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ice-chisels, examine the banks of rivers or lakes, and cut holes in the ice wherever they suspect retreats in the bank; others break open their houses ; they rush to their burrows ; these blocked up by the Indians with pieces of wood; beavers captured when they rise to breathe. They are rapidly decreasing.
V. Uses, a. Flesh.-Highly prized as food by Canadian Indians; a dainty in Indian feasts ; tastes something like pork.
b. Skin. -Hats, stockings, caps, made from its fur.
C. Castor obtained from its body-a brownish substance employed in perfumery.
d. Dams occasionally used by the natives as bridges.
LESSON XXVI. - ADAPTATION OF THE
STRUCTURE OF BIRDS.
I. Their external Form.
SMALL, round head; sharp beak; neck growing gradually thicker towards the shoulders ; gently swelling breast; lengthened body; all adapted for piercing the atmosphere.
II. Their Covering. Plumage warm and light; serves for clothing, as protection from the cold, and for flight. Feathers kept in order by oil supplied in a giand near the tail ; gathered up by pressure into the bill; diffused over the surface; throw.s off the wet. Waterbirds :- breasts and bellies covered with thick down; smooth, soft ; noiseless in passing through the water. Feathers of the ostrich changed into hair-like covering; why?
Exhibit a peacock's feather, and notice the beauty of the colours of some birds:
“ The glossy varying dyes, The purpled crest, the scarlet-circled eyes, The vivid green, the shining plumes unfold, The painted wings, and breast that flames with gold." Note “ The covering of birds cannot escape the most vulgar observation ; - its brightness, its smoothness, its warmth; the disposition of the feathers, all inclined backward, the down about the stem, the overlapping of their tips, not to mention their variety of colours, constitute a vestment for the body, so beautiful and so appropriate, that I think we should have had no conception of anything equally perfect if we had never seen it.”
III. (1) Beaks, (2) Feet, and (3) Wings. 1. Beaks of different birds suited to their habits ; e. g.:
a. Swallow's. - Thin; soft; wide at the bore ; pointed; food consists of insects.
6. Duck's.—Broad; flat; fringed at the edge; food procured from the bottom of ponds, &c., out of the mud. c. Snipe's.— Narrow; long; extremely sensitive,
to the point:; serves the purpose of eyes, nose, tongue, and hand; by it they detect and secure their food.
2. Feet, very varied ; contrast the foot of an eagle with one of a water-bird ; latter web-footed ; closed when drawn forward, opened to full extent when striking out; why? Waders have long legs
and necks, to secure their food in marshes and shallows.
Birds rest best standing; why ?-- the stretching of the muscles requires no effort.
“ The moment a bird perches on branch, the weight of its body causes the leg to bend at the joint ; this bending tightens a set of muscles which descend to the toes; this stretching of the muscles causes the claws to contract round the substance on which the bird stands. Such is the simple and beautiful contrivance by which the smallest of the feathered race maintains its hold by one leg during the longest night."
3. Wings display great design - lightness and strength combined ; feathers thickest at the roots ; why ? Formed into hollow, tough quills ; taper gradually where not needed so strong ; wings worked by powerful muscles lying along each side of the breast.
IV. Bones and internal Structure,
Largest bones hollow and marrowless ; lighter but not less strong; render the bird more buoyant. Cavities of the entrails also act as air vessels ; filled with air from the lungs when the bird flies ; this is rarefied by the heat of the body; what is the effect ? Illustrate this by the action of gas
upon a balloon.
How great the care of God for us, if He so careth for the birds of the air !
“ Birds ! through the waste of trackless air
Ye have a guide, and shall we despair ?
LESSON XXVII. — THE BISON.
HAVING placed before the class a print of the animal, question out the particulars.
1. Its Appearance and Structure. Peculiar species of ox; called by the Americans
buffalo;" somewhat resembles it. Ponderous head-shaggy, woolly hair over the front; long beard ; fore-quarter the larger ; sharp-pointed, straight, strong horns ; tail, