Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/416

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

night of the waning moon the actions of crows and starlings evince a sad disregard of religious duties, but "burying black briony in the four corners of a field will secure it against the ravages of the most impious bird." Need we wonder that the Kiddles of that age could credit the miracles of St. Polycarp?


—— The Biter bitten.—"Intellectual presence of mind," says Lavater, "favors the practice of dissimulation, as well as the art of repartee." This latter gift seems to be a characteristic talent of the Semitic race. Al-Mansour, the second Abbasside Caliph, was importuned to commute the sentence of a rebellious governor of Morocco, on the ground that the followers of the rebel revered him as a saint and a prophet. "That's no excuse," said the Caliph, "for, if he is endowed with the gift of prescience, he must have foreseen that I am going to hang him to-morrow."

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the neglected fields of Northern Spain formed a humiliating contrast with the flourishing huertas of the Moorish provinces; yet Alfonso IV of Aragon tried to demonstrate the superiority of his countrymen from this very difference. "In our country men handle the sword and clowns the spade," he told the Moorish embassador; "my cavaliers are too proud to meddle with agriculture." "And yet sixty thousand of these hidalgos have condescended to fertilize the fields of Xeres," observed the Morisco.

But, of all biters bitten, the most astonished was, perhaps, the Jesuit Görres, who insulted meek Moses Mendelssohn by the question, "how it came that in all countries of Christendom the Hebrews were dreaded as cheats?" "No wonder," replied the philosopher, with his blandest smile, "since you have all been so amazingly cheated by one of oar people."


—— American Stock-Breeding—is thus magnified by President Francis A. Walker, writing in the "Princeton Review": "The trotting horse we have created, certainly the most useful variety of the equine species, and we have improved that variety in a degree unprecedented in natural history.-Two generations ago the trotting of a mile in two minutes forty seconds was so rare as to give rise to a proverbial phrase indicating something extraordinary; it is now a common occurrence. 'But a few years ago,' wrote Professor Brewer, in 1876, 'the speed of a mile in 2·30 was unheard of; now, perhaps, five or six hundred horses are known to have trotted a mile in that time.' The number is to-day, perhaps, nearer one thousand than five hundred. Steadily onward have American horse-raisers pressed the limit of mile-speed, till, within the last three seasons, the amazing figures 2·10 have been reached by one trotter and closely approached by another."


—— About 1800 we began to import, in considerable numbers, the favorite English cattle, the short-horn. The first American short-horn herd-book was published in 1846. In 1873 a sale of short-horn cattle took place in Western New York, at which a herd of 109 head were sold for a total sum of $382,000—one animal, a cow, bringing $40,600; another, a calf five months old, $27,000; both for the English market. To-day Devons and short-horns are freely exported from New York and Boston to England, to improve the native stock.


—— The Society of Dilettanti was formed one hundred and fifty years ago, by a number of gentlemen who had traveled in Italy and enjoyed its treasures of antiquity and art, for social intercourse and aesthetic improvement. Englishmen most distinguished in politics and literature have been among its members. Originally it was indispensable that a candidate for admission should have been