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CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM"ANDLIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.MlU iti ElIustrations.LONDON:FREDERICK WARNE AND Co.BEDFORD STREET, COVENT GARDEN.New Yeork: SCRIBNER, WELFORD, AND ARMSTRONG.
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CONTENTS.PaoleCHAT IN THE PLAT-ROOM 1ELECTRICAL EELS 14THE CASTLE AND THE SOHOOL-HOUE 20THE EGG HARVEST OF THE ORONOCO 33MOSQUITOES AND GNATS 9THE WAX PALM TREE 48LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE 57CHARLIE LONG'S MUSEUM 72THE BLACKBERRY TREAT 92THE TENT IN THE GARDEN 106HARRY AND MARY; OR, THE MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTRAMBLE 121
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CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOMANDLIFE AT A FARI M-IHOUSE.CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM." You must not go downstairs," said Arthur Camp-bell to his sister Emily, who was running out of theplay-room; "mamma and papa are busy with somefriends, and papa sent me out of the parlour."" Is Aunt Lucy busy, too ?" asked Emily; " I amtired playing with baby: let us go to Aunt Lucy."" No, we need not go to her," answered Arthur;"for Aunt Lucy said she would soon come to. us.""I am glad of that," said Emily; "Aunt Lucyalways tells us something I(.l ft I,;,;,_. and we willask her to drink tea with us, Arthur. She will letme pour out the tea, and I like that very much.""Oh here is Aunt Lucy," said Arthur. "Now,nurse, pray keep baby away, for we want to haveAunt Lucy all to ourselves."" Poor baby " said nurse, " may not she have onelittle play with your aunt ? Look how pleased sheis to see Aunt Lucy! how she jumps in my arms
2 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.and laughs. You should like baby to have pleasureas well as yourself, Arthur.""So I do nurse, for she is my own dear littlesister," said Arthur; "but only I am so much afraidpapa will call aunt Lucy, and then we shall lose her.Pray, aunt, do not play very long with baby. Wewill place the chairs ready for you round the fire.""And the stool for your feet, aunt," said Emily." Thank you, my dears, I am now quite ready.""I should like to sit next to aunt Lucy," saidEmily."No, I must sit next to her," exclaimed Arthur;"may I not sit next to you, aunt?"" My dears, I can sit between you, and then youwill both be next to me," said their aunt. "Whatshall I amuse you with ?"Emily said she should wish her aunt to read"Frank, or the Cherry Orchard," to them; butArthur wished to hear some part of " Sandfbrd andMerton."" I cannot read both books at once," said theiraunt. "Besides, I think it is too dark for me toread.""Then tell us a good long story," said Emily."I do not recollect any new story, just now,"replied her aunt." Then what shall we talk about?" asked Arthur,in a sorrowful tone.
CHIIAT IN THE PLA Y-ROO. 3"I think we shall find plenty to talk about in thisvery room," said his aunt. " I will ask each of youfour questions about the different things in thisroom; and we will see if you can answer them."" Oh," said Emily, " I am sure I know all thethings in this room, for I have seen them more thana hundred times. Ask me the first question,if youplease, aunt Lucy.""Well, then, what is the name of the tree that iscut into these deal boards, with which the room isfloored ?""I suppose it is the deal-tree, aunt," said Emily."No, that is not the name," said Arthur, "Iknow what it is. It is a kind of fir-tree, is itnot ?""Yes," replied his aunt, "you are right.""Can you tell me from what part of the worldthe fir comes ?"I am almost sure I can," answered Arthur: "donot tell me aunt,-it is a cold country. Mammatold me the name the other day. Norway, thatis the name of one country, and Sweden is thename of the other, which is close to it. They arefull of mountains, and waterfalls, and great forests.Mamma told me, you may travel hundreds of milesand not come to the end of the forests-nothing tobe seen but dark, dark fir-trees. The people fellthose trees only that are near the rivers, to send toT 2
4 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.oth countries, because they can easily float thetimber down the rivers to the sea, and then it maybe carried away in ships. They are obliged to leavethe large forests, which grow at a distance from thewater, because it would be difficult and expensiveto carry the timber to the water's side. I do notthink I know much more about fir-trees, aunt.""You have answered the question pretty well,"said his aunt; "but we have fir-timber from Scot-land, and also from North America. I believe,however, that the fir from Norway and Sweden, isconsidered the best. Turpentine, tar, and pitch,come from the fir-tree. Turpentine, you know, isused in large quantities, to mix with colours forhouse-painting, and various other purposes. Haveyou ever heard how it is procured?""No, do tell us," said Arthur."People bore holes in the trunks of the fir-tree,early in the spring, and place jars for the juicewhich runs out of the holes; this juice is calledturpentine."" Oh," said Arthur, "that is the same way theIndians in South America get Indian rubber juice,from the Indian rubber tree. But the Indian rubberjuice soon becomes hard like leather. Does the juiceof the fir-tree also become hard, aunt ? ""No, I do not think it does, my dear. Now for thequestion for your sister."
CHAT IN THE PLA Y-ROOM. 5"What is the use of tar, Emily ? ""They smear the rigging of ships with it. Allthe sails of the fishing-boats at Brighton were tarred.Mamma told me the wet did not easily soak throughthe tar, and that if the sails were always wet,they would soon become rotten. I think I haveseen palings tarred. Tar is very useful, is itnot?""And I am sure pitch is useful," said Arthur."Boats and ships, and barns, and huts, are pitched;but you did not tell us, aunt, how tar and pitch aremade from the fir-tree."" To procure the tar, the roots of the fir-trees areburnt in a funnel-shaped vessel, which is covered atthe top with tiles, or pieces of turf, to prevent the rootswhen lighted from burning too quickly. The tartrickles out of the wood, and falls to the bottom ofthe vessel, from which it is collected, and afterwardspoured into barrels for sale. Pitch is tar boiled, Ibelieve, with a great deal of water. When it is cool,it becomes hard, but it can easily be melted again.""I wish mamma would let me pitch the railings ofmy little garden," said Arthur. " I should like itmuch better than to have them painted."" Oh, it would not be nearly so pretty," saidEmily. "Green paint is much better than darkpitch."" Ah, but pitch would make them last a great deal
6 CHAT IN TIE PLA Y-ROOM.longer," observed Arthur. " Can you tell us some-thing more about fir-trees, aunt ?""Yes, Arthur, I read the other day an interestingaccount of the great fires that take place in the firforests of Sweden. The traveller in that countryhas occasionally seen a great part of the sky look redfrom the burning of a whole forest, which wasblazing for many miles. This is sometimes causedby the Swedes setting fire to the trees, on purposethat the ground might be quickly cleared for sowingcorn, which will not grow under the shade of so manytrees.""I suppose," said Arthur, " that it would take theSwedes too long a time to cut down every tree; butwhat a great bonfire it must make !"" It is but seldom that the forests are purposely seton fire," said his aunt. " These great fires generallytake place from the carelessness of the people, wholeave the hot tinder from their tobacco-pipes amongthe dry moss and leaves. The Swedes light fires atnight, to keep the mosquitoes from stinging them ortheir cattle, and when they drive their cattle to otherplaces they sometimes are so foolish as to leave thefires lighted.""But, aunt," said Arthur, "if the Swedes wishthe ground to be cleared, the fire is a good thing."" You forget, Arthur," said his aunt, "that thereare many villages, or farm-houses, close to some of
CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.these forests; and of course the Swedes do not wishthe houses, and farms, and barns to be burnt. Besides,even when the flames do not reach any houses, thepoor farmers are greatly injured. The great heat,and the loud noise of tree after tree burning andsplitting in the flames, drive the bears, wolves, andfoxes from their dens and holes, and they becomefierce. I have heard that in one night six cowsand twelve sheep have been killed by a singlebear.""How sorry the poor farmers must be," saidArthur. "I am glad we have no bears and wolvesin this country."" So am I," said Emily. "Let me answer yournext question, aunt.""It is not your turn, Emily," said Arthur, "butnever mind, you may answer."" Thank you, Arthur. Now aunt,"said Emily." What are these linen sheetsmade of, Emily, that nurse is placingin baby's cradle ?"A'i. "I am glad I know that," ex-S claimed Emily. " They are made' 'from the flax plant. Papa showed"me the pretty blue flowers, aboutas large as a shilling the other day,He told me that when the plant was soaked in water
8 CHAT IN THE PLA ROOM.for several days, the outside of the stem peeled offand split into many threads; fibres I think he calledthem. Then the fibres are beaten to make themseparate easily, and combed, and cleaned, and after-wards spun to be woven into linen cloth. Papa toldme something about its Latin name, but I forget that."" But I do not forget, aunt," said Arthur, " papasaid that the Latin name was Linum,' and thatpeople have only altered the word a little, in callingthe cloth made from flax linen. I should not haverecollected the Latin name better than Emily, if thesound had not been something like that of the wordlinen; and now, when I think of the one, I think ofthe other. My turn next, aunt Lucy.""Is the flax plant useful for anything else besideslinen ? " asked his aunt." Oh, dear me, I cannot recollect; I do not think Iknow. Do you, Emily?"" No; I do not know. What is it, aunt ? ""The seeds, when ripe, are pressed," answered heraunt, " and a useful kind of oil, called linseed oil, isprocured from them. After the oil has been takenfrom the seeds, the pressed lumps of seed are givento cattle to eat. They grow very fat upon this food,which is called linseed-cake. Many birds are alsovery fond of linseed."" What a useful plant flax is," exclaimed Arthur."6 I wonder who thought of using it first for linen.
CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM. 9When it is growing, it does not look in the leastas if it could be made into white thread.""The name of the person is not known, mydear," replied his aunt, "nor is it known in whatcountry the plant was first used. Egypt was famousfor its linen, a long, long time ago. There arepieces of Egyptian linen in the British Museum, thatmust be at least three thousand years old.""Now for another question, Emily. Where docoals come from?"" Oh, aunt, you may be sure I know that,"replied Emily, quickly: "they are dug out of theearth, from large holes called coal mines, in differentparts of England.""But, aunt Lucy," said Arthur, "is the coalsolid, like rock, in those places where it is found ?""No, Arthur, the coal lies in large beds, betweenbeds of earth or clay, or limestone, just like yourhands and mine placed open one above another. Fancymy upper hand to be the earth, then your hand thebed of coal, then mine a bed of clay or limestone,then your hand the coal again. Sometimes thesebeds are nearly flat, like our hands, and sometimesthey are curved, like the inside of a basin."" Or like our hands are now," said Arthur, "whenwe bend them up. Are there a great many beds ofcoal, one under another, aunt ? because if there are,the miners must dig very deep indeed."
