Графични страници
PDF файл

when young Wodehouse had strayed down the hill with Rose, out of sight of the seniors of the party, and though all his active apprehensions on that score had been calmed down by Edward's departure, yet he was too wise not to perceive that there was something in Mrs. Wodehouse's disjointed talk more than met the eye at the first glance.

(To be continued.)





[ocr errors]

THOSE who have been graduated from a contriving school rarely outlive the result. Pinching poverty in youth projects its trace into later life, leaving its victims to betray it according to their dispositions. Some show it in lavish expenditure, vulgar display; others in small, pinching economies when such economies have ceased to be necessary.

Agnes, in her girlhood the dependent on proud but

not over-rich relations, could not remember the time when she had not "to contrive" in order to make her scanty wardrobe pretty as well as cheap. She early learned with deft fingers to turn garments upside down, inside out, to rip, to renovate, and to make over "good as new." She had by no means escaped the feeling that this must be done still. With his past indelibly stamped upon brain and heart, she could not disassociate from Cyril the idea of impending want. He was poor when she married him. He was not rich now. The ample income derived from his profession had been sorely taxed by the expenses of his election and the never-ceasing demands of political life. She had been long sick and the baby! Babies were expensive blessings, there was no denying that. The future was uncertain, and "I must deny myself," said Agnes at the conclusion of her meditation on what the new dress should be. It must be strong enough to bear some wear and tear, fine enough to be seen in the city, sober enough to be not out of place on the cars - and not expensive. All these unaffiliating qualities were to meet in one garment, for with their present expenses, she thought she could not afford two.


All this was settled in Agnes' mind, before she sat with Cyril on the upper floor of Stewart's, surveying the costumes with which, in endless varieties, an obliging salesman was draping the staring "form" before



Anything that really satisfies one's taste is sure to be beyond one's means," said Agnes to Cyril. "To find anything that will do for street-dress, receptiondress, and evening-dress all in one, will be impossible, I fear. This silver gray poplin is elegant. I want it, Cyril, because you like it; but if I get it, I'll have to buy another to save it. On the whole, don't you think I had better take this plain black silk? It won't look out of place anywhere, and will be good enough for any occasion where I shall be likely to wear it."

"You don't forget that you are going to Washington, do you ?"

"Oh, no. But it does not seem as if I should go out much there. Do you think I will, Cyril?" "I'm sure I don't know. You won't unless you

1 Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by H. O. HOUGHTON & Co., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

grow more lively than you have been lately. But do decide on something, Aggie, for I must get down to the office."

How could she tell him that she felt a half-sickening fear to decide on anything, lest it should cost 100 much, more than he could just now afford, more than he would feel willing to pay. And the thought struck through her with a pang, as it does through many women's hearts: "Why haven't I something my very own! then I would buy both dresses, and please him."

Cyril thought of telling her to buy the two; but the after-thought, ever ready, reminded him that his funds were rather low; yet it did not remind him also that they had been lowered by new and unwonted expenses in which his family had no share. By this time he was dreadfully bored. What delighted him in dress was its effect; the process by which that effect might be reached worried him, as it does most men. He liked to see a lady glide before him as harmonious to his eyes as her music might be melodious to his hearing, but of the care and pains that wrought that harmony, the choosing and cost of it, he wished to know nothing; if he did, it was harmony no longer.

He had praised the silver gray costume so unreservedly, that Agnes wanted it just for the pleasure it would give his eyes. "If he could only tell me to take both, for the gray would be of no service alone," she said to herself. He did not, so she resolutely turned her eyes from it, and in a low voice told the salesman that she would take the black silk.


The momentous question decided, Cyril accompanied her to a picture gallery. Her intention was to spend the remainder of the day going in and out among the few artists' studios and art galleries that she knew, looking over books and engravings. Later in the afternoon Cyril was to meet her at Goupil's; then they were going to the Brevoort, where she was to don the new silk, dine with Cyril, and then the opera. It was an epoch in Agnes' days when she could go to the opera. There was no affectation in her love for it. She was conscious of the ludicrous aspect of singing certain sentences which could so much better be said, nevertheless she enjoyed the opera with a childish zest. With its lights, melody, flowers, and gala dresses, to her it meant how much more-youth, romance, love! In the heyday of these she visited it first. In the first month of her marriage she saw for the first time the interior of the Academy of Music. It opened upon her unaccustomed eyes like a temple of enchantment. To her, a neophyte in the gay world's delights, every object which she contemplated gave her the pleasant thrill of a new sensation: the boxes rising tier on tier, with their curtains of lace and amber satin looped back to show the bedecked and living beauty within; the rose-tinted galleries upborne by white goddesses, packed with people to the lofty ceiling; the fluttering audience about her; the shimmer of fans; the running ripple of talk; the melodious boy-voices in the aisles, calling out "Opera-book!" "Buy an opera-book!" the flower venders moving and peering up and down-one in particular, an old Italian, his hands crowded with his fragrant merchandise, regulation bouquets of red and white which never varied. How these sights and sounds had stamped themselves upon her impressionable brain, she never knew till in hours of convalescence they came thronging in upon her memory, and through the darkened room floated the boy-voices calling "Operabook!" the swell of the orchestra, "Martha's" "Last

Rose of Summer," the music of "Norma," the airy songs of Cherubini, while she inhaled again the subtle flower-scent wafted from the old Italian's hand. All these had been hers in the dimness of her chamber, when it had seemed as if she could never enter the bright Academy again; yet here she was.

No shadow had fallen upon that day. The autumnal splendor of the metropolitan streets had given her a new sense of buoyancy, till she fancied she felt like Guido's Aurora moving above the clouds. The new pictures had fed her æsthetic sense, the new books she found had filled her mind with new thoughts and emotions. Not least, the black silk suit had proved itself a marvel, did not fit ill, and had received Cyril's approval. She had dined alone tête-à-tête with him, and here she was by his side, the glow, the splendor, the murmur and music of the Academy about her once more.

[ocr errors]

All the burden of life seemed at once to roll from her heart. She was Agnes Darcy, the girl, again. She knew no doubt nor fear, nor anything but bliss beside her lover.

"Oh, Cyril!" she whispered, "I know that it is ridiculous, but I believe my idea of perfect happiness is to forget every pain and be with you at the opera." "After all, what a child you are, Aggie!" with a touch of superiority in the tone.

"That's what I'd like to be always. It tires me so, makes me feel so old, to think and to feel."

"On dreary subjects-yes. If you'd only devote more time to agreeable themes."

"I'll try, I'll try, Cyril."

"That's right; that's what you ought to do" - with a sudden turn of his head and a swift change of coun


"What, what is the matter, darling? you look as if you were going to faint."

"But I'm not; " after an instant's pause, "I've had a number of such turns lately," and he spoke the truth. "It's gone now. Thank Heaven, there's the bell;" and the curtain rose. There was the scene so well remembered: the chamber in Count Almaviva's castle, Figaro measuring the room, Susanna trimming a hat with flowers. With many touches of healthy sentiment, "The Marriage of Figaro," like the majority of operas, is far from being wholly pure in tone. But Agnes did not know it. She did not follow the libretto, nor always understand the action. She would shut her eyes and listen to the music; it was all in all to her. When the curtain fell at the close of Figaro's song, she opened her eyes and came back as from another world, to look around the old one.

[ocr errors]

"Cyril, it must be imagination," she said, "but it seems as if that lady, that one in the first box to the right, how beautiful she is! is aiming her glass straight at me. It must be a fancy. Of course she can't be looking at little me in all this dazzling throng, but she has seemed to be, so long, I can't help speaking of it. Isn't it strange, Cyril, that it should seem so?"

"She is looking, Aggie, directly here," said Cyril, making an effort to speak naturally. "Strange I did not see her sooner. She is Mrs. Sutherland, who visits at Mrs. Beekman's. I was introduced to her there. I must go and speak to her before the curtain rises. Amuse yourself with the libretto, Aggie. You know how often I have told you that you ought to read it;" and before she could take in what he had said, he was gone, and she sat alone.

In a moment he appeared in the conspicuous box

[ocr errors]

whose occupants were visible from every part of the house. The central object in it was a lady whose white Turkish mantle, embroidered with gold, was thrown back, revealing gauze-veiled arms, shoulders. and throat gleaming with jewels. She wore a small tiara of brilliants in her hair, which flashed out afar. She sat like a queen amid courtiers and her aspect was royal. But not more so than Cyril's, for whom now all others made way. There was another lady in the box. an elderly one, to whom the remaining gentlemen addressed themselves while Cyril seated himself by the beauty's side.

