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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/881

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

backs; carbonic oxide killed ants, but not Colorado beetles; prussic-acid vapors and nitrous-acid fumes destroyed everything, as did chlorine everything but Colorado beetles; nitrous oxide exhibited but slight effects; and illuminating gas appeared to produce death if the exposure was long enough. Mr. Gratacap recommends charging from time to time with illuminating gas as probably, and charging with diluted prussic-acid fumes as certainly, an efficient preventive of the ravages of insects in cabinet cases.

 

Backsheesh in Arcadia.—"How much to be envied are you Singalese!" says Herr Haeckel, in his "Indian Letters of Travels." "You are not troubled either about the cares of to-morrow or of the distant future. What you require for your own life and your children's grows of itself at your mouth; and whatever else you may want in the way of luxury you can get with the slightest exertion. You are, indeed, like the lilies of the field, that grow around your simple huts; they sow not, neither do they reap, and still heavenly Nature feeds them. You are not excited with political or military ambitions; no anxious thoughts about business, or the rise and fall of stocks, disturb your sleep. The highest honors, titles, and orders of civilized men are unknown to you. Yes, I believe it fully, you do not envy us Europeans for our thousand superfluities; you are happy in being simple men, Nature-men, living in a paradise, and enjoying that paradise. Yes, what care-burdened civilized man would not envy you your simple condition, and your paradisiacal contentment?" A few moments after indulging in these reflections, Herr Haeckel reached the last post-station before arriving at Point de Galle, and was still thinking he had come upon a place where the struggle for existence had no being. His porters awakened him from his dream by speaking to him of their "backsheesh." It was now time to attend to that matter, for it might be forgotten, in the hurry and confusion, if it was put off till they got to the city. Herr Haeckel had remarked that a native gentleman had given each of the porters a "double anna," and reasoned that, in consideration of his superior distinction as a "white man," it would be proper to quadruple the amount and give a shilling. The porters returned the coins with irritation, and gave their patron a very flattering lecture about the distinction to which he was entitled by reason of his purely white skin. The main point which they presented was, that every white man ought to give double what he had given, or a rupee; but that as white a man as he was, with his light hair, must belong to the very highest caste, the dignity of which would be suitably maintained by a still larger gift. Without acceding to the full force of this complimentary argument, Herr Haeckel yielded so far as to give the full white man's backsheesh of a rupee to each man, and had the pleasure of hearing himself pronounced a perfect gentleman.

 

The Chinese Superstition of Severed Queues.—Dr. D. J. MacGowan, in a report on the health of Wenchow, has published some facts concerning "epidemic frenzies," or "popular crazes," which frequently prevail among large portions of the Chinese population. One of them raged very extensively in 1876, when it was believed supernatural agencies were at work cutting off the queues of the people. A sorcerer, getting possession, with the aid of a spirit, of one of these queues, was believed to be able thereafter to evoke at will the soul of the owner and use it as a servile demon, while the man was fated to die. The only remedy within the reach of a person who has lost his queue is to cut off an inch or more of what hair he has left and soak it for eighty days in a cesspool; by this means the mysterious connection between the hair remaining on his head and that in possession of the sorcerer is severed. Amulets and charms are, moreover, relied on for the prevention of disaster to the queue. A charm for this purpose was invented by the Governor of Kiang-Su, who also recommended an anathema attributed to Tao Tse, which was to be chanted while copying it on yellow paper with the blood of a cock mixed in vermilion, after which the paper was to be burned and the ashes swallowed. The panic was created by some revolutionists, who secretly cut off the queues of a few passers-by in each large city, and then proclaimed that a diabolical agency was at work.