birds and beasts of prey, and, on the other, sought
by man as an article of food, and on account of
his fur, which is used for various purposes.
In his wild state the colour of the rabbit's fur
is a grayish-brown, paler on the under than on the
134 A SCIENTIFIC NAME.
"u- paper parts; the
tail is black above,
and white beneath.
'. But when domes-
ticated, we need
S hardly say that he
S... '._ varies greatly in
colour; being gray,
S1)lack, more or less
Often he is perfect-
ly white --white
S. '. ' .as the snow on
name bestowed on
our little friend is
", ..... Lepus cuniculus,
S aud he belongs to
t he Leporidca, or
hare tribe. In fact,
he closely resem-
Sbles the hare in
structure, and is
V'"it only by his
smaller size, his
MUE ENEY !EwU,,! shorter ears and
THE RABBIT'S BURROW. 35
hind-legs, and the absence of the black tip to the
ears. And though he scampers away very readily,
his speed by no means approaches that of the hare.
Hence, he makes no attempt to outstrip his pursuers
in the chase, but flies for safety to his underground
habitation. Then, again, he does not live a soli-
tary life like the hare, but is eminently social in
His burrow is formed somewhat after the shape
of the letter V, except that the two angles are
not exactly of the same length. The she rabbit
constructs a separate burrow for her nursery,
making it much more complicated than the ordinary
one, and lining it at the bottom with a portion oi'
her own fur. The young are born blind, and very
sparsely covered with hair; and for nearly six
weeks their mother continues to suckle them.
* t. ~
"'I JIE reader must not imagine, however, that
''. the First Miners were all quadrupeds.
"yI2 I think I can show him that among the
other great divisions of animated nature
were, and are, miners of dexterity as
signal and industry as great as even the much-
And first, I shall introduce him to a feathered
miner, a mining or burrowing bird, very common
in this country,-though only a visitor to, and
not a native of it,-the Sand-Martin.
He is the smallest of the swift and graceful
swallow tribe (Hirundo riparian The plumage
of the upper part of his body is of a mouse colour;
his throat, the fore part of his neck, his belly, and
vent, are white; the wings and tail brown, with
a slight rim of white on the outer feather; legs
dusky, slightly feathered behind; feet smooth and
dark-brown. He lives upon insects.
AN EXCELLENT TOOL. 37
The sand-martin displays a marked repugnance
to the society of man, and prefers to dwell with
his kind in little colonies along the steep, sandy,
and gravelly banks of streams and rivers, exca-
vating in these banks his breeding-places.
For this kind of work the bird's beak, which
is hard and sharp, is excellently adapted; it is
:. ^ .lF
":- %- -' -- '
AND -MA TLINS AND NI;NiS
small, but its smallness adds to its strength, and
the bird works with its bill shut. Mr. Rennie de-
scribes how he watched one of these birds through
an opera-glass, clinging with his sharp claws to the
face of a sand-bank, and driving in his bill, as a
miner would his pick-axe, until he had loosened
a considerable portion of the hard sand, and
tumbled it down among the rubbish below. At
38 HOW THE SAND-MARTIN WORKS.
the outset, he makes no use of his. claws for
Si__.! -,'; nor, in truth, could he, since they are
required to help him to maintain his position
while he is beginning his tunnel. Some of these
martins' holes, be it said, are nearly as circular as
if they had been designed by a pair of compasses,
while others are more irregular in form. This,
however, seems to depend more on the sand
crumbling away than on any lack of skill in the
original workmanship. The bird, in fact, always
makes use of his ozcw body to determine the
proportions of his gallery, the part from the
thigh to the head forming the radius of the
Now, he does not trace this out, as we learn to
do at school, by choosing a pencil for a centre,
around which, at an equal distance, we draw the
circumference. On the contrary, he perches on the
circumference with his claws, and works with his
bill from the centre outwards; and hence, the
gallery or nest always, to the best of our know-
lodge, assumes the shape of a funnel, the centre
being invariably much more dug out, or hollowed
out, than the circumference.
Consequently, while the bird is at work in the
interior he assumes all kinds of positions, like a
Leotard or a Blondin; hanging from the roof of
the gallery with his back downwards as often as
standing on the floor.
