Page images
PDF
EPUB

llcious atmosphere of success which they might breathe among their friends is tainted for them by jealousy, and the perpetual sense of an unfair handicap. The man, on the other hand, whom we may call the rich poor-man can stay with his most opulent friend and be perfectly happy. He lives at home as he lives abroad—after different fashions—at his ease. No doubt it takes some courage to disregard the conventional ways of life and determine to be unlike one's neighbors. it means the greatest of all the evidences of Belf-control, the power to break with habit . it means the rarest of all social qualities, social independence. it means, to be quite candid, the power to exact, on other scores than money, that regard and politeness which, cloak the fact as we will, money brings mechanically under our present social system. Certain advantages of birth and upbringing are no doubt in these particulars substitutes for money, and those who have them smile at the hesitation of less fortunate people who fear to give up these intangible concomitants of a particular way of living. We are all apt to smile at discomforts which can by no possibility be ours, and to see them, especially when they are connected with grade or cast, through a "satiric medinm," whereby sympathy is effectually sterilized.

But though men and women who find themselves suddenly poor, or who awake in middle life to the fact that an income which used to increase year by year has reached its highest point and is beginning to go down, have many hard lessons to learn, they try, if they are destined to become proficient, not to take the situation too seriously. it is not by determined renunciation, but by determined enjoyment, that the art of being poor is brought to perfection. They consider how best to dispose their energy for enjoyment so as to bring an outlet for it within their means. They

seek diligently for the kernel of happiness within the husk of pleasure, and, as a rule, they find the kernel is the cheaper part. After all, how many of the delights which money alone used to buy can now be had for next to nothing. Books are within the reach of all. Such libraries as millionaires could not buy offer the treasures of their knowledge for nothing. Of course one does not need to be learned in order to make the best of being poor, but hardly any one is happy nowadays without books. Those who regard reading merely as a pastime need never be in want of the newest novel. The finest treasures of art are open to the sight of all. Any one who desires can hear music; any one can see plays. As to the pleasures of social intercourse, they reduce themselves, when our earliest youth is over, to the pleasures of conversation, and to get all the pleasure out of talk ths ~u be got is certainly a great part of the art of being poor, and it is the easiest part to cultivate. The soul of all outdoor sports is to be found in the love of Nature and the love of exercise, and both these delights are within the grasp of comparatively poor people. it is one of the strangest things in life how few people have settled in their own minds what it is they really want, or who will take the trouble to be happy. "i have often thought how much i should like to do so-and-so," we hear people say, and nine times out of ten it is something they could very easily have done, only they always put it off. Where the cultivated poor feel the pinch of poverty, and where no art avails them anything, is in the matter of health. The really poor man can have the most complicated, dangerous, and longest of operations performed at a hospital as well as it could be performed upon Royalty in a palace. The poor gentleman is in a very different position. "But doctors are so kind," we hear some one say. No doubt that is true; but to accept kindness is not always easy, and to ask it is seldom possible. Paying wards and systems of insurance will mitigate the evil in the end, but at present it is a crying one. Given health, almost all the sources of happiness enjoyed by the wealthy man are now within the grasp of his cousin on a small professional income, only the poor man must make rather more effort to lay hold on them. If he wants to be socially popular, he must allow himself fewer lapses into grumpiness, and must make a greater effort not to be bored or opinionated. He must expect to be judged on his merits alone, and sought for nothing but his company. He must brace himself to go in search of those opportunities of enjoyment which the rich man finds at his hand. What is perhaps

Tbe Spectator.

hardest of all, he must be content to let his children have only the essentials of a good education, without the conventional stamp. Nothing is so dear as conventionalism, learning is cheap and play is not expensive, but public schools are prohibitive for a poor man with several sous. All departurefrom the usual are attended with increased consciousness of risk; but luckily these departures, when prompted by necessity, appear to be more often attended by good results than those undertaken for the sake of experiment. The comparatively poor man will never be able to forget that nothing is to l>e had for nothing; but as we watch the careers of those who have succeeded in the art we have been considering, we shall perforce admit that out of their extra trouble springs an extra realization, an extra capacity for happiness.

THE MYSTERY OF THE CUCKOO.

Some years ago when the bracken ferns were, just us they are now, unfolding their crozler-like stems towards summer maturity, the writer was passing late in the evening along the more secluded parts of a Surrey common. Advancing suddenly through some thick cover on to a narrow island of short turf, he disturbed two brown birds, just smaller than pigeons, which were Instantly recognized. They flew uneasily away. On the turf where one of the birds had been seated lay an egg rather under the size of a blackbird's and mottled somewhat after the same fashion. It was quite warm and had certainly just beeu laid. It was a cuckoo's egg, and the mother had evidently intended to dispose of it In the remarkable fashion which is now known to be the habit of the bird.

