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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/140

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

different that it looks brighter? So it seems to the man's own 'common sense.' Or is the difference subjective only, in the man himself, who has lost his bearings to the outside world?

"The revered sage of Los Gatos, Brother Ambrose Bierce, tells the story of a man who visited a naturalist in San Francisco, and remained over night as a guest. The naturalist was fond of snakes and had several of them in the house. When the visitor retired at night he looked under the bed and found a great coiled serpent, who watched him with glittering eyes. These eyes made some strange impression on him, and in the morning the people of the house found their guest kneeling on the floor, dead, his open eyes still staring in horror at the thing under the bed. This thing was the stuffed skin of a kingsnake with two shoe-buttons for eyes. The 'common sense' of the man told him that the snake was charming him, and in the belief that he was charmed to a horrible death he must have perished. If he had not believed that snakes have the power to 'charm' and to kill, surely he would not have died.

"It is said that a ship once landed on a barren island in the Pacific Ocean. Its passengers brought with them the materials for a house, which they set up, to the surprise of the natives who had never seen a wooden house before. They put in it blankets and cooking utensils, and after a day or two they set up near the house on a solid foundation a long tube through which they gazed by turns at the sun. After watching the sun for a single day, they hastily returned to the ship, carrying the long tube and the blankets, but leaving the house and everything else of value on the island. The delighted natives took possession of the house and they hold it to this day. But they look in vain for the return of the foolish people who left it there.

"Men who have traveled in Mexico tell me that all along the coasts of Sinaloa, people are engaged in digging for buried treasures under the direction of men or women in San Francisco. These people have never been in Mexico, but they are said to have the power of seeing clearly objects not before them, in any part of the earth. There is a very old legend current which tells that a pirate ship, hard pressed by the Mexican soldiers, landed on the Cape of Camarron near Nazatlan, where the buccaneers hastily buried a vast treasure of silver, after which they all fled. A man is engaged to-day in boring a tunnel into solid granite and lava to find the treasures thus laid away. A woman, in a shabby Sacramento Street boarding house, claims to see in her trances the inner secrets of the mountains and directs all these operations. Our common sense or our experience may condemn the whole operation as ridiculous but the transit of Venus seemed equally absurd to the local critics who occupy its abandoned shelter.

"One man takes a forked rod of witch-hazel, and, going over a tract