Page images
PDF
EPUB

so much attached. Some of them attain to the length of thirty feet, and a circumference of seven or eight feet; 80 that, excepting the elephant, the rhinoceros, and the hippopotamus, there is no terrestrial animal exceeding these in dimensions.

The crocodile and his allies the alligators and gavials are all capable of moving inland, but the greater number prefer the water, and besides the expansion of the foot, they are adapted for swimming, by the lateral compression of the tail, which acts as a large and powerful fin. They are all inhabitants of tropical pools and rivers ; the South American species making excursions, in calm weather, to the open sea, where they search for prey in the waters, or gorge it on the shore. They are all purely carnivorous, and destroy their prey upholding it beneath the surface of the water until it is drowned ; the position of their nostrils, and the arrangement of the air passages being such that they are enabled to breath during the process. They cannot swallow under water, and it is their habit to hide their prey in holes on the banks of the rivers, where they suffer it to lie until it is putrid, when they derour it. Of late years scientific men have thrown doubt upon the alleged habit of the crocodile in never eating its food until it is putrid, and Mr. Gosse, whose reputation as a naturalist is quite equal to his fame as a writer, confirms the state. ment in his recent work on Jamaica, and asserts that he has had numerous proofs in the case of the alligator that it never eats its food until it has submitted it to a process of putrefaction.

With the ancient Egyptians, the crocodile was rererenced both as a symbol and an objectof worship. According to Diodorus Siculus, it was a crocodile which saved king Menas from drowning; and the grateful king, in commemoration of the act, founded a city, called the City of the Crocodiles. This supposed king was the Deus Lumus, or sacred emblem of the moon, known to the Persians under the names of Meen and Man, and worshipped under the same title ; and the history of the supposed saving of king Menas is a sacred tradition, and bears reference to the

saving of Noah by the ark, which was called in Greek the Kampsha, whence we have Campsa, one of the names of the crocodile, equivalent to Cayman, the modern name of the alligator of South America. Thus the Egyptian worship of the crocodile is a remnant of the ancient history and worship of the ark and the crocodile, when employed by the Egyptians as an bieroglyphic, has a remote reference to the Noachian deluge. The veneration for the crocodile is supposed to be exhibited in that strange habit which the Egyptians fostered, of embalming the bodies of crocodiles; though it has been asserted by late writers that the reason why the Egyptians embalmed the corpses of crocodiles was to prevent the direful effects of their putrefaction in a climate where plague and pestilence were so common. Certain it is, that vast numbers of crocodiles were embalmed in the most careful manner, and in one cave, called the Cave of Crocodiles, visited a few years since by Mr. Mullen, thousands of crocodiles were found preserved in this manner, the carcasses being prepared with spices and wrapped in the finest linen.

On the banks of the Nile, where crocodiles are frequent, encounters with them are by no means very rare. The power of the creature is immense, but owing to its peculiarly shaped neck, it cannot more the head very far from side to side, and thus a sure means of escape presents itself in those rare cases in which in which it leaves the water in pursuit of human prey.

Respecting the crocodile of the Nile, many remarkable stories and anecdotes are told ; one of which, related by Herodotus, deserves, particular mention here. The ancient historian says that the crocodile is infested by a kind of goat or fly, myriads of which swarm on the banks of the Nile ; and that, when annoyed by these pests, which get into its mouth and nostrils, the creature is relieved by a little bird called trochilus, which enters its mouth and picks from his teeth the bdellæ or gnats which adhere to them. It is equally wonderful as curious, that this story of the old writer should be confined by modern travellers, who have seen the trochilus perform the part of a living toothpick, in exactly the manner described by Herodotus.

