Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/296

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

beginning of the Roman year, and the driving of the nail was thought to bring with it prosperity fur the new year. Livy tells us i, it when the gods seemed hostile and unmoved by the distresses of the nation, the dictator broke the spell of evil by driving in a nail. Once a nail driven in had banished a plague; then a nail had healed discord, Pliny says that, if a nail be driven into the pillow on which a man suffering from epilepsy has laid his head, it will heal him. In all these notices we see iron used as destroying the power of evil, breaking the force of disaster, banishing disease, expelling death. Consequently, nails were put in urns or funereal cists to keep away from them every evil power, demons, witches, and as a pledge of final restoration. The iron horseshoe nailed to a door owes its power to break the force of witchcraft not only to its being a symbol of Odin's horse, but also to the metal of which it is composed. Shears were frequently buried with bodies down till late in the middle ages. It is said that even within the memory of man they have been buried in coffins with corpses in Swabia. Sometimes as many as five were laid in the coffin with one corpse. The idea was the same as with nails—the metal was the important matter, rather than the form it took. The steel or iron was a preservative to the corpse, a protection and an assurance of resurrection. For the same reason that nails and shears were buried with the dead, swords were laid with them, and not necessarily because they would need them in the next world. Even Charlemagne was buried with his sword. The Icelandic sagas are full of stories of cairns broken into by heroes to rob the dead of their swords. Already in historic times the significance of the sword buried with the dead was lost; and in the Saga of Olaf the Saint a ghost actually invites a Norseman to break into his tomb and relieve him of his sword and other valuables.

 

Habits of the Manatee.—The London Zoölogical Society has acquired a living specimen of the manatee, one of the only two kinds of "herbivorous cetaceans" now existing. Concerning the habits of these animals, Miss Agnes Crane has written, from observations of a pair several years ago in the Brighton Aquarium, that lettuce and endives, of which they could eat thirty pounds a day, formed their favorite food. The male would devour at a pinch leaves of the cabbage, turnip, and carrot. Both relished those of the dandelion and sow-thistle. Sometimes the animals would swim about and pursue the leaves floating on the water; at other times the plants were seized in their mouths, drawn down, and eaten under the water, while the hand-like fore-fins were employed in separating the leaves. The food was invariably swallowed below the surface. They are not at all at ease when out of the water, but seem oppressed by their bulk. The male was observed to make a few attempts at terrestrial progress by turning himself round and moving a few inches when the tank was empty. With jaws and tailfin pressed closely to the ground, the body of the animal became arched, and was moved by a violent lateral effort, aided and slightly supported by the fore paddles, which were stretched out in a line with the mouth. But the effect of these very labored efforts was not commensurate with their violence; and their relation to active locomotion might be compared to the state of a man lying prone, with fettered feet and elbows tied to his side.

 

Odd Dishes of the Olden Time.—The cook-books of a hundred or more years ago afford reading well adapted to excite curiosity of appetite, if we may speak in that way. Their lists of pickles and flavors embraced a great many articles that we do not think now of using in that way. Jams were made of vegetables; parsnips, raspberries, etc., were made into cakes; and beets, potatoes, and oranges into biscuits. For making violet cakes the directions were to "take the finest violets you can get, pick off the leaves, beat the violets fine in a mortar with the juice of a lemon, beat and sift twice their weight of double-refined sugar, put your sugar and violets into a silver saucepan or tankard, set it over a slow fire, keep stirring it gently until all your sugar is dissolved; if you let it boil it will discolor your violets; drop them in china plates; when you take them off put them in a box, with paper between every layer." Wines were made of every fruit; of such flowers and vegetables as cowslips and parsnips;