Page images
PDF
EPUB

had the manager on board and three or you start. We were wanderers on a four pilgrims with their staves—all prehistoric earth--on an earth that wore complete. Sometimes we came upon the aspect of an unknown planet. We a station close by the bank, clinging to could fancy ourselves the first of men the skirts of the unknown, and the taking possession of an accursed in. white men, rushing out of a tumble- heritance to be subdued at the cost of down hovel with great gestures of joy profound anguish and of excessive toil. and surprise and welcome, seemed But suddenly, as we struggled round a very strange, had the appearance of be- bend, there would be a glimpse of rush ing held there captive by a spell. The walls, of peaked grass roofs, a burst of word ivory would ring in the air for a yells, a whirl of black limbs, a mass of while-and on we went again into the hands clapping, of feet stamping, of silence, along empty reaches, round the bodies swaying, of eyes rolling, under still bends, between the high walls of the droop of heavy and motionless foliour winding way, reverberating in hol- age. The steamer toiled along slowly low claps the ponderous beat of the on the edge of a black and incomprestern wheel. Trees, trees, millions of hensible frenzy. The prehistoric man trees, massive, immense, running up was cursing us, praying to us, welcomhigh; and at their foot, hugging the bank ing us, who could tell? We were cut against the stream, crept the little be- off from the comprehension of our surgrimed steamboat, like a sluggish roundings; we glided past like phanbeetle crawling on the floor of a lofty toms, wondering and secretly appalled, portico. It made you feel very small, as sane men would be before an envery lost, and yet it was not altogether thusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We depressing that feeling. After all, if could not understand, because we were you were small, the grimy beetle too far, and could not remember, becrawled on—which was just what you cause we were travelling in the night wanted it to do. Where the pilgrims of first ages, of those ages that are imagined it crawled to I don't know. gone, leaving hardly a sign and no To some place where they expected to memories. get something, I bet! For me, it crawled “The earth seemed unearthly. We are towards Kurtz-exclusively, but when accustomed to look upon the shackled the steam-pipes started leaking . we form of a conquered monster, but there crawled very slow. The reaches opened there you could look at a thing monbefore us and closed behind, as if the strous and free. It was unearthly, and forest had stepped leisurely across the the men were . . . No, they were not water to bar the way for our return. inhuman. Well, you know, that was We penetrated deeper and deeper into the worst of it, this suspicion of their the heart of darkness. It was very not being inhuman. It would come quiet there. At night, sometimes, the slowly to one. They howled and leaped roll of drums behind the curtain of and spun, and made horrid faces; but trees would run up the river and re- what thrilled you was just the thought main sustained faintly, as if hovering of their humanity-like yours—the in the air high over our heads, till the thought of your remote kinship with first break of day. Whether it meant this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. war, peace or prayer we could not tell. Yes, it was ugly enough, but if you The dawns were heralded by the de- were man enough yoú would admit to scent of a chill stillness. The wood- yourself that there was in you just the cutters slept, their fires burned low. faintest trace of a response to the ter. The snapping of a twig would make rible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it and he had filed teeth, too, the poor which you-you so remote from the devil, and the wool of his pate shaved night of first ages-could comprehend. into queer patterns, and three ornaAnd why not? The mind of man is mental weals on each of his cheeks. capable of anything-because every- He ought to have been clapping his thing is in it-all the past as well as all hands and stamping his feet on the the future. What was there, after all? bank, instead of which he was hard at Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valor, rage work, a thrall to strange witchcraft, -who can tell ?—but truth-truth full of improving knowledge. He was stripped of its cloak of time. Let the useful because he had been instructed; fool gape and shudder-the man knows and what he knew was this-that, and can look 'on without a wink. But should the water in that transparent he must, at least, be as much of a man thing disappear, the evil spirit inside the as these on the shore. He must meet the boiler would get angry through the truth with his own true stuff-with his greatness of his thirst, and take a terown inborn strength. Principles? prin rible vengeance. So he sweated and ciples won't do. Acquisitions, clothes, fired up and watched the glass fearpretty rags-rags that would fly off at fully (with an impromptu charm, made the first good shake. No you want a de- of rags, tied to his arm, and a piece of liberate belief. An appeal to me in this polished bone, as big as a watch, stuck fiendish row-is there? Very well. I flatways through his lower lip), while have a voice, too, and for good or evil the wooded banks slipped past us mine is the speech that cannot be si- slowly, the short noise was left behind, lenced. Of course a fool, what with the interminable miles of silence and sheer fright and fine sentiments, is al- we crept on, toward Kurtz. But the ways safe. Who's that grunting? You snags were thick, the water was treachwonder I didn't go ashore for a howl erous and shallow, the boiler seemed, and a dance? Well, no-I didn't. Fine indeed, to have a sulky devil in it, and sentiments, you say? Fine sentiments thus neither fireman nor I had any be hanged! I had no time. I had to spare time to peer into our creepy mess about with white lead and strips of thoughts. woollen blanket helping to put ban- "Some 50 miles below the inner stadages on those leaky steampipes—I tell tion we came upon a hut of reeds, an you. I had to watch the steering and inclined and melancholy pole, with the circumvent those snags, and get the unrecognizable tatters of what had been tinpot along by hook or by crook. a flag of some sort flying from it, and There was surface-truth enough in a neatly stacked woodpile. This was these things to save a wiser man. And unexpected. We came to the bank, and between whiles, I had to look after on the stack of firewood found a flat the savage who was fireman. He was piece of board with some faded pencilan improved specimen. He could fire writing on it. When deciphered, it up a vertical boiler. He was there be said: 'Wood for you. Hurry up. Aplow me, and, upon my word, to look proach cautiously. There was a sig. at him was as edifying as seeing a dog nature, but it was illegible-not Kurtz in a parody of breeches and a feather -a much longer word. Hurry up. hat, walking on its hind legs. A few Where? Up the river? 'Approach caumonths of training had done for that tiously.' We had not done so. But the really fine chap. He squinted at the warning could not have been meant for steam gauge and at the water gauge the place where it could be only found with an evident effort at intrepidity, after approach. Something was wrong

above. But what-and how much? eyes. They were in cipher! Yes, it That was the question. We com- looked like cipher. Fancy a man lugmented adversely upon the imbecility ging with him a book of that descripof that telegraphic style. The bush tion into this nowhere, and studying it around said nothing, and would not let and making notes-in cipher at that! us look very far, either. A torn cur. It was, indeed, an extravagant mystain of red twill hung in the doorway tery. of the hut and flapped sadly in our "I had been dimly aware for some faces. The dwelling was dismantled; time of a worrying noise, and when I but we could see a white man had lived lifted my eyes I saw the woodpile was there not very long ago. There re gone, and the manager, aided by all the mained a rude table—a plank on two pilgrims, was shouting at me from the posts; a heap of rubbish reposed in a riverside. I slipped the book into my dark corner, and by the door I picked pocket. I assure you to leave off readup a book. It had lost its covers, and ing was like tearing myself away from the pages had been thumbed into a the shelter of an old and solid friendstate of extremely dirty softness; but ship. the back had been lovingly stitched "I started the lame engine ahead. 'It afresh with white cotton thread, which must be this miserable trader-this inlooked clean yet. It was an extraordi- truder,' exclaimed the manager, looknary find. Its title was 'An Inquiry ing back malevolently at the place we into Some Points of Seamanship,' by a had left. 'He must be English,' I said. man Tower, Towson-some such name 'It will not save him from getting into -master in His Majesty's navy. The trouble if he is not careful,' muttered matter looked dreary reading enough, the manager, darkly. I observed with with illustrative diagrams and repul- assumed innocence that no man was sive tables of figures, and the copy was safe from trouble in this world. 60 years old. I handled this amazing "The current was more rapfd now, antiquity with the greatest possible ten- the steamer seemed at her last gasp, derness, lest it should dissolve in my the stern wheel flopped languidly, and hands. Within, Towson or Towser was I caught myself listening on tiptoe for inquiring earnestly into the breaking the next beat of the float, for, in sober strain of ships' chains and tackle and truth, I expected the wretched thing to other such matters. Not a very en- give up every moment. It was like thralling book; but at the first glance watching the last flickers of a life. But you could see there a singleness of in- still we crawled. Sometimes I would tention, an honest concern for the right pick out a tree a little way ahead to way of going to work, which made measure our progress towards Kurtz these humble pages, though out so by, but I lost it invariably before we many years ago, luminous with another got abreast. To keep ibe eyes so long than a professional light. The simple on one thing was too much for buman old sailor with his talk of chains and patience. The manager displayed a purchases made one forget the jungle beautiful resignation. I fretted and and the pilgrims in a delicious sensa- fumed and took to arguing with myself tion of having come upon something whether or no I would talk openly with unmistakably real. Such a book being Kurtz; but before I could come to any there was wonderful enough, but still conclusion it occurred to me that my more astounding were the notes pen- speech or my silence, indeed any action ciled in the margin and plainly refer- of mine, would be a mere futility. What ring to the text. I couldn't believe my did it matter what any one knew or

ignored? What did it matter who was affair lay deep under the surface, bemanager? One gets sometimes such a yond my reach and beyond my power flash of insight. The essentials of this of meddling. Blackwood's Magazine.

(To be continued.)

MIMICRY AND OTHER HABITS OF CRABS.

