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goes to bed in the longest days at four in the afternoon, and often does not stir in the morning till late. Besides, it retires to rest for every shower; and does not move at all on wet days.
When one reflects on the state of this strange being, it is a matter of wonder to find that Providence should bestow such a profusion of days, such a seeming waste of longevity, on a reptile that appears to relish it so little as to squander more than two-thirds of its existence in a joyless stupor, and be lost to all sensation for months together in the profoundest of slumbers.
While I was writing this letter, a moist and warm afternoon, with the thermometer at fifty, brought forth troops of shell-snails, and, at the same juncture, the tortoise heaved up the mould and put out his head; and the next morning came forth, as it were raised from the dead; and walked about till four in the afternoon. This was a curious coincidence! a very amusing occurrence! to see such a similarity of feelings between the two φερεοίκοι ! for so the Greeks call both the shell-snail and the tortoise.
Because we call “the old family tortoise" an abject reptile, we are too apt to undervalue his abili. ties, and depreciate his powers of instinct. Yet he is, as Mr. Pope says of his lord,
and has so much discernment as not to fall down a ha-ha: but to stop and withdraw from the brink with the readiest precaution.
Though he loves warm weather, he avoids the hot sun; because his thick shell when once heated, would, as the poet says of solid armour—“scald with safety.” He therefore spends the more sultry hours under the umbrella of a large cabbage-leaf, or amidst the waving forests of an asparagus-bed.
But as he avoids heat in the summer, so, in the decline of the year, he improves the faint autumnal beams by getting within the reflection of a fruitwall; and, though he never has read that planes inclining to the horizon receive a greater share of warmth, he inclines his shell, by tilting it against the wall, to collect and admit every feeble ray.
Pitiable seems the condition of this poor embarrassed reptile: to be cased in a suit of ponderous armour which he cannot lay aside; to be imprisoned, i as it were, within his own shell, must preclude, we should suppose, all activity and disposition for enter. prise. Yet there is a season of the year (usually the beginning of June) when his exertions are remarkable. He then walks on tiptoe, and is stirring by five in the morning; and, traversing the garden, examines every wicket and interstice in the fences, through which he will escape if possible; and often has eluded the care of the gardener, and wandered to some distant field. The motives that impel him
to undertake these rambles seem to be of the amorous kind : his fancy then becomes intent on sexual attachments, which transport him beyond his usual gravity, and induce him to forget for a time his ordinary solemn deportment.*
Summer birds are, this cold and backward spring, unusually late: I have seen but one swallow yet. This conformity with the weather convinces me more and more that they sleep in the winter.
SELBORNE, April 21, 1780.
* “We think we see the worthy pastor," writes the late Mr. Broderip, “looking down with the air of the melancholy Jaques on his favourite, as those thoughts occur to him. It is very possible that Cupid may have been bestriding the reptile. White's description looks like the restlessness of passion : but the love of liberty, and not improbably an annual migratory impulse to search for fresh pasture, may have been the prevailing motive. The tenacity of life with which the testudinata are gifted is hardly credible. Rede's operations would have been instant death to any more warm-blooded animal. He opened the skull of a land tortoise, and removing every particle of brain, cleaned the cavity out. It still groped its way about freely, for with the brain its sight departed ; but it lived from November till May. After many other equally cruel experiments, one November he cut off the head of a large tortoise, and it lived for twenty-three days. But, retiring within its shell, it has its privileges.
“The tortoise securely from danger does well