o1 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM." In some parts of the country," replied his aunt,"the beds of coal appear almost on the surface of theground, and then the coal can of course be procuredwithout much trouble; but in those mines wherethe best coal is obtained, there are, perhaps, as manyas twenty beds of coal. Out of this number, theremay be only four or five worth working; as someare frequently only a few inches thick, or are mixedwith earth, while other beds may be twelve or four-teen feet in thickness, and be free from earth.Some of these beds of coal extend to a greatdistance, and are worked eight hundred feet belowthe surface of the ground.""I do not understand the shape of the coal mine,aunt," said Emily. " Is it like a very large hole ?Do tell us all about a mine. What does the minerdo first? "" He digs a hole like a well, only much larger, tothe bottom of the first bed of coal. This hole iscalled the shaft. Then the miner begins to clear outthe coal, along the bed of coal, in various directions,making so many passages, or galleries, as theyare called. When he has proceeded a short distance,he sometimes leaves the galleries, and digs the shaftstill deeper, to the bottom of the second bed of coal;because it is often necessary to mix the coal from thedifferent beds. After he has worked some time inthe second bed, he digs the shaft deeper still, and so
CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM. Irhe continues till he has reached all the beds worthworking."" I wonder," said Arthur, "the roofs of thesedifferent galleries do not tumble upon the minersand kill them. What a weight they must be ""They would certainly fall, Arthur," said hisaunt," " if the miners were not careful to leaveimmense pillars, to support the roof. These pillarsare placed near one another.""Then, aunt," said Emily, "when people arewalking near the shaft of a coal mine, they arewalking over long passages and spacious rooms, withcoal walls, and ceilings, and floors, where menare working as hard as they can, digging up coalsfor our fires."" And if there are a great many beds of coal,aunt," said Arthur, "there must be a great manygalleries and rooms, one under the other. But howdo the miners get up and down the shaft? for Isuppose they do not live in the mine always.""No, my dear. Most of the miners, if not allof them, come up after their day's work is done,to their wives and families, who live in cottages nearthe mines. Both the miners, and the coal whichthey dig, are brought up in large strong baskets,which are slung from a crane at the top of the shaftby stout chains, and are drawn up by machinery.When the men wish to descend, they are lowered in
12 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.the same manner. The horses are raised or loweredin strong nets. In some mines, particularly at avery large mine at Whitehaven, the entrance is notby a shaft, but by a road, which descends intothe lowest part of the mine, cut through the rock.The mine at Whitehaven is dug under the sea,about six hundred feet below the surface of theground.""I do not think I should like to go into thatmine," said Emily." I believe it is quite safe; for it has been workedfor many years. In very stormy weather I shouldthink the miners mast feel a little fearful, for it issaid that the noise of the dashing and roaring of thewaves can then be distinctly heard.""But why do they work that mine? " saidArthur ; " is it such a very good one?""Yes," replied his aunt, "it is one of the bestin the world. It is supposed that that mine mightbe worked for a thousand years and not be ex-hausted. The coal is particularly abundant in thedirection of the sea.""Are the miners obliged, aunt," said Arthur,"when they want to go from one gallery to theother, to return every time to the great shaft, andbe pulled up or lowered in the basket, till they reachthe gallery they wish to work in?""No; that would be a very inconvenient plan,"
CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM. 13answered his aunt. " The miners dig holes, like theshaft, only much smaller, in different parts of themine, from one bed to another, and then they caneasily climb from one gallery to another by means ofa rope; or they can let the coal up and down insmall baskets. These holes are also useful to let theair pass more freely into all the galleries. In thelarger galleries, horses drag the coal in small-.,.-i',,, or sledges, from one end of the gallery tothe shaft, where the baskets are filled with coal andhauled up.""I should not like to work in a mine," saidArthur, " without any light but a gloomy lamp.I think a mine must be a very dismal place."" Oh, you might easily get used to the dim light:there are, however, dangers which are really serious.But I hear papa call us, so let us go into theparlour."" Oh, aunt Lucy, you have not asked us halfquestions enough yet," exclaimed Emily." And I want to know a great deal more abouttbh mine," said Arthur."-Let us have another pleasant chat, aunt, to-morrow evening," said Emily." We will if you wish, my dear," said her aunt." Thank you, thank you," said both the childrenat once.-.-
ELECTRICAL EELS." PAPA," said Richard Bourne to his father, "I wishyou would lend me some entertaining book. I havebeen looking over your large books for a long time,and I can find nothing that looks very interesting.Can you lend me a book that you think I shalllike?"" Yes; I have one that I think will amuse youexceedingly; it is written by a celebrated naturalistand traveller, Baron von Humboldt, who has exploreda large part of South America, and has travellednearly all over the world."" But shall I understand it, papa ?""Not the whole book, nor a quarter of it; but theparts that I have marked with a slip of paper youwill readily understand.""Thank you, papa. But what a number of slipsof paper in one volume. 'Living electrifyingmachines.' What can they be ?-' Fishing withhorses.' How extraordinary !--' Means of killingcrocodiles, that abound in immense numbers in the
ELECTRICAL EELS. 15rivers of South America.'-' Mosquitoes considereda blessing.' Oh, is that possible?-' Intelligentmonkeys.'-' Tortoise fisheries.'-- Cow-tree.'-Oh, Iknow about that.-' Troops of wild horses-sagacityof the mules.' Oh, papa, what a number of interest-ing things! Which shall I read? let me see,-'Living electrifying machines,' I will begin withthat."Richard then read from Humboldt's narrative ofhis travels in South America, the following accountof the Gymnoti, or electrical eels."These singular fish, which produce a shockexactly like that obtained from an electrical machine,abound in the large rivers of South America, theOronoco, the Amazon, and the Meta, but the strengthof the current, and the depth of the water, preventtheir being caught by the Indians. They see thesefish less frequently than they feel electrical shocksfrom them when swimming in the river. In theneighbourhood of Calaboya, a small town in Vene-zuela, the ponds of stagnant water are filled withthem. At first we wished to examine one in thehouse we inhabited at Calaboya, but the dread of theelectrical shocks of the gyrmnoti is so great amongthe people, that during three days we could notobtain one. Impatient of waiting, we set off on the19th of March, at a very early hour, resolved tomake our experiments on the borders of the water
16 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.itself. The Indians conducted us to a stream whichin the time of drought forms a basin of muddy"water, surrounded by fine trees with fragrant blos-soms. To catch the gymnoti with nets is verydifficult, on account of the agility of the fish, whichbury themselves in the mud like serpents. Theyare sometimes caught by means of various roots,which, when thrown into the water, have the powerto benumb or intoxicate these animals. But as thismethod enfeebles the gymnoti, the Indians told usthey would fish with horses. We could not imaginewhat kind of fishing this could be, but we soon sawour guides return from the Savannah, or immenseflat grassy waste, which they had been scouring forwild horses and mules. They brought about thirtywith them, which they forced to enter the pool."The extraordinary noise caused by the horses'hoofs, made the fish leave the mud, and excited themto combat. These yellowish eels, resembling largeaquatic serpents, swim on the surface of the water,and crowd under the bellies of the horses and mules.The Indians, provided with harpoons and long slenderreeds, surround the pool closely, and some climbupon the trees, the branches of which extend overthe surface of the water. By their wild cries andthe length of their reeds they prevent the horsesfrom running away and reaching the bank of thepool. The eels, startled by the noise, defend them-
ELECTRICAL EELS. 17selves by repeated attacks on the intruders. Duringa long time they seem to prove victorious. Severalhorses sink beneath the violence of these invisiblestrokes which they receive from all sides, and,stunned by the frequency and force of the electricshocks, disappear under the water. Others panting,with mane erect and haggard eyes, raise themselvesand endeavour to escape. They are driven back bythe Indians into the middle of the water, so that onlya few regain the shore, stumbling at every step.These stretch themselves on the sand exhausted withfatigue, and their limbs benumbed by the electricshocks of the gymnoti. The eels being four, five, oreven six feet long, press themselves against the belliesof the horses, and in so doing give a shock of con-siderable extent; not in one point merely, as whenwe receive a shock from the jar of an electrifyingmachine. The horses are probably not killed by thegymnoti, but only stunned. They are drowned,from the impossibility of rising amid the strugglebetween the other horses and the eels."' We had little doubt but that the fishing wouldend by the death of all the animals engaged; but bydegrees the fierceness of the combat diminished, andthe wearied gymnoti dispersed. They require a longrest, and abundant nourishment to restore what theyhave lost of electrical force. The mules and horsesappear less frightened, their manes are no longer2
18 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.bristled, and their eyes express less dread. Thegymnoti approach timidly the edge of the pond,where they are taken by means of small harpoonsfastened to long cords. In a few minutes we hadfive large ones, which were but slightly wounded.It would be rash to expose ourselves to the firstshock of a very large gymnotus when irritated. Ifby chance you receive a stroke before the fish iswounded or wearied by a long pursuit, the pain andnumbness are so violent, that it is impossible todescribe the feeling they excite. At times you maytouch a gymnotus and receive no shock whatever, asthe animal can either exercise its power or not, as itchooses: it can also direct the shock to any part itpleases, and from any part of its body, so that smallfishes are often killed before they are aware of itspresence, the gymnotus not even moving from itsposition, but darting its electrical stroke from adistance."A gymnotus was brought to me at Calaboya,which had been taken in a net, and consequentlyhaving no wound; it ate meat, and it terriblyfrightened the little tortoises and frogs, which, notknowing the danger, placed themselves with confi-dence on its back: when the frogs recovered, theyjumped out of the tub; and when replaced, werefrightened at the sight of the eel only. These electriceels kill many more fish than they devour, and the
ELECTRICAL EELS. 19Indians both dread and hate them. When youngalligators and gymnoti are taken together in a verystrong net, the latter never display the least appear-ance of a wound, because they disable the alligatorsbefore they are attacked by them." All the inhabitants of the water dread the gym.noti. Lizards, tortoises, and frogs seek the poolswhere they are secure from their action. It becamenecessary to change the direction of a road nearUritucu, because these electrical eels were so numer-ous in one river, that they every year killed a greatnumber of mules of burden, as they forded thewater."" I like real descriptions of travels," said Richard,as he finished reading the above account. "HowInteresting this book is !"2 2
THE CASTLE AND THE SCHOOL-HOUSE."I AM glad we are going to Hastings, mamma," saidGodfrey Campbell to his mother, who had just toldhim that his father had taken a house there for thesummer. " I like going to Hastings better than toany other place, because there is a ruin of an oldcastle there, and I have never seen a real castle.""Has the castle at Hastings a moat and a draw-bridge ?" inquired Arthur; " and, mamma, has it agreat gateway, with that curious thing, I forget thename of it, which used to be lowered when the gatescould not be closed quickly enough."" Portcullis, do you mean ?" said his mother."Yes. Has the castle at Hastings a portcullis?"" No, my dear; and I fear that both you andGodfrey will be disappointed in your expectationsrespecting the castle. So small a portion of it isstill standing, that the ruins are not half so interest-ing as many others in the kingdom. However,we shall have plenty of time to look about, andexamine the old castle when we are at Hastings, andat present, I must prepare for our departure."
CASTLE AND THE SCHOOL-HOUSE. 21A few days after this conversation, the familywent to Hastings. The house that Mr. Campbellhad chosen was on the Castle Hill, just under thewalls of the old castle, and it commanded a pleasantand extensive view, both over the sea and the land.Notwithstanding the wish of the boys to see thecastle, the sea, the beautiful sea, had so many temp-tations, that for the first week after their arrival,excepting one hasty glance at the old ruins, theyscarcely thought of the castle. Morning, noon, andevening, the boys were on the beach or on the rocks;sometimes sailing their boats in a sheltered cove, orerecting docks and embankments against the tide;sometimes hunting for crabs, shells, or star-fishamong the rocks, or, with tucked-up trousers,shrimping knee-deep in the water.From these latter expeditions, they generallyreturned unsuccessful; for, as Arthur said, " Itcertainly was very strange, but the shrimps scarcelyever would jump into their nets." In searching thesands and rocks for shells, sea-weeds, crabs, &c., theywere more fortunate; and numerous were the curiousobjects they brought home to show their father andmother. One morning, some time after their arrival,Mrs. Campbell proposed a ride to St. Leonards,which would enable some of the party to take alonger ramble, as, by dismissing the chaise at St.Leonards, they could return home by any road that
22 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.seemed the most agreeable. Accordingly, the boysrode with their mother along the shore to St.Leonards, chatting all the way upon the differentobjects that attracted their attention, the fishingboats, the martello towers, and many other things.The way home led them through the meadows, copse-woods, hop plantations, and osier grounds, that liebetween St. Leonards and St. Mary's Terrace. Theboys enjoyed this walk exceedingly. The woodswere full of wild flowers, some of which were quitenew to them. Then there was the woodman fellingthe timber, and the waggoner cheering his team ofstout sleepy oxen, with his strange uncouth language.The women in the hop plantations were busy clear-ing the plants from insects, raising the hop-poles thatthe wind had blown down, and carefully weedingbetween the rows.Equally industrious were the groups of boys andgirls, who were singing at their work in the osierbeds, some gathering the long wands into bundles,some quickly stripping them of their bark, by meansof a little forked instrument, through which theydrew the osier twig.After passing the osier grounds, they climbed upthe hill to St. Mary's Terrace, where three windmillsserve as an excellent land-mark to sailors, and thenthe old castle appeared in full view again, standingamong the rough broken rocks on the summit of the
CASTLE AND THE SCHOOL-HOUSE. 23cliff, with the sea behind it, extending as far as theeye could reach.The view was so beautiful that the boys could nothelp calling their mother's attention to it.While they were enjoying the view, they heard abell ring; and looking round, saw a crowd of chil-dren flocking towards a neat stone building." The windows of that building are larger andhandsomer than those of a cottage," observed God-frey; " I should think it is a school-house, and thatthose children are some of the scholars.""Yes," said Mrs. Campbell; "it is the school-housethat was built some years ago, for the children of thefishermen and cottagers of Hastings. We will askthe mistress to allow us to go in; I like to see youngpeople engaged in useful and agreeable occupations."Mrs. Campbell spoke to the school-mistress, whoreadily permitted her and the boys to see the school.The school-room was large, airy, and convenient.The cleanliness of the well boarded floor, the smoothwhite walls, ornamented with coloured views of diffe-rent countries, and large prints of animals, the brightfaced clock, and the polished fire-place, with a largenosegay in the grate, gave a cheerful gay look to thescene, which was very agreeable to the eye. Twoelder girls stood at a table, giving out slates andwriting-books, while a third unlocked a cupboard,and distributed needle-work. On each side of the
24 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.fire-place were a few shelves for those books whichwere employed in instructing the children; and a smallbook-case displayed through its glass doors a num-ber of entertaining and amusing books, which werelent to the young people to read, as rewards for dili-gence and good conduct. The school-mistress assuredMrs. Campbell that these books were much valued.She also gave Mrs. Campbell many particulars aboutthe school. Each child, she said, paid threepencea week, and she showed several specimens of theirneedle-work, writing, &c. The children chieflyworked for their parents; and great, she said, was thedelight of the little ones when they were first ableto make a shirt for a father or a brother. Shepointed to one little girl, who looked particularlybright and happy, and who was occupied in rubbingout the lines from a sheet of paper, on which she hadwritten a letter to an aunt in London. The mis-tress said that the little girl had employed the usualplay hour for that purpose, and the letter now onlyrequired to be folded up and directed.As Mrs. Campbell left the school-house with theboys, both of them expressed the pleasure this hastyvisit had given them." How well some of the little girls read andwrote !" exclaimed Arthur." And how comfortable they all looked in theibpleasant room I" said Godfrey.
CASTLE AND THE SCHOOL-HOUSE. 25"Yes," said Mrs. Campbell; "those children possessadvantages and conveniences of which the chiefs andwarriors who built and defended yonder old castle,were quite ignorant. They could not amuse them-selves with a book, nor write letters to their absentfriends."" Oh, mamma, surely chiefs and warriors couldread," said Godfrey."Grown up people not know how to read andwrite!" exclaimed Arthur; "you must be joking,mamma.""No; indeed, I am not," replied Mrs. Campbell;"it is not known at what time and by whom the firstfortress was built on that cliff; some writers sup-posing it to have been erected when the Romanshad possession of this country, in order to protectthe people from the invasion of pirates; and otherwriters believing it to have been built in KingAlfred's time, now nearly 1000 years ago. Now, sup-posing it to have been built at no earlier date thanduring Alfred's reign, we know that nothing couldexceed the ignorance of all classes of people whenhe first came to the throne. It is true King Alfredintroduced schools for the young; yet it is not verylikely that grown up persons would submit to whatthey considered the drudgery of learning, or thatthere could be many readers, when, from the scarcityof books, a very large sum of money was given for
26 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.a single volume. There were no printed books then;paper was not even known; and the labour of makingeven a few copies of a work, with a pen, on parch-ment or vellum, must have been very great. Evensome hundreds of years later than the time I amspeaking of, rich and powerful chiefs were oftenunable to write. They were accustomed to employa clergyman, or cleric, as he was called, to transactsuch business for them as required writing, and theymerely added the mark of a cross x on the parch-ment, to show that they approved of that whichthe clerk had written. The people in the greaterpart of Europe thought of little else than warand bloodshed, and England was not only con-tinually engaged in quarrels among her differentchiefs and kings, but in defending herself againstinvaders.""You mean the Danes, do you not, mamma?"said Arthur; "because they invaded England both inKing Alfred's time and after his deatn. They werea fierce, cruel people, were not they ?""Yes. The cruelty and fierceness of the Daneswere even remarkable in those barbarous times, andmade them terrible as enemies. In the midst of warand bloodshed, people could not think much of thevarious means to increase the comforts and pleasuresof life, and therefore it is not surprising that theground was badly cultivated, the people ill clothed,
CASTLE. AND THEP SCHOOL-HOUSE. 27and the houses miserably constructed. Even thewalls of the castles, though built with great strength,and adorned within with hangings of crimson clothand tapestry, let in the wind by innumerable crevices;and, although there were chimneys, these were soawkwardly contrived that the rooms were filled withthe smoke of the huge fires; and the ceilings, orrather rafters (for there were no ceilings), wereblack with the continued additions of soot. A smallportion of the rooms," continued Mrs. Campbell," was raised at one end, called the dais, and wasfurnished with richly carved chairs, curiously inlaid,and brought from foreign parts, for the use of thechief and his family; but the rest of the room, fittedup with rough benches and tables, and the floorcovered with rushes, must have looked, accordingto our notions, very uncouth.""Yes, indeed," said Godfrey, "the rooms couldnot have looked half so clean and comfortable as theschool-room we have seen this morning. How werethe people dressed in those times?"" I was just going to ask mamma the same ques-tion," said Arthur." Rich people," replied Mrs. Campbell, " weredressed in garments of fine woollen or even silk,over a shirt of linen. Instead of stockings, whichwere not then known, they wore strips of linenbound round the leg, and wooden soles for shoes,
28 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.fastened to the foot by sandals. The labourer worea close vest of very coarse woollen or of sheepskinnext to his skin, which was secured round the waistby a leather girdle. He was forced to fight in allthe quarrels of his employer, and what was stillworse, he and all his family might be sold at hismaster's pleasure. During all the wars between thenatives and the Saxons and Danes, the mildest fatethat the prisoners could expect was to be madeslaves of. At the time of the Conquest, that isabout 800 years ago, the greater number of thelabourers, mechanics, and work-people, were slaves,and could be bought and sold, just as poor negroes canbe at the present time in some parts of America.""How miserable the people must have felt," saidGodfrey, "to see the corn fields they had cultivatedlaid waste, and themselves taken prisoners.""Yes," said Mrs. Campbell; '"and worse evils fol-lowed, for frequent famines and diseases were theconsequence, and little comfort could they have insickness, lying on a bed of straw, and a pillow ofwood.""Oh, mamma, surely they had some better bedthan that !"" I should think not," said Mrs. Campbell; " for, Ibelieve, although the beds of King Alfred's house-holt were covered with mantles of cloth, that theystill were but of straw. One of the duties of the
CASTLE AND THE SCHOOL-HOUSE. 29chief officers of the court was to provide clean strawand rushes for the beds of the king's household.Then, while the poor man was confined by sick-ness to the house, if the weather were cold andrainy, he must be content to shiver under it, orbe in the dark; for, although the use of glass wasintroduced into this country about 200 years beforeAlfred's time, it was far too costly to be used for anyother than public buildings, and the dwellings ofvery rich people. In some cases the windows werefilled with linen cloth, but more frequently withwooden shutters, which in bad weather were closed.""How uncomfortable," said Arthur; " then peoplecould only tell how the day was passing by theirclocks."" They had no clocks," said Godfrey; "because Irecollect reading that King Alfred used to burncandles of an equal length to mark the hours, thathe might regulate the time he gave to different occu-pations.""No," said his mother; "neither clocks nor manyother useful things that we now employ were knownat that time. The sails of these wind-mills, whichare going so swiftly round, are doing the work ofhundreds of hands; but in Alfred's reign neitherwind-mills nor water-mills were known in thiscountry. The corn was ground into meal in hand-mills, which were turned by women."
30 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM." What a labour !" said Godfrey; "and how smalla quantity must have been ground at one time."While Mrs. Campbell and the boys were thustalking, they climbed up the rocks and mounds thatsurround a considerable portion of the castle. God-frey and Arthur amused themselves with tracingwhere the ancient moat had been, and where thechief entrance had formerly stood. Then theywalked on the top of the thick massy walls, whichwere wide enough, Arthur said, for six or eight mento walk abreast."How I should like to know which part of thiscastle was really built in King Alfred's time," saidGodfrey. "Those towers look very old, mamma.Do you think they may have been built in his time?"" The outer walls appear to me of an older datethan the towers," said Mrs. Campbell. "They mayhave been built in Alfred's time, or two hundredyears later, by William the Conqueror. It is knownthat the castle was strongly fortified by William, andthat he gave it to his brother. Many an unhappyprisoner of war has been confined in these towers.All ancient castles had a tower (and some had two)called a keep or dungeon, and it was from the flattop of this that the chief defence was made. Theupper part contained the lodgings of the commanderand officers, and at the bottom, under ground, andwithout light, was the prison. The walls of these
CASTLE AND THE SCHOOL-HOUSE. 31dungeons were sometimes so thick as to allow of astaircase in the body of the wall itself."" And these narrow openings in the walls, I daresay, were for the men to shoot their arrows through,"said Godfrey." I thought they were intended to let in the light,"said Arthur."They were for both purposes," said Mrs. Camp-bell; "people were reconciled to being nearlyin the dark, when they thought they were safefrom the arrows of their enemies; and from thenarrowness of these loop-holes, an arrow could notvery easily enter. And many other inconveniencespeople at that time were content to bear, while theirthoughts were entirely occupied with war and itsconsequences. People who were sick then could nottravel to a pleasant watering-place for their health.They were obliged to-stay at home, unless they werestrong enough to ride on horseback. There were norailways then, or even stage-coaches, carriages, orchaises; most of the roads were far too bad for suchvehicles as we now possess, even if people had hadthem. The bold traveller had often to ride throughforests frequented by wolves and bears; and if anyaccident befel him he must pass the night on thebare ground, and run the risk of being seized andkilled by marauders. But come, boys, we must gohome, for we might employ all the day in talking of
32 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.the numerous comforts of our own time comparewith those enjoyed by the ancient inhabitants ofthis old castle; and we have already stayed out farbeyond our usual hour.".l, ---7.-"=- ".o -_.2 "- " '.- .- .."-- --- . ..-. .:: ---,% .. .,+ -.. ... .%I
THE EGG-HARVEST OF THEORONOCO." How very useful oil is, papa, and from what anumber of substances it can be obtained," said God-frey Campbell to his father one evening, as Mr.Campbell was pouring some oil into the parlour lamp." There is the whale oil, papa, and the oil that is pro-cured from the walrus and the seal. Then there isthe palm oil, cocoa-nut oil, olive oil, and the oilfrom the castor bean, and I think I heard CaptainGriffiths say, when he brought us the green turtlefrom Jamaica, that from the fat of a good-sized turtlemore than fifteen quarts of oil could be obtained.""There are many substances that yield oil besidesthese you have mentioned, Godfrey," replied hisfather. " The eggs of some kinds of turtles producea fine kind of oil, which is valuable not only to burnin lamps, but to dress food with, and is used in SouthAmerica for both purposes. It is considered almostequal to olive oil. I read an amusing account theother day of the grand egg-harvest, (as the Indiansterm it,) which is gathered every year on the banksof the Oronoco."3
34 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM." Do tell me something about it, papa," exclaimed.Godfrey; " it seems droll to talk of an egg-harvest,and about gathering it in, as we speak of our corn-harvest."" I must first tell you that the particular turtle,whose eggs are of so much value to the Indians, is afresh-water species, and in form more resembles aland tortoise than the sea turtles, with their large fin-like feet. The arrau, as the Indians call it, neverweighs more than fifty pounds, while the weight ofthe green turtle often exceeds three hundred pounds.The colour of the arrau is gray above and orangebeneath. It never seeks the ocean, and is not known,I believe, in any other river besides the Oronoco.The green turtle, on the contrary, is found in variousseas of hot climates. The habits of the two alsodiffer materially. Almost all the turtles of the riverOronoco appear to assemble to deposit their eggs inthe sandy shores of the islands, a little to the southof the junction of the river Oronoco with the riverApure. They collect in troops about the month ofJanuary, issue then from the water, and warm them-selves in the sun, reposing on the sands. They arefound basking in this manner during most part of themonth of February. At the beginning of Marchthe straggling troops assemble, and swim towards asmall group of islands, where they habitually deposittheir eggs. At the same period various tribes of
THE EGG-HARVEST OF THE ORONOCO. 35Indians throng .to the shores, to watch with anxietythe coming harvest. These tribes encamp underslight huts constructed of palm leaves, and from thepeculiar way in which the bodies of each differenttribe are painted, are very easily distinguished fromone another. Several white men, small traders fromdistant towns, also visit the shores at the same time,to purchase the oil from the Indians, so that thewhole scene is as gay as a Dutch fair. A Europeansettler, long resident among the people, is appointedto divide the ground into certain portions accordingto the number of Indian tribes which take part in thegathering. Before this plan was adopted, when eachtribe scrambled for itself, the waste was immense,from the number of the eggs that were uselesslybroken."" For a few days before the arraus lay their eggs,many thousands of these animals appear ranged inlong files on the borders of the various islands,stretching out their necks, and holding their headsabove water, to see whether they have any thing todread from the jaguars (a kind of tiger) or men.The Indians, who are so much interested that theturtles should not be dispersed, place sentinels atcertain distances along the shore. People who passin boats are told to keep in the middle of the river,and not to frighten the turtles by cries. The layingof the eggs takes place soon after sunset. With its32
36 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.hind feet, which are very long, and furnished withcrooked claws, the arrau digs a hole of three feet indiameter and two feet deep, and having depositedfrom seventy to a hundred eggs, carefully coversthem over with sand, that the jaguars may notdiscover them." Their eagerness to accomplish this work beforedaybreak is astonishing; and indeed the confusionis generally so great that one-fifth of the eggs aresupposed to be broken by the crowd of turtles passingand repassing. Those turtles that are surprised inthe morning, the Indians call mad turtles,' for theyseem quite insensible to their own danger in theirhaste and eagerness to provide for their young, andare thus easily caught with the hand. Indeed, not-withstanding all the care and eagerness which, allnight through, the poor turtles show to deposit theireggs in a safe situation, and to retire immediately tothe water, the jaguars make many a hearty meal ofthem. They seize the turtles while they are layingtheir eggs, and quickly turn them on their back. Inthis situation the turtles cannot rise, and the jaguar,introducing his supple paw into the body of the turtle,completely empties the double case, which one wouldthink would have protected it so safely." When the turtles have left the shore, and a longstretch of sand appears smooth and even, the appointedofficer immediately proceeds to mark out the ground.