TOILING, TOILING PATIENTLY." 39
All the galleries you may have an opportunity
of examining will be found to be more or less
tortuous to their termination, which is reached at
a depth of from two to three feet; and then, at
the bottom, is spread a couch of loose hay and
feathers for the reception of the eggs. Let us.
add, that our miner always scrapes out with his
feet the sand he loosens with his bill; but this he
does so carefully, that he never scratches up the
unmined sand, or disturbs the plane of the floor,
which is made to tilt upwards, so as to prevent
any lodgment of rain.
The direction of the burrow is generally
straight; but if any obstacle comes in the way,
such as a stone or a root, the bird gives his work
a bend; and if the root proves inconveniently
hard, or the stone too large, he abandons the at-
tempted burrow, and seeks out some more con-
The sand-martins have many enemies-the
magpie and crow, the sparrow-hawk and kestrel;
and these make terrible havoc among the young
birds when just learning to fly. Man, too, is a
ruthless foe-or, rather, man in his state of boy-
hood, when birds'-nesting is regarded as an in-
describable pleasure, and more especially so if the
pursuit be attended with some danger. Occa-
sionally, however, as Mr. Simeon tells us, they
find a human friend.
40 A COLONY OF SAND-MARTINS.
.. A - ,
on one occasion, he
for the train at A\
bridge, lie amused i
self with watching .
colony of sand-mai t11
who had excavated .
tunnels on either si.i
the railway cutting '' .
his inquiring of a p. 1 -
whether the boys di In
o n one ofsio, the r-. .
he replied, that t1,
would if thewachin
who hallowed b4eavate t,." ,
allowed ; but," -,iI -', ...
A LIVELY SPECTACLE. 41
he, "the birds are such good friends to us, we
won't let anybody meddle with them." Mr.
Simeon fancied at first that lie spoke of them
as friends in the way of company only; but the
porter explained his meaning to be, that the flies
about the railway-station would be quite intoler-
able if they were not cleared off by the martins,
who were always whirling up and down in front
of it; adding, that even during the few hot days
which occurred in the spring before their arrival,
the flies would grow very troublesome. Now,"
he said, we may see one occasionally, but that
It was a bright sunny day in July, and Mr.
Simeon describes the scene as very lively and
interesting. The mouths of the holes on both
sides of the cutting were crowded with young
martins-as many, perhaps, as four or five in
each-sunning their barred white breasts, and
waiting to be fed. The telegraph wires formed
perches, of which advantage was taken by scores
of others more advanced in growth, and of old
ones reposing after their exertions; while the air
was filled with swarms engaged in catering for
their families. Suddenly, the young ones retreated
into their holes; the wires were abandoned; and
only a few remained, describing distant circles.
Mr. Simeon naturally thought that a hawk must
have made his appearance; but he soon discovered
42 AN INDICATION OF INSTINCT.
that the alarm had been caused by two men
walking over the heath above, and approaching
the holes. The young ones in their underground
nests had doubtlessly felt the jar produced by
their tread; and those on the wing, who saw
them, had given wv.ii., we may suppose, by
note, to the birds perched on the wires, who could
not have seen nor heard their approach.
It may be mentioned as a proof of the instinct
of the sand-martin, that he does not prefer a
laborious task to an easy one, when the latter
can be obtained. If he can find a spot where the
soil is quite loose, and yet not so loose that the
sides of his tunnel are likely to fall in, he will in-
variably take advantage of such a locality. Mr.
Wood remarks that he has frequently seen such
instances of judgment, where the birds had selected
the sandy spaces occurring between strata of
stone, and so saved themselves from any trouble
except scraping and throwing away the loose
Sand-martins are particularly numerous in
America, where they display a partiality for the
shores of the great rivers, congregating in immense
fIlE Hoopoe (U)Uupa epolps) is neither much
known nor frequently seen in England;
"Vr but there is so much that is curious
in his ways and habits that I cannot re-
train from saying something about him.
First, let me tell you that he is a very graceful
bird, about the size of a missel-
thrush, but of a slenderer form.
From the shortness of his legs
you can tell at once that he is
a perching rather than a waluk-
ing bird. His head is adorned '.-.
with a handsome crest, cori- -xr
posed of a double row of long ,
plumes, which he can erect at '
pleasure. These plumes are of .:
a rich, warm, buff' colour, ter-
minating in a patch of white,
tipped with velvet black. The plumage of his head,
44 THE 1HOOPOE IN FRANCE.
neck, and body, is of a dark ferruginous colour,
darkest on the back and shoulders; the wings
and tail are black, the former crossed by five
white bars, the latter chequered in the middle by
a white crescent.
