« PreviousContinue »
and all that night too, with unabated energy. They had thus been thirty-six hours at it, and seemed as fresh as ever. In some situations, if we remained all day, they devoured the grass beneath my mat, and would have eaten that too, had we not laid down more grass.
At some of their operations they beat time in a curious Hundreds of them are engaged
in building a large tube, and they wish to beat it smooth. At a signal, they all give three or four energetic beats on the plaster in unison. duces a sound like the dropping of rain off a bush when touched. These insects are the chief agents employed in forming a fertile soil. But for their labours, the tropical forests, bad as they are now with fallen leaves, would be a thousand times worse. They would be impassable on account of the heaps of dead vegetation lying on the surface.
31.-HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD.
Oh to be in England !
Now that April's there,
Sees some morning unaware
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England-now!
2. And after April, when May follows, And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows, Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field, and scatters to the clover Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's
edgeThat's the wise thrush; he sings each song
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The gorilla is of the average height of man, five feet six inches. His brain-case is low and narrow, and the top of the head is perfectly flat.
Add to this a deep lead-coloured skin, much wrinkled, a proininent jaw, with the canine teeth in the males) of a huge size, a receding chin, and we have an exaggeration of the lowest and most forbidding type of human physiognomy. The neck is short, the head pokes forward. The relative proportions of the body and limbs are nearer those of man, yet they are of more ungainly aspect than in any other of the brute kind. Long, shapeless arms, a wide, thick hand, the palm long and the fingers short, swollen, and gouty-looking ; capacious chest, broad shoulders, legs also thick and shapeless, destitute of calf, and very muscular, yet short; a hand-like foot, with a thumb to it “ of huge dimensions and portentous power of grasp.' No wonder the lion skulks before this monster, and even the elephant is baffled by his malicious cunning, activity, and strength. The teeth indicate a vegetable diet, but the repast is sometimes varied with eggs, or a brood of young birds. The chief reason of his enmity to the elephant seems to be, not that it ever intentionally injures him, but merely that it shares his taste for certain favourite fruits. And when, from his watch-tower in the upper branches of a tree, he perceives the elephant helping himself to these delicacies, he steals along the bough, and striking its sensitive trunk a violent blow with the club with which he is almost always armed, drives off the startled giant.
Towards the negroes the gorilla seems to cherish an implacable hatred; he attacks them quite unprovoked. If a party of blacks approach unconsciously within range of a tree haunted by one of these wood demons, swinging rapidly to the lower branches, he clutches with his thumbed
foot at the nearest of them ; his green eyes flash with rage, his hair stands on end, and the skin above the eyes, drawn rapidly up and down, gives him a fiendish scowl. Sometimes, during their excursions in quest of ivory in those gloomy forests, the natives will first discover they are near a gorilla by the sudden, mysterious disappearance of one of their companions. The brute, angling for him with his horrible foot dropped from a tree, whilst his strong arms grasp it firmly, stretches down his huge hind-hand, seizes the hapless wretch by the throat, draws him up into the boughs, and as soon as his struggles have ceased, drops him down a strangled corpse.
A tree is the gorilla's sleeping-place by night, his pleasant abode by day, and his castle of defence. If surprised as he waddles along leaning on his club, instantly he betakes himself to all fours, and makes his way rapidly to the nearest tree. In that place of safety he awaits his foe, should the latter be hardy, or foolhardy enough, to pursue.
No full-grown gorilla has ever been taken alive. A bold negro, the leader of an elephant-hunting expedition, was offered a hundred dollars for a live gorilla. “If you gave me the weight of yonder hill in gold, I would not do it," he said.
Nevertheless, he has his good qualities—in a domestic point of view; he is an amiable and exemplary husband and father, watching over his young family with affectionate care, and exerting in their defence his utmost strength and ferocity.
At the close of the rice harvest, the period when the gorillas approach nearest to the abodes of man, a family group may sometimes be observed, the parents sitting on a branch, leaning against the trunk, as they munch their fruit, while the young innocents sport around, leaping and swinging from branch to branch, with hoots, or harsh cries of boisterous mirth. The gorilla constructs himself a snug hammock out of the long, tough, slender stems of parasitic plants, and lines it with palm leaves or long grass. By day he sits on a bough. The natives of the West of Africa, where he is chiefly found, have a very low opinion of his intelligence. They say that during the rainy season he builds a house without a roof, and that he will come down and warm himself at the fires left by them in their hunting expeditions, but has not the wit to throw on more wood, out of the surrounding abundance, to keep it burning.
Adapted from "All the Year Round.”
The warm sun is failing, the bleak wind is
wailing, The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are