THE EGG-HARVEST OF THE ORONOCO. 37He commences his operations by sounding, that is, heexamines how far the stratum of eggs extends, bypressing a long cane of bamboo into the ground; andhe feels, by the want of resistance, when he haspenetrated into the cavity or layer of loose earthcontaining the eggs. The stratum seems to reachas far as a hundred and twenty feet from the shore,and to be about three feet deep. The moment theground is marked out, the Indians remove the earthwith their hands, place the eggs in small baskets,carry them to the camp, and throw them into longwooden troughs filled with water."In these troughs the eggs are broken and stirredwith shovels, and remain exposed to the sun till theyolk, which is the oily part, swims on the surface ofthe water. As fast as this oily part is collected, itis taken off and boiled over a quick fire, while otherIndians, with fresh baskets of eggs, are continuallyfilling the troughs. It has been calculated that morethan thirty-five millions of eggs are annually laid inthis part of the shores of the Oronoco. It is impos-sible, however, for the Indians to gather nearly thatnumber, for so many are hatched before the peoplecan dig them up, that near the encampments thewhole shore swarms with a prodigious number oflittle turtles, only an inch in diameter, escaping withdifficulty from the pursuit of the Indian children."" What funny little things the young turtles mus*
38 CHA T IN THE PLAY-ROOM.be," said Godfrey; "I suppose something like thetiny crabs I have caught at Hastings and Brighton?I think the Indian children must like the egg-harvest, almost as much as their parents do. Theymust have plenty of fun at such a bustling time!"" Yes," said his father, " and as the children ofsome of the Indian tribes are remarkable for theirexpertness in playing at ball, they have at thisseason abundance of opportunity. The eggs of thearrau, which are considerably larger than those ofthe pigeon, are sufficiently firm to be used as balls,and very fond the children are of playing with them.The eggs are frequently eaten by the Indians whendried in the sun."When the egg-harvest is over, and all the oil isprocured, the encampments are broken up; thetraders and Indians disperse to their various setile-ments, and the shores of the Oronoco remain desolateand uninhabited until the following year.4"--- ,- --
MOSQUITOES AND GNATS OFSOUTH AMERICA." How troublesome the gnats are, papa!" saidRichard Bourne, as his father and he were enjoyingthe light breeze in their garden one evening, after avery hot day. " I have been stung two or threetimes already. See, there is a complete column ofgnats rising and falling over that pear-tree. What ahumming they make!"" Yes," said his father, " and in countries wheregnats abound much more than they do in this coun-try, that hum is dreaded as much, or even more thanthe roar of the lion."" Indeed! Why, painful as is the sting of a gnat,I think I could get used to it; at least, I think Ishould be much more frightened by the roar of a lionthan the insignificant hum of these little insects."" Do not you recollect reading, Richard, that Dr.Clarke, when in Lapland, was forced to cover hisbody with pitch and tar, to prevent the attacks of theseinsignificant insects, as you call them. Humboldt,also, in his travels in South America, gives a descrip-tion of the dreadful pain the natives and travellerssuffer from the continual bites of different linds ofgnats. I thought you had read his account."
40 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROP OI." No," replied Richard; " I read his descriptionof the electrical eels; but, if you remember, papa,I went from home for a month the day after you hadmarked that book for me, and I have forgotten itsince my return. I will go and fetch it now, and readabout the gnats while they are dancing before me."Richard fetched the book, and seating himself ona garden seat near his father, read the followingaccount by Baron Humboldt:-" Persons who have not navigated the great riversin the northern part of South America, for instance,the Oronoco and the river Magdalena, can scarcelybelieve how, without interruption, at every instant ofyour life, you may be tormented by insects flying inthe air, and how the multitude of these little ani-mals may render vast regions almost uninhabitable.However accustomed you may be to endure painwithout complaint, however lively an interest youtake in your occupations, it is impossible not to bedisturbed by the mosquitoes (small venomous flies),and the zancudoes (a large species of gnat), whichcover the face and hands, pierce the clothes withtheir long sucker in the form of a needle, and get-ting into the mouth and nostrils, set you coughingand sneezing whenever you attempt to speak in theopen air. In the villages on the banks of the riverOronoco, which are surrounded by immense forests,the plague of the flies affords an endless subject of
MOSQUITOES AND GNATS. 41conversation. When two persons meet in the morn-ing, the first questions they address to each otherare, 'How did you find the zancudoes during thenight?' How are we to-day for the mosquitoes?'"" Papa," said Richard, as he paused reading for amoment, " that reminds one of the question aboutthe wolves in some parts of Lapland-- Have thewolves molested you during the night ?'"" Or the Chinese form of politeness," observed Mr.Bourne, " which was employed in China in ancienttimes,-' Have you been incommoded by the serpentsin the night?' It is a comfort to think, Richard, thatour country is cleared of thick dense forests; and thatthe inhabitants are freed from such enemies as thewolf, the serpent, and the mosquito. None of theseare found sufficiently numerous to be troublesome inhigh, dry lands, remote from forests and rivers. Butgo on with Baron Humboldt's interesting account."Richard continued: " In some parts of the shoresof the Oronoco, the air from the surface of theground, to the height of fifteen or twenty feet, isfilled with venomous insects, like a thick vapour.What appeared to us very remarkable, and is a factknown to all Europeans residing here, is, that thedifferent kinds do not associate together; and thatat different parts of the day you are stung by distinctspecies. Every time that the scene changes, youhave a few minutes, often a quarter of an hour of
42 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.repose, as the insects that disappear have not theirplaces instantly supplied in equal numbers by theirsuccessors. In the same season, and at the sameplace, we could guess blindfold the hour of the day ornight by the hum of the insects and by their stings,the pain of which differs according to the nature ofthe poison that each insect deposits in the wound.Often I have seen the limbs of Europeans, long resi-dent in these climates, so speckled with repeatedstings, that it was difficult to recognize the whitenessof the skin through the spots of coagulated blood." How comfortable must people be in the moon,'said an Indian one day; she looks so beautiful andso clear that she must be free from mosquitoes.'" The means that are employed to escape fromiese little animals are very extraordinary. Oneof our party, a European, constructed, on a scaffold-ing of the trunks of palm-trees, a small apartment inwhich he could breathe more freely. To this wewent up in the evening by means of a ladder, tofry our plants and write our journal." At Maypures, a town on the Oronoco, the In-dians quit the village at night to go and sleep on thelittle islets in the midst of the cataracts. Therethey enjoy some rest, for the mosquitoes appear toshun air loaded with vapour." The Indians of the Upper Oronoco, on seeingthat my companion, Mr. Bonpland, could not pre-
MOSQUITOES AND GNATS. 43pare his herbal on account of the continual torrentof mosquitoes, invited him to enter their ovens; forso they call little chambers without doors or win-dows, into which they creep to avoid their littlewinged enemies. When they have driven away theinsects by means of a fire of brushwood, which emitsa great deal of smoke, they close the opening of theoven. The absence of mosquitoes is dearly pur-chased by the excessive heat, and the smoke of atorch of copal, which lights the oven during yourstay in it. M. Bonpland, with courage and patiencewell worthy of praise, dried- hundreds of plants inthese ovens of the Indians."" I think he did indeed deserve praise, papa," ex-claimed Richard. " What a persevering man hemust have been!"" M. Bonpland," observed Mr. Bourne, " sufferedseverer hardships than these, Richard, while strivingto increase his knowledge of natural history in SouthAmerica. He was unjustly taken prisoner by someof the American Governments, and for many yearsdeprived of his liberty. Nevertheless, M. Bonplandfound so much to interest him in that rich tropicalcountry, that I believe he never returned to Europe;at all events, he passed the greater part of his lifethere, and, in the year 1857, there died, at the ageof eighty-five, preparing, even at that period of life,works on science for publication."