The Italians call this bird bubbola, most pro-
bably on account of his peculiar cry, which, ac-
cording to some authorities, resembles the frequent
and rapid utterance of the syllable bi, bi, bu, bi;
though the Americans identify it with a soft and
swift repetition of hoop, hoop, hoop.
In America, our bird chiefly frequents the woods;
in Africa, he follows the receding waters of the
Nile as they draw back lazily over reeking plains
which swarm with insect life; in Europe and
England, he seeks his food in the ploughed lands
and pastures. In France, he seeks some such
locality as the following :
On the Bordeaux side of the Garonne, and
near the city, are large spaces of marshy ground,
intersected by broad ditches and creeks terminating
in the river; where, from the advantage derived
from the water, many poplars and willows are
planted for the sake of the twigs, which are much
used for tying vines. The trees, topped at about
ten or twelve feet from the ground, so as to
induce them to sprout much, become very thick;
and in the course of a few years, gradually de-
caying at the centre, are attacked by numerous
THE HOOPOE'S NESTS. 45
insects, particularly the jet ant (Formica peli-
ginosa). In these retired places, which are fre-
quented only by a few cowherds and country
people, the hoopoe, which is a very shy bird, may
be frequently observed, examining the rotten
wood, and feeding on the insects with which it
abounds. The hoopoe flies low and seldom, unless
when disturbed, his food being so abundant as to
require little search."
This food consists not only of insects, but of
tadpoles and beetles, grubs and worms. The
young are very voracious; and as the substances
on which they feed are very liable to putrefy,
the nests are of a peculiarly offensive smell. But,
as it has been remarked, from this very circum-
stance we may infer the value of the bird, as a
sanitary agent, in keeping the air pure and whole-
some, especially in the hot countries which seem
his proper habitat.
I am not sure that I ought to have included
him under mining birds. However, though he
very frequently makes his nest in the hollow of a
tree, which he digs out with his long bill, he not
seldom seeks out the cavities of sandstone rocks,
clearing them of loose sand and gravel, and building
up a heap of grass, feathers, and similar materials
for the reception of the eggs of the female. He is
not a very ingenious or industrious miner or bur-
rower; still, he certainly belongs to the trade.
46 THE CRESTED HOOPOES SINGING AS THEY PASS."
Mr. Mitchell speaks of his song in eulogistic
The almond-tree, faint rustling o'er our head,
The rill that purls along its pebbly bed,
The green cicada chirping 'mid the grass,
The crested hoopoes singing as they pass,
All rtharm the scnae, and soothe the pensive heart,
And bid sweet dreams and gentlest fancies start."
TIHE LAND CRA .
..? HAVE introduced you to miners among
S quadrupeds and birds. What will you
.. say if I make known to you a very
expert and industrious one in a crus-
,' tacean ?
What is a crustacean ?
When you don't know the meaning of a word
or thing, you do quite right to inquire. There is
no better mode of gaining information than by
Crustacea, or crustaceans, are animals covered
with a soft shell or crust : such as crabs, lobsters,
shrimps, prawns. They are also called articulated
animals; that is, their limbs or members consist
of segments or rings, jointed into each other, and
to the inside of these their muscles are attached.
The crust or shell may be regarded as a kind of
epidermis, or outer skin; for underneath we find
a membrane like the true skin of higher animals;
48 GETTING RID OF AN INCUIMBRANCE.
and at certain times this epidermis detaches itself
and falls off The way in which they get rid of
this incumbrance is very curious. In general,
they extricate themselves from it without occa-
sioning the least change in its form. When they
are first shell-less, the whole surface of their bodies
is extremely soft, and it is some time before the
substance which has been exuded (or poured forth)
from the pores on the surface of their skin acquires
consistency and hardness.
THE LAND CRAB OF JAMAICA. 49
To these crustacea belongs the Land Crab, or
Gecurcinus, as our scientific naturalists call it.
The best-known species of this crustacean is that
Jamaica-the Violet Land Crab, or Gecurcius.
.v'cola-and it is to this miner or burrower I
purpose to direct the reader's attention.
Remarkable stories are told about it. I am
not prepared to say that all are positively and
actually true. But there seems no reason to
doubt the veracity, in the main, of the i'..l..'---i!
When the season for spawning arrives, they set
out from the hills in vast armies, marching in a
direct line towards the sea-shore, for the purpose
of depositing their eggs in the sand. On this grand
expedition they, like the locusts, will not suffer
themselves to be turned aside by any obstacle.
