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received their name from John Bermudas, a Spaniard, who discjvered them. The air is pure and salubrious, and fruits of various kinds grow in luxurious plenty and perfection; but the islands, being surrounded with rocks and shoals are very difficult of access. It was this circumstance, perhaps, that gave these islands, in former times, the reputation of being enchanted. Jordan, in a publication in 1613, called “ News from Bermuda,” says, “Whereas it is reported that this land of Bermuda, with the islands round about it, are enchanted, and kept by evil and wicked spirits, it is a most vile and false report.”
BERRING's STRAIT, a narrow sea, between the 60th and 70th degrees of north latitude, and took its name from captain Berring, who first discovered it in the year 1728: it separates Asia from the American continent ; these two continents approaching within forty miles of each other. It has been ascertained, that, to the north of this strait the Asiatic shore tends rapidly to the westward, while the American shore stretches nearly in a northerly direction, till at the distance of about four or five degrees, the continents are joined by solid and impenetrable bonds of ice. The two continents are now known to approach so near to each other, that, even throwing out of view the probability of passing from one to the other on the ice, the passage might easily have been effected by means of canoes, or small boats.....Miller.
BERWICK, a small town on the borders of England and Scotland : it stands on the north or Scottish side of the river Tweed, near the sea: it is memorable for the following extraordinary incidents. In the year 1333, while Edward III. filled the throne of England, and Baliol was king of Scotland, the English monarch besieged Berwick with a powerful force. He held in custody the eldest son, together with a younger son, of sir Alexander Seton, the governor of the town ; the former as a hostage, and the other as a prisoner of war; and contrary to all good faith, honor, and humanity, he threatened the governor, that if he refused immediately to surrender the town he would hang up his two sons in the front of the ramparts. Remonstrances and entreat
40 BETEL....BEZOAR-STONE....BIRCH TREE.
ies were offered in vain. Edward ordered a gibbet to be erected in full view of the town, to carry into execution his most detestable threat. The trial was too great almost for human nature to sustain. Seton, nobly struggling between contending impulses that put every sentiment to the rack, would, it appeared, have yielded to nature, and saved the lives of his children, by sacrificing his country's honor and his own, had not his wife, the own mother of the devoted victims, with a degree of heroism worthy of a Roman matron, stepped forward, and with the most forcible eloquence argued to support his principles, and sustain his trembling soul; and, while the bias of natural affection yet inclined him to relax, she withdrew him from the shocking spectacle, that he might preserve his rectitude, though at the inestimable expense of the lives of their sons. Edward with a relentless heart put them both to death, and Seton kept possession of the town.....Fuller,
BETEL, a plant that, in the eastern countries, is chewed like tobacco. It grows like ivy, twisting itself around trees; its leaves are long and sharp-pointed, broad towards the stalk, and of a pale green. The Chinese chew these leaves continually, pretending that they strengthen the gums, comfort the brain, expel bile, nourish the glands of the throat, and serve as a preservative against the asthma, a disease very common in the southern provinces of China.... Winterbotham.
BEZOAR-STONE, a substance of great efficacy against the poison of serpents. The best are those which are found in the bladder of the antilope : the dealers say they are all derived from that animal. These men suffer themselves to be stung in the finger by an enormous black scorpion, which they irritate by striking it on the back. The wounded part is then made to bleed by pressing it, and they immediately apply the bezoar. After a few minutes they pull away the stone ; and the wound has no swelling or appearance of irritation, and is perfectly cured..... Grandpre.
BIRCH TREE. This tree of which there is a vari. ety of kinds, extends in northern latitudes beyond any
tree else; and at the extremity of vegetation spreads its branches on the ground, and, as to the dwarfish species, does not rise a foot in height when of a considerable age. The birch is so necessary to the Laplanders, that they could scarcely exist without it.
