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From Longman's Magazine. INDIAN BIRDS.
ds about a few more Indian
y a few, for it would be folly u to write exhaustively of all the I Bengal. When a gun is fired or. Chilka lake or on the Chullun beel, or any other great inland piece of water, ne flocks of birds rise in such myriads that the sky is almost darkened by them. x- I have sometimes wondered if the birds the are not more numerous than the human uyptic beings of the country, but that is a stathat the tistical matter far out of my province to would be decide. I regret that it is not in my power g the world to write more scientifically about some of Then the birds with which I was tolerably familays quite iar. My scientific knowledge was very of your defective. I remember on one occasion
ing fact that Dr. Herdman's recent biolog. ical researches on the Adamsia palliata -that curious anemone which strikes up a partnership with the hermit crab- have confirmed Mr. Gosse's original observations on these strange fellow-lodgers in the
shell-house of the defunct whelk-observations made forty years earlier.
The widespread interest, indeed exciteKingsley's review in the North British, ment, caused by the setting up of the of Gosse's extremely popular and oftensplendid aquarium in the Zoological Gar-quoted work - "The Aquarium "— was dens, is within the recollection of many of memorable for the fact of the review being the less youthful among us. It afforded subsequently enlarged into that charming an excellent field for observing the habits little volume familiar to us as "Glaucus; of those curious and often beautiful crea- or, The Wonders of the Shore." tures who inhabit the caves of ocean, and who would otherwise have remained unknown to us. As we are all aware, the aquarium became the fashion of the day. It was quite the exception for a drawing room to be without its ornamental tank of marine creatures. Leech gave some delightful sketches in Punch on the fancy of the hour. Amongst them we may recall a "terrific accident," which was nothing less than the bursting of " Mrs. Twaddle's Aqua-Vivarium;" the water has deluged the carpet, and the lively crabs and livelier eels are scuttling about everywhere; with petticoats tucked up out of the wet, the old lady is vainly trying to catch the eel with the tongs! In another skit, Leech gives a very comical view of ladies and old at low water-stooping about in search of curios, and taking no thought
of their ankles.
But, seriously speaking, the sea dredg ing was a most exciting occupation, for it became a matter of business with Gosse in 1853, when the Zoological Gardens expected a daily "bag" from their purveyor of living curiosities. With this object in view, he stayed a long while at Weymouth, always sailing with an old fisherman, named Jonas Fowler, who delighted to the end of his life to talk of how "me and Mr. Gosse went out dredging in the bay." He had re-christened his boat, calling it the Turritella, "just to astonish the fishermen, you know, sir." Mr. Gosse describes how Fowler became quite learned in the crackjaw nomenclature. He would say:
Now, sir, if you do want a gastrochana, I can just put down your dredge upon a lot o' 'em. I'm in hopes we shall have a good cribella or two off this bank, if we don't get choked up with them 'ere ophiocomes.
About this time, his friend Charles Kingsley had been urging Gosse to try Clovelly, and the latter replies:
Bowerbank had told Gosse that he would find "Tenby the prince of places for a naturalist," and thither the latter went in the summer of 1854. From this place he wrote some pleasant letters to Kingsley, descriptive of his "anemonizing" exploits, and of his delight at finding the beautiful caves of St. Margaret's Isl and, with their "rugged walls and floor those lovely animal flowers." The volume called "Tenby" which forms the record of this visit exhibits, perhaps, some little evidence of spent enthusiasm. The condential simplicity of the style invoked from the Saturday Review a friendly "Mr. Gosse's air of taking us laugh on his knee, like a grandpapa." The naturalist, whose seaside rambles destined to be again thrown on himself, had hitherto been shared by his wife, was and to be bereft in losing her of all intimate companionship. By her early and lamented death, he lost to quote Low
studded with the full-blown blossoms of
The fire-side sweetnesses
The hourly mercies of a woman's soul.