Agnes, alone, with no one to speak to, tried to fix her eyes on the libretto in her hand, but could not; they would rise to the sight that confronted her! Could that man be Cyril, who a moment before had sat so silent by her side. He was radiant with animation What a pair they made, he and the unknown beauty. Poor Agnes! she could not help seeing that also. Who could help seeing it? Not many, as was proven by the innumerable glasses directed toward the box. The whole Academy outside could not show so superb a pair.


"How handsome he is!" said Agnes as she gazed, while her breath seemed going. She marked the broad, lofty shoulders and the haughty head with its rings of closely clinging yellow hair; the keenly cut features; the eyes flashing like sapphires. And she-this woman beside him! Why had God made her so beautiful? The masses of purple black hair; the magnolia skin with its rose-leaf tinge; the long, drooping, heavily fringed eye-lids, with the eyes half lifted, large, black, and alluringly soft she saw all, for her glass was lifted now, though she was unconscious when she did it. "Such eyes, melting on him, on Cyril, my husband! And he! He looks as if there were not another on earth but she. Why did I come here? was it for this?" And Agnes' glass fell from her hand, while the great Academy and the vast throng swam before her eyes like a wreck at sea, and she drifted out with it, where, she knew not, cared not.


Pray, is the lady whom you have just left Mrs. King? If so, I trust we are soon to become acquainted. It is scarcely fair that I should know her husband so much better than I do herself," said Circe Sutherland.


[ocr errors]

'Yes, that is Mrs. King;" with visible embarrassment. This is the first time that she has been able to visit the Academy in a long time. If you should ever favor Lotusport with another visit, it will give her great pleasure to call upon you."

"Oh, can't I call upon her in the morning, before she leaves town? Why didn't you send me word that she was in town, naughty man? Then I could have called to-day, and had the happiness of your both spending the night at Sutherland house."


"Because it had been so long since she had been able to get into town, she had commissions which kept her out all day, and you would have missed her," said Cyril, with the fact obtruding itself into his mind that until afternoon Agnes had no dress in which he would have thought her presentable to Circe Sutherland.

Now he glanced into the parquette, where she sat such a little way off, still trying to obey his wish, with her face bent over the libretto. How plain she looked! how much plainer in her dark attire than any who surrounded her. He was sorry now that he had not told her to get the pearl gray dress with its satin trimmings; that would have shone out and reflected a little lustre

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

He saw the enchantress the instant she entered the box. What a start it gave him. How the color fled from his face, and Agnes saw it go. How suddenly the Academy and all the world was changed for him in the light of this one presence.

He lingered till the last moment. But seconds to him, his absence seemed hours to Agnes. Her will kept her from fainting; had this been weaker, when the very Titans and goddesses sprang from their foundations, and with their tiers on tiers of humanity shot into space, she would have passed into unconsciousness and have made "a scene" for which Cyril would never have forgiven her. The knowledge that he never would, doubled her self-control, but did not deaden her misery.

"Couldst thou, Love, one hope restore me,
Calmed were sorrow, and lulled my sigh.
Teach a spouse the faith he swore me,
Or an outcast heart to die,"

He was doing no unusual thing. The aisles and boxes were full of gentlemen who had left their seats to "pay their respects" to their friends. Many of these did not accompany ladies, those who did left their companions laughing and chatting with acquaintances. But she was alone. In all the vast assembly she recognized no one. There was nobody to come and speak with her. She must not look at them again; she could not, she thought, without fainting and attracting painful attention to herself. She was mistaken. For as she tried again to follow the words of the libretto the letters all ran together, and she could not distinguish one sentence from another, while some fatal fascination seemed to draw her eyelids upward and to fix her gaze upon the two in the box. Will quelled emotion. Passion faded from perception, leaving it unerring in its gaze.

"Linda has made me unhappy," said the prescient spirit; "I now behold for the first time the woman who has the power in herself to rob me utterly. I know it." The curtain had risen upon the antechamber in the castle, and the countess, sitting alone, was singing her doleful ditty,

he expected. She neither cried nor accused him; thus he had no excuse for reprimanding her. She was cold, cold as a stone; that at least was an offense. "I see that you are offended, Aggie," he said. "You can't be such a little rustic as to be angry because I went between acts to speak with a friend. See! there is scarcely a gentleman in his seat. In Europe the fall of the curtain is a signal for every man to rise and gaze about, or to go off to chat with his friends, leaving his wife to do the same."

when Cyril returned to his vacant seat. He had expected to see a deprecating face, silent, slow-dropping tears; and was all ready to meet them with his most annihilating manner and tone. Instead, he saw a stony face such as he had never seen before on Agnes. Her features looked gray, pinched, and shrunken, as if she had grown years older in a few moments. She asked no questions, made no allusions to the one he had left, even when the curtain fell at the second act.

