Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/621

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QUEER PHASES OF ANIMAL LIFE.

especially in countries where the sapient one has become the monopolist of all the good things of this earth. Let any one sweep the snow from his balcony, scatter the cleared space with crumbs, and put the balcony-key where the children can not find it, and see how soon his place will become the resort of feathered guests—not of town-sparrows only, but of linnets, titmice, and other birds that are rarely seen out of the woods. A little discretion will soon encourage them to enter the window and fetch their lunch from the breakfast-table—by and-by even in the presence of their host—for the fear of men is a factitious instinct, unsupported by the elder intuition that teaches animals to distinguish a frugivorous creature from a beast of prey. With so simple a contrivance as a wooden box with a round hole, starlings, blackbirds, martins, crows, jays, and even owls, can be induced to rear their young under the roof of a human habitation; squirrels, hedgehogs, and raccoons soon find out a place where they can get an occasional snack without having to pay with their hides. Hamman, the famous German skeptic, used to feed a swarm of sea-gulls, often the only visitors to his lonely cottage on the shore of the Baltic. The neighbors suspected him of necromantic tricks, but he assured them that his whole secret consisted in never interfering with his guests—keeping a free lunch on hand, and letting them take their own time and way about eating it.

The same magic had probably bewitched the pets of Miss Meiringer, the daughter of a German colonist of New Freyburg, Brazil. Her father was a self-taught naturalist, and his collections have been described by several South American travelers; but in the opinion of the natives his curiosity-shop was eclipsed by the menagerie of his daughter, who had tamed some of the wildest denizens of the forest, though evidently on the suaviter in modo plan, since most of her pets boarded themselves, or only took an occasional breakfast at the fazenda. Among her more regular guests were a couple of red coaties, or nosebears, several bush-snakes, and one large boa, a formidable-looking monster with the disposition of a lap-dog, for at a signal from his benefactress he would try to curl himself up in her apron, with a supernumerary coil or two around her knees.

 

There is hardly any doubt that animals must possess some means of communicating their ideas. Arsenic has no perceptible taste or odor, and an ounce of it mixed with a bushel of corn-meal will destroy a cart-load of sewer-rats in a single day; but all professional vermin killers agree that such receipts lose their efficacy in a very short time. Somehow or other the survivors manage to trace the mischief to its cause; and old rats have been observed in the act of driving their young from a dish of poisoned hash. When the British first effected a settlement in Singapore, the traffic in monkeys soon became a regular branch of industry. The ubiquitous Chinamen used to go on trap-