Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

+

3. We had not been long in the camp, when a party set out in quest of a bee-tree; and being curious to witness the sport, I gladly accepted an invitation to accompany them. The party was headed by a veteran bee-hunter, a tall, lank fellow, with a home-spun garb, that hung loosely about his limbs, and with a straw hat, shaped not unlike a bee-hive. A comrade, equally uncouth in garb, and without a hat, straddled along at his heels, with a long rifle on his shoulder. To these succeeded half a dozen others, some with axes, and some with rifles; for no one stirs far from the camp without his fire-arms, so as to be ready either for wild deer or wild Indians.

4. After proceeding for some distance, we came to an open glade on the skirts of the forest. Here our leader halted, and then advanced quietly to a low bush, on the top of which he placed a piece of honey-comb. This, I found, was the bait or lure for the wild bees. Several were soon humming about it, and diving into the cells. When they had laden themselves with honey, they would rise into the air, and dart off in a straight line, almost with the + velocity of a bullet. The hunters watched attentively the course they took, and then set off in the same direction, stumbling along over twisted roots and fallen trees, with their

eyes

turned up to the sky. In this way, they traced the honey-laden bees to their hive, in the hollow trunk of a blasted oak, where, after buzzing about for a moment, they entered a hole, about sixty feet from the ground.

5. Two of the bee-hunters now plied their axes vigorously at the foot of the tree, to level it with the ground. The mere spectators and tamateurs, in the meantime, drew off to a cautious distance, to be out of the way of the falling of the tree, and the vengeance of its inmates. The jarring blows of the ax seemed to have no effect in alarming or disturbing this most industrious community. They continued to ply at their usual occupations ; some arriving, full freighted, into port, others sallying forth, on new expeditions, like so many merchantmen in a money-making metropolis, little suspicious of impending bankruptcy and downfall. Even a loud crack, which announced the disrupture of the trunk, failed to divert their attention from the intense pursuit of gain. At length, down came the tree, with a tremendous crash, bursting open from end to end, and displaying all the hoarded treasures of the commonwealth.

6. One of the hunters immediately ran up with a wisp of lighted hay, as a defense against the bees. The latter, however, made no attack, and sought no revenge; they seemed stupefied by the +catastrophe, and unsuspicious of its cause, and remained crawling and buzzing about the ruins, without offering us any + molestation. Every one of the party now fell to, with spoon and hunting-knife,

to scoop out the +fakes of honey-comb, with which the hollow trunk was stored. Some of them were of old date, and a deep brown color; others were beautifully white, and the honey in their cells was almost limpid. Such of the combs as were entire were placed in camp-kettles, to be conveyed to the encampment; those which had been shivered in the fall were devoured upon the spot. Every stark bee-hunter was to be seen with a rich morsel in his hand, dripping about his fingers, and disappearing as rapidly as a cream-tart before the holiday appetite of a school-boy.

7. Nor was it the bee-hunters alone, that profited by the downfall of this industrious +community. As if the bees would carry through the similitude of their habits with those of laborious and gainful man, I beheld numbers from rival hives, arriving on eager wing, to enrich themselves with the ruin of their neighbors. These busied themselves as eagerly and cheerfully, as so many wreckers on an Indiaman that has been driven on shore; plunging into the cells of the broken honey-combs, + banqueting greedily on the spoil, and then winging their way, full freighted, to their homes. As to the poor proprietors of the ruin, they seemed to have no heart to do any thing, not even to taste the + nectar that flowed around them; but crawled backward and forward, in vacant desolation, as I have seen a poor fellow with his hands in his breeches' pocket, whistling vacantly and despondingly, about the ruins of his house that had been burnt.

8. It is difficult to describe the bewilderment and confusion of the bees of the bankrupt hive, who had been absent at the time of the catastrophe, and who arrived from time to time, with full cargoes from abroad. At first they wheeled about in the air, in the place where their fallen tree had once reared its head, astonished at finding it all a + vacuum. At length, as if comprehending their disaster, they settled down in clusters, on a dry branch of a neighboring tree, from whence they seemed to contemplate the prostrate ruin, and to buzz forth doleful lamentations over the downfall of their republic. It was a scene, on which the “melancholy Jacques” might have + moralized by the hour.

9. We now abandoned the place, leaving much honey in the hollow of the tree. “ It will all be cleared off by varmint,” said one of the rangers.

What vermin?” asked I. “Oh, bears, and skunks, and raccoons, and ’possums,” said he: “ the bears is the knowingest varmint for finding out a bee-tree in the world. They'll gnaw for days together at the trunk, till they make a hole big enough to get in their paws, and then they 'll haul out honey, bees, and all.

W. IRVING.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

LESSON XCIII.S

MECHANICAL WONDERS OF A FEAT HER. 1. Every single feather is a + mechanical wonder. If we look at the quill, we find properties not easily brought together, strength and lightness. I know few things more remarkable, than the strength and lightness of the very pen with which I am now writing. If we cast our eye toward the upper part of the stem, we see a material made for the purpose, used in no other class of animals, and in no other part of birds; tough, light, pliant, *elastic. The pith, also, which feeds the feathers, is neither bone, flesh, membrane, nor +tendon.

