Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/590

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the land of Cush, did the cat come to the front. We may therefore regard the cat as a Cushite animal, derived from the Felis maniculata, which was found wild in upper Nubia and the Soodan. The Egyptians carried their reverence for cats to what seems to us a ridiculous excess. If any of them voluntarily slew one of the sacred animals, he was punished with death; and Diodorus relates that a Roman soldier who had killed a cat could hardly escape the fury of the people. When a cat died in a house, the people shaved their eyebrows; and dead cats were embalmed and buried in the city of Bubastis, which was sacred to Pasht. According to M. Lenormant, the Egyptians still respect cats, and in Cairo serve up a copious banquet every day to the cats of each quarter, "in the court of the house of the cadi." The late introduction of domesticated cats among Semitic peoples seems to be proved by the absence of mention of them in the Bible. The Assyrians and Babylonians are said to have been equally ignorant of the animal. A lively discussion between Mr. A. S. Murray and Professor Mahaffy a few years ago, as to whether the Greeks had cats, seems to have resulted in an understanding that they had not. Their cat was a polecat or something else, and the Byzantine writers of later days seem to have been the first who gave its name to the modern cat. No Greek or Roman pictures or representations of the mau or "mew-cat" of the Egyptians are known, except one that M. Longpérier has found on a Tarentine coin struck shortly before the wars of Pyrrhus, and one on a lost post-Christian tombstone. The Indo-Aryans of the Vedic age seem to have lived and died ignorant of cats. The Sanskrit names of the animal mean "the animal of the house," "the house-wolf," "the rat-eater," "the enemy of mice." M. Pictet thinks that none of the European names for the cat belong to the old Aryan tongue. The Roman name, catus, signifies sly, cunning, crafty, but is traced by him back to the Syriac gatô and the Arabic gitt, and thence back to African words of which the Nubian kadiska is an example. This gives more evidence, such as it is, of the African origin of the animal. Some of the names, such as the Persian puschak and its variants, appear related to our puss, and are connected by M. Pictet with the Sanskrit putchha, tail—the creature with the waving tail. Our cat is supposed to be derived from the wild-cat an animal which gave the name to the clan Chattan, and a title to the Duchess of Sutherland, which is said to mean "the Great Lady of the Cat." Finally, the "Saturday Review," from which we derive this gossip, expresses its admiration at the sagacity with which the cat passes a double life—"a sleek domestic favorite all day, a wild animal of unbridled impulse in the darkness of night."


Bedouin Weddings.—Dr. Siegfried Langer pleasantly describes in "Das Ausland" the marriage customs of the Bedouins of Es Salt, Palestine. First, as is the usage among all Semitic peoples, the bride is bought. The purchase-money is paid, half to her parents in compensation for bringing her up and supporting her, whence it is called milk-money; the other half in the form of dresses and ornaments for the bride, or of a provision for a settlement in case of divorce: and all must be paid in cash. As the time of the marriage approaches, the groom's associates collect around his house some evening and perform a wild symbolical dance with a great noise. The bride's friends, in the mean while are making her dress, which, when it is done, is paraded at the head of a procession singing praises of the beauty and accomplishments of the bride and the manly virtues of the groom. On the wedding-day the bride, if she lives in another town, is brought to her future home unveiled and on horseback, with an escort of a dozen armed men. She finds the friends of the bridegroom awaiting her, and they engage in a contest to gain the right by seizing to become her host for dinner. These contests sometimes become real fights. If, however, the bride lives in the same town with the groom, her friends serve her at the bath, and the putting on of her wedding-clothes, after which she takes her seat of honor to wait for the groom. He, in the mean time, has ridden to the nearest well for a bath, followed to the gate of the town by a procession of women bearing a figure adorned with pieces of the bride's outfit. Having performed his ablutions, he rides back, and on the way strikes with his riding--