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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/440

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ever. The present generation has to lay the foundation of the study and leave the task of building it up to posterity. We enjoy many advantages from intercourse with primitive people which those who will come after us may not possess; and we have much to do in gathering and preserving facts which are passing away with every year, day, hour even, lest through carelessness or neglect they shall disappear utterly. Every gap thus permitted will be painfully regretted in the future, when a detailed review shall be undertaken of the diversity of variations in which the human race has exhibited itself on the earth. The speaker insisted upon the necessity of ethnologists traveling among these primitive peoples, and spoke particularly of his observations in Polynesian mythology. The Polynesian circle of thought, he said, is, after the Buddhist, the most extensive on the earth. A surprising homogeneity prevails throughout the length and breadth of the Pacific Ocean, and still more widely if we consider Oceania in its full sense, with the inclusion of Polynesia and Melanesia. It may be said that this unity prevails over about one hundred and forty degrees of longitude and seventy degrees of latitude, or over one fourth of the globe. We can not ignore so interesting a phenomenon. A direct relation exists between the mythologies of all peoples and their religious notions, and the same is the case in Polynesia. Accounts of the mythologies of the primitive tribes generally afford senseless caricatures so long as we are not acquainted with the religious notions around which they play. The knowledge of these beliefs is not easily gained, for the priests hide their doctrines under symbols which only the initiated can understand. It requires a long residence in the country and a winning of the confidence of the priests to such a degree as to induce them to communicate the traditions that have been handed down to them in secrecy. In all the Polynesian literature that we possess there is nothing that goes to the heart of their religion beyond a few disconnected fragments which have been taken down by a half dozen writers; and the cry is already going up that it is too late; that the holders of the uncontaminated traditions are passing away and carrying with them to the grave the knowledge they might impart. Professor Bastian stated that he had been able by a combination of favorable circumstances to gather a few of these documents, out of which he hoped to be able to effect a partial reconstruction of the Polynesian religious system.


Studies of Young Apes.—H. Schneider gives, in "Kosmos," an account of his observations of the habits and the development of the faculties of a young Javanese ape, which he had bought for purposes of study. The animal, when taken home, won at once the affection of Herr Schneider's wife, to whom he had anticipated it would be unwelcome. When awakened from its sleep in the woman's lap, it acted almost precisely as children do in similar circumstances—stretched its limbs, yawned with a very perceptible sound while its eyes were closed, rubbed its eyes, and scratched itself; then suddenly bounded up and went into its cage. It was not long before Chega—so it was named—began to show her dexterity. While playing in the room one day, she sprang upon the table, and before her master could prevent it, took up a half-filled cup of coffee from before him, ran to the sofa, and, standing upon its back, quietly drank the coffee, having finished which, she jumped down without having spilled a drop of the liquid. Her behavior was generally that of a spoiled child. When pleasantly spoken to, she was agreeable and playful; but if anything was denied her, or taken away from her, she would cry out, strike with her hands and feet, and go straight to the object and get it if she could. She would sit on her master's arm as he was playing at cards, and turn over the cards; or she would search in his pockets, looking most often for his watch, which she was very fond of getting. When she saw an effort made to catch her, she would mind no call, but would hide in the farthest corner. If capture was imminent, she would make a rueful face, with clinched teeth and parted lips, and utter a smacking sound. The danger over, a friendly word would restore her amiability at once. She would clasp her master's neck, put on a comical expression, and throw kisses at him. When spoken of by her master to a third person, even if she