2. But the most artificial part of the feather is the beard, or, as it is sometimes called, the vane, which we usually strip off from one side, or both, when we make a pen. The separate pieces of which this is composed are called threads, +filaments, or rays. Now, the first thing which an attentive observer will remark is, how much stronger the beard of the feather shows itself to be when pressed in a direction + perpendicular to its plane, than when rubbed either up or down in the line of the stem. He will soon discover, that the threads of which these beards are composed are flat, and placed with their flat sides toward each other; by which means, while they easily bend for the approaching of each other, as any one may perceive by drawing his finger ever so lightly upward, they are much harder to bend out of their plane, which is the direction in which they have to encounter the impulse and pressure of the air, and in which their strength is wanted.

3. It is also to be observed, that when two threads, separated by accident or force, are brought together again, they immediately reclasp. Draw your finger down the feather which is against the grain, and you break, probably, the junction of some of the contiguous threads; draw your finger up the feather, and you restore all things to their former state. It is no common +mechanism by which this contrivance is effected. The threads or + laminæ above mentioned are *interlaced with one another; and the interlacing is performed by means of a vast number of fibers or teeth, which the threads shoot forth on each side, and which hook and grapple together.

4. Fifty of these fibers have been counted in one-twentieth of an inch. They are crooked, but curved after a different manner: for those which proceed from the thread on the side toward the extremity, are longer, more tflexible, and bent downward; whereas, those which proceed from the side toward the beginning or quillend of the feather, are shorter, firmer, and turned upward. When two laminæ, therefore, are pressed together, the crooked parts of the long fibers fall into the + cavity made by the crooked parts of the others; just as the latch, which is fastened to a door, enters into the cavity of the catch fixed to the door-post, and there hooking itself, fastens the door.

PALEY.

LESSON XCIV. s 4

THE NOSE AND THE EYES.

a

1. BETWEEN Nose and Eyes a strange contest arose ;

The spectacles set them, unhappily, wrong;
The point in dispute was, as all the world know,

To whom the said spectacles ought to belong.
2. So Tongue was the lawyer, and argued the cause,

With a great deal of skill, and a wig full of learning,
While chief baron Ear, sat to balance the laws,

So famed for his talent in nicely +discerning. 3. “In behalf of the Nose, it will quickly appear,

And your lordship,” he said, "will undoubtedly find,
That the Nose has the spectacles always to wear,

Which amounts to possession, time out of mind.” 4. Then, holding the spectacles up to the court,

“Your lordship observes, they are made with a straddle, As wide as the ridge of the Nose is; in short,

Designed to sit close to it, just like a saddle. 5. “Again, would your lordship a moment suppose,

('T' is a case that has happened, and may happen again,) That, the + visage or countenance had not a Nose,

Pray, who would, or who could wear spectacles then ? 6. “On the whole, it appears, and my argument shows,

With a reasoning the court will never condemn,
That the spectacles, plainly, were made for the Nose,

And the Nose was, as plainly, intended for them." 7. Then shifting his side, (as a lawyer knows how,)

He pleaded again in behalf of the Eyes :
But what were his arguments, few people know,

For the court did not think them equally wise.
8. So his lordship decreed, with a grave, solemn tone,

Decisive and clear, without one if or but,
That whenever the Nose put his spectacles on,
By day-light or candle-light,-Eyes should be shut.

CowPER.

LESSON XCV.4 57

THE WELL OF ST. KEYNE.

St. Keyne was a Welch princess, who lived and died near the well which was nained after her. It was + popularly believed, that she laid upon this well the suell described in this ballad.

1. A well there is in the West Country,

And a clearer one never was seen ;
There is not a wife in the West Country,

But has heard of the well of St. Keyne.
2. An oak and an elm tree stand beside,

And behind does an ash tree grow,
And a willow from the bank above,

Droops to the water below.
3. A traveler came to the well of St. Keyne;

Joyfully he drew nigh,
For from cock-crow he had been traveling,

And there was not a cloud in the sky.
4. Ile drank of the water, so cool and clear

For thirsty and hot was he;
And he sat down upon the bank,

Under the willow tree.
5. There came a man from the neighboring town,

At the well to fill his pail;
On the well-side he rested it,

And he bade the stranger thail.
6. “Now art thou a bachelor, stranger?” quoth he;

“For an* thou hast a wife,
The happiest + draught thou hast drunk this day,

That ever thou didst in thy life.
7. “Or has thy good woman, if one thou hast,

Ever here, in Cornwall been?
For an* she have, I'll venture my life,

She has drunk of the well of St. Keyne."
8. “I have left a good woman, who never was here,

The stranger he made reply;
“But that my draught should be better for that,

I pray you answer me why."
9. “St. Keyne," * quoth the Cornish-man, “many a time

Drank of this + crystal well,
And before the angel summoned her,

She laid on the water a spell.
10. “If the husband, of this gifted well

Shall drink before his wife,
A happy man thenceforth is he,

For he shall be master for life.

* An is here an obsolete word signifying if;

« НазадПродовжити »