Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/853

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Thus, the motive force of these formidable disturbances is always active under the feet of the inhabitants of many regions. Against the permanent danger that menaces them, men have at least the remedy of forgetfulness.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue des Deux Mondes.

By Mrs. E. D. W. HATCH.

THESE interesting rodents are dwellers in the Rocky Mountains and adjacent hills, and are known among us by various significant names, as mountain-rat, timber-rat, and trade-rat. The first, of course, refers to their native home; the second to the sound of their gnawing, scarcely to be distinguished from the sawing of timber; and the last to their peculiar system of barter or exchange, so curious a habit that it is doubtful if any other animal has ever been known to practice it while in a wild or untamed state.

These animals are much larger and stronger than the ordinary house-rat so much so that cats are apparently afraid of them, and can not be induced to attack them. They are pretty, well formed, have very bright black eyes, prominent, beautifully shaped, pointed ears, and soft gray fur. Their tails are not rat-like, but are more like a squirrel's, only less bushy, being covered with fur.

Such keen, intelligent-looking little creatures are they that, but for our instinctive dislike to the name of rat, we should be strongly tempted to tame them as attractive and teachable pets. Until they learn that they have an enemy in man, they are quite unsuspicious, and will allow any one to walk up to them.

One of these rats being caught in the house, attracted by his size, I measured him body, eight inches long; tail, eight inches; around his body, under his fore-legs, seven inches; ears, an inch and a half; fur beautifully fine, gray, with a darker shade, nearly black, running lengthwise down his back. He was very plump and fat, but I omitted getting his weight.

They haunt houses and camps near the hills, but seldom, if at all, those a few miles away. The peculiar trading characteristics natural to this little merchant, its habit of exchanging goods without a "by your leave," wise ways, and queer tricks, seem far more like reason than instinct. A few incidents which came under my own observation will illustrate this characteristic. Some men, passing through the country, camped in a deserted cabin, and, before wrapping themselves in their blankets for the night, they placed their bread for breakfast in a pan near the fire. On rising, to their dismay, not a crumb of