It matters not whether the intervening object be
a house, or a rock, or any other body, they do
not execute a flank march, but climb up it and
over it, still, preserving a direct line i "As the
crow flies," is a well-known saying ; but it would
be more correct to express ourselves, As the land
Having reached the destined limit of their
journey, they deposit their eggs in the sand, and
begin their return march towards their upland re-
treats. Setting out after nightfall, they steadily
"T This statement is certainly exaggerated.
50 GROWING A NEW LIMB.
advance, until the glimmer of daylight in the east
warns them to seek concealment in the inequalities
of the ground, or among any kind of rubbish,
where they lie concealed until the stars again
invite them to resume their "undeviating course."
On their seaward progress they are in full vigour
and fine condition; and this is the time when they
are caught in great numbers for the table.
You must be wary, however, in your efforts to
they are as ready, we are told, to fight as to run;
and woe to the careless hunter who chances to be
caught in the nip of one of their large claws. For
the crab has the power of shaking off the limb at
its junction with the body. And as the muscles
of the claw retain their tension for some little time
after the connection with the body has been severed,
the enemy feels as much pain as if the crab were
still in the possession of the offending claw; and, in
the confusion caused by the bite, the latter hurries
away to take shelter in some burrow or crevice.
As is the case with all crustaceans, his loss is but
temporary : a new limb quickly buds, and grows,
and takes the place of the abandoned claw !
The land crab digs a regular burrow in the
sand, where he ensconces himself when satiated
with food, or alarmed by the approach of a foe.
He is fond of the company of his kind, and the
locality where he domiciliates himself is always
THE FIGHTING CRAB. 51
honeycombed with burrows. The ground is as
thickly sown with them as a rabbit warren.
About the month of August, the land crab is
compelled to cast his shell. Thereupon he retires
to his burrow, which he has previously stocked
with grass, leaves, and other soft materials. Then
he closes up the entrance, and remains concealed
until the old coat is thrown off, and the new one
put on; a process which, I suspect, is not very
pleasant to him who undergoes it.
A reference may be permitted us to two or
three other species of land crabs. There is, for
instance, the Fighting Crab (Gelasimus bellator),
which possesses one very large and one very little
claw, so that "it looks as if a small man were
g'it. .i with one arm of Hercules and the other of
Tom Thumb." As he scuds along, he holds the
larger claw aloft in the air, and nods it continual-
ly, as if beckoning to his pursuer to "come on,
and fight it out." From the ridiculous appearance
he then presents, he has obtained his Latin appel-
lation, the Laughable Warrior." The gelasimiz s
is as fond of fighting as a schoolboy ; and when
engaged in combat, guards his body with his long
claw, and bites with equal force and rapidity.
His mode of burrowing is peculiar: every two
minutes he comes up to the surface with a
quantity of sand enclosed in his left claw, which,
52 THE ROBBER CRAB.
by sudden jerks, he throws to a distance of about
six inches, always taking care to vary the direc-
tion in which it was thrown, so as to prevent its
accumulation in one place.
Bishop Heber describes a land crab which
seems to be peculiar to India. All the grass
through the Deccan, he says, generally swarms
with a small land crab, which burrows in the
ground and runs with considerable swiftness, even
when encumbered with a bundle of food as big
as himself. This food is grass, or the green stalks
of rice ; and it is amusing to see the crabs, sitting,
as it were, upright, cut their hay with their sharp
pincers, and then waddling off with their sheaf to
their holes as quickly as their sidelong pace will
Lastly, I may notice the Robber Crab, which
is not only remarkable for his mining habits, but
for the singular character of his food. He lives
upon cocoa-nuts How a crab should crack the
thick outward husk of this delicious fruit is a
greater puzzle than that he should appreciate the
kernel when once he gets at it; but it is a fact
beyond dispute that he accomplishes this difficult
feat, and that he does even something more. For
with his enormous pincers he tears up the outer
covering of the nut into a quantity of fibrous
HOW TO CRACK YOUR COCOA-NUT 53
threads, and these he carries to the bottom of his
burrow, where he piles them up into a comfortable
couch preparatory to the process of changing his
shell. The Malays rob the burrows of these fibrous
stores, and use them, as our shipbuilders use oakum,
to caulk, or close up, the seams of vessels. They
also weave them into mats and cordage.
