« PreviousContinue »
ire their sisters: one can hardly toddle along the gravel walk. Now we shall see something worth seeing; the fresh feeling of youthful hearts called forth in wonder and delight. He in the white trowsers is evidently thinking of the bear in Robinson Crusoe, that Friday made to dance on the bough. The little toddler looks up with an awe-struck face, to ask whether they will bite; and mamma seems not quite sure that the climbing bear will not leap from the top of the pole.
It appears but as yesterday, when I stood on this very spot with the Rajah Ram-mohun Roy at my elbow. Since then he has been called away from the world. How many of those around me may be visiting the gardens for the first and the last time!
The view from this place is interesting: the company in groups; the pigeons on the roof yonder; the pond, the fowls, the birds; and the animals, all are attractive. I could stand on this bench for an hour.
I have given a nut or two to the red and yellow, and the red and blue maccaws. How they climb their cage, holding the wires with their crooked bills! They increase in interest when we think that some of them are from the land where the slaves are set free, and others from the sultry clime where the mighty Amazon, greatest of rivers, rolls his flood for more than three thousand miles.
The grisly bear must be prodigiously powerful; what great limbs! what fearful claws! Hark! scarcely can there be a sound in the universe more desolately doleful!—it is that of the slothbear. But I must hasten onward. * * *
What a number of animals have I gazed on! antelopes, nylghaus, deer, zebras, and kangaroos; wolves, panthers, leopards, lions, and hyenas. How varied is the form! how diverse are the habits of the brute creation! and yet not a limb, not a muscle among them, but what is suited to the economy and welfare of its possessor. How infinitely incapable is man to estimate the Great Creator,
"In these his lowliest works!"
If there were no other advantage attending a visit to these gardens than that of observing the endless variety of the animal creation, and the infinite wisdom manifested in their forms and adaptation to their several habits and modes of existence, it would abundantly repay the reflecting visitor for his pains.
Nor is it unworthy of a thought, that we are highly favoured in being able to inspect these creatures at our ease, not one of them making us afraid. Here can the wild boar be seen without the dread of his tusks; and the huge rhinoceros, free from the danger of his horn. Apes, baboons, and monkeys, play their antics with no annoyance to the bystander; and tapirs, peccaries, foxes, badgers, and wild cats; jackals, opossums, squirrels, lemurs, and lynxes; with porcupines, racoons, beavers, and otters, may be observed at leisure, without inconvenience. I wish the poor brutes had as much pleasure in their pens as we have in looking at them: but, alas! sunshine and shade go together.
What a goodly collection of the feathered race! the white-bosomed pelican; the bare-necked vulture; the strong-winged condor, and the crooked-beaked, iron-taloned eagle. We are lost among such a profusion of birds and water-fowl: the warlike ostrich; the emu, the cassowary; and the crane; the towering falcon; the painted parrot, and the crimson-feathered flamingo; with a hundred other kinds of a smaller size. These are the works of God! Every specimen, perfect in its kind, proclaiming his Almighty care! Infinite Wisdom comprehends what to us is incomprehensible. Of what an innumerable family is God the almighty, the indulgent Father! He says, "Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I knowall the fowls of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are mine."
What amazing antlers have the wapiti deer! and what a merciful provision is the act of shedding them, when their weight becomes burdensome!
The elephant is in the pond; how he rolls about his giant bulk, like a huge leviathan! Now he has dived altogether beneath the surface. Again he emerges as an island in the water, and slowly stalks forward, discontinuing his watery gambols.
Who can observe the childlike obedience of the bulky animal to his keeper, without reading therein a fulfilment of the promise made by the Almighty to Noah and his descendants 1—" And the fear of you, and the dread of you, shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, and upon all that moveth upon the earth."
And these are the giraffes, the objects of general attraction. Stately creatures, what pigmies ye make of us! The cloven foot, the over-lapping lip, the tufted tail, the spotted body, and the towering neck, are all worthy of a separate regard. The eye has the fulness and the fearlessness, though not the fierceness, of that of the ostrich; and the black, sleek, serpent-like tongue, has a character altogether its own. What news from afar, fleet coursers of the desert sands? bear ye no message from the wilderness?
Your feet have trod the burning sand,
Where the lion's lair is known;
And fiery blasts are blown.
In haunts where man's exiled;
In the tempest of the wild.
It seems but a short time since, in one of my visits to this place, in turning abruptly into the side walk near the giraffe-house, I came upon 'some oriental figures, in earnest conversation. For the moment I had forgotten that the giraffes were accompanied by Arabs, so that I was both surprised and pleased by the unexpected meeting.
The most imposing figure of the group was that of Monsieur Thibauld, a French traveller of much information, speaking seven languages, though not conversant with the English. He had succeeded in the enterprise of taking the giraffes in the desert, and bringing them in safety to England.
The following extract from his letter, dated Malta, Jan. 8, 1836, states some particulars relative to the capture of the largest of the giraffes:—
"It was on the 15th of August, at the southwest of Kordofan, that I saw the first two giraffes. A rapid chase, on horses accustomed to the fatigues of the desert, put us in possession, at the end of three hours, of the largest of the two; the mother of one of those now in my charge. Unable to take her alive, the Arabs killed her with blows of the sabre, and cutting her to pieces, carried the meat to the head-quarters which we had established in a wooded situation; an arrangement necessary for our own comfort, and to secure pasturage for the camels