44 CHA4T IN THE PLAY-ROOS,.", And what became of his companion, BaronHumboldt?" inquired Richard." He happily escaped at the time M. Bonplandwas arrested, and returned to Europe in safety.From that time until he died at Berlin, in thespring of this year (1859), at a still greater agethan his friend Bonpland (for he was more thanninety), he was continually employed in addingto our information on various countries, and ontheir different productions; in corresponding withlearned men in all parts of the world; and in en-couraging earnest and persevering young students togain knowledge, and to make that knowledge usefulto others. He died lamented and honoured by allclasses of his countrymen, and by all foreigners whohad read his works.-But you have forgotten themosquitoes, Richard."" Oh, no, I have not; only I like to hear aboutpeople who write books that interest me. You havenot heard all the plans, papa, that the poor Indiansmake use of to avoid the mosquitoes. They actuallyin one place, M. Humboldt says, are accustomed tostretch themselves on the ground, and pass the nightburied in the sand three or four inches deep, leavingout the head only, which they cover with a hand-kerchief.'"" Men born in the country, whether they bewhites, negroes, or Indians, all suffer from the sting
MOSQUITOES AND GNATS. 45of these insects, though far less than Europeansrecently arrived. During the day, when labouringat the oar, the natives, in order to chase away theseinsects, continually give one another smart slapswith the palm of the hand. They even strikethemselves mechanically during their sleep. NearMaypures we saw some young Indians seated in acircle, and rubbing each other's backs with therough bark of trees dried at the fire." Indian women were occupied with wonderfulpatience, in scraping off, by means of a sharp bone,the little mass of blood that forms the centre ofevery sting." One of the most barbarous nations of theOronoco had been taught ingenuity by their suffer-ings, for they were perfectly acquainted with theuse of mosquito curtains, which they had formedof a tissue of fibres of the palm-tree. There is,however, no complete security against the tormentof these insects. The Indians, covered with aneltaand turtle oil, give themselves nearly as manysmart slaps every instant as if their bodies werenot painted. Certainly, if persons, during thenavigation of these rivers, chose to be totally idleall the time, they might have a garment in theform of a bag, under which they could remaincovered, only opening it every half hour." What a delightful plan!" observed Richard,
46 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.laughing, "to travel shut up in a bag! I am surethat would never tempt me."" No, I think not," said Mr. Bourne. " If youcannot make up your mind to endure the mosquitoes,I think it is better to stay at home where you canuse your eyes.""I am not surprised now, papa," said Richard," that Baron Humboldt observes that it is not thedangers of a navigation in small boats, the savageIndians, or the serpents, crocodiles, or jaguars, thatmake the Spaniards dread a voyage on the Oronoco;the mosquitoes, as they say, must be worse than allthese, they must indeed be terrible.""Papa," added he, after a pause, "I have justrecollected that among the slips of paper you put inthis book, you wrote on one of them, 'mosquitoes con-sidered a blessing.' What could you possibly mean?""I merely wrote down the simple fact to exciteyour attention," replied his father. " If you will giveme the volume, I will show you Baron Humboldt'saccount of the cause of this strange feeling. Hereit is." "When you hear the continual complaintsthat are made in hot countries of these tormentinginsects, it is difficult to believe that their suddendisappearance should become a subject of uneasi-ness. Some of the inhabitants of Esmeralda toldus that one evening in the year 1795, an hourbefore sunset, when the mosquitoes usually form a
MOSQUITOES AND GNATS. 4>very thick cloud, the air was suddenly free fromthem for twenty minutes. Not one insect was per-ceived, although the sky was without a cloud, andno wind announced rain. The inhabitants congra-tulated each other, and inquired whether this stateof happiness, this relief from pain, could be of anyduration. But soon, instead of enjoying the pre-sent, they yielded to foolish fears, and imaginedthat the usual order of nature was changed, andthat something dreadful was going to happen.Some old Indians, the sages of the place, assertedthat the disappearance of the mosquitoes must bethe precursor of a great earthquake :-warm dis-putes arose,-the least noise amid the foliage ofthe trees was listened to with an attentive ear; andwhen the air was again filled with mosquitoes, theywere almost hailed with pleasure."" How very curious !" said Richard; "but afterall, papa, the fear of the Indians was not moresurprising than the dread of an eclipse, which Ihave heard you say is felt by all savage nations."" No, certainly. Both give us a lesson not to beterrified at unusual circumstances, merely becausewe are ignorant of their cause. A little moreknowledge will often explain what to us may seemstrange and wonderful. Now if you have finishedreading, Richard, come into the field, and I wili havea game of cricket with you."-4-
^^--^ --^--- ----' -^ -- ---^ T-^ --THE WAX-PALM TREE."PAPA, you have grown very lazy lately," said littleSophia, climbing upon her father's knee, one dayafter dinner; "you never tell us any stories now,and you used to tell us many.""That is true," replied her father, laughing; " buthaving told you many, I do not know any more totell."" Well then, one of the old ones, papa; don't thinkto get off so; for if I really like a story, I do not carehow often I hear it.""Nonsense!" cried her brother Frederick, whomthe mention of a story brought from the other side ofthe room, where he had been teaching his dog Cassarto jump over a stick. "Nonsense! you would be tiredbefore you had heard one three times, and I can easilyprove to you that you would mind hearing the samething over and over again for ever.""I did not say for ever," interrupted Sophy; "Isaid often."" You said you did not care how often, and thatmeans the same thing.""Does it ? " said his father
THE WAX-PALM TREE. 4)"Oh! father, you know very well what I mean. Ionly mean that what Sophy said about hearing astory over and over again, must be nonsense; orelse, why cannot she go and read again some of thelittle story-books that my aunt gave to her last year?She has a whole basket full."".Oh! brother, but they are for such very littlechildren," said Sophy; " I was so very little lastyear.""Well, then, there are papa's books, if you aretired of your own; and as you like reading the samething over and over again, you may read some of hisoften enough before you understand them.""Then had she not better wait a little before shetries to read them? " said his father." Yes, indeed, I think so," said Sophy. " Besides,I never said that I preferred to hear the same thing,if any one would be so good as to tell me somethingnew. And then too, I said 'hear,' not read.' If Iread anything that I cannot quite make out, I amobliged to wait, and wait, till somebody will explainit to me, and that is very disagreeable. But I alwaysunderstand what I am told, because when there isanything difficult I can ask directly, and get itexplained in other words. So, if you please, papa,and if you have time, do tell me something.""I do please, my little Sophy, and I have time;but what is the something to be ?"4
CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM." Oh! something wonderful. I like to hear ofwonders-that is, real wonders-not such as we meetwith in fairy tales."" And yet," said Frederick, " you like Sinbad theSailor."" I used to like it; but then I thought it was true."Frederick burst into a loud laugh. " Well, I didnot think you were such a simpleton. Why, thename might have told you it was not true. TheVoyages of Sinbad the Sailor; from the ArabianNights."'"But I did not know it was from the ArabianNights. You know, Frederick, mamma does notwish me to read all the Arabian Nights, only hereand there pieces that she picks out for me; and Ithought people said, Sinbad the Sailor,' as theysay, 'Park the traveller,' and that it meant onlythat he was famous for making so many voyages,as Park was for travelling so far.""And a very natural mistake it was," said herfather."Yes; but then the monstrous things he meetswith. Who ever heard of a bird's egg so large thatit was mistaken for an island, or of a valley full ofdiamonds? "" No one ever heard of these things, certainly, butI and many others have heard of things quite aswonderful, and which, nevertheless, are known to be
THE WAX-PALM TREE. 51true," said his father. "If you had read, for thefirst time, in the voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, ofships sailing against wind and tide, or of peoplerising in the air above the clouds, or fetching downlightning from the clouds, or sending messages tothe other side of the world in a few seconds-wouldnot these things have appeared to you as wonderfulas this valley of diamonds? But to speak of otherthings, which, though not so wonderful, are stillvery extraordinary. Did you ever hear of a tree,nearly 200 feet high, growing at the top of a highmountain, and producing wax like bees? ""No," said Frederick ; "and I doubt whetherthere is such a tree.""A tree bear wax! " cried Sophia: " 0 father,you are laughing at me, because I said I liked tohear of wonders.""No, indeed, I am quite serious. Did you neverbefore hear of wax being found in plants ?""No, papa, never."" Nor you, Frederick ?""No, father, nor I.""I wish, Frederick, you would run into the gardenand gather me a ripe plum."" A plum, papa! What for ? ""You will see when you have brought the plum."" Oh, pray, be quick, Frederick," said Sophia; andFrederick ran off as fast as he could.42
;5 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM."Here is the plum, papa," said he, returning quiteout of breath, holding the plum in his hand; "butI was in such a hurry to pluck it, that I brushed offthe bloom, I am afraid. Are you going to eat it?"" No. I am sorry, though, that you have brushedoff the bloom, because it is precisely the bloom whichI want to show you. Let me look at it."Frederick gave the plum to his father." You have grasped it rather roughly, to be sure;however, there is still enough left. Now look at it,my boy, and you, little Sophy: do you see this veryfine whitish powder that lies on the surface of theplum, where it has not been touched ?"" Yes, I see it," said Frederick; " but, father,there is nothing very curious in that; I have seenthat thousands of times, and so I suppose has every-body who ever ate plums. I see nothing on thisplum that is not to be seen on every other plum.""Nor I," said his father; "but are you sure thatyou know what this whitish powder is ?"" What it is it is part of the plum. Is it notwhat we call the bloom ?""It is wax," said his father."Wax, papa, real wax! Do you mean such asthe bees make ?""It is real wax, similar in kind to that made bybees.""Father," said Frederick, after a silence of some
THE WAX PALM-TREE. 53moments, "it is curious, certainly, but not so curiousas I expected. At least I should have thought itmuch more so if the wax had been in greater quan-tities, so as to look like wax at once, and not to wantso much studying to find it out."" For your comfort," said his father, " the wax onthe tree we were speaking of a little while ago, is tobe seen and known as such without much studying."" I am glad we have got back to the tree again,"said Sophia; " I was afraid you had quite forgottenthe poor tree. Now do, papa, begin, and tell us allabout it, where it grows, and who discovered it, andfirst of all what is its name ?"" Its name is Ceroxylon andicola,' or Wax-tree ofthe Andes."" I am glad it has an easier name than the first,"said Sophia; " I should never recollect that.""You need not try; you may call it the wax-palmtree. It was discovered by the great traveller,Humboldt, and it grows in the upper or higherAndes, which are always covered with snow."" But that must be a very cold place. I did notknow that palm-trees ever grew in such cold places.""No more did I, till I read Humboldt's travels.In Europe, trees of the palm kind are not foundhigher up than a thousand feet above the level ofthe sea. But the wax-palm of the Andes flourishesat a height of nearly three thousand feet. I think I
54 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM.told you that the tree itself is sometimes nearly twohundred feet high."" What a tree!" said Frederick; " and is it thickin proportion?"" By no means: its diameter where it is thickestis little more than a foot; and it stands, like otherpalms, quite straight up. One of its roots, whichare numerous, is thicker than the stem of the treeitself.""But the wax, papa; when shall we come to thewax?" asked Sophy." I am just going to speak of the wax," said herfather, smiling. " The whole length of the stem ismarked at certain distances by rings, where leaveshave grown, and between these rings is a substanceof a yellowish colour and very smooth. This is thewax."" Real wax, pure wax?" asked Frederick."It is, I believe, mixed with a kind of resin; butthe inhabitants of the country where these mountainsare, consider it as pure wax. They boil it with aboutthe third of the quantity of soap, and make it intotapers, which are used for various purposes."" And what sort of leaves has this wonderful tree ?""It has leaves, but not many; not more than tenat the utmost, feathered, that is, resembling feathersin form, and they are sometimes eighteen feet long.They are folded over. The upper side of them is
THE WAX-PALM TREE. 55of a beautiful green, the under is covered with akind of white scale, which gives a bright silveryappearance to this side of the leaf.""How beautiful it must be I Has it no flowers?"" At the base of the leaves, the flowers appear ina cluster on a number of slender stalks; theseflowers produce nuts or berries, about the size of agrape, which when ripe are of a fine violet colour.The skin has a faint, sweetish taste, very agreeableto birds and squirrels. The kernel is wrapped up ina double skin; the outer of a reddish colour, veiny,thick, and easily separated from the nut. The innerskin is very thin, of a pale cinnamon colour, andsticks fast to the kernel. The kernel itself is ex-tremely hard, and about as transparent as horn.""Thank you, papa," said Sophy, when her fatherhad ended his description; " but tell us what' trans-parent' means?"" What you can see through, my dear.""But is this all that you can tell us about thiscurious tree?"" All at least that would interest you, or that youwould understand."" I understand your description pretty well,father," said Frederick, "but it would be better ifyou could show us a drawing-a picture of theWax-palm tree, as Sophy would say I think Inever saw a drawing of a palm-tree."
56 CHAT IN THE PLAY-ROOM." Oh, yes, a picture by all means, if you have one,papa," said Sophy." Run into the nextroom, and fetch my port- .folio, and I will show you '"a sketch that I made from"a print of the Wax-palm -tree; and when you go to 'the Crystal Palace, you:. "" ...."'.:may see a young living 'plant with all its bloomon the leaves." 1' '. ': ."Thank you, dear .lpapa," cried Frederick,-and away he ran for the r -'--portfolio.When he returned with 'it, his father picked outthe drawing of the Wax- i.palm tree, and bade them.take it into another room, .'"' ,'. .as he had no more time .to spare for them. .Then their father began -to write, and the children -, ..left the room that they / .might not disturb him. YOUNG WAX-PALM.