It is found that gnats swarm in vast plenty on the borders of the Nile, and attack the crocodile when he comes to repose on the sand. His mouth is not so closely shut, but that they can enter, which they do in such' numbers, that the interior of his palate, which is naturally of a bright yellow, appears covered with a dark brown' crust. The insects strike their trunks into the orifices of the glands, which abound in the mouth of the crocodile ; 11 and the tongue of the animal being immoveable, it cannot get rid of them. It is then that that the trochilus, a kind ' of plover, hastens to his relief; the crocodile always ! taking care, when he is about to shut his mouth, to make certain movements which warn the bird to fly away, Thus the ancient story, says a writer in our able contemporary, “Notes and Queries," is not so unreasonable as might be thought. It is a matter of every day observation, that gnats will attack bulls and other large terrestrial animals of the fiercest nature, and that wagtails and other insectivorous birds will peck the insects from the muzzles of the quadrupeds, while in India it is common to see the ox approaching his eye deliberately to the ground by holding its head on one side, to enable the Mina, a species of starling, to take an insect from the hairs of the eyelid. There appears, therefore, no reason why the crocodile should not have recourse to similar aid in a similar necessity. Mr. Curzon, in his “Monasteries of the Levant," bears witness to this, and describes the trochilus as of the plover species, and as large as a small pigeon. According to this gentleman, the trochilus not only frees the crococile of flies, but warns it of danger. When out crocodileshooting one day, he espied one of the reptiles asleep on a bank, and approached cautiously to get a shot at him: when he observed he was attended by a ziczac or trochilas “The bird,” says Mr. Curzon," was walking up and down close to the crocodile's nose. I suppose I moved, for it suddenly saw me, and instead of flying away as any respectable bird would have done, he jumped up a foot

from the ground, screamed ziczac! ziczac! with all the powers of his voice, and dashed himself against the crocodile's face two or three times. The great beast started up, and immediately spying his danger, made a jump into the air, and, dashing into the water with a splash which covered me with mud, he dived into the river and disap

peared.

Illustrative of the incapacity of the crocodile to attack a foe whom he cannot fairly face, is the adventure of the intrepid Waterton, when engaged in his memorable wanderings in South America. He relates that, having long desired to capture a living cayman or alligator, he set off with a party of Indians to a point of the river Essequibo, where they were known to be numerous, and there laid the bates and snares judged to be necessary. Failing in their first attempt to attract a cayman, they sailed higher up the river, and there suspended a dog on a hook, at the end of a pole jutting out from the bank above the water. A huge specimen attracted by the putrescent effluvia of the bait, soon made a snap and was hooked accordingly. Waterton immediately made preparations for landing him uninjured, that he might obtain a perfect skin for preservation. Strict injunctions were given to his attendants not to shoot at or maim the reptile in any way, but to effect a landing with the least possible injury to its skin. All hands were called, and vigorous efforts made to haul the beast on shore by the rope to which the bait-hook was attached. The Indians pulled and the cayman floundered, but as soon as they had hauled him to the bank he made a desperate plunge forward, and threatened to destroy them all. Waterton, with firm hand and fearless in heart, seized a mast belonging to the canoe, and hastily wrapping a sail round it, met the cayman with it, and thrust it between his open jaws. The concussion was so great as to paralyse the cayman for a moment, for he had in fact swallowed a portion of the sail and mast, and Waterton, taking advantage of his perplexity, dashed past his head, and leaping upon his back, rode in triumph on to the dry shore. The cayman was of course soon despatched, and its skin (so we believe, quoting from memory) is still preserved among the trophies of daring adventures at Walton Hall, in Yorkshire.

" THE BEGGAR."

Luke xvi. 22. If we have never learnt by experience, we must have learnt from observation, that in this changing world, man is liable to a great diversity of circumstances. And happy is it for us, if we have also learnt that Christianity is adapted to man's condition, whatever it may be. It is never superfluous, but always necessary. To convince us of this, the Bible furnishes us with examples of its adaptedness to all states and conditions. Though Providence has showered upon us its blessings with great liberality, yet i without religion, there is still a lack which nothing earthly can supply. And if, on the other hand, Providence ! has been comparatively sparing in blessings, if we have religion, there is real, solid enduring bliss within. We have a beautiful illustration of this in the parable before us. The Rich Man had every thing but one. Every thing but the “one thing needful,” this was a sad lack! It would have been a million times better, to have been destitute of every thing beside and possessed this. But the Beggar possessed this one thing needful, and thongh destitute of everything else but poverty and suffering, this sustained him both in life and in death. And when he died, bis humble, patient, trusting spirit, was “carried by angels to Abraham's bosom." The case of this tried saint, is highly instructive, and worthy of the consideration of all God's people, in all ages. Because,

1. It teaches that deep poverty and severe and protracted sufferings are not incompatible with sincere and deep piety towards God.

It might not be very difficult to prove that there have been instances in which persons have begged, not because they have been in need, but because they preferred letting their money rust, and their bills become motheaten, in the crevice of a wall, fit only to be a hiding-place

« PreviousContinue »