These animals, according to Tyerman and
Bennett, the missionaries, live under the cocoa-
nut trees, and subsist upon the fruit which they
find on the ground.*
With their powerful fore-claws they tear off the
fibrous husk; afterwards, inserting one of the
sharp points of the same into a hole at the end of
the nut, they beat it with violence against a
stone until it cracks: the shell is then easily
pulled to pieces, and the precious fruit within de-
voured at leisure. Sometimes, by widening the
hole with one of their round, gimlet claws, or en-
larging the breach with their forceps, they effect
sufficient entrance to enable them to scoop out the
kernel, without the trouble of breaking the un-
These crabs, we learn, burrow in the earth
under the roots of the trees that furnish them
One species of the robber crab is said to climb the palms, and throw the
nuts down upon the ground. Then, having removed the husk, he again
ascends the tree, and hurls the nut to the ground with all his force, with
the view of breaking it. If he does not succeed the first time, he repeats the
process as often as may be necessary !
54 A SINGULAR SIGHT.
with provisions; prudently storing up in their
holes large quantities of cocoa-nuts, stripped of
their husk, at those times when the fruits are
most abundant, against the recurring intervals
when they are scarce. It is asserted-but I can-
not ascertain the truth of the assertion-that if
the long and delicate antennae of these robust
creatures be touched with oil they instantly die.
They are not found on any of the Southern islands
except the small coral ones, of which they are
the principal occupants.
The robber crab (or Purse Crab, as he is some-
times called)-Birgus latro-is of a curious and
awkward shape, not unlike the better-known
hermit crab. It is a singular sight to see him
partially concealed in his burrow, with his two long
antenna projecting from the entrance like a couple
of porcupine quills. He is able to exist for a long
time without water, through the structure of his
gills, and he visits the ocean once only in four
and twenty hours.
He is a rapid walker, though his speed is not
so astonishing as that of the Racer and other land
crabs ; and his gait, owing to the enormous size of
his claws, is somewhat awkward. He presents a
remarkable aspect when walking, being lifted
nearly a foot above the ground on his two
central pairs of legs. If interrupted in his re-
treat, he brandishes about his formidable weap-
THE ROUBER NO COWARD. 55
ons, clattering them loudly, and, like a gallant
warrior, invariably keeping his face towards the
So much, my friends, for Crustacean Miners.
^__^ J^ A .--.--r -
A BURROWING MOLLUSC.
S- .\ Y, as everybody knows, is, or was, a
I / month of birds and flowers, of sun-
S- --5 shine and music, of bloom and sweet
odours, with all the promise of spring
and the fulness of summer; yet not
so raw as early spring, and not so
over-mature as early summer. In March the
auguries of fruit and flower are not fulfilled;
in June they have been consummated; and the
last days of June already mark the turn or de-
cline of the year. And thus it is that May is
the queen of months, when Nature puts on her
highest and best apparel.
"Hard is his heart that lovest nought
In IMay, when all this mirth is wrought;
When lie on every branch may hear
The little birdies singing clear !"
In the merry Maytime let us go down to the
sea, and observe the operations of a Mining
THE PHOLAS AND ITS TOOLS. 57
The particular species of Pholas called the
Piddock (Pholis .7.. ,'., -) is found on every part
of the British coast which is fenced against the
waves by a barrier of rock. Our chalk cliffs, of
which we are so proud and fond, are thickly per-
forated by its labours; and the result of these
labours may easily be seen, inasmuch as it carries
on its mining processes far above low-water mark.
.- ., ..' '
PIIOLAS IN THE RO('K.
Its shell is very fragile; is of a rather soft
material, and covered, externally, with ridges
which sweep with graceful curves from the hinge
to the edge, bearing some resemblance to "the
projections upon a file." Yet these ridges and
tiny points are the tools with which it works its
way into the rock; for not only, says a well-
known naturalist, can a similar hole be bored by
using the shell as a brad-awl is used to pierce
wood, but "the creature has actually been
watched while in the act of insinuating itself
58 THE WORK OF THE LITTLE.
into the chalk rock, a feat which was performed
by gently turning the shell from right to left,
and back again."
Now any one of our readers can easily examine
a piddock's mine or tunnel, and I beg them to do
so; and then, reflecting upon the fragile character
and minute size of the mollusc, to determine
whether it is not a wonderful piece of work--
whether there is not something astonishing in
the way in which this tiny creature perforates,
not only chalk, but even the hard limestone rock.