K ____ '.-LIFE AT A FARMIIOUSE;OR,Letters from Charles Long to his Brother.DEAR ALFRED, Ashburn Farm, August 15.I DARE say you are wondering where AshburnFarm is, and how we happened to be here. Well, asyou cannot guess, I shall tell you. A week after youreturned to school, papa was travelling near LeithHill, when he saw written up at a very prettyfarm-house, " Lodgings to Let;" and, as he thoughtmamma would like to stay there for a short time, hetook the lodgings for a month, and wrote to tell herwhat he had done. So now you know how it is weare all here. I wish you were with us, for I am sureyou would enjoy the place as much as we do. Ihave so many things to tell you that I hardly knowwhich to begin first. I must not try to write ofeverything at once, or I know I shall be tired longbefore I have done; so I shall begin this great sheet,and write a bit every day, and then mamma says itwill be a kind of journal.Do not you remember the " Farm-yard Journal,"
58 LIFE AT A FARMIZHOUSE.in " Evenings at Home," and how you and I havewished to stay at a farm-house? I have not seeneverything that is described in that journal yet, but Ihave seen a great many entertaining things.Directly we arrived I went with papa and Mr.Benson into the farm-yard, which is very large andsurrounded by barns. One man was busy thatchinga haystack, another was milking the cows, and aboy was feeding the pigs with hogs' wash. One oldsow had a litter of seven little pigs: they were muchprettier than their dirty mother. Would you believeit? the stupid creature has killed three of them bylaying herself right over them! She never movedher fat sides, though the poor little creatures squeakedloudly. Mr. Benson says that sows are very carelessof their young ones.On one of the barns there are nailed more thanfifty dead moles, besides hawks, kites, owls, and wea-sels. Have you ever seen a mole? I never haduntil I came here. It is a very pretty little animal,and very curious. The skin is of a slatish-colouredbrown, and is as soft as mamma's velvet bag. Iasked Mr. Benson why he killed them, and he toldme that they injured the land by throwing up mole-hills and by destroying the roots of the grass: butmamma says that many people think they do goodto the farmer instead of harm, particularly if theland is wet. As they live principally under ground,
LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE. 39and make a great many little passages or burrows,these persons think that they help to drain the land.It seems a great pity to kill them, if they do not in-jure us. However, as Mr. Benson thinks they hurtthe land, it is not cruel of him to destroy them. Hesends his dog Bob after them, who snaps at them soquickly that they are dead in a moment.Mr. Benson gave me a live mole the other day,which I kept in a tub of earth for several days, andthen somehow he got away. Mamma made a draw-ing of it, which I send you, but you must take carenot to lose it.I wish you could have seen how quickly my moleburied himself in the earth, turning up the earthwith his long moveable snout, and scratching theearth with his broad front paws. Those paws are notplaced in the same manner as the front feet of otheranimals; they stand outwards, and are like hands.The nails are so sharp and strong that the earth
60 L.FE AT A FARMHOUSE.must be very hard which the mole cannot clearaway. I have something that will show you theshape of their paws betterthan the drawing, Alfred.A man lives near the ,farm, who stuffs birds, .".,and animals, and he hasstuffed for me a mole --which Bob killed; and'when you come homeyou shall see it. Peopleonce believed that moles had no eyes, but thatis a mistake; for, though their eyes are generallycovered with fur, so that they cannot be easilyseen, yet they are like little black beads, and quitebright. Papa showed them to me, and I saw themquite plainly. There is no outside ear, but, for allthat, the mole can hear well enough. The real ear,which is nothing but a little hole, has a small flap ofskin over it, which the mole can open and shut as helikes. As he lives under ground so much, I thinkthat little flap must be very useful to him, do notyou? Mr. Benson says that they live on insects,roots of plants, worms, and larva ; and so they mayin the fields ; but my mole fed on bread, little piecesof roast meat, pieces of fruit, and several otherthings. One day I gave him some dead minnows,and he licked them all over with his tongue, and
LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE. 61then ate them. Mamma thought, by his licking thewet fish, that he might be thirsty; so I made a littlehole in the earth in his tub, and sunk a cup of waterin it in such a way that the top of the cup was levelwith the earth. Mamma and I stepped back a littledistance to watch him. He soon came up, lookedall round timidly, and then, seeing no one, began todrink very eagerly. The moment lie caught sightof me he buried himself, but he quickly returned tothe water. I cannot tell you how much lie enjoyedit. I do not know whether a mole has ever beentamed, but mine was a fierce little fellow. If Itouched him he squeaked like a rat, and tried to biteme with his sharp teeth. Moles have scarcely anyneck, and their broad flat heads are all the strongerfor d2 .-l,_. I do not think that moles are fond ofbeing much in the open air, for mine never came upto the top of the earth but for food. Mr. Bensonsays they frequently change their burrows, for theydo not like either dry hard ground or marshy places.He says that during winter they choose the hillyparts of the farm ; that in summer he finds them inthe valleys; and that, if the weather is very hotand dry, he observes their hillocks along the bank ofthe stream. I wish I could see one of their nests,for Mr. Benson says they are built very carefully.They resemble little rooms with arched ceilings, th-walls of which are made quite firm with mud an.'
62 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.roots mixed together. When they are completedthey are well lined with grass and leaves, and astore of provisions is laid up in them. The molesdo not forget to build several little passages that leadfrom the nest to the openings at the top of the earthat some distance from one another. The moles caneither escape by these, if pursued by any animal, orthey can use them when they creep out cautiously toprocure food.I cannot write any more to-day. I wish peoplewould invent some short way of writing, for myhand quite aches.-Your affectionate brother,CHARLES.DEAR ALFRED, August 18th.I HAVE a sad disaster to tell you of to-day.Mr. Benson has had six of his best geese stolen offthe common. The boy who feeds the pigs and thepoultry had driven them to the common betweenseven and eight o'clock yesterday morning, andabout nine the old gander came screaming and fly-ing into the farm-yard as if he would tell everybodythat something strange had happened. He wentstraight to the sleeping places, and, not finding thegeese there, he set up a most dismal cry. Then Isaw him wandering round the haystacks and barns,searching in vain for his companions, and every nowand then stopping to utter his sorrowful cry. Mr,
LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE. 63Benson and the farm servants at length observedhim, and they suspected that the geese had beenstolen. So away we all set off in different directions,to try to discover the truth. I followed Mr. Benson.First we went to the common; no geese were to befound there. But in a lane near we saw marks offeathers and blood. It was very clear that thegeese had been killed there, and that the ganderhad escaped from the rest. We ran down the lane,for Mr. Benson thought the thieves must be near;but, just as we passed a dung-heap, he observed thatsome part of it looked as if it had been just turnedover, so he examined it directly, and there he foundthree of his geese hidden under the rubbish. Theyhad been hastily concealed there, I suppose, whenthe thieves heard the footsteps behind them. Mr.Benson found out the names of the persons who hadbeen so dishonest, but the moment they heard thatthey were known, they left the place, and I thinkthey will take pretty good care not to return hereagain. The poor old gander has gone on screamingevery ten minutes all day yesterday and to-day, andthe noise sounds quite sad. We are all very sorryfor him.I have a ride on the pony every day; his name isDumpling, and a nice fellow he is. Although he isso very frisky, he obeys any one who is kind to him.The boy who cleans him is so rough that Dumpling
64 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.quite dislikes him. He will hardly ever let this boycatch him; while the moment he sees Mr. Bensonhe runs up to him and rubs his nose against him.He is beginning to know me now. How you wouldlike to gallop over the turf! Dumpling tosses uphis head and tail, and seems to enjoy it as muchas I do. Sometimes I ride him without saddle orbridle; for when I am going round the farm withMr. Benson, if the pony sees us he follows us, andthen Mr. Benson lifts me up and throws his hand-kerchief round Dumpling's neck for a bridle, andwe all go round the farm together.My curiosity-box that you helped me to make acase for, Alfred, is half filled already, though wehave only been here a fortnight. Before we goaway from here I shall send you a list of all thethings that are in it. I wish, next holidays, papawould give you and me a little room to ourselves.You could make some shelves, and I think we shouldsoon fill them, and then we could keep the box forthe delicate things. This is a famous place for in-sects, birds, and little animals. I hardly ever goout with Mr. Benson or Dutton, the carter, but Isee something curious; a squirrel, a magpie, a king-fisher, a weasel, or something else.Mr. Benson has been very busy to-day looking forwasps' nests. We have had so many wasps in thehouse, that it has been quite troublesome; and a
LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE. 65great deal of the fruit in the garden and orchard hasbeen spoiled by them. Scarcely anybody here hasescaped being stung by them. I touched one theother morning, by accident, on the breakfast-table, asI was taking up the knife to cut myself some bread,and I got a sting on the finger. But mamma put alittle sal-volatile upon the place at once, and theswelling soon went down. Mr. Benson was deter-mined to blow up their nests with gunpowder. Iam always glad to go wherever he goes; and hetold me, if I did not care for a sting, I might helphim to find the nests. We found twenty-three indifferent parts of the farm, most of them in dry,sunny banks, under the ground. One little holewas left in the mound for the wasps to creep in andout. Have you ever seen a common wasps' nest?It is very curious. On uncovering the earth, thenests look as if they were wrapped in coarse whitey-brown paper; and all the cells, instead of beingmade of wax, like the honeycomb, aremade of the same papery stuff. Thosecells that have the pupm in them arecovered with a little dome. I supposewhen the wasp is ready to fly he is quitestrong enough to gnaw through it. Thelarve, that must be frequently fed, have no littleceilings to their cells. Mamma says that the cover-ings of the nest and the cells are real paper, made by5
65 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.the wasps from the bark of trees, or from splintersfrom wooden posts or planks. Thewasp bites very little pieces off, _and mixes them with spittle, tillthey are made into a paste. Whenhe has fixed one little piece, and it is well dried,he goes to work to make more. Mamma saysthat paper can be made from a great many differentvegetable substances; and when we return home sheis going to show me paper made from wood, andstraw, and hemp, and the fibres of the cocoa-nut.Perhaps, if people had observed how the wasps madetheir nests, they might have found out sooner howto make paper. It must have been very inconvenientto write upon leaves or wax; and even when vellumor parchment was used, mamma says it was verydear. Indeed, I suppose they would not let boysscribble to one another then. There is a wasp inSouth America that builds a beautiful nest of thickwhite paper, as smooth and as white as the sheet ofcardboard that you took back to school with you.Now I must tell you of my grand curiosity. Oncoming home this morning, through the orchard, Iraw something hanging to a pear-tree. On lookingat it closely, it seemed just like a bundle of the samew.hitey-brown paper that the wasps' nest is made of."There seemed to be a great many folds of the paper;n the lower part there was a hole. I watched
LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE. 67for some time, for there was a good many waspsnear; and presently I saw two settle at the edgeof the folds, and another came out at the hole. Icalled Mr. Benson, who said it certainly was a wasps'nest, though not built by the common wasp. Thesewasps were much larger, and differently marked.At first, Mr. Benson thought it was a hornet's nest,' ,' 7_..-'. .. ,"-l ..^ 'At first, Mr. 13enson thought it was a hornet's nest,but the nest is much larger than a hornet's, andcontains ten times the number of cells. I told MrBenson I should like the nest very much, if he couldkill the wasps without spoiling it. This he did,after a great deal of trouble; and he then sawedthrough the branch of the pear-tree just above thenest; and now I have this curious nest to show you.52
68 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.I begged mamma to draw the shape of it, that youmight understand my letter. I am not sure I knowhow the combs are placed, because they fell out, andone part got trodden on, butI think this is the shape ofthem. The upper part was l!fastened to the top of the Inest, and, what is very --strange, all the openings tothe cells seemed to be downwards. I wonder thelarve do not fall out. Would not my wasps' nest,the mole, and your stuffed canary, look well in ourmuseum? I do think papa will give us a room; andwhen we have a proper place for them, somebodymight be so good-natured as to give us other curiosi-ties to add to our collection. Good-bye. Dutton isgoing to yoke ten oxen to a v, -ii. and I must goand see them.-Yours, &c., CHARLES.DEAR ALFRED, August 19.I WENT in the waggon with Dutton right overLeith Hill to a wood, where the men have beencutting timber for some time past. The waggonwent into such deep ruts that it was sometimes ahard job for the oxen to pull it out. What slowcreatures they are! quite different to horses. ButDutton says they are very patient, and will work fora long time together. All the heath over the hill
LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE. 69was in blossom, and it looked beautiful. A greatmany of the poor people thatch their houses with it;and they get plenty of good peat from the hill forfiring. In the different farms people seemed verybusy thatching their haystacks. Do you knowDutton says a common sized haystack is worththree hundred pounds; and that two of Mr. Benson'sare worth nearly five hundred pounds ? Only thinkhow vexatious it must be when the hay is badlydried, and takes fire, as it does sometimes!I saw plenty of squirrels in the wood. WhileDutton and the men were loading the waggon,I amused myself with climbing the trees, and intrying to find some new wild-flowers for mamma;for I was tired of watching them so long.What do you think I saw in one of the holes ofthe trees ? Two beautiful little brown dormice inthe middle of a nest of moss and leaves. One wasasleep, and rolled up like a ball, and the other, withhis bright twinkling black eye, would have run awayif he could, but that was not so easy to do, for thenest was at the bottom of a deep hole, and as I lookeddown it the dormouse would have come nearer to meif he had tried to escape, so he buried himself in theleaves. I was quite surprised that its movement didnot awake the other one; but dormice are drowsylittle things, and sleep for a long time together. Doyou recollect the verses on the dormouse in the
70 LIFE AT A FARMi HOUSE."Christmas Box ?" I learned them once, but I shalllike them better still, now that I have seen the littledormice in their nests. Mamma says they eat muchthe same kind of food as the squirrels,-nuts, andfruit, and chesnuts.I must not write any longer, for papa says he hasa par of books which e is just going to send to* .. ,"*^ 1,/.^ ^ ^ .. :,,I must not write any longer, for papa says he hasa parcel of books which he is just going to send toyou, and that he will put my letters in it. I hopeyou will be amused with them, because if you areI will write again before we leave. It takes me aIc1ng time to write, but I wish that you should knowi,hat I am doing, and I have not told you half yet.Mamma and papa send their kind love to you.Your affectionate brother,CIARLES.
LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE. ?IP.S.-I have put in a list of the things I havefound since I have been here. I wrote it a day ortwo ago. I hope to find more:-1. A mole.2. A bat, which I found dead.3. A stag beetle.4. A piece of the comb and paper of a commonwasps' nest.5. The beautiful wasps' nest from the pear-tree.6. Skin of a snake, quite perfect, and transparent,exactly as cast in the spring7. Oak galls, with the little n _...4t still in them.8. Maiden-hair moss. The seeds are covered withlittle yellow silk caps. People in Lapland use thismoss to stuff their pillows with.9. A dead swallow. Picked up one day after avery high wind, when there were dozens of swallowskilled by being dashed to the ground.10. Two or three kinds of snail shells, which 1found empty.11. A bunch of jay's feathers.12. A very large fir cone. Mamma says the flowersand seeds are at the bottom of each scale; and thatif I place the cone in a tumbler with some water atthe lower part, the moisture will make the seedsgrow, and I shall see fine wiry leaves spring fromevery scale; even from that part of the cone whichis not actually in the water.13. Lichen. Plenty amongst the heath. Verymuch like the kind that the reindeer feed on.
CHARLES LONG'S MUSEUM.AFTER Charles Long's return home from AshburnFarm, he asked his father to give him up the useof one small room in which to place his differentcuriosities. At first it did not appear possible togratify him, as every room was occupied for dif-ferent purposes, but by his mother's kind arrange-ment, and sundry changes of boxes and drawers, onelittle room was at length afforded him. He wasso anxious to surprise his mother by the appearanceof the museum, that he could not wait for his bro-ther's return from school to assist him in putting upthe shelves. He gave a shilling to the carpenter'sson to saw some old planks, and to put them upagainst the wall, after he had measured the exactsize the shelves were to be. Before the shelveswere fixed, however, Charles covered them neatlywith white paper; then he swept the room, laiddown a piece of oil-cloth which his mother hadgiven him, and cleaned the small window, which,from its opening inward like a door, he couldeasily do.The next occupation was the happiest of all,-to
CHARLES LONG'S MUSEUM. 73arrange his various curiosities. The large wasp'snest was hung on a nail against the side of theroom; the bat, stretched on a piece of pasteboard,was suspended near it; and the long transparentskin of the snake was placed on two pegs, over thefire-place. Charles had procured many other curi-osities after he had written to his brother Alfred,and these he was particularly anxious to show him.Besides the mole and the swallow, he had a finebuff owl, a shrew-mouse, a weasel, and a youngcuckoo, that had fallen out of a nest, and whichhe had vainly attempted to rear. Charles hadrescued the weasel and shrew-mouse from theclutches of Bob, the dog, after they had been killedby his snapping at them, and the owl he bought forsixpence of a man who had shot it.Charles was delighted to see his collection makea far greater display than he had expected. Onshelves at each side of the fire-place he arrangedhis books and little portfolios. On a small tablehe placed the box which had once contained allthe curiosities he possessed, and which now wasfilled with small objects, such as the stag-beetle,the pupa-case of the dragon-fly, different mosses,and a few pieces of granite, marble, &c. On themantel-piece he placed the microscope, which hisfather had given him for his industry and per-severance in collecting the different objects, and
74 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE,.learning the particulars of them. When all wasfinished, he ran to his mother to beg her to comeand look at his little museum. " Do you thinkAlfred will like it ?" said he, as he drew his motherinto the room." Indeed, I think," said Mrs. Long, "he willadmire it as much as I do: it really is a beautifullittle room, full of entertaining things; and youhave fitted it up so neatly, Charles, that it doesyou great credit."" How glad I am, mamma," exclaimed Charles," that I saved my money last Christmas, whenyou advised me not to buy that four-shilling whipof George Freeman. I never wished for anythingso much as I did for that whip; it was a capitalone, and all my school-fellows wished they couldbuy it, and George said it was worth six shillings,and I thought it would give me much pleasure.I am quite sure, however, that the four shillingshave been a great-great deal better spent in pay-ing for the stuffing of my birds and animals, andin having these shelves put up. I think I shallnever be tired of my museum, mamma."" No, I do not think you will, C'h il.: -, till you areable to replace it by a larger," replied his mamma." I shall like to bring my work here of a morning,and chat with you on the different objects you havecollected together."
CHARLES LONG'S MUSEUM. 75" Oh! do, mamma; that is just what I should like,for I must learn something more about these thingsthan I know at present, or Alfred will think me veryignorant. I know that is the skin of the common orcollared snake," continued he, " but I do not know thedifference between the viper and the snake, or howI am to know which is poisonous when I see them."" I can show you prints of them both," said Mrs.Long, " and then I think you can make no mistakebetween the two. I am going into the parlour formy work, Charles, and I will bring up some volumeswith me, that contain both prints and interestingparticulars of the snake and the viper."" Oh, thank you; and while you are gone I willplace the table near the window, with the snake'sskin upon it, and a chair and footstool for you."Mrs. Long soon returned with her work and thebooks. The first volume she opened contained aprint of the viper (Coluber verus) and of the commonharmless snake (Coluber natrix)." Why, mamma," exclaimed Charles, as he ob-served the different marks, " I am surprised theycan ever be mistaken, and yet I am sure I saw thecowboy at Ashburn Farm kill a poor snake just likethis, which he called a viper. It had none of thesediamond patches on the back, nor on the sides, likethis picture of the viper. I wonder how he couldmistake them."
76 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.4 I'IN"K) ,"They are not mistaken, my dear," replied Mrs.Long, "by any one who has taken the pains to learn
CHARLES LONGS MUSEUM. 77the difference between them; but people generallyhave so great a dread of the bite of a viper, that theykill any poor harmless thing that in the least re-sembles it, without troubling themselves to inquirewhether it be injurious or not."" And which is the larger of the two, mamma?"inquired Charles."The common or collared snake, as it is some-times called, from the three white spots on its neck,which form a kind of collar. This is often foundabove three feet long ; but, merely knowing itslength, Charles, would not assist you to distinguishbetween the snake and the viper, because you mightmistake a young snake for a full-grown viper. Thecolour of the viper, also, varies materially, some-times being of a very dark brown, and the diamond-shaped patches are occasionally so blended, that theback seems marked with one long zigzag line; butthe patches are never absent altogether. Even inthe darkest-coloured viper the black spots can easilybe seen. The colour of the collared snake is usuallya dingy gray with black spots along the sides. Look,here is a print of the mouths of a harmless and of apoisonous snake."" Oh, that is the double-forked tongue throughwhich the poison is squeezed !" said Charles; "buthow is this, mamma?-both snakes have the sameshaped tongue?"
