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There was a sublimity in this event that mingled a solemn feeling with the public joy. It was looked upon as a vast and signal dispensation of Providence, in reward for the piety of the monarchs; and the majestic and venerable appearance of the discoverer, so different from the youth and buoyancy that are generally expected from roving enterprise, seemed in harmony with the grandeur and dignity of his achievement.
To receive him with suitable pomp and distinction, the Sovereigns had ordered their throne to be placed in public, under a rich canopy of brocade of gold, in a vast and splendid saloon. Here the king and queen awaited his arrival, seated in state, with the Prince Juan beside them, and attended by the dignitaries of their court and the principal nobility of Castile, Valencia, Catalonia, and Arragon; all impatient to behold the man who had conferred so incalculable a benefit upon the nation. At length Columbus entered the hall, surrounded by a brilliant crowd of cavaliers, among whom, says Las Casas, he was conspicuous for his stately and commanding person, which, with his countenance rendered venerable by his grey hairs, gave him the august appearance of a Senator of Rome. A modest smile lighted up his features, showing that he enjoyed the state and glory in which he came; and certainly nothing could be more deeply moving to a mind influenced by noble ambition, and conscious of having greatly deserved, than these testimonials of the admiration and gratitude of a nation, or rather of a world. As Columbus approached, the Sovereigns rose, as if receiving a person of the highest rank. Bending his knees, he requested to kiss their hands; but there was some hesitation on the part of their Majesties to permit this act of vassalage. Raising him in the most gracious manner, they ordered him to seat himself in their presence; a rare honour in this proud and punctilious Court.
At the request of their Majesties, Columbus now gave an account of the most striking events of his voyage, and a description of the islands which he had discovered. He displayed the specimens he had brought of unknown birds and other animals ; of rare plants, of medicinal and aromatic virtue; of native gold, in dust, in crude masses, or laboured into barbaric ornaments; and, above all, the natives of these countries, who were objects of intense and inexhaustible interest; since there is nothing to man so curious as the varieties of his own species. All these he pronounced mere harbingers of discoveries he had yet to make, which would add realms of incalculable wealth to the dominions of their Majesties, and whole nations of proselytes to the true faith.
The words of Columbus were listened to with profound emotion by the Sovereigns. When he had finished, they sank on their knees, and, raising their clasped hands to heaven, their eyes filled with tears of joy and gratitude, they poured forth thanks and praises to God for so great a providence. All present followed their example: a deep and solemn enthusiasm pervaded that splendid assembly, and prevented all common acclamations of triumph.—Washington Irving.
LESSON XLVII. THE PARTRIDGE.
The commencement of the partridge season on the first of September leads us to the smiling corn-fields of the country, where the good providence of God has covered the cultivated land with the rich rewards of industry. In these fields, beneath the shelter of what to her is a tall waving forest of close-grown stalks, a shelter which, up to this season, she has found secure from intrusive feet, the partridge has hatched her eggs; and tended her down-clad young without danger and without fear. But suddenly her domain is invaded by an army of ruthless reapers, who, laying low the protecting cover, expose many a half-grown brood, and call forth all the instinctive artifices and ingenious stratagems of the mother, which can never be witnessed without admiration: out she rushes, with a querulous cry, and tumbling over and over, often induces the irresistible impression, even in those who are familiar with the deception, that her wings or her legs are broken, and that it is an easy matter to catch her with the hand. She contrives, however, just to keep beyond the reach of her pursuer—scrambling grotesquely along, until she judges that her young, who are on the alert, taking advantage of the maternal sagacity, have been able to make off for some place of concealment. Then suddenly her whirring wings, put into vigorous action, bear her off to some distant spot, whence, making a rapid circuit on foot, she soon returns to her young charge, and adds her wits to theirs in seeking their continued safety.
But, under other circumstances, the partridge, though a timid bird, has been known to run greater risk in defence of its young. Mr. Selby, in his British Ornithology, relates the following anecdote, for the truth of which he vouches:—" A person engaged in a field had his attention arrested by some objects on the ground, which, on approaching, he found to be two partridges— a male and a female—engaged in battle with a carrion crow: so absorbed were they in the issue of the contest,
that they actually held the crow till it was seized and taken from them by the spectator of the scene. Upon search, the young birds, very lately hatched, were found concealed among the grass. It would appear, therefore, that the crow,—a mortal enemy to all kinds of young game,—in attempting to carry off one of these, had been attacked by the parent birds, and with the above singular success."
Instances of birds removing their eggs, in some way not well understood, when they suspect danger, are nut infrequent; but few are more interesting than one narrated by Mr. Jesse, of the bird of which we are speaking. It is a beautiful example of rare sagacity and skill, prompted by affection, and brought into requisition by a sudden emergency.—" A gentleman living near Spilsby, in Lincolnshire, was one day riding over his farm, and superintending his men, who were ploughing a piece of fallow land: he saw a partridge glide off her nest, so near the foot of one of the plough horses, that he thought the eggs must be crushed; this, however, was not the case: but he found that the old bird was on the point of hatching, as several of the eggs were beginning to crack. He saw the old bird return to her nest the instant he left the spot. It was evident that the next round of the plough must bury the eggs and nest in the furrow. His astonishment, therefore, was great when, returning with the plough, he came to the spot, and saw the nest, indeed, but the eggs were gone. An idea struck him that she had removed them; and he found her, before he left the field, sitting under the hedge upon twenty-one eggs, nineteen of which she subsequently hatched. The round of ploughing had occupied about twenty minutes, in which time, probably assisted by the cock bird, she had removed the twenty-one eggs to a distance of about forty yards."
In the dry and sunny days which so generally prevail in the early part of this month, the coveys of young partridges may be frequently seen, particularly in the morning, rubbing themselves in the loose dusty soil. The object of dusting seems to be, to obtain relief from the torture inflicted on them by numerous parasitic insects by which birds are infested. As the day wanes, the coveys repair to some neighbouring field, where the corn is yet uncut, or, later in the season, to the stubbles, and pick their afternoon meal of grain: after which, the call-note of the partridges is heard, and they all move away together, to the spot selected for the night's repose. It appears that the whole brood arrange themselves in a circle, touching each other, the tails of all being in the centre, and thus, squatting close upon the ground, they pass the night; instinctively taught thus to guard against surprise from every quarter.—Gosse.
LESSON XLVIII. WE ARK SEVEN.
A simple child
That lightly draws its breath,
What should it know of death?
She was eight years old, she said;
That clustered round her head.
And she was wildly clad:
—Her beauty made me glad.