Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/152

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

versal, but it was found expedient in some places to postpone the treat till the corpse had been safely taken care of. At Bridgton, a glass of wine was given to each mourner, and a biscuit, on the top of which was placed a piece of dark-colored orange-peel. It is just possible that the presence of this ornament "was the perpetuation of a symbol used at old heathen rites. Quite within living memory it was also customary to put a black mark on some of the oat-cakes served along with whisky in public-houses in Rutherglen, near Glasgow. Few, if any, of those who observed this custom in baking the cakes latterly could have the least notion of what their action implied; but its origin may be traced to the old heathen practice at the feasts of Baal, of giving bread with a black mark upon it to those unhappy persons who were selected as victims to be sacrificed." No religious service was held at the grave; only the hats of the attendants were taken off sometimes for a moment when the coffin was lowered. The omission "had its origin, no doubt, in the Scotch horror of doing anything that might give a color to the charge of following the Roman Catholic fashion of praying for the dead." Sometimes a chapter in the Bible was read and a short prayer pronounced in the house before the procession set out for the churchyard; but care was generally taken in these preliminaries to disconnect them from the peculiar circumstances of the occasion. Thus, at one funeral, refreshments were served, and the offering of the prayers was so arranged as to give them the appearance of being a grace before and a grace after meat. The starting of the funeral procession was colloquially called "lifting," in allusion to the "lifting" of the coffin or the taking of it up to carry it from the trestles on which it rested, with "spokes" or bearing-poles. Efforts to do away with funeral treats, which were justly prompted by the scandals to which the drinking gave rise, were strongly and bitterly opposed. One man, who had become an abstainer, gave great offense by providing milk instead of liquor. His neighbors ascribed his conduct to meanness, and had nothing but scorn for his plea of principle. "Principle had nothing, and could have nothing, to do with it," they asserted. "The minister had no scruple in taking off his dram, and was he going to set himself up as better than the minister?"

 

Burmese Animal Life.—The "British Burmah Gazetteer" gives some notes of rare interest on the zoölogy of the country to which it relates. The mammalia include the Malasian tapir, four species of rhinoceros, a fresh-water dolphin, and bats. Most of the bats hibernate, as their congeners do in Europe, and one is remarked for the reservoir of fat which it accumulates in its tail, to serve it in winter. The list of birds runs up to seven hundred and seventy-three species, or a hundred more than there are in all Europe. A curious fact is that several species are found in the Island of Java, eight hundred miles south, while they are wholly wanting in the neighboring peninsula of Malacca. Species that are found in India only at the foot of the Himalayas, at a considerable elevation, occur here at the level of the sea. Species of birds identical with those of Europe, or similar to them, are not rare. The variety of the fauna is explained by the physical configuration of the region, where a walk of a few hours will carry one from the green sod of meadows intersected by rice-fields to the inaccessible precipices of the granitic mountains, from the sea-shore jungles of bamboo and the rich, tropical vegetation of the coasts to immense virgin forests and the stiff and dark pines of the mountain-sides. The list of reptiles is discouraging to the settler, for it furnishes four crocodiles and seventy serpents, one of which is a python thirty feet long, and the bite of fifteen is poisonous. The list of fishes is the most interesting of all. It includes the Anabas scandens, which they say comes out of the water and goes up into the trees for insects; species that have a reservoir of air above the gills, and will die of asphyxia if they are kept under water and prevented from drawing air directly from the atmosphere; a siluroid that has an accessory respiratory apparatus attached to the branchiæ; and the fish-scorpion, which has a long air-vessel passing across the muscles of the back, and communicating interiorly with the gills: this explains how these fish can live in mud. These respiratory organs seem close-