Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/730

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birds, twenty-four hours after being hatched, are ready to descend from their nests, whether low or high, the old bird comes to the mouth of the hole and takes for about a half-hour a careful survey of the surroundings, to ascertain, as it were, that no intruder is near, and then utters a low call. The ducklings seem to understand the significance of the call and quickly make their appearance in front of the hole, which often extends to a depth of from six to ten feet. By means of their toe-nails, which are hooked nearly as much as those of birds of prey, and sharp as the point of a needle, they easily manage to climb up on the inside of the deep holes, at the entrance of which they remain a few minutes huddled together about the old bird. After this, the mother again descends to the ground near the tree, and calls upon her young brood, which now drop, one by one, from their airy perch, without any apparent hesitation; for their bodies are already so thickly covered with down that they seem to fall like leaves to the ground. When the last duckling has accomplished its fall, the brood gather again about the old bird and are led by her to the nearest water, which is seldom far away, and is generally convenient to shelters and hiding-places.


The Foot, and how it should be treated.—The human foot is an instrument admirably adapted to all the various uses it has to serve, which fashion has done its best to spoil by improper treatment. The bones of the instep are so adjusted as to form an arrangement which combines in exquisite perfection the resistance of the arch with as much elasticity as enables it to bear safely the prodigious strain to which it is subjected. The whole frame of the foot is kept in position and made capable of its proper range of movement by means of muscles and tendons, constituting a living and sensitive bandage, increasing or relaxing its pull or pressure in the most exact obedience to our will. In a sound, free foot, each part of the machinery is in constant readiness to bring it into the required position, whether to lift the body, to bound, or to sustain the shock of the whole weight in coming down again, or to perform any other of a number of complications of movement. How perfectly the foot is adapted for these purposes, and is protected against too great pressure and sudden shock, is shown by the fact that such violent actions as leaping, or the being burdened with a weight twice or thrice, that of the whole body, cause no uneasiness to a sound foot; the injury, if any, resulting from such exertions being usually felt elsewhere. The skin, very thin and delicate on the upper part of the foot, is thick and tough, though soft and pliable, on the sole. Beneath it is a layer of fat, strengthened by strong fibers crossing it and binding it to the muscles and ligaments. The sole can endure great pressure and even violent shocks, but is at the same time curiously sensitive, especially to the touch. It is very easily tickled. This property serves a very important purpose in walking, for the pressure upon the ground stimulates the muscles of the foot to their required activity, without any effort of the will, and indeed without our being conscious of the operation. This spontaneous alertness of the muscles, on which the energy and grace of movement depend, can be secured only by their being kept uncramped, free, and well exercised. How much the shoemaker's shoes, cramping the foot, jamming the toes upon each other, distorting the shape of the organ, and lifting the heel up so that the weight of the body is thrown upon the toes, prevent this, needs no elaboration. The lesson of these observations is that the shoe should give plenty of room all around to the foot, that the sole should be thinnest and narrowest at the "waist," where elasticity is wanted, broad and thick at the tread, where protection is most required, and that no one should be ashamed of the size of his foot. "A well-formed large one is a far pleasanter sight than the smallest one distorted."


A Lion-Tamer's Method.—A curious history, and one that sheds many gleams of light upon the character of beasts in the menagerie, is that of Henri Martin, the lion tamer, who died, ninety years old, quietly at his home, "among his collections of butterflies and his books of botany." Martin, according to his own letters, began to cultivate his gift of control over animals in the days