Of the outer bark, when cut into thongs and interwoven, they make fishing-shoes, ropes, baskets, and many other utensils ; and also of it contrive a cloak, fastened close to the head, which is an excellent defence against the rain. The branches of the dwarf-birch, piled up regularly, and covered with the skin of a rein-deer, form the Laplander's bed. He also burys this shrub, to drive away his chief annoyance the gnats, by a constant smoke which pervades his building throughout, as he has no chimney. With the bark of the birch the Tartars cover their hats, and construct portable boats, cradles and other furniture. The North American Indians make their canoes of the same material, and draw the plans of their travels on it. The bark of a certain kind of birch exhibits a luminous appearance, resembling phosphorus; emitting a light strong enough to read by in a darkened
In times of remote antiquity books and records were written on the inner bark of birch. St. Pierre, in his Studies of Nature, says—The bark of a certain kind of birch consists of an accumulation of ten or twelve sheets, white and thin, like paper, the place of which it supplied to the ancients. If we may depend on the testimony of Pliny and Plutarch, there were found at Rome four hundred years after the death of Numa, the books which that great king had commanded to be deposited with his body in the tomb. "The body was utterly consumed; but the books which treated of philosophy and religion, were in such a state of preservation, that Petilius the pretor undertook to read them by command of the senate. They were written on the bark of the birch tree. So great a benefit to multitudes of the human race has Providence made this tree, 'which, in our age and country, is of little estimation.
BIRDMEN. There are men on the northern coasts and islands of Europe, and particularly in the island of St. Kilda, who get their living by catching the sea fowls that make their nests on the steep side of stupendously
high rocks. Some of those rocks, hanging over the sea, are a perpendicular wall of solid stone, ten times higher than our tallest steeples: in the sides are large and small cavities, where the sea fowls, in innumerable multitudes, build their nests. The birdman having a rope five or six feet long, makes it fast about his waist and between his legs, so that he can sit on it; and five or six men, standing upon the top of the rock, let him down. When he has come to the holes of the rocks where the birds are, he creeps in among them, loosening himself from the rope ; and after he has killed as many fowls as he thinks fit, he ties them up in a bundle, and fastening himself again to the rope, makes a signal for them above to pull him up..... Goldsmith.
BIRDS. Of birds, or fowls of the air, there are known to be nearly two thousand kinds in the different parts of the earth. The species of birds arranged and described by Linæus amounted to near a thousand. . Since that time the number has been more than doubled by the inquiries of subsequent ornithologists. Though birds in general have less sagacity than quadrupeds, they often discover a surprising degree of cunning and artifice. Rapacious birds uniformly endeavor to rise higher than their prey, that they may have an opportunity of darting forcibly upon it with their pounces. To counteract their artifices, nature has endowed the smaller and more innocent species of birds with many arts of defence. When a hawk appears, the small birds, if they find it convenient, conceal themselves in the hedges or brush wood. When deprived of this opportunity, they, often in great numbers, seem to follow the hawk, and to expose themselves unnecessarily to danger; while, in fact, by their numbers, their perpetual changes of direction, and their uniform endeavors to rise above him, they perplex the hawk to such a degree, that he is unable to fix upon a single object; and after exerting all his art and address, he is frequently obliged to relinquish the pursuit....Miller, Smellies
BISON, a species of cow, with a hump between its shoulders with a long mane, and a beard under its chin. This breed of cows is found in all the southern parts
the world ; throughout the vast continent of India; and throughout Africa, from Mount Atlas to the cape of Good-Hope. The bison breed is more expert and do. cile than our species of cows; they are nimble-footed, and supply the place of horses ; and when they carry burdens, they bend their knees like the camel to take them up or set them down. The regard for this animal, in India, has degenerated into a blind adoration ; and the Indian feels sure of paradise if he dies with the tail of this cow in his hand. The extreme usefulness of the animal led them first to prize it very highly, and then to adore it. With the Hottentots, the bison cow is taught to tend their sheep, which it does with wonderful ex. pertness and fidelity ; and is also taught to accompany them in war, and fight their enemies; whom it furiously gores with its horns, and tramples under foot. These animals were once exceedingly numerous in the western parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania ; and so late as the year 1766, herds of four hundred were frequently seen in Kentucky, and thence to the Missisippi ; they are likewise common about some parts of Hudson's Bay..... Goldsmith, Winterbotham.
BIRMINGHAM, a celebrated manufacturing town in England ; lying at the distance of one hundred and sixteen miles from London. In the work of cutlers and locksmiths, in all the toys which are made of the coarser metals, and in all those goods which are commonly known by the name of Birmingham and Sheffield ware, there is such a cheapness as to astonish the workmen of every other part of Europe, who in many cases acknowledge that they can produce no work of equal goodness for double, or even for triple the price.
In the manufactures of Birmingham alone, the quantity of gold and silver annually employed in gilding and plating, is said to amount to more than fifty thousand pounds sterling.... Adam Smith.
BITTERN, or Night Raven, a water fowl that chiefly haunts the sedgy sides of unfrequented rivers. It is of a palish yellow, spotted and barred with black. windpipe is fitted to produce the sound for which it is remarkable. This sound is like the interrupted bellow