Nor are these miners to be despised. They help
to break up the formidable cliff against which
the billows of ocean roll with such destructive
power. The joint action of the molluscs and the
waves, says a naturalist, rapidly undermines the
hardest rock. There is nothing in Nature so
little that it has not its appointed work to do;
and there is nothing in Nature so little that it
does not do that appointed work cell.
IHE Field-Cricket (Gryllus caqmpestrls) is
S.; by no means unlike a grasshopper; and,
-./"" indeed, both belong to a division of the
insect world called Orthopterc, from the
"-;traightness of their wings, or rather
from the regular manner in which the under-
wings are folded beneath the upper. He is
larger than the house-cricket, is of a brownish-
black colour, and makes a louder noise. His
antennae, or feelers, are about an inch and a half
His well-known chirp is produced, it is said,
by the friction or rubbing of the bases of the
wing-covers against each other. But these in-
sects are also provided with thin drums. In
the field-cricket, the drum consists of a round
plate of transparent skin or membrane tensely
stretched, and surrounded by a prominent ridge,
or nervure. This musical instrument is placed
60 STULTIOR GRYLLO."
in that part of the upper right wing which is
folded horizontally over the trunk, and is con-
cealed under the left, where is set a strong circu-
lar nervure corresponding to the hoop of the
drum beneath. The quickness with which these
nervures are rubbed together produces a vibration
in the membrane, and is supposed to increase the
The field-cricket is a miner, excavating a lodg-
ing in the ground, where he makes himself com-
fortable all day, coming out towards sunset to
chirrup his evening song. He is so wary and
timid, however, that it is not very easy to dis-
cover either him or his burrow. The children in
France amuse themselves with hunting after him.
They thrust into his hole an ant fastened by a
long hair, and as they draw it out the cricket
does not fail to pursue it, and issue from his re-
treat. According to Pliny, he might be captured
in a much more expeditious and easy manner.
If, for instance, a small slender piece of stick, or a
straw, were to be obtruded into the burrow, the
insect, he says, would immediately seize it for the
purpose of demanding the occasion of the intru-
sion: whence arose the proverb, .' -..gr yllo
(More foolish than a cricket), applied to one who,
upon light grounds, provokes his enemy, anvd
falls into the snare which might have been laid
to entrap him.
A DELIGHTFUL AUTHORITY. 61
The following description of his habits we con-
dense from Mr. White's delightful volume, the
"Natural History of Selborne,"-one of those
books which, from their fidelity of observation
and picturesque simplicity of style, are always
IHe says, that in his first attempt to examine
the cricket he made an effort to dig him out
62 IN THE MERRY MONTH OF MAY.
with a spade, but was not successful; for either
the bottom of the hole was inaccessible, from its
terminating under a large stone, or else in break-
ing up the ground the poor creature was inad-
vertently squeezed to death. Out of a female
thus buried, a great number of eggs were taken,
which were long and narrow, of a yellow colour,
and covered with a very tough skin. Gentler
means were then used, and very successfully. A
pliant stalk of grass, or bit of straw, gently in-
sinuated into the caverns, probes their windings
to the bottom, and brings out the inhabitant;
and thus the humane naturalist may satisfy his
curiosity without injuring its object.
When a couple of male crickets meet, they
sometimes fight very fiercely, as Mr. White dis-
covered when he placed some in the crevices of
a dry-stone wall, in the hope they would there
effect a settlement. For though they seemed dis-
tressed by being taken out of their knowledge, yet
the first that got possession of the chinks seized
on all the others that were obtruded upon him
with his large row of serrated or saw-like fangs.
With their strong jaws, says Mr. Rennie, toothed
like the shears of a lobster's claws, they perforate
and round their curious regular cells; yet,
though provided with such formidable weapons,
they never attempt to defend themselves when
taken in the hand. Sitting in the entrance of
SINGING NIGHT AND DAY. 63
their caverns, they chirp all night as well as day,
from the middle of the month of May to the
middle of July. In hot weather, when they are
most vigorous, they make the hills echo; and in
the more silent hours of darkness, may be heard
at a very considerable distance.
S .-, ,
THE TEREDO NAVALIS.
A WANT to describe to you another ocean-
miner,--one of the Pholades, and one of
the most remarkable. I shall find it
"easy to give you an idea of his work,
':. but of himself it will be much more
difficult. A moment's seeing is often worth more
than an hour's hearing. The eye communicates
with the brain so rapidly that, in the case of ani-
mate or inanimate nature, to see is to understand.
