Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/454

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lence. It listens attentively to any conversation that is going on, and expresses its approval or astonishment by exclaiming "Oh!" or "Ah!" and always at the appropriate time or place. If any one tells a funny story or gets off a joke, it laughs with the rest of the company, although this outburst of merriment is doubtless due, not so much to a humorous appreciation of what is said, as to the contagion of the general hilarity. When it wants something, it calls its mistress by her Christian name, Marie, and, if she does not come at once, calls her again with a sharp tone of impatience. Once, when a firebrand fell on the hearth and filled the room with smoke, it cried, "Marie! Marie!" in a voice indicating extreme anxiety and alarm. This parrot is a provident creature, and when taking its dinner always lays aside a piece of bread and jam for its supper, thus showing that it has the power of looking before and after, which Shakespeare deems a peculiarly human attribute. It not only sings songs correctly, but also inprovises musical compositions, which it renders each time with new variations, and performs, as M. Nicaise assures us, "with a taste and style and spirit that might excite the envy of any pupil of the conservatory." The fact that these pieces invariably close on the tonic or keynote proves that all the modulations are referred to the fundamental tone of the chord, and gives evidence of a musical feeling and sense of harmony such as only human beings are usually supposed to possess. These improvisations are whistled, and sound as though they were played by a flute, the performance being uniformly preluded with runs and trills and other vocalizations.

The parrot is an exception to the rule that the period of infancy is longest in the most intelligent creatures. Its babyhood is, in fact, very short, although its average life seems to be somewhat longer than that of a man. It attains the full splendor of its plumage and is pubescent at the early age of two, and often survives all the members of the human family in which it has been reared, outliving even the children much younger than itself. During all this time it retains its mental plasticity and progressiveness, never ceases to learn, and goes on developing its inborn capacities from the beginning to the end of its prolonged existence. It is quite as inquisitive as the monkey, and quite as capable of close and continued observation. Merely through its association with man it is constantly making new acquisitions of knowledge, and there is no telling what might not be accomplished in this direction by systematic instruction carried on through successive generations.

If Mr. Garner's object had been to ascertain how far animals can acquire the use of human speech and what effect such discipline would have in enlarging their intellectual faculties, he