Depressed in spirits, physically unhinged, and perhaps somewhat mentally exhausted by the untiring labors of the last few years, there now returned upon Gosse the morbid religious despondency that formed the background of his singu lar nature. In these times of depression nothing relieved him so much as to take up the cudgels of controversy, and belabor the devil and his followers, the nonconverted, without mercy. He held the law and the prophets, like blood-hounds in a leash, to let loose on unbelievers. In his creed elated his soul into a state of these preaching days, the intolerance of infallibility, that sustained him through the rest of his life. He had joined the sect of Plymouth Brethren - but he was his own pope, no "dear brother" ventur
black letter find; to you, I dare say, black letters are as charming as sea-slugs to me." On one occasion his son, still a mere lad, had evidently asked for funds wherewith to make some addition to his wardrobe, in view of a visit to a person of some importance. His father writes:
You remind me of canny King James's appeal, when he asked the Earl of Mar to lend him a pair of silk stockings, in which to receive the French Ambassador- "for ye wad na that your king should appear as a scrub afore the stranger."
The biography, which is full of interesting side-lights on the thought and sci
ing as much as to stand on the steps of his throne. Many of these characteristics - a really curious study in psychology are gathered from his unpublished letters; and, moreover, the following incident, laughable enough in its way, does not appear in Philip Gosse's biography. His horror of the festival of Christmas sometimes took a grotesque form. Like the Puritans of the seventeenth century, he fought with turkeys and with geese. "Christmas plum-pudding,” however, was the most hateful of all these Yule-tide idols. The first winter that his little son and he spent alone at St. Marychurch saw, so I have been told, an amusing in-ence of the time, mentions the fact that, stance of Mr. Gosse's unflinching firm ness. No difference, as a matter of course, was made in the repast of which father and son partook on Christmas day, but the servants were less austere. They made in secret a plum-pudding for themselves, and what was worse, they presently lured the little boy out of the parior to eat a slice. Scarcely was the delicacy down his gullet, than conscience began to work. He had eaten of the accursed thing," and with tears in his eyes he went to confess what he had done. Mr. Gosse sprang to his feet; leading the child by the hand, he rushed like a whirlwind into the kitchen, found the guilty remainder of the plumpudding on the table, snatched it away into the back garden, and, in the presence of his awe-stricken child, solemnly hewed it in pieces with a bill-hook, and scattered the crumbs over the dustbin. It is curious that his own sense of humor had not preserved him from perpetrating this piece of folly, for humor he had; and I do not think his biographer has quite done him justice in this respect.
In the letters before referred to letters written to the members of his family, there are repeated gleams and flashes of a very human sense of humor. For illustration, the phrases and allusions are difficult to separate from their context; but the native gold shines here and there in the stony matrix of his pompous intoler
It is curious to note the mixture, in the self-same letter, of sound worldly wisdom, of literary acumen, together with an expression of the strongest belief in the approaching realization of apocalyptic prophecy-even to the conviction that the saints, few enough in number, would be caught up to the Lord, leaving the world to a period of unexampled horrors. Then reverting to mundane things, he says quite cheerfully, "Let me wish you joy of your
in 1857, Gosse was assisting Darwin in his researches on the distribution of seaanimalcules — a matter involving "enormous conclusions," as the evolutionist remarked. The letters of Darwin to his fellow-worker are replete with interest; they show his manner of dealing with the apparently insignificant phenomena of life, which under his classification revealed the potentiality of nature's hidden laws. Gosse, on the other hand, though so accurate an observer that it was well-nigh impossible for any differential minutiæ to escape him, was not given to philosophize in the highest meaning of the term - his theory of the universe being strictly Biblical, in all literal acceptation.
The Welsh Triades give three primary requisites of genius. Gosse had the first and the second; he had "an eye that could see nature," and he had a heart that could feel nature" - but he lacked "the boldness that dares follow nature."
From Longman's Magazine. MORE INDIAN BIRDS.