Do you form as accurate a conception of a snow-
crested mountain from the most eloquent word-
pictures of the Alps or the Himalays, as from a
minute's gaze on the white peak of Snowdon or
Ben Nevis ? Certainly not; and the most graphic
account of my friend the miner will not give you
so vivid a notion of him as a specimen of the
genus preserved, let us say, in spirits !
.The animal to which I allude is the Teredo
navalis, a marine animal particularly partial to
THE TEREDO NAVALIS. 65
submerged wood. An acephalous mollusc ; that
is, he has a soft fleshy body, vith no appari:ntt
head. A restless and destructive burrower and
borer, always working his way into the sides and
bottoms of ships, or into piles beneath low-water
THE TEREDO, AND A FRAGMENT OF TIMBER PERFORATED BY IT.
mark. An altogether remarkable labourer and
mechanic, for from his method of burrowing into
wood Sir Isambard Brunel, the engineer, con-
ceived his idea of "a shield" for sheltering his
miners while they wrought at the construction of
the Thames Tunnel.
G( TI'E DESTRUCTIVE TOILERS OF TiHE SEA.
The teredos, hushed in the bosom of the deep,
perforate the very hardest timbers, and with their
galleries riddle the whole interior or substance of
a log of wood, though not affording the slightest
external indication of their ravages. Their tun-
nels sometimes follow the grain of the wood, some-
times cut it at right-angles; in fact, the miners
change their route the moment they meet either
a gallery hollowed out by a congener, or some
old abandoned burrow. By a singular instinct,
they never confuse, or run into one another, their
galleries. Hence, the wood is attacked at a thou-
sand different points, until its entire substance is
1. .... .1 And so, while the timber piles of a
bridge, or the planks of a ship, may outwardly
appear solid and uninjured, they may really be
honeycombed in their interior, and unable to bear
the slightest strain or pressure.
We are told that a passage-boat, which used to
ply between two villages on the Spanish coast,
went down in consequence of some accident, in
the early spring. Four months afterwards, some
fishermen, hoping to profit by the sale of her
materials, contrived to raise her from the ocean-
bed. But in that short space of time the teredes
had committed such ravages, that the planks and
timbers were utterly useless.
"At the beginning of the eighteenth century,"
says Figuier, "half the coast of Holland was
SCIENCE TO TIE RESCUE. G7
threatened with annihilation, because the piles
which support its dykes and sea-walls were at-
tacked by the teredo, and it proved no contempt-
ible foe. Many hundreds of thousands of pounds
were expended in order to avert the threatened
danger. Fortunately, a closer attention to the
habits of the mollusc has brought a remedy to a
most formidable evil; the mollusc has an inveter-
ate antipathy to rust, and timber impregnated by
the oxide of iron is safe from its ravages. This
taste of the teredo being known, it is only ne-
cessary, in order to scatter the dangerous host,
to sink the timber which is to be submerged in
a tank of prepared oxide of iron; clothed, in
short, in a thick cuirass of that antipathy of the
teredos, iron rust. .-i,.' timbers are also served
with the same protective coating; but the copper
in which ships' bottoms are usually sheathed
serves the same purpose."
The Teredo izavalis is popularly called the
"Ship Worm," and it has all the appearance of
a worm, except as to the head and tail, to an
unobservant eye. The worm-like body is en-
closed in a kind of sheath or case, consisting of
solid mucus. The shell, which seems to oc-
cupy the place of a head, is of an irregular
triangular form, nearly as broad as it is long;
its two valves are solidly attached, the one to
the other, above and below the mantle or
68 GROWTHI\ OF THE TEREDO.
sheath, so as only to permit of very slight move-
The teredo deposits a spherical greenish-yellow
egg. In due time, this egg is transformed into a
larva, and this larva, falling in with a fragment
of submerged wood, creeps along its surface until
it finds a part sufficiently soft and porous, when
it pauses, attacks the ligneous fibre, and soon
produces a pore or cell, which will be the mouth
of the future tunnel.
Securely lodged in its cell, the young teredo
rapidly develops, and as it develops, bores fur-
ther and further into the wood, lining the tunnel
with a thin shell or coat of calcareous matter.
