Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/729

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
713
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

the guests. Of course, there is nothing compulsory in the custom, and no one is bound to answer the call in case he does not like to do so. On the other hand, the party benefited is under an obligation to appear at the call of those who participated in the pómoch. This custom does not play as conspicuous a part as in former days, when rural settlements were scattered clearings in the forests, and pioneer work was constantly needed. Still, even then it was only a social revival, hinting at a preceding epoch of closer communistic co-operation, and at the same time pointing out the existing severance between the households of which the community was formed. The Russian family is not identical with the Roman family, in which the pater-familias was absolute master, or of any of its derivatives. It is a union of individuals having their individual rights recognized by the law, though sometimes not without certain limitations in favor of the head of the family. It is a perfect communistic commonwealth. All the movables belonging to the household, as well as its whole income, constitute the collective property of the family, but not of its head. The old Russian family resembled a community even in the number of its members. One described by Mr. Krasnoperoff numbered ninety-nine members, and was composed of a grandmother with her children and mai'ried grandchildren, all of whom were living together and working for their own common benefit. Such households, exceptions now, were universal in the past. Thus ownership of land by the community without, and complete communism within the family, were the fundamental elements in the structure of the village at the dawn of Russian history.

 

Chinese "Letter Shops."—According to the United States consul at Fu Chau, the Chinese Government has not yet established any post offices or postal system for the masses of the people; yet communication is easy between the people in all parts of the empire through private enterprise, which has established what are called "letter shops." Official dispatches are earned by couriers, at a rate so rapid, in cases of emergency, as from two hundred to two hundred and fifty miles a day. These official couriers are not allowed to convey private dispatches. At the treaty ports "letter shops" are used by the natives only; but in the interior, or at places not reached by the foreign postal arrangements, they are employed by foreigners as well, chiefly by missionaries. All letters and parcels to be sent may be registered and insured. When given in at a "letter shop," the contents of the envelope are displayed before it is sealed up, and stamped with the "chop" of the shop. Charges for the transmission of valuables are made on a percentage of declared value, and, as with letters, differ according to the distance to which the package is to be carried. A receipt is given, and the shopkeeper then becomes responsible either for its safe delivery, with unbroken "chop" or seal, at its destination, or for its return to the sender. In some parts of the empire about two thirds of the expenses of transmission are paid by the sender, while the remainder is collected from the receiver; thus the shop is secured against entire loss from transient customers, and the sender has some guarantee that his letter will be carried with dispatch. There are said to be nearly two hundred letter shops in Shanghai, but in many remote villages there are none.

 

Protection of Birds' Eggs.—A short discussion took place in the British Association concerning the best method of protecting birds' eggs. In presenting the report of the committee on the subject. Dr. Vachell said that, while everybody agreed that eggs should be protected, serious differences of opinion prevailed as to the way in which the object should be reached. Some thought the taking of particular eggs in particular places should be prevented at particular times of the year. Against this, it had been found impossible, on account of resemblances, to prove in court the specific identity of many kinds of eggs. It had therefore been suggested, as a better plan, to protect the special areas in which particular species were found to be declining. The question was asked. What was to be done with the little boy ten years old who might be tempted to rob a nest? Was he to be sent to jail? Mr. Walter found bird-nesting an intolerable nuisance, eggs being collected, not for scientific purposes, but simply to ornament rooms. Mr. M. S. Pemberry argued that many boys