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The greater part of the neighbouring buildings was destroyed; amongst others, the porticos to which the Jewish workmen had retired; all of whom were either maimed and bruised, or crushed to death beneath the ruins. Whirlwinds arose, which swept away the lime, sand, and other materials, which had been collected in immense quantities. But a still more awful phenomenon presented itself: large balls of fire were thrown up from the foundations, which rolled with terrific rapidity in every direction, overwhelming the workmen and consuming them to the bones, or reducing them entirely to ashes. In a few moments the entire scene became a desert. The flames spread themselves to a building at some distance, in which the hammers, pickaxes, and other tools of the workmen were deposited, and instantly melted them down. A stream of liquid fire flowed around the place, bursting forth at intervals, and burning and scorching the wretched Jews, on whom it exclusively exercised its fury. This terrible phenomenon was repeatedly renewed during the day. At night crosses were seen imprinted on the garments of the Jews, which no effort could possibly wash out, and a bright shining cross appeared in the heavens, which extended from Calvary even to Mount Olivet. The obstinate Jews returned frequently to the work, but were each time miraculously forced to retire, so that many among them, and a still greater number of the idolaters, openly confessed the divinity of Jesus Christ, and begged the sacrament of baptism.
This extraordinary manifestation of divine power is mentioned by all ecclesiastical historians, and even by several pagans. St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Ambrose, and St. John Chrysostom speak of it as a fact of recent occurrence, of which their auditors were themselves eye-witnesses. St. Chrysostom in particular adds, that the foundations dug by the Jews were yet to be seen, and served as indisputable evidence of what impiety had attempted, but could not accomplish.
ON THE HABITS OF THE ROOK.
Gregarious immemorial evolutions multitudes autumnal alternately waterfowl equinox magnificent consolation undiminished ornithologist congregated intervening associate
dissolved rendezvous perpendicular THERE is no wild bird in England so completely gregarious as the rook, or so regular in its daily movements. The ring-doves will assemble in countless multitudes; the finches will unite in vast assemblies, and waterfowl will flock in thousands to the protected lake, during the dreary months of winter ; but, when the returning sun spreads joy and consolation over the face of nature, their congregated numbers are dissolved, and the individuals retire in pairs. The rook, however, remains in society the year throughout. In flocks it builds its nest, in flocks it seeks for food, and in flocks it retires to roost. About two miles to the eastward of this place, are the woods of Nostell Priory, where from time immemorial, the rooks have retired to pass the night. I suspect, by the observations which I have been able to make on the morning and evening transit of these birds, that there is not another roosting-place for, at least, thirty miles to the westward of Nostell Priory. Every morning, from within a few days of the autumnal, to about a week before the vernal equinox, the rooks, in congregated thousands upon thousands, fly over this valley in a westerly direction, and return in undiminished numbers to the east, an hour before the night sets in. In their morning passage some stop here, others, in other favourite places, farther and farther on; now repairing to the trees for pastime, now resorting to the fields for food, till the declining sun warns those which are gone farthest to the westward, that it is time they should return. They rise in a mass, receiving additions to their numbers from every intervening place, till they reach their neighbourhood in an amazing flock. Sometimes they pass on without stopping, and are joined by those which have spent the day here. At other times they make my park their place of rendezvous, and cover the ground in vast profusion, or perch upon the surrounding trees. After tarrying here
for a certain time, every rook takes wing. They linger in the air for a while, in slow revolving circles, and then they all proceed to Nostell Priory, which is their last resting-place for the night. In their morning and evening passages, the loftiness or lowliness of their flight seems to be regulated by the state of the weather. When it blows a hard gale of wind, they descend the valley with astonishing rapidity, and just skim over the tops of the intervening hills, a few feet above the trees : but, when the sky is calm and clear, they pass through the heavens at a great height, in regular and easy flight.
Sometimes these birds perform an evolution, which is, in this part of the country, usually called the shooting of the rooks. Farmers tell you, that this shooting portends a coming wind. He who pays attention to the flight of birds has, no doubt, observed this downward movement. When rooks have risen to an immense height in the air, so that, in appearance, they are scarcely larger than the lark, they suddenly descend to the ground, or to the tops of trees exactly under them. To effect this, they come headlong down, on pinion a little raised, but not expanded, in a zig-zag direction, (presenting, alternately, their back and breast to you), through the resisting air, which causes a noise similar to that of a rushing wind. This is a magnificent and beautiful sight to the eye of an ornithologist. It is idle to suppose for a moment that it portends wind.
It is merely the ordinary descent of the birds to an inviting spot beneath them, where, in general, some of their associates are already assembled; or where there is food to be procured. When we consider the prodigious height of the rooks at the time they begin to descend, we conclude that they cannot effect their arrival at a spot perpendicular under them, by any other process so short and rapid.
Rooks remain with us the year throughout. If there were a deficiency of food, this would not be the case; for, when birds can no longer support themselves in the place which they have chosen for their residence, they leave it and go in quest of nutriment elsewhere. Thus, for want of food, myriads of wild-fowl leave the frozen north, and repair to milder climates; and in this immediate district, when there is but a scanty sprinkling of seeds on the whitethorn bush, our flocks of fieldfares and of red-wings bear no proportion to those in times of a plentiful supply of their favourite food. But the number of rooks never visibly diminishes; and on this account we may safely conclude that, one way or other, they always find a sufficiency of food. Now, if we bring, as a charge against them, their feeding upon the industry of man, as, for example, during the time of a hard frost, or at seed-time, or at harvest, at which periods they will commit depredations, if not narrowly watched; we ought, in justice, to put down in their favour the rest of the year, when they feed entirely upon insects.