When the teredos, we are told, have taken entire
possession of a piece of timber, they so completely
destroy it, that were the shelly lining removed
fiom the wood, and each weighed separately, the
mineral or calcareous substance would equal the
vegetable or woody in weight.
Another species of the same genus, Teredo cor-
niformis, is remarkable for its choice of a locality.
It burrows into the husks of cocoa-nuts, and other
thick woody fruits which may be found floating
in the tropical seas. In consequence of the curi-
ous locality it selects for its habitation, it cannot
burrow in one direction for any considerable dis-
tance, but is obliged to work its tunnels in a
crooked form, which has procured for the creature
THIE IRAZOR-FISIT. 69
its specific title of cor iformis, or horn-shaped.
Fossil wood is often found perforated with these
"I Reference may also be made to the Solen, or
Razor-fish, a molluse well-known, I think, to every
visitor to the sea-side. It has an elongated shell,
open at both extremities, and resembling in ap-
pearance a razor-handle. The fish lives buried
vertically, or upright, in the sand ; the hole
which it has hollowed, and which it never quits,
frequently measuring six feet in depth.
When the tide recedes, the presence of the
stolen is denoted by a little hole or orifice in the
sand, whence bubbles of air occasionally escape.
In order to bring it to the surface, the fishermen
throw into the hole a pinch of salt; immediately
the sand is stirred, and the animal presents itself
just above the point of its shell.
I have said that the plan on which the engineer
Brunel constructed the Thames Tunnel was bor-
rowed from the operations of the teredo. Covered
with a cylindrical calcareous sheath or shield, it eats
its way into the timber. Brunel devised a shield,
consisting of twelve separate frames of timber,
each of three stages, or thirty-six cells in all. In
each cell a miner worked, protected by the shield
above him and in front of him, just like a human
teredo; and as he worked he was followed by the
bricklayers, who built up the arched gallery be-
"70 ABOUT TIE TIMES TUNNEL.
hind him. Nothing could be more ingenious, and,
when once carried out, nothing could be simpler.
The miner was as secure in his cell as he could
have been in his own house. He was enclosed
in a kind of sheath, like the teredo, and his per-
son was safe from all injury. When his work
was finished, this cell or shield was pushed further
Til E TILAMIS TUNNEL.
forward, and he resumed his toil; the difference
between him and the teredo being, that the latter
makes his own sheath or case as he advances, while
the miner's was made for him.
The Thames Tunnel, now occupied by a railway,
consists of two arched passages, 1200 feet long,
14 feet wide, and 16 feet high. The crown of
the arch is 16 feet below the river-bed.
rI El last miner I have space to notice is
f-^r. the Ant-Lion, who, it is said-not al-
"- together correctly-constructs a mine
: *r pit in the sand, and conceals him-
I J self at the bottom of it, until some in-
cautious insect approaching the edge of the mine,
he suddenly rises, and throws up a shower of sand,
which, as it rolls back, brings down with it the
unfortunate and unwary victim.* His mine is a
complete trap or pitfall, and he himself calls to
our memory the monsters and ogres who figure in
the old fairy-stories, and who are always repre-
sented as lying in wait for all whom they could
The ant-lion, let me add, is the larva of a fly
(Mymeleon jformicarius), which, when full-grown,
very much resembles the dragon-fly. As a larva
SThe fact is, the ant-lion throws up its showers of sand, not so much
with a view to bring down its victim-though undoubtedly they do have
that effect-as to keep its pit of a proper depth.
72 DESIGN IN CREATION.
(and an ogre), it presents the appearance of a
thick, fleshy, soft, spider-like body, mounted on
six very weak legs, of which only two are useful
(and these not very useful) for locomotive pur-
poses. But what bones it has! or rather, what
tusks-what mandibles Two in number, long,
slender, and curved; tenacious of grasp; and fur-
nished with a deep groove throughout their whole
length, in which the inner pair of jaws play up
and down with an activity that never seems to
When once his mine, or pit, has become par-
tially filled up or knocked out of shape, the ant-
lion never thinks of restoring it, but hastens away
to some fresh locality, and excavates a new one.
What shall I say more ? Alas, I have reached
"the End;" and I can only bid my readers re-
member, as they meditate upon the wonderful
facts I have recorded, that in the First Miners, as
in all creation, animate and inanimate, a thought-
ful mind will see the conspicuous evidence of de-
sign-of GOD'S design-of the forethought and
sagacity, no less than of the power and wisdom,
of Him in whom we move and have our being