While standing recently in the vesti- ment cells in the skin, is the involuntary bule of the South Kensington Natural cause of most of the varying colors in History Museum, in presence of the these creatures. But I am led to be. statue of Darwin, I noticed a statement lieve that this, in itself, is a slow procon a placard to the effect that in reality ess, and would take a considerable our knowledge of the actual habits and time to develop changes, whereas all life history of animals in a state of the cuttles and many other forms of naturę is comparatively meagre. This sea life can instantly change from one is almost inevitable, since such knowl- color to another; and I can scarcely see edge can be secured only by observa- how this can be done, except by the tion, which in many cases is necessarily eye, through the nervous system acting deficient and almost impossible. Partic- on the will. ularly is this so in the case of marine Hence the question may be asked: life; and even more when the special How can the crab show these changes, phase of that life is predominantly sub- having no skin, and hence no active marine. Here observations become ex- color sacs, like the cuttles, wherewith ceedingly difficult, and it is only after to distribute this coloring matter? much patience that nature is made to To this I remark that the carapace, yield even a scanty portion of her or shell of the crab, in addition to being secret.

the bones and framework of the animal, It may be well to record some new is also its true skin; a thick, massive phases I have noted of mimicry and armor, certainly, but possessing all other activities in crabs. For, few necessary conditions of the skin. Hence though they be, they will help, never- the hairs growing on various parts of theless, to swell the mass of facts the body, especially near the head, are necessary to the final record of life in in touch with the nervous system; and the sea, which at present seems such the means for changing color, though a vast realm of mystery.

much slower, are provided somewhat The word “mimicry" I shall employ on the same lines as in the case of the here in its broadest sense. Messrs. cuttles. Bate and Wallace have used it in con- The carapace is mostly composed of nection with butterflies imitating each carbonate of lime; and the coloring of other. I shall use it of crabs simula- the shell depends on a pigment which ting their surroundings. I am not aware pervades different parts of the subthat mimicry in any of the higher in- stance. This lime and earthy matter habitants of the sea has been treated is drawn from the sea by an organized by any one before. Some who have membrane, and is at the will of the glanced at the subject seem to favor creature. the idea that light, acting on the pig. My first difficulty with this subject, after puzzling over the remarks of varied existence; for most of the fePieper, Poulton, Simroth, Cunningham, males which have not spawned in the Newbigin and others, with their nega- sands have to pass through the process tion or approval of protective colora- of exuviation. At a later date, as the tion, natural selection, mimicry and summer advances, they retire to the color in nature, has been whether the roughest grounds in the neighborhood, acts I shall describe in these creatures generally at extreme low water spring are voluntary or involuntary. In the tides; and on the sheltered side, away mimetic coloring of the butterflies given from the dash of the sea, under the by Wallace it would seem that the largest stones, they scoop out for themlatter word represents their case. But, selves homes, where they pass through in the face of the facts I shall produce, this difficult and important change. there will appear a doubt whether this Here in a few days they sometimes idea can be applied to any of these double their size and develop from marine creatures.

puny maidens into full-grown crabs, Hypothetically, this article favors when they are followed by the males, the view that the action of crabs in whose first act is to enlarge their mimicking their surroundings is volun. dwelling, seeing they are about tary; but the question whether volun- one-third larger than the females. To tary or involuntary is for future de. the best of their ability the males here cision, when more abundant facts have protect the weaker sex from their enebeen collected

mies in passing through this plastic and My first remarks will be on Carcinus helpless condition; and, on the partial mænas,' or the common

hardening of the carapace, continue the

final act of congress in their domestic SHORE CRAB.

retreats. It was long thought wat these crea- Here, also, in the late summer, may tures, at the beginning of autumn, left be found females spawning, which were the shallow and tidal harbors of Devon not ready for this act, in the sands, and Cornwall and went into the deep during the spring, How far into the sea; but it has been discovered that autumn spawning is continued it is they really do not go far out, but sim- difficult to decide, on account of the ply burrow under the sands, just out tides, but young crabs, in their first side low water spring tides. There forms, may be found on the coasts they exist through the winter in a semi- from June to January, torpid condition; and while in this state Up to this point I have only been desuch of the females as have spawn in scribing the shore crabs on the open them transfer their eggs from the in- coasts; but in our natural deep-water ternal shell to the underpart of the harbors, such as Plymouth and Fowey, flap or tail by a beautiful and involun- where they are sheltered from the wintary process. It would seem that be- ter storms which beat upon the shore, fore they leave this sheltered position their practice varies very much from in May the eggs are cast in the sand, that of those which live outside. and are alive in about forty-eight hours There they never take up the hybernaafter being shed.

ting habit and have a winter's rest like But this is only one side of their their congeners in the open sea, but are

1 For the names of crabs I shall follow Bell; be found near in the most sheltered position where of cattles, Gosse; of fishes, Couch; of seaweeds, stones are plentiful, just outside low water spring Grattann.

tides. * If the sands are not convenient, the crabs will

1

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »