Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/336

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molars, and those in the upper jaw have two tubercles." The word sigmadont means sigma-toothed, from a marking on the enamel, resembling the Greek letter sigma, which really would be like our own letter S, if the latter were made by uniting two angles, instead of two curves.

The writer has elsewhere expressed his belief that among the Rodents is a good deal of latent or undeveloped musical capacity. The squeal of the frightened rabbit is musical; while the whistle of the woodchuck enlivens its burrow with its homely, merry little sound.

That our little cosmopolite, the Old-World mouse, whom Linnaeus, on account of its smallness among its fellows, named Mus musculus, has achieved some distinction in the musical line, almost everybody knows. Indeed, these musical house-mice are almost ceasing to be uncommon. Even his less graceful, big relative, the rat, has tried his hand at the pipes, and not wholly without success. And, among these little erratics, some have been known that might be called more comical than entertaining—certain eccentrics, known as hiccoughing mice. But these and the above are all, wherever found, directly or indirectly, of the Old-World race. That any New-World species had done aught of this sort was to naturalists unknown. A late friend of ours had a domestic mouse—"a singer, that is," as the old man said—"not much, but it would whistle a little—chirrup, you know." Now, it happened that, one day, our friend caught two wood-mice, real natives delicate, white-footed things, that looked too innocent to do any thing else than step mincingly around in their delicate white-satin slippers. So they were put into the cage with the singing-mouse. Whether, like some other folks, they had no appreciation of foreign airs, we have no means of answering; but alas! in spite of their silken ways, they at once set upon and murdered the little musical mouse.

These wood-mice are often called white-footed mice. They belong to a genus of the Sigmadontes, known as the Hesperomys, or Vespermico, and are indigenous to this our Western Continent. There is a number of species in the genus; but those best known are diminutive things, not so large as the house-mouse, their sides are yellowish-brown, the back considerably darker, the abdomen and feet almost snowy-white. Their home is the woods. With but little sympathy for man, they will occasionally intrude for a time into his dwelling, when, as I believe, the domestic mouse withdraws. My friend Philip J. Ryall, Esq., in the spring of 1871, when at his Florida home, near St. Augustine, was disturbed, at night, by what he supposed to be the chirping of birds in the chimney. The mystery was cleared up in an unexpected way. A very small mouse came up from a crevice in the hearth, and, with singular boldness, took position in the middle of the sitting-room floor. Here it sat up on its hind-feet, and looked around with the utmost confidence, all the time singing in a low, soft, yet really warbling style. This visit became a daily business, until it