As spring advances into early summer there is enacted every year throughout the land the drama of the cuckoo. There is not one of the habits of this strange bird which has not been so much a matter of doubt as to become the subject of the warmest controversy. But its life history has now been well worked out. and many observers have, like the writer, followed the creature through all the stages of its habits from the egg onwards. The cry of the cuckoo as it is heard in the land at this season is undoubtedly a mating call. Kach of the instincts of the cuckoo forms but part of a single study, and the first noteworthy peculiarity of the bird when it visits us in the mating season is that the males greatly outnumber the females. While it lias been known from time inlinemorial that the cuckoo builds no uest, it was until recently supposed that she laid her egg in the nest of the bird chosen as the foster-parent. it has been found, however, that the motherbird as a. rule lays her egg on the ground and carries it in her bill to the chosen uest afterwards. One of the characteristics of the cuckoo is that she is continually on the move, and eggs are possibly laid at various places in the stages of her migration. The young cuckoos which are found in the nest in this country usually have had their foster-parents chosen for them by the mother-bird with an instinct which is remarkable in its consequences. The foster-parent is nearly always insectivorous. Birds which feed on hard vegetable seeds, like the town sparrow, are scarcely ever chosen. The soft insect feeders, like the hedge-sparrow and reed-warbler, are on the contrary great favorites, and this despite the great disproportion in size between the little foster-parent and the huge cuckoo progeny.

The young cuckoo of a few days old, as it sits in the nest—completely overshadowing it—of a small bird like a hedge sparrow, is one ot the most extraordinary sights in Nature. The young creature, which soon becomes most uncannily tame " and familiar, opens its mouth for food at the slightest movement. its gape is remarkably wide, and all the inner parts of the mouth are of the deepest orange color, the whole appearance being quite unlike that of any other young bird. This yellow gape, which is a striking spectacle, even to the human observer, appears to exercise a kind of fascination on the foster-parents. They are driven to a kind of frenzy to keep it supplied with food. it clamors ceaselessly for more and more. One which the writer assisted in bringing up enlisted the whole household in the continued service of its wants. it was by com

mon consent known as Oliver Twist, and never was a name better deserved. The kind of appeal which the bird made in every movement to those around it to be taken care of was a very evident and taking characteristic, and it no doubt proves a potent quality in its wild state in securing the devotion of its foster-parents.

A very short acquaintance with the young cuckoo in real life soon convinces the observer that the wellknown habit by which it obtains for itself the sole care of its foster-parents is neither accidental nor superfluous. it is absolutely essential to its existence. The foster-parents being nearly always insect-feeders, and therefore much smaller than itself, any rival or nest-fellow would be impossible. Not so long ago writers of such experience as Mr. Seebohm seemed inclined to throw doubt on many of the tales of the young cuckoo's murderous disposition towards its fellow nestlings. There can, however, be no question as to the instinct which drives the young cuckoo to swiftly and effectively get rid of the young birds with which it at at first shares the nest. All the deliberate acts which culminate in the ejection of the other birds have been observed again and again. Very soon after the young cuckoo is hatched out it begins to exhibit a curiously irritable and restless disposition. it will try to get underneath anything that is placed in the nest, pieces of wood, lumps of earth, or any eggs that may be placed with it. it tries to get all objects between its shoulders, and it will then climb backwards up the side of the nest until it is able to hitch them over the edge. its fellow nestlings are commonly disposed of as early as the second day, and if there are eggs and young birds in the uest at the same time it puts both over the edge indiscriminately. There can be little doubt that the clue to the mystery of the habits of the cuckoo is the difficulty the bird finds in obtaining a sufficiency of its proper food. The instinct which prompts the young bird to throw its competitors out of the nest must evidently go very deep down in the nature and structure of the bird. But so also evidently must numerous other peculiarities which are equally significant of the severity of the struggle which the cuckoo has to maintain its place. Every egg collector knows how exceptional is the cuckoo's egg in the remarkable variations to which it is subject, both in size and in markings. All other birds have eggs of a certain average size or a certain color. Not so the cuckoo. It can hardly be said with truth of the cuckoo's egg that it has any particular size or any particular color. In size the eggs of various cuckoos vary in the most bewildering fashion from the size of a house-sparrow's egg to that of a sparrow-hawk. It is the same as regards coloring. They are often mottled—gray mottled, brown mottled, and green mottled. But they have also been found pure white, green, gray, and blue. The explanation of this peculiarity in the cuckoo's egg cannot be far to seek. Birds will throw out of their nests strange-looking eggs or eggs larger than their own. In the long effort of the cuckoo to provide its young with suitable insect-feeding foster-parents, nearly always smaller than Itself, there must have been much weeding out of unsuitable sizes and colorings. It is the opinion of many keen observers that the effects of the struggle for life The Outlook.

on the cuckoo have, in consequence, here also gone very deep.

