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and about the same time his cat kittened and the young were despatched and buried. The hare was soon lost, and supposed to be gone the way of most fondlings, to be killed by some dog or cat. However, in about a fortnight, as the master was sitting in his garden in the dusk of the evening, he observed his cat, with tail erect, trotting towards him, and calling with little short in ward notes of complacency, such as they use towards their kittens, and something gamboling after, which proved to be the lev. eret that the cat had supported with her milk, and continued to support with great affection.
Thus was a graminivorous animal nurtured by a carnivorous and predaceous one !
Why so cruel and sanguinary a beast as a cat, of the ferocious genus of Feles, the Murium leo, as Linnæus calls it, should be affected with any tenderness towards an animal which is its natural prey, is not so easy to determine.
This strange affection probably was occasioned by that desiderium, those tender maternal feelings, which the loss of her kittens had awakened in her breast; and by the complacency and ease she derived to herself from the procuring her teats to be drawn, which were too much distended with milk, till, from habit, she became as much delighted with this fondling as if it had been her real offspring.
This incident is no bad solution of that strange circumstance which grave historians as well as the
poets assert, of exposed children being sometimes nurtured by female wild beasts that probably had lost their young. For it is not one whit more marvellous that Romulus and Remus, in their infant state, should be nursed by a she-wolf, than that a poor little suckling leveret should be fostered and cherished by a bloody grimalkin.
“ – – – – viridi fætam Mavortis in antro
Procubuisse lupam: geminos huic ubera circum
(VIRG. Æn. viii. 630-634.)
Or, as Christopher Pitt renders the Roman poet:
“Here in a verdant cave's embowering shade,
The fostering wolf and martial twins were laid ;
[Again a boy has taken three little squirrels in their nest, or drey, as it is called in these parts. These small creatures he put under the care of a cat who had lately lost her kittens, and finds that she nurses and suckles them with the same assiduity and affection as if they were her own offspring.
So many people went to see the little squirrels suckled by a cat, that the foster-inother became jealous of her charge, and in pain for their safety ; and therefore hid them over the ceiling, where one died. This circumstance shows her affection for these fond
lings, and that she supposes the squirrels to be her own young. Thus hens, when they have hatched ducklings, are equally attached to them, as if they were their own chickens.]—OBSERVATIONS ON NATURE.
SELBORNE, May 9, 1776.
TO THE HONOURABLE DAINES BARRINGTON.
LANDS that are subject to frequent inundations are always poor; and probably the reason may be because the worms are drowned. The most insignificant insects and reptiles are of much more consequence, and have much more influence in the economy of Nature, than the incurious are aware of; and are mighty in their effect, from their minuteness, which renders them less an object of attention ; and from their numbers and fecundity. Earth worms, though in appearance a small and despicable link in the chain of Nature, yet, if lost, would make a lamentable chasm. For, to say nothing of half the birds, and some quadrupeds which are almost entirely supported by them, worms seem to be great promoters of vegetation, which would proceed but lamely without them; by boring, perforating, and loosening the soil, and rendering it pervious to rains and the fibres of plants; by drawing straws and stalks of leaves and twigs into it; and, most of all, by throwing up such infinite numbers of lumps of earth called worm-casts, which, being their excrement, is a fine manure for grain and grass. Worms probably provide new soil for hills, and slopes, where the rain washes the earth away; and they affect slopes, probably to avoid being flooded. Gardeners and farmers express their detestation of worms; the former because they render their walks unsightly, and make them much work: and the latter, because, as they think, worms eat their green corn. But these men would find that the earth without worms would soon become cold, hard-bound, and void of fermentation; and consequently sterile: and besides, in favour of worms, it should be hinted that green corn, plants, and flowers are not so much injured by them as by many species of coleoptera (scarabs) and tipulæ (longlegs) in their larva, or grub-state ; and by unnoticed myriads of small shell-less snails, called slugs, which silently and imperceptibly make amazing havoc in the field and garden.
Farmer Young, of Norton farm, says that this spring (1777) about four acres of his wheat in one field was entirely destroyed by slugs, which swarmed on the blades of corn, and devoured it as it sprang.
These hints we think proper to throw out in order to set the inquisitive and discerning to work.
A good monography of worms would afford