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Dear Adelaide,—This morning, being up betimes, and 해외축구중계 having had an early Bath and breakfast, I take the opportunity of writing to you. Yesterday, my Uncle Adrian and his daughter Florence came to see us. Two slight accidents marred their visit: to begin with, my cousin fell upon the Stair, and afterwards, while we were out driving, a Stone caused the horse to slip. We were then obliged to walk, but the way was rough, and presently a stream barred all progress. However, we discovered an Iron bridge, which enabled us to go Over. After eating an Orange and a Sandwich apiece, we felt refreshed, and went on until we came to a tall Poplar. Here we sat Down, and uncle amused us by Reading. The rest I will tell you later; till then believe me,—Your affectionate friend, Victoria Ross.
THROWING AWAY A FORTUNE.
A fisherman, rowing along the Bay of Fundy shore, in Nova Scotia, noticed what he took to be a very large lump of tallow floating on the water. He picked it up, took it home, and presented it to his wife. She was busily engaged in a local industry, the making of soft soap, and used the 'tallow' for it. The find, however, failed to behave as tallow should, and the fisherman was reproached by his wife for interfering and spoiling the soap. In a fit of disgust he threw the remainder of the supposed tallow away.
He talked the matter over at the country store, and it was suggested that his tallow was possibly the very valuable substance known as ambergris. The man went home in haste, and managed to collect six pounds, all that remained of the large quantity he brought home! The local chemist identified it as ambergris, and showed the astonished fisherman the price list, where it was quoted at thirty dollars an ounce. His dismay can be imagined when he learned that, through his ignorance, he had literally thrown away a fortune.
Ambergris is a secretion formed in the intestines of the sperm whale. It is of a dull grey colour, and resembles tallow, excepting in the odour, which is sweet and strong.
APE Colony in 1806 was a very different country from the Cape Colony about which, of late years, we have heard so much. It was then a quiet, sleepy place under Dutch rule, having been given up to Holland by the British, after the Peace of Amiens, in 1801. There were a few farms, sparsely scattered over the country, and farmed in a most slovenly manner by the Boers, or rather by their Hottentot slaves, for a true Boer then thought work of any sort beneath him.
One of these farms, however, bore a great contrast to the rest; it was about seventy miles from Capetown, and was known as the 'Garden Farm,' from the rare fact of its possessing a well-stocked garden and a large orchard of peach and apricot trees, all fenced in with a stout wooden railing to keep off the pigs and cattle that were allowed to root and rummage around the other homesteads at their own sweet will. The owner of this farm was an Englishman, named John Colton: but he was a naturalised burgher and married to a Dutch wife, so that every one—perhaps even Colton himself—had long forgotten that he had not been born and bred in his adopted country.
The year 1806 was, however, to change all this. Great Britain was at war with France, and as the Cape was then the great highway to India, it was felt that Capetown must be secured at all costs, for it was too important a place to be allowed to fall into the hands of Buonaparte.
So a British force of some five thousand men, under Sir David Baird, was at once sent out, and on a sultry January day was marching from Leopard's Bay, over scrub and veldt, towards Capetown.
All this, however, was undreamt of by honest John Colton as he sat with his wife on the verandah of his house, watching the antics of a puppy that was playing with the children in front of them.
Suddenly the man's quick ears caught the sound of horses' hoofs in the distance. He strained his eyes across the veldt, and, after a minute or two, could make out a man riding at utmost speed.
'There's something amiss somewhere,' he told his wife; 'maybe some one is injured, and he is coming here for help.' For accidents from wild beasts were common in those days, and John had a certain fame as a binder-up of broken limbs.
Now the rider had come up to the farm, but though he drew up, he did not dismount. 'You are to be in Capetown market-place, with horse and gun, by sunset on Thursday,' he said as he handed John an official blue paper. 'The British have[Pg 180] landed, and General Janssens is summoning all the burghers. There will be a big fight, but we shall drive the red-coats into the sea.'
"He handed John an official paper." "He handed John an official paper."
The man could not stop for a meal, though he was glad of the refreshment which Mrs. Colton handed to him in the saddle; and then he rode away as quickly as he had come, leaving Colton almost dazed by the news.[Pg 181]
'The British have landed!' he repeated, looking at his blue paper, 'and I am to go to Capetown to fight them!'
'Oh, Jan!' said his wife, 'don't let those red-coats shoot you!'
John did not answer. He took down his gun from the wall and looked gloomily down the barrel; then he threw it on the table, and, looking at his wife, said sternly, 'I cannot fight against my own countrymen, and I do not wish to fight against yours.'
'But you are a burgher, Jan,' said his wife, timidly, 'and all the burghers are summoned.'
I shall go,' said John, shortly. 'I shall give myself up, but I cannot fight against my own people.'
'Don't go, Jan,' urged his wife. 'Hide yourself in the mountains, they will never find you there—and I will manage the farm till things are quiet again, and you can come back.'
'That would be acting as a coward, and I am no coward,' said the man. 'I must go to Capetown, but what may be done to me there I cannot say. It is a puzzling piece of business! I never thought to see the British here again.'
'They will put you in prison for life—or perhaps shoot you,' sobbed his wife. 'Jan! Jan! for love of me stay away!'
But John shook his head, and went on with his preparations for the long seventy-mile ride to the town. It was a great struggle, for he loved his home, and knew that very likely he might never see it again; but he felt he was doing right, and John was not a man to go against his conscience.