Cyril felt at once that his premeditated grandeur of manner went for naught, and that he was placed at disadvantage. Agnes did not act at all like a child, as

"Perhaps unfortunately your wife could not do the same," said Agnes.

"Well, you could if you hadn't been sick so much, and eternally shut away from everybody. But for Heaven's sake don't look so! you are a sight for everybody, with such an ashen face!" exclaimed Cyril, tortured with the consciousness that Circe Sutherland's lorgnette was that instant turned upon them. He was also conscious that Agnes had deeper cause for pain than his mere absence from her in the box, and this consciousness made him conciliatory.

to me


"Let me tell you about Mrs. Sutherland, Aggie; then you will be more reasonable. She is a good friend really did more than you can realize to insure my election. She was in Lotusport, visiting Mrs. Beekman when you were sick; so you could not meet her. She spoke very kindly of you just now to call upon you and to become acquainted with you." "I don't wish to become acquainted with her." "Then it will be your own loss, Aggie. You see how beautiful she is. She has musical genius, and a voice that I never heard equalled. She might have made fame and fortune in opera, if she had wanted either. When you hear her sing your ire will vanish.” "Where is her husband?"

"He is dead. He was her first cousin, and bore the same name. She was married to him when she was fifteen, by her father, in order to combine two estates. Her father was a Scotchman, a younger son of the great Scotch family. He went to New Orleans and into trade. Her mother was a Creole, a great heiress and beauty. She is all a Creole - all curves and softness; the effect of climate as well as temperament. She grew up in a Southern atmosphere. She has never known anything but wealth and luxury. Of our drudging American life she has no comprehension."

"I think she shows that in her face," said Agnes calmly, turning her eyes toward the box and passively surveying its central occupant.

"Yes, she is a perfect Creole," Cyril went on, waxing fluent and almost happy at Agnes' apparent acquiescence," always lingering in the past yet perfectly conscious of the present; full of sentiment, yet alert in perception; soft in temperament, and vivacious in response, with eyes for form and color never surpassed, and that sense of art which is instinct, for it can only be born in one.



Where did you become so well acquainted with this lady? at Mrs. Beekman's?"


"I met her there frequently, and I have called at her house in New York."

"Oh! she lives in New York?" And Agnes' mind, acutely alert, went back to the Tuesday evening before, with absolute certainty now, that Cyril's “important business" and " positive engagement" was at Mrs. Sutherland's house.

"Yes, she has a house in New York, and since her father and mother's and husband's deaths she has lived

[blocks in formation]

Late as it was when the opera ended, Cyril and Agnes took the midnight train home.


Poor little mouse!" murmured Circe Sutherland, repeating unconsciously in her waking midnight dream upon her luxurious couch the ejaculation of Evelyn Dare in the front door of her log-house. "Poor, halfdead little mouse! what a stony stare she gave me. I'm sure I wish her no harm. I'd rather not hurt her. But how preposterous for such a woman to suppose that she can possess wholly such a man. The sooner she finds out that she cannot, and makes up her mind to bear it, the better it will be for her."

(To be continued.)



THE Weatherbury bees were late in their swarming this year. It was in the latter part of June, and the day after the interview with Troy in the hayfield, that Bathsheba was standing in her garden, watching a swarm in the air and guessing their probable settling-place. Not only were they late this year, but unruly. Sometimes throughout a whole season all the swarms would alight on the lowest attainable bough such as part of a currant-bush or espalier apple-tree; next year they would, with just the same unanimity, make straight off to the uppermost member of some tall, gaunt costard, or quarrington, and there defy all invaders who did not come armed with ladders and staves to take them.

[ocr errors]

This was the case at present. Bathsheba's eyes, shaded by one hand, were following the ascending multitude against the unexplored stretch of blue till they ultimately halted by one of the unwieldy trees spoken of. A process was observable somewhat analogous to that of alleged formations of the universe, time and times ago. The bustling swarm had swept the sky in a scattered and uniform haze, which now thickened to a nebulous centre: this glided on to a bough and grew still denser, till it formed a solid black spot upon the light.

The men and women being all busily engaged in saving the hay even Liddy had left the house for the purpose of lending a hand - Bathsheba resolved to hive the bees herself, if possible. She had dressed the hive with herbs and honey, fetched a ladder, brush, and crook, made herself impregnable with an armor of leather gloves, straw hat, and large gauze veil - once green, but now faded to snuff-color

and ascended a dozen rungs of the ladder. At once she heard not ten yards off, a voice that was beginning to have a strange power in agitating her.

"Miss Everdene, let me assist you; you should not attempt such a feat alone."

Troy was just opening the garden gate.

Bathsheba flung down the brush, crook, and empty hive,

[blocks in formation]

"But you must have on the veil and gloves, or you'll be stung fearfully!”

"Ah, yes. I must put on the veil and gloves. Will you kindly show me how to fix them properly?"

"Ánd you must have the broad-brimmed hat, too; for your cap has no brim to keep the veil off, and they'd reach your face."

"The broad-brimmed hat, too, by all means."

So a whimsical fate ordered that her hat should be taken off - veil and all attached — and placed upon his head, Troy tossing his own into a gooseberry bush. Then the veil had to be tied at its lower edge round his collar, and the gloves put on him.

He looked such an extraordinary object in this guise that, flurried as she was, she could not avoid laughing outright. It was the removal of yet another stake from the palisade of cold manners which had kept him off.

Bathsheba looked on from the ground whilst he was busy sweeping and shaking the bees from the tree, holding up the hive with the other hand for them to fall into. She made use of an unobserved minute whilst his attention was absorbed in the operation to arrange her plumes a little. He came down holding the hive at arm's-length, behind which trailed a cloud of bees.

"Upon my life," said Troy, through the veil, "holding up this hive makes one's arm ache worse than a week of sword-exercise." When the manœuvre was complete he approached her. "Would you be good enough to untie me and let me out? I am nearly stifled inside this silk cage." To hide her embarrassment during the unwonted process of untying the string about his neck, she said, "I have never seen that you spoke of."


"The sword-exercise."

"Ah! would you like to?" said Troy.

Bathsheba hesitated. She had heard wondrous reports from time to time by dwellers in Weatherbury, who had by chance sojourned awhile in Casterbridge, near the barracks, of this strange and glorious performance, the swordexercise. Men and boys who had peeped through chinks or over walls into the barrack-yard returned with accounts of its being the most flashing affair conceivable; accoutrements and weapons glistening like stars - here, there, around yet all by rule and compass. So she said mildly what she felt strongly : "Yes; I should like to see it very much."

"And so you shall; you shall see me go through it." "No! How?"

[blocks in formation]

trayed that something more than his coldness had made her also feel that Liddy would be superfluous in the suggested scene. She had felt it, even whilst making the proposal. "Well, I won't bring Liddy — and I'll come. But only for a very short time," she added; "a very short time." "It will not take five minutes," said Troy.

(To be continued.)


THE variety of coloring in animal life is one of the marvels of nature, only now beginning to be studied scientifically. It is vain to say that an animal is beautiful, either in symmetry or diversity of color, in order to please the human eye. Fishes in the depths of the Indian seas, where no human eye can see them, possess the most gorgeous tints. One thing is remarkable: birds, fishes, and insects alone possess the metallic coloring; whilst plants and zoophytes are without reflecting shades. The mollusca take a middle path with their hue of mother-of-pearl. What is the reason of these arrangements in the animal kingdom? It is a question which cannot be satisfactorily answered; but some observations have been made which throw light on the subject. One is, that among animals, the part of the body turned towards the earth is always paler than that which is uppermost. The action of light is here apparent. Fishes which live on the side, as the sole and turbot, have the left side, which answers to the back, of a dark tint; whilst the other side is white. It may be noticed that birds which fly, as it were, bathed in light, do not offer the strong contrast of tone between the upper and lower side. Beetles, wasps, and flies have the metallic coloring of blue and green, possess rings equally dark all round the body; and the wings of many butterflies are as beautifully feathered below as above.

On the other hand, mollusca which live in an almost closed shell, like the oyster, are nearly colorless; the larvæ of insects found in the ground or in wood have the same whiteness, as well as all intestinal worms shut up in obscurity. Some insects whose life is spent in darkness keep this appearance all their lives; such as the curious little beetles inhabiting the inaccessible crevasses of snowy mountains, in whose depths they are hidden. They seem to fly from light as from death, and are only found at certain seasons, when they crawl on the flooring of the caves like larvæ, without eyes, which would be useless in the retreats where they usually dwell.