78 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE." The tongue, Charles, has no power to ejectpoison either in one or the other. It is soft, andquite incapable of making a wound; though all thesnake tribe, when they are irritated, brandish thetongue about very fiercely.""Then, mamma, where is the poison, and how canthe snakes injure you?"" By means of these sharp fangs," said Mrs.Long, " which are found in all the venomous species.These long teeth or fangs are hollow, with a smallslit at the lower end. The poison is conveyedthrough them from a gland or small bag of poisonin the upper jaw. When the serpent does not wishto make use of its fangs, they are concealed by afold of the gum, like a pouch; but when irritated,the fangs are raised upright,-not that the fangsthemselves are moveable, but the bone in which theyare fixed raises or lowers them at the will of theanimal."" What terrible, fierce-looking teeth they bothhave, mamma " said Charles. " If you had not
CIHARLES LONG'S MUSEUM. 79shown me the fangs in the poisonous kind, I shouldhave thought the harmless snake might do quite asmuch mischief as the other. Mamma, I have heardpeople talk of the great fierce serpents in SouthAmerica and Africa, and of the boa-constrictor thatwinds itself round poor animals and crushes themto death; but I should like you to tell me all youknow about our common snake and viper, becauseI can see them in my own country, and I do notthink I shall ever see the others. Tell me aboutthe common snake first. I am glad I have theskin."" Yes, your snake's skin is very perfect, and, Ihave no doubt, had been newly cast when you foundit in September. If you look carefully at the skin,Charles, you will see that it has been turned wrong-side outwards, as the scales which covered the eyesare hollow, instead of being raised like the outside ofa ball.""I wonder how the snake manages that, mamma?""I do not think," said Mrs. Long, " that any onehas observed the snake in the very act of changinghis skin, but I believe it is generally supposed thatthe skin is drawn off backward, from the head to thetail, as a stocking is sometimes drawn off from theknee. The skins are generally found amongst longgrass and entangled weeds, which help the snake toget rid of his incumbrance by holding it as he pushes
8o LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.forward. All the snake tribe cast their skins oncea year, after which their colours appear remarkablybright. The common snake of this country is foundthroughout Europe on the banks of fresh waters, inmeadows, and on the borders of woods. It is fondof water, and from that circumstance has been oftencalled the water-snake; but that is a foolish name,because it does not live there, but only enters thewater occasionally for food, or to deposit its eggs onthe opposite bank. Snakes will, however, at timesmake very long voyages. They have often beenseen crossing the Menai Straits, between Carnarvonand the island of Anglesea; swimming rapidly, withtheir heads raised above the water, and their slendernecks gracefully arched. The Welsh fishermen saythat the snakes deposit their eggs in the low groundsof the Anglesea coast. The collared snakes are soperfectly harmless, Charles, that in Sardinia theyare kept tame in the houses, and nobody thinks ofdisturbing them. Some people even say that theylearn to be sensible of kindness, and will show plea-sure at being caressed. I remember reading of aFrench lady who kept a snake very much resemblingthe common snake, and which followed her the mo-ment she called him, gliding along her arms, andseeming to prefer to sleep among the folds of hexdress to any other place."" Oh, how I should like to try to tame a young
CHARLES LONG'S MUSEUM. 81snake," exclaimed Charles. "Do you know if anyone in England has ever tried, mamma ?"" Yes, I have heard of a gentleman at college,who kept a tame snake always in the room with him.It became sufficiently familiar to lie on the tablewhile he was reading or writing, and to repose onthe arms or the back of the chair in which he wassitting. Other people have not been so successful,however. You may read an account of an attempt totame a snake, if you like, in London's Magazine ofNatural History.' I have brought it up-stairs for you.""Thank you, mamma; you always know wherethe entertaining stories are. I will read it out aloudto you. 'I have been trying a great part of thesummer to domesticate a common snake, and makeit familiar with me and my children, but all to nopurpose, notwithstanding I favoured it with my mostparticular attention. It was a most beautiful crea-ture, measuring two feet seven inches in length. Idid not know how long it had been without food whenI caught it, but I presented it with frogs and toads,worms and beetles, spiders, and every delicacy ofthe season. I also tried to charm it with music, andmy children stroked and caressed it; but all in vain;it would be no more familiar with us than if we hadbeen its greatest enemies. I kept it in an old tar-barrel out of doors for the first three weeks. Duringthis time I am certain it ate nothing; but after a6
82 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.very wet night it seemed to suffer from the cold. Ithen put it into a glass vessel, and set it on theparlour chimney-piece, covering the vessel with apiece of gauze. I caught two live mice, and putthem into the same vessel; but the snake took nonotice of them, as it lay coiled up, with the poorlittle things trembling on its back. I gave the micesome boiled potatoes, which they ate, but the snakewould neither eat the mice nor the potatoes. Mychildren frequently played with it, and showed it totheir school-fellows. I one day took it in my hand,and opened its mouth, to show a gentleman howdifferent the mouth was from that of the viper,which I had dead by me; its teeth being no moreformidable or terrific than the teeth of a trout or eel,while the mouth of the viper had two fangs like theclaws of a cat attached to the roof of the mouth,and noway connected with the jaw teeth. Whileexamining the snake in this manner, it began tosmell most horribly, and filled the room with anabominable odour. My snake made its escapeseveral times by boring a hole through the gauze;and once it was seen peeping out of a mouse-holebehind one of the cellar steps. It looked as fierceas a hawk, and hissed and shook its tongue as if inopen defiance. It was at length unfortunately killedby a washerwoman throwing a pailful of scaldingwater over it.'-Mamma," said Charles, as he finished
CHARLES LONG'S MUSEUM. 83reading, " that smell must be very disagreeable; Iwonder people like to keep snakes at all, if they canbe so annoying."" It is only when tormented, Charles," repliedMrs. Long, "that the snake forces from under itsscales a kind of white humour, which is particularlyoffensive. Poor thing! this power is almost the onlymeans it possesses of self-defence. Very few animalswill attack it, when it throws out this nauseoussmell. When dogs attempt to worry it, the snakecoils itself into a kind of circular wall, with its headsunk in the centre; and, except when it meets witha very determined enemy, it will thus manage toprotect itself.""And what do snakes feed on, mamma?" inquiredCharles." Several small kinds of living animals, frogs,toads, insects, and small birds and snails. Notwith-standing the general slow movement of snakes, theycan at times dart forward with considerable speed.This they are enabled to do by coiling themselvesround with the head elevated, and then letting thebody go suddenly."" Just as my little slip of thin whalebone startsforward, I suppose, when I bend it very much andthen let it go," said Charles. " Mamma, in the ac-count in this book, the person who tried to tame thesnake never saw it eat. How was that?"62
84 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE." Because all the serpent tribe eat so seldom.It is supposed that our common snake rarely eatsoftener than three or four times during the summer,and in the winter it does not eat at all. The teethof snakes are not capable of gnawing and grindingtheir food, they can only seize and retain it. Thejaws do not move sideways as well as up and downlike th& jaws of cats and dogs, or like our own.On this account the snake can only swallow its preywhole. In some of the foreign snakes the skin nearthe head is capable of extending very much, so thatthey can swallow animals which from their size i"might be supposed would choke them. Snakes passthe winter in a torpid state, in the same manner asfrogs, toads, and some other animals. They lie con-cealed in holes in the earth, and sometimes entwinedtogether, until the warmth of the spring revivesthem. They lay their eggs in clusters twice in ayear on dunghills, in holes in haystacks, or near thewater side. These eggs are larger than the eggs ofa sparrow, but are not pointed like a bird's egg.Each egg is surrounded by a thick leathery sub-stance.""And are the eggs of the viper of the sameshape?" said Charles, looking at the print of thesnake's eggs." The eggs of the viper are hatched within theirmother, and the young are born alive, about three
CHARLES LONG'S MiUSEUM. 85or four inches in length. Small as they are, theselittle things will immediately hiss and dart their tinytongues as fiercely as possible. The moment theyare born they provide for themselves, and take nonotice whatever of their mother; so that the accountwhich some people have given, that the little oneswhen alarmed will jump down their mother's throat,is quite incorrect. Vipers are torpid in the winter.S-- i,At the first sign of cold, in the autumn, they burythemselves under heaps of stones, in the clefts ofrocks, or in the trunks of rotten trees. In the finedays of early spring they may be seen basking inthe morning sun on little hills exposed to the east.They are seldom seen in the middle of summer."" Then next spring I will be sure to look forthem, mamma," said Charles. " 1 should like to see
86 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.one, though I should not at all like that a vipershould bite me."" No, indeed, I do not think you would," repliedMrs. Long; " and I should be very sorry if youwere bitten. Though the violence of the poison ofthe viper is not equal to that of many of the Africanand American serpents, which will occasion death ina few hours, or even a still shorter time, yet itsbite is highly dangerous. In cases where the bitehas not been immediately attended to, long andgrievous illnesses have been the consequence, andin some instances death."" What is the best thing to be done, mamma,when a doctor cannot be procured directly?" saidCharles." To tie a bandage immediately above the wound,but not too tightly," replied Mrs. Long, " and thenapply oil, or sal-volatile, which must be well rubbedinto the wound. These remedies are, however, notsufficient to effect a cure; in every case medicalassistance should be procured. You must remember,Charles, that though the viper is the most dangerousserpent of Europe, yet it never attacks man unlessprovoked; and that its poison is not equally venom-ous at all times. Unless the viper be very muchirritated, the wound is slight, and the person bittensoon recovers from the effects of it; but in propor-tion to the anger of the viper, it has the power to
CHARLES LONG'S MUSEUM. 87force a greater quantity of poison through the fangsinto the wound."" But, mamma, how do the jugglers prevent them-selves from being bitten ?" said Charles. " Have younot heard of men playing all kinds of tricks with vi-pers, letting them twist round their arms and necks ?"" Yes, and I have seen them do so," replied hismother; " but these vipers are rendered harmless bythe holes at the end of the fangs being stopped withwax. The Egyptian or Indian jui.__ pull thefangs out. Vipers are usually caught by nippingthem by the tail with a pair of wooden tongs, but Ido not know how the fangs are either extracted orstopped with wax, both of which must be ratherdangerous operations. I believe the animal is al-lowed to irritate itself with some object, till its stockof poison is supposed to be exhausted. Some littletime elapses before it can again form the poisonousfluid."" Have you ever seen a viper in the fields, mamma?"said Charles." Yes, I have seen them both in Scotland and inEngland," replied [I Long. " They always seemedas fearful of me as I was of them, for they wriggledout of sight as quickly as they could. I never feltreally F, i t ..i.....1 but once."" And when was that, mamma?"" I was travelling in Scotland with your uncle
88 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE.Edward. One day we climbed a high mountain to-gether, to enjoy from the summit a beautiful viewover rocks, and hills, and lakes, and woods. We hadascended half-way up the mountain, and were ad-miring the huge blocks of stone, with the wild-flowerspeeping between the crevices, when my foot slipped,and displaced a stone under which a viper lay con-cealed. I could not immediately regain my footing,and unfortunately trod on the tail of the viper. Im-mediately the creature raised its head, and openingits jaws, displayed its forked tongue and terriblefangs, while it hissed most angrily."" Oh, mamma, what did you do? Was my unclenear you at the time ?"" Yes, he was sufficiently near to see what hadhappened; and in a moment he sprang forward andstruck the viper on the head with his thick walking-stick. Notwithstanding all your uncle's efforts, itwas some time before the poor creature was entirelydestroyed, for vipers are much more difficult to killthan our common snakes."" How glad I am that my uncle was with you,dear mamma," said Charles. " If I had been there,I am afraid I should not have been brave enough tohave helped you."" Yes, I think you would, Charles," said hismother; " when we love persons very dearly, werush forward to help them without thinking of our-
CHARLES LONG'S MUSEUM. 89selves. You remember Harry Sandford had no stickto kill the viper that wound round Tommy Merton'sleg, and yet by his courage in seizing the animal bythe neck, he saved his friend and received no injuryhimself."" Ah! that was very brave indeed of Harry," saidCharles. "I have often wished to be like him.What a good thing it is, mamma, that we have noother dangerous reptiles in this country."" Indeed it is, Charles," replied his mother."There are not above sixteen different kinds ofsnake altogether in Europe, and only four are at allvenomous. In the morasses and forests of SouthAmerica snakes absolutely swarm; but even therethe number that are dangerous is few in comparisonwith those that are harmless. We have a worm ofthe snake kind in this country as inoffensive andtimid as any poor animal can be, and yet amongstthe ignorant it occasions as much fear and horroras the viper itself.""What snake is that, mamma? Have I everseen it? " inquired Charles." Very likely you may," said his mother: "lookat this picture; do you know what animal it is?""Oh, yes, I know it. It is the slow-worm,"replied Charles. "It is about a foot long, I think,and very slender. The boy at Ashburn Farm calledit the blind-worm."
90 LIFE AT A FARMHOUSE."I believe it ir called by that name in manycountry places, but that is a strange name, for it hassharp bright little eyes. I suppose that name mayhave been given to it from its slow movements, whenalarmed. When seized it stiffens itself with suchviolence that it is said sometimes to snap in two.From this circumstance, and the hardness of the tail,it is called in some countries glass serpent, and theLatin name anguish fragilis (fragile or brittle snake)has been given to it from the same quality. Thistimid little thing takes a great deal of pains to concealitself. By the aid of its muzzle it excavates holes inthe earth three or four feet in depth, and passagesforming circles, and having several entrances. Itsscales are so beautifully fine, and the surface sopolished, that it can glide with perfect ease over allobstacles that would appear to interrupt its labours.If threatened by the least danger, the slow-wormremains concealed for the greater part of the day.Loving warmth like all its race, it creeps out onsunny days to enjoy itself in the sunshine, but atthe least approach of cold it again buries itself.The slow-worm gives birth to its young ones alive,in the same manner as the viper. Now, Charles,I believe I have read and told you all that I thinkwill interest you about the snake, the viper, and theslow-worm."" Thank you, mamma, I am very much obliged to
CHARLES LONG'S MUSEUM. 91you. Will you let me trace the outlines of allthree from your books ? I am not clever enough tocopy the prints, but I can trace them, and I cancolour the outlines afterwards, and then I can hangmy pictures up by the side of my snake's skin.After that I should be sure to remember what youhave explained to me."" Yes, you certainly would, Charles," replied Mrs.Long, "and if you are very careful not to injure myprints by pressing the pencil too hard, I will lend youthe books.".. ..1 1 I -I I " I Ii, IIl,..*. i ., ...q, .. ,..-, .. ,, ' .. .'" H " !-
THE BLACKBERRY TREAT.ONE fine morning, in the early part of May, Mr.Nelson came from his counting-house upstairs intothe room where his wife and his children were sit-ting. The sun shone, but the smoky windows of aLondon house did not let it appear so bright as itshines in the country. Mr. Nelson's business madeit necessary for him to live in London. But latelyhis children had looked pale, and both he and Mrs.Nelson thought that the fresh air of the country,with plenty of exercise in the pleasant fields andlanes, would do them more good than physic. Mr.and Mrs. Nelson had, therefore, without saying any-thing to the children, been inquiring for a cottagewith a garden, a few miles out of town, in whichthey might pass the spring, summer, and autumn.Mr. Nelson had just received a letter by the post,telling him that he could have a pleasant, neat cot-tage about twenty miles from London, and he cameup to communicate the agreeable news to his wifeand children.The children were four in number : Margaret,Catherine, Lucy, and Robert. Margaret was nearly