It was, however, a melancholy ride, and John felt more down-hearted than ever before in his life as he entered the market square of Capetown. Here all was in confusion, burghers were galloping hither and thither, and every one seemed too busy and excited to notice Colton as he rode wearily towards the Field Cornet's quarters to give himself up.
At last one man called out as he passed, 'A bad business this, friend! I little thought to see the red-coats in Capetown in my lifetime.'
'What has happened?' asked Colton, eagerly dismounting from his horse.
'Our burghers have had a battle with the British, but the red-coats outnumbered them, and General Janssens has retired to Lawry's Pass. Folks say he will have to make terms at once, or the guns will open on the town. Anyway, all fighting is at an end for the moment.'
John Colton said nothing, though in his heart he was almost singing for joy at this unexpected ending of his difficulties. In a few hours it was known that Capetown had surrendered to the British, and on January 8th, 1806, the 'red-coats' marched in, and John cantered back to his farm, where he lived hereafter in peace under the British flag.
THE DUCK-BILLED PLATYPUS.
The Duck-Billed Platypus. The Duck-Billed Platypus.So far as we know at present, the platypus duck-mole, or water-mole, is the strangest of all animals. Its home is in Australia, but, owing to the progress of civilisation, it appears likely to die out before long, for many of its haunts have been disturbed by the advancing white man.[Pg 182]
When the first specimens reached England, dried, the creature puzzled the naturalists, who were almost inclined to think it was not genuine. The animal is about twenty inches long, covered with thick soft fur, which is brown on the back, and white below. The curious muzzle is lengthened and flattened, much resembling the beak of a duck; its edges are hard, and at the back part of the mouth are four teeth. But it cannot grasp anything very firmly with the bill, which shows that its food must be of a soft nature. The feet of the platypus are five-toed and webbed, being, like the rest of the body, suited for an aquatic life. Another singular fact is that the animal has a spur on each hind leg. This spur is connected with a gland, which resembles those of serpents, and may contain poison. Certainly it appears as if this spur is a sort of weapon, though the animal is of peaceful habits.
Before sleeping, the platypus curls round to keep itself warm, and brings the flattened tail over the back. It is very particular about the fur, which is kept smooth and clean by means of the beak, and is also brushed with the feet. Much of the animal's time is passed in diving and swimming, the food being mostly water insects, or such as are to be found on the banks of streams. The platypus is an excellent digger, and forms deep burrows or tunnels, the opening being hidden by the herbage of the bank. At the bottom there is generally a nest, carefully lined by the animal with grass and leaves. There the young ones are brought up by the parents.
J. R. S. C.
A MERMAID'S SONG.
ALY woe, waly woe,
My song is of a mermaid, O!
A tearful little mermaid, who
Dwells deep below the ocean blue,
Sighing many a sad heigho,
And singing songs of 'waly.'
Waly woe, waly woe,
She was not always weeping, 0!
Until she sadly fell in love
With one who sailed the seas above
While she was sporting down below.
Not singing songs of 'waly.'
Waly woe, waly woe,
He was a handsome Prince, and O!
She watched him when the stars were seen
A-twinkling blue and gold and green,
And other pretty colours—so
Began her songs of 'waly.'
Waly woe, waly woe,
Lack-a-day, a-deary O!
For blighted love. But 'tis a fault
To make the sea so very salt
With bitter tears that still do flow
While she is singing 'waly.'
The Chinese are a clever people, very clever indeed, and in some things they must be acknowledged to show more wisdom than the nations of the West; but they are decidedly peculiar in their way of treating the sick. Progress is not the rule with the Chinese, and, while medical art or skill is quite different now in England from what it was, the Chinese have made hardly any improvement. Matters come rather hard on the Chinese doctors, for we are told that sometimes they are punished if a patient dies, or when he does not seem to be getting better. This certainly is unfair to a doctor, for he cannot cure everything. With accidents, of course, much may depend upon how the doctor acts, and it is generally agreed that the Chinese are bad surgeons, so that in an emergency it would be better to trust to nature than be treated by a Chinese doctor, if other help was not to be had. We cannot wonder, therefore, that some of them refuse to visit sick people, if it is likely there will be danger in the case. Chinese books tell us that their system of medicine is exceedingly old, in fact, nearly as old as the monarchy, and it is attributed to a husbandman, whose name was Shin-nung. He studied what plants were the best food for the body, and what would cure it when 'out of sorts.' By him, or by some one soon after him, a list was prepared of the different complaints, and the proper medicine for each, with the dose to be given, so that any one can start upon being a doctor if he follows the instruction given. But should he try giving medicine on a plan of his own, he is likely to get into trouble.
The fees are mostly small, and the large cities have what we call dispensaries, where the poor are treated free. Still, there are a great many doctors in China; some are settled in one place, but hosts of them travel about, offering to the people quack physic. Boluses or large pills are favourite medicines, so big that sometimes persons are nearly choked in swallowing them. Much of the liquid medicine given is thick, and most nauseous to take; but usually the Chinese drink their potions without any sign of disgust. There are, however, various aromatics and perfumes prescribed, which the patients do not have to swallow; they have only to sniff them, or inhale their vapour. Dried and powdered bones of many animals are taken as physic; thus, the bones of a tiger are believed to give strength and courage. An elephant's tusk will furnish medicine for several complaints. Of the vegetables used, none is more highly esteemed than the ginseng root.