Even the powder not unknown to ladies of fashion is one of Nature's beautifying means. That which is left on the hands of the ruthless boy when he has caught a butterfly is a common instance; but there are birds, such as the large white cockatoo, which leave a white powder on the hands. An African traveller speaks of his astonishment on a rainy day to see his hands reddened by the moist plumage of a bird he had just killed. The most ordinary way, however, in which the pigment is found is when it exists in the depths of the tissues, reduced to very fine particles, best seen under the microscope. When scattered, they scarcely influence the shade; but when close together, they are very perceptible. This explains the color of the negro: under the very delicate layer of skin which is raised by a slight burn there may be seen abundance of brown pigment in the black man. It is quite superficial, for the skin differs only from that of the European in tone; it wants the exquisite transparency of fair races. Among these, the colors which impress the eye do not come from a flat surface, but from the different depths of layers in the flesh. Hence the variety of rose and lily tints according as the blood circulates more or less freely; hence the blue veins, which give a false appearance, because the blood is red; but the skin thus dyes the deep tones which lie beneath it; tattooing with Indian ink is blue, blue eyes owe their shade to the brown pigment which lines the other side of the iris, and the muscles seen under the skin produce the bluish tone well known to painters.

This relation between coloring and light is very evident in the beings which inhabit the earth and the air; those are the most brilliant which are exposed to the sun; those of the tropics are brighter than in the regions around the North Pole, and the diurnal species than the nocturnal; but the same law does not apparently belong to the inhabitants of the sea, which are of a richer shade where the light is more tempered. The most dazzling corals are those which hang under the natural cornices of the rocks and on the sides of submarine grottos; while some kinds of fish which are found on the shores as well as in depths requiring the drag-net, have a bright red purple in the latter regions, and an insignificant yellow brown in the former. Those who bring up gold fish know well that to have them finely colored, they must place them in a shaded vase, where aquatic plants hide them from the extreme solar heat. Under a hot July sun they lose their beauty.

The causes to which animal coloring is due are very various. Some living substances have it in themselves, owing to molecular arrangement, but usually this is not the case; the liveliest colors are not bound up with the tissues. Sometimes they arise from a phenomenon like that by which the soap-bubble shows its prismatic hues; sometimes there is a special matter called pigment which is united with the organic substance. Such is the brilliant paint, carmine, which is the pigment of the cochineal insect, and the red color of blood, which may be collected in crystals, separate from the other particles to which it is united.

The chemical nature of pigment is little known; the sun evidently favors its development in red patches. Age takes it away from the hair, when it turns white, the coloring-matter giving place to very small air-bubbles. The brilliant white of feathers is due to the air which fills them. Age, and domestic habits exchanged for a wild state, alter the appearance of many birds and animals; in some species the feathers and fur grow white every year before falling off and being renewed; as in the ermine, in spring the fur which is so valued assumes a yellow hue, and after a few months, becomes white before winter.

It would, however, be an error to suppose that all the exquisite metallic shades which diaper the feathers of birds and the wings of butterflies arise from pigments; it was a dream of the alchemists to try to extract them. Their sole cause is the play of light, fugitive as the sparkles of the diamond. When the beautiful feathers on the breast of a humming-bird are examined under the microscope, it is astonishing to see none of the shades the mystery of which you would penetrate. They are simply made of a dark-brown opaque substance not unlike those of a black duck. There is, however, a remarkable arrangement; the barb of the feather, instead of being a fringed stem, offers a series of small squares of horny substance placed point to point. These plates, of infinitesimal size, are extremely thin, brown, and, to all appearance, exactly alike, whatever may be the reflection they give. The brilliant large feathers of the peacock are the same; the plates are only at a greater distance, and of less brightness. They have been described as so many little mirrors, but that comparison is not correct, for then they would only give back light without coloring it. Neither do they act by decomposing the rays which pass through them, for then they would not lose their iris tints under the microscope. It is to metals alone that the metallic plumage of the humming-birds can be compared; the effects of the plates in a feather are like tempered steel or crystallized bismuth. Certain specimens emit colors very variable under different angles, the same scarlet feather becoming when turned to ninety degrees a beautiful emerald green.

The same process which nature has followed in the humming-bird is also found in the wing of the butterfly. It is covered with microscopic scales, which play the part of the feather, arranged like the tiles of a house, and taking the most elegant forms. They also lose their color under magnifying power, and the quality of reflection shows that the phenomena are the same as in feathers.

« ПредишнаНапред »