The cuckoo which has been brought up in a hedge-sparrow's nest because the egg from which it originated so closely resembled that of Its fosterparents as to pass scrutiny, will tend itself to lay In the nest of the same species of bird and so transmit the peculiarities of its egg. Hence it is held that the family of cuckoos tends to be split up into a number of sub-varieties, each of which inclines to be parasitic on the species of bird in whose nest it lays. All observations of the habits of the cuckoo agree in one particular. They point to the extreme difficulty with which the bird maintains Itself. Any one who has seen a tame cuckoo in the autumn at the season of migration standing apparently at rest, and yet with every muscle of Its wings tense or quivering with the instinct of flight, will realize what extraordinary distances the species has to cover in its seasonal migrations after suitable food. Hence the great preponderance of males over females to make the mating process easier during flight; hence the instinct of the mother bird which tells her she cannot stay to build a nest: hence the remarkable peculiarities of the eggs directed to give the eggs themselves the best "chance in the nests into which they must be dropped. And hence also the extraordinary instinct of the young bird which at the very beginning of its career leads it to feel that it eau tolerate no rival or competitor in maintaining its precarious hold on life.

BOOKS AND AUTHORS.

The conclusions reached in Professor Clarence Augustine Beckwith's volume, "Realities of Christian Theology." dedicated to Bangor and Chicago Theological Seminaries, are in harmony with the known trend of thought in those two schools, in the latter of which the writer now holds the chair of Systematic Theology. Designed as n fresh interpretation of Christian experience in terms of modern intelligence, placing unqualified reliance upon psychology as revealing the laws of consciousness, upon ethics as disclosing the ideal to be realized in personality, and upon evolution as the constant method of the divine action In nature and in human historical life, and aiming to be constructive rather than controversial, it will be found admirably adapted to Its purpose. Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

In "Through the Eye of the Needle." Mr. W. D. Howells takes up the story dropped some ten or twelve years ago. and relates the experiences of his "Traveller from Altrurla" upon leaving the summer-hotel where we first met him and going to New York to study conditions there under the tutelage of the sprightly Mrs. Makely. In the present volume, the story Is told by letters—in the first series, written by the Altrurian himself to a friend in that happy island: in the second, by the American whom he marries to her friend in America. Part First gives Mr. Howells abundant opportunity for satire of characteristic quality, in which his description of the modern apartment house, the up-to-date Thanksgiving dinner, and, incidentally, the amused-but-indulgent husband, will be particularly appreciated. In Part

Second, the outlines of Altrurian principles giveu in the earlier book are tilled in with details of every-day practice as seen by a feminine observer, and the introduction of a yachtful of shipwrecked Americans is used to produce a succession of effective contrasts. None of our American writers has been a more consistent preacher of the gospel of good-will and fellowship than Mr. Howells, and his presentation of social ideals is especially welcome for that reason. Harper & Brothers.

The average American contemporary essayist is such a bundle of affectations as sorely tries Christian charity. As a rule, he considers himself a Lamb, and thanks Heaven that he Is not savage, like Poe or Mr. Swinburne; or sensible, in Bagehot's sledge-hammer fashion, if able, with the assistance of the Familiar Bartlett, and a Concordance, and old Burton, to quote many authors, he permits one to see that he fancies that Montaigne faces him in his mirror, and altogether he is such an one that when he writes a book one buys one by some English author, for the Englishman can write essays. So could the oldfashioned American who had pastured on his natural food of the elder essayists, but the later American has almost lost the trick. In this condition of affairs Mr. Arthur Stanwood Pier's "The Young in Heart" is a real benefaction. Here is an author entirely indifferent on the point of resembling some classic model, and yet a respecter of customs, with no eccentricity to advertise, no apparent wish for aught but brisk discussion of his chosen subject. The eight which he has selected: The Young in Heart, Lawn Tennis, Work

« PreviousContinue »