Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

against the wall remain to this day. One of the skeletons was that of a female, with a great many rings on the fingers of the hands, and bracelets, necklaces, and other ornaments on the other bones. From this circumstance it is supposed that she was the wife of the owner of the house, and that, in trying to save herself and her jewellery upon her, she had fled with the servants to this cellar, and there had been overwhelmed.

There were very few skeletons found in the houses of Pompeii, from which it is supposed that the inhabitants generally had time to escape. There was, however, one remarkable case. It was that of a sentinel in his sentrybox at the gate of the city. He would not leave his post, as it would seem, and so perished at the station where he had been placed. His head, with the helmet still upon it, was carried to the museum at Naples, where it is now seen by all the world, and every one who sees it utters some expression of praise for the courage and fidelity which the poor fellow displayed in fulfilling his trust. The streets of the town were narrow, but they were paved substantially with large and solid stones, flat at the top. Along these streets were a great many very curious shops—barber's, painter's, wine shops, and the like. The wine shops were furnished with deep jars set in a sort of stone counter.

After passing through a number of streets, a great public square is reached called the Forum. This square is surrounded with the ruins of temples and other public edifices. The columns and porticos which bordered the square are all more or less in ruins; but there are still so many of them standing as to show exactly what the forms of the buildings must have been when they were complete.

Q

In another part of the town are the remains of two theatres, and outside the walls an immense amphitheatre, where were exhibited the combats of wild beasts and those of the gladiators. There are a great many ruins of amphitheatres like this scattered over Italy. They are of an oval form, and the seats extend all round. The combats took place in a level spot in the centre, called the arena.

One of the most curious shops is that of a baker, with the oven entire, and three hand-mills where the baker used to grind his corn. There were many curious utensils and implements found in this shop, which have been removed, with a great number of other interesting and valuable articles, to a museum at Naples.—Jacob Abbott.

LESSON LXXXII. THE TRAVELLER'S TREE.

This tree, Urania speciosa, is one of the most remarkable that has been discovered in Madagascar. And the extent to which it prevails may be inferred from the native name Ravinalp—literally, leaf of the forest—as if it was the leaf by which the forest was characterized, which is the fact where it abounds, though in many parts it is not met with at all. The tree rises from the ground with a thick succulent stem, like that of the plantain, and sends out from the centre of the stem, long broad leaves, like those of the plantain, only less fragile, and rising, not round the stalk, but in two lines on opposite sides; so that as the leaves increase, and the lower ones droop at the end, or extend horizontally, the tree presents the appearance of a large open fan. When the stem rises ten or twelve feet high, the lower part of the outer covering becomes hard and dry, like the bark of the cocoa-nut tree. Many of the trees I saw were at least thirty feet from the ground to the lowest leaves. I frequently counted from twenty to twenty-four leaves on a single tree, the stalk of each leaf being six or eight feet long, and the broad leaf itself, four or six more.

In the fan-like head of the traveller's tree there were generally three or four branches of seed-pods. The parts of fructification seemed to be enclosed in a tough, firm spalke, like those of the cocoa-nut; but the subsequent development was more like the fruit of the plantain. When the pods or seed-vessels, of which there were forty or fifty on each branch, were ripe, they burst open, and each pod was seen to enclose thirty or more seeds, in shape like a small bean, but enveloped in a fine silky fibre of the most brilliant blue or purple colour.

But this tree has been most celebrated for containing, even during the most arid season, a large quantity of pure fresh water, supplying to the traveller the place of wells in the desert. The natives affirmed that so abundant and pure was the water, that when men were at work near the trees, they did not take the trouble to go to the stream for water, but drew and drank the water from the tree. Having been somewhat sceptical on this point, I determined to examine some of the trees; and during my journey stopped near a clump of them. One of my bearers struck a spear four or five inches deep into the thick firm end of the leaf-stalk, about six inches above its junction with the trunk, and on drawing it back a stream of water gushed out, about a quart of which we caught in a pitcher, and all drank of it on the spot. It was cool, clear, and perfectly sweet. There is a kind of natural cavity or cistern at the base of

the stalk of each leaf above its union with the stem, and the water collected in the broad and ribbed surface of the leaf flows down a groove or spout on the upper side of the stalk into this reservoir, whence it supplies nutriment to the tree and refreshment to the traveller.

But in Madagascar this tree might also, with propriety, be called the builder's tree.

Its leaves form the thatch of all the houses on the eastern side of the island. The stems of its leaves form the partitions, and often sides of the houses, and the hard outside bark is stripped from the inner and softer part, and having been beaten out, is laid for flooring; and I have seen the entire floor of a long well-built house covered with this bark, each piece being at least eighteen inches wide, and twenty or thirty feet long. The leaf, when green, is used as a wrapper for packages, and keeps out the rain. Large quantities are also sold every morning in the markets, as it serves the purpose of tablecloths, dishes and plates at meals, and, folded into certain shapes, is used instead of spoons and drinking vessels.—Ellis's "Madagascar."

LESSON LXXIIII. FIDELITY.

A barking sound the shepherd hears,
A cry as of a dog or fox:
He halts, and searches with his eye
Among the scattered rocks,
And now at distance can discern
A stirring in a brake of fern;
And instantly a dog is seen,
Glancing through that covert green.

The dog is not of mountain breed;
Its motions, too, are wild and shy;
With something, as the shepherd thinks,
Unusual in its cry:
Nor is there anyone in sight,
All round in hollow or on height;
Nor shout nor whistle strikes his ear:
What is the creature doing here?

It was a cave, a huge recess,

That keeps, till June, December's snow;

A lofty precipice in front,

A silent tarn below;

Far in the bosom of Helvellyn,

Kemote from public road or dwelling,

Pathway or cultivated land;

From trace of human foot or hand.

There sometimes doth a leaping fish
Send through the tarn a lonely cheer;
The crags repeat the raven's croak
In symphony austere;
Thither the rainbow comes, the cloud—
And mists that spread the flying shroud,
And sunbeams ; and the sounding blast,
That, if it could, would hurry past:
But that enormous barrier holds it fast.

Not free from boding thoughts awhile
The shepherd stood; then makes his way
O'er rocks and stones, following the dog
As quickly as he may;
Nor far had gone before he found
A human skeleton on the ground:

« ElőzőTovább »