Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/882

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860
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Rikiu, was used at the ancient tea ceremony for handing little cakes. The agi is now frequently made useful by being covered with engraved maps of the different provinces. Sometimes a fan case holds a dagger. Preachers make points in their speeches by sharply opening or shutting their white fans. Album fans, on which poems are written, are a curious feature in the life of Japan. Many old legends are told again by the arrangements of houses, flowers, figures, and birds painted on the faces of fans. An endless etiquette is involved in the use of fans. With the Japanese, in fact, the fan is an emblem of life. The rivet end is regarded as the starting point, and as the rays of the fan expand, so the road of life widens out toward a prosperous future. The agi is said to have originally taken its shape from the remarkable mountain Fusiyama, which represents to the Japanese all that is beautiful, high, and holy.

 

Artificial Birds for Women's Hats.—According to a writer in the London Spectator, a change has come over the minds of women in respect to feathers; and while these pretty ornaments continue to be worn, the objections to the wanton sacrifice of birds in order to procure them have so far prevailed that substitutes have been found for those kinds to obtain which birds were killed. While the egret plume—the finest of these feathers—is still unapproachable as an ornament, the milliners say that ladies object to buying the real article, "because it is cruel," and demand artificial substitutes, or are contented with less perfect plumes, and sham "ospreys," as they are called, are made in ways it is difficult to determine. Some are fashioned from split quill feathers of a larger heron. In others even a microscope fails to show the process of manufacture. Besides substitutes for the "osprey," "all kinds of composite feather decoration, perfect for the purposes to which it is applied, are now used for hats and bonnets, and a naturalist in a milliner's shop finds himself confronted with a hundred varieties of plumage never seen in Nature, but excellent in art, for which it would puzzle any one but the plumassier or the taxidermist to find a name. The era of stuffed birds and natural wings adorning headdresses is almost over. Not long ago, for instance, terns were a favorite ornament. The whole bird was used. Large hats were fashionable, and two or three of the 'sea swallows' were grouped on a single head. . . . Now the milliners have discovered a substitute with which no lover of birds can quarrel, and which reflects no little credit on their craft. Poultry feathers, in some cases of natural colors, but more often dyed to tints suited to the material with which they are worn, are made up into plumes, wings, coronets, and pompons, with a grace and variety of outline which harmonize with the modeling of the human head far better than the natural bird forms. Wings of domestic pigeons, often mottled with exquisite shades of gray or roan, are still used; but as the pigeons themselves are destined for food, no one can quarrel with the disposition made of their plumage. The greater part of modern head gear, however, is decorated with dyed cock feathers, or 'coque' feathers—pronounced to rhyme with 'oak'—as the milliners prefer to call them. The use of the cock's feathers has been a gradual development. In John Leech's day they were suggested by the plumes worn by the Sardinian troops in the Crimean War, and were worn in ladies' felt hats, somewhat of the 'field marshal's' pattern. These were only the dark-green tail feathers. But the piles of 'Mercury wings' of all colors—plain or decorated with tinsel or jet—which filled the milliners' shops last summer, and which still hold their own, are an immense advance on the cock-feather plumes. Some of these wings are so well made that, except for want of proportion between the primary and secondary feathers, even a naturalist's eye might be deceived. Regarded purely as an ornament, they are preferable to the natural arrangement, for their construction admits of endless adaptation." Women's fondness for feathers may be credited with being the means of preserving one and that the largest species of living bird from extinction, for it has offered the inducement for which ostrich farms have been established and are maintained.

 

The Australian Diprotodon.—Interest was excited in the recent meeting of the Australasian Association by an account, by C. W. de Vis, of the diprotodon, fossil bones of which have been found in Lake Mulligan,