Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/255

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ANIMAL AND PLANT LORE.

knowledge of the fact. Wherever found, the weasel has, and I suppose deservedly, a general reputation for great cunning and alertness. But of all the various beliefs in its fabulous powers and attributes so prevalent among earlier civilizations, few, so far as I have been able to ascertain, seem to have descended to our own time and country, though a good many still hold their ground in various parts of the British Isles. In the north of England it is popularly thought to be very unsafe to molest a weasel or to kill or injure its young, lest the artful animal spit on the offender and paralyze him, or else secretly spit into his food and so poison him. A young emigrant from county Sligo, Ireland, has told me that the peasants there have undoubting faith in this capacity of the weasel to avenge itself by the voluntary ejection of saliva that is poisonous to man. I wish I might reproduce the rich brogue and open-eyed credulity with which this Irish boy related several stories illustrative both of the revengeful disposition and of the reasoning ability of the weasel. But I can only give, in an approximation to his language, two instances which he assured me had come under his own observation. "A mon in our part o' the country wonst fought wi' a weasel. She was vurry mad un' she fought 'urn a long time, un' at las' she spet on 'uz shins. The mon was af eard then un' let her alone, un' I meself saah wheriver the weasel 'd spet on 'urn, uz shins turned black in spots." "There was a lot o' min a-wurrkin' in a field, un' wan uv 'm tuk some little young weasels out av their nist in a wall that was theer. Thin whin th' ould weasel saah what was done wi' 'urn, she just wint to the can o' milk that they had for their dinner, and spet in th' can un' wint aff; un' thin the mon wint back wi' the little weasels afther he'd watched th' ould one a bit, un' he lift thim in the nist. Un' thin th' ould weasel wint as quick as iver she cud to the can o' milk un' spilt it so the min cudn't dhrink any uv it. She wudn't be afther hurtin' 'urn whin they'd taken the little wans back." The country people in county Sligo believe that these agile carnivores are so very cunning that they know all that men say about them, and so it is felt to be unsafe even to speak ill of the little thieves. It is also there thought to be very lucky to carry a purse made of a weasel's skin. There is an old custom among the Irishwomen in county Kerry to go out with bread or other food in their hands, to meet hunters coming home with their ferrets, and after feeding the latter, to keep "for luck" whatever crumbs are left over.

An old-time remedy for the disease commonly known as "the shingles" (herpes zoster) still survives in the United States, ranging from Maine through Massachusetts and New York to Ohio, and perhaps even more widely. The treatment consists in the application of the skin of a freshly killed cat to the diseased surface