A FEW words about a few more Indian birds! Only a few, for it would be folly to pretend to write exhaustively of all the birds of Bengal. When a gun is fired or. the Chilka lake or on the Chullun beel, or on any other great inland piece of water, the flocks of birds rise in such myriads that the sky is almost darkened by them. I have sometimes wondered if the birds are not more numerous than the human beings of the country, but that is a statistical matter far out of my province to decide. I regret that it is not in my power to write more scientifically about some of the birds with which I was tolerably familiar. My scientific knowledge was very defective. I remember on one occasion
his back to the fire, with his hands under his coat-tails. An officer of my acquaintance once went to a fancy ball dressed as an adjutant bird, but it does not easily lend itself to the notion of a good fancy costume.
listening to an elaborate discussion concerning the bird that my scientific friends called a dendrocygnus. It was some comfort to find that it was only a familiar waterfowl known to me as the whistling teal. Perhaps this appellation for it is wrong, but it is a kind of duck that whistles About the end of May the weatherwise and perches upon trees. I don't know why in Calcutta begin to look towards the dome science gave it the half-Greek, half-Latin of Government House to see if any adju name of a tree-swan. But, however this tants have arrived. The adjutant is the may be, I have a lively recollection of forerunner of the rains in Bengal, and when shooting a number of these birds that we the residents of Calcutta have been secalled whistling teal, one afternoon when verely fried and baked by the dry heat in we arrived at our tents well tired after a March. April, and May, they begin to look long and hot day's beat on the elephants, forward for that change in the weather, without killing anything of any sort, as will locally called the rains, in which their sometimes happen. Owing to the great bodies will only be stewed or parboiled at heat of the weather, all that had remained a rather lower temperature. But until of the deer and birds previously killed thirteen adjutants have been seen sitting had gone bad, and the cook had nothing in a row along the battlements of Governbut bully-beef (as the soldiers call it) for his pièce de résistance for dinner. Fortunately when the elephants went off to drink and bathe at a large tank about a quarter of a mile from our tents they disturbed a number of whistling teal, which imprudently came whistling and flying round the tents, so that we took up our guns and soon provided ourselves with some fresh food. A salmi or a curry of whistling teal is by no means a bad thing for a hungry hunter. If these teal or ducks had not whistled we might not have known what they were or that they had come within our reach.
Probably some persons among the crowds who visit the Zoological Gardens in the Regent's Park may have taken notice of the large and ugly cranes called Indian adjutants. I don't remember why our predecessors in India gave them the name of adjutant. It is a classical Indian bird known to the old Sanskrit poets as the har-gila, or bone-swallower. A fullgrown adjutant stands about four feet high. It has a large, yellow, horny, sharppointed beak nearly a foot long. The head or skull is bare save as to a few stunted hairs or rudiments of feathers. Its small grey eyes look dull and stupid; the long neck is thin and almost naked. In front of the neck there hangs a bag or pouch of elastic skin, which the bird inflates at its pleasure. The plumage of the body is of a greyish blue color on the back, but it is white in front. The legs are long and bony, like those of other cranes, but the knee-joints are large, and the great splay feet and claws are very powerful. The general appearance of an adjutant in repose has been compared to that of a bald old gentleman standing with
ment House, it is no use to try to make believe that the rains have really begun. There may have been a few preliminary showers or thunderstorms, but until thirteen adjutants can be found"to make a house "on the roof of the viceroy's Calcutta residence, Jupiter Pluvius, or the chairman of the rainy season, does not condescend to take his seat. If any one wants to know why thirteen is the constitutional number I cannot tell. Some people say they represent the members of the viceroy's Council who are up at Simla, but their number is not always the same. I can only recognize tradition and the fact. And the thirteen birds must be sitting in line on the roof. It does not count if a few weak-minded birds are perched on the heads of the big plaster lions that surmount the arched gateways on the east and west sides of the Government House gardens. In former days a huge figure of Britannia was to be seen on the top of the dome of Government House, and perhaps the adjutants are loyal to the memory of Britannia. But it is a remarkable fact that when the adjutants come to Calcutta at the beginning of the rains they almost all make for the roof of Government House, from which position they subsequently distribute themselves to different parts of Calcutta according to their fancy.
The adjutant is migratory, and many of them are supposed to come from central Asia; but there was once a colony of them that had its breeding-place at Comercolly, about one hundred and fifty miles north of Calcutta, whence the old East India Company used to bring consignments of Comercolly feathers for the adornment of ladies' dresses and bonnets. The feathers were taken from the birds' nests, or
from the birds on their nests, and were only procurable in the breeding season. A few adjutants remain in Calcutta all the year round, but these are usually birds that were sick or maimed when the rest of their brethren returned to central Asia, and were therefore unable to go with them. There are some few degraded adjutants so wedded to the unspeakable filth of the outfall of the Calcutta drainage works that they never go away; but any right-minded and healthy adjutants that have a desire for wedded life and for the cares of a young family, depart from Calcutta at the end of September to the country where they themselves were born.
During the months that the adjutant lives in Calcutta it is interesting to watch him. He appoints himself chief scavenger of a certain house or houses, and has first choice of the contents of the dust-bins, which each householder is required to deposit outside his gate at daybreak till the conservancy carts remove them. The adjutant's operations may be more easily imagined than described, whilst the pariah dogs of the quarter and a bevy of attendant crows look on till his lordship is satisfied with the bonnes bouches that he picks out with his sharp beak, tosses into the air, and swallows, until his stomach becomes so full that he is obliged to take a little walk round to let matters settle themselves. I regret that I have been recently deprived of a story about the voracity of adjutants, that had been believed by me for many years. I had been told that Mr. R. had seen an adjutant walk quietly along a wall to a sleeping cat, which it pierced with its beak, tossed up in the air, and caught in its mouth. But I recently met Mr. R., and he tells me that he did not see the adjutant swallow the cat, but that his friend Mr. S. said that he had seen an adjutant pick up and swallow a live kitten. Now that is a very different thing, and is more likely to be true than the story about the cat. For a kitten may be about the same size as a rat, and I have often seen the adjutants catch and swallow live rats. At the stables of the house of a friend of mine, the native servants used almost every night to catch live rats in traps. When the morning came the men used to carry the traps out on the open maidaun, attended by three or four adjutants, who very well knew what treat was in store for them. With our binoculars we could see from the house the poor rats let loose and dash off at their best pace towards the stables. But a grim adjutant, with his
long strides and outstretched wings, soon overtook the rat, tossed him in the air and swallowed him. Occasionally a very smart rat would double under the leading adjutant's legs, but the rat had little chance of escape, for if it evaded one pursuer, it only ran into the mouth of another.
The adjutant may be called a sacred bird, but as this epithet might be misunderstood as if it applied to Hindoo mythology, I must explain that he is consecrated to municipal duty, and is sanctified by the protection of the municipal law. Any one who kills an adjutant in Calcutta is punishable by a fine of a gold mohur or thirtytwo shillings. I never found this law in the statute-book, any more than I ever saw that almost fabulous coin the gold mohur in its original gold. But there is no English magistrate in Calcutta who would hesitate to impose a fine of a gold mohur on any one convicted of killing an adjutant. One of my contemporaries in the old college of Fort William was so fined, although he had killed the adjutant in his father's garden, and his father was one of the judges of the chief court of justice. There used to be a tradition that the British soldiers in the barracks of Fort William once blew up an adjutant by inducing it to swallow a marrow-bone in which there was a charge of gunpowder and a slow-burning fuse, but I hardly believe it. A similar but perfectly true story was, however, within my own cognizance, and it occurred at the Chinsurah barracks, when the old 29th Regiment was quartered there. The soldiers, after their dinner, got two marrow-bones and tied them together with a stout string about twenty yards long. The marrow-bones were then thrown out separately to two expectant adjutants. One bird seized and swallowed one bone, and the other bird caught and got outside (as the Yankees say) of the other bone. The two birds then flew up towards their usual perches on the barrackroof, but as they flew apart the string tightened, and as they pulled against one another, and neither would part with his bone, they finally came flopping to the ground to the great edification of the soldiers. When the two birds were on the ground there was a severe tug of war between them, until at last the string broke. and each of them flew off triumphantly to digest his bone, and the yards of string attached to it at its leisure.
Some few adjutants do not come into towns or cities, and occasionally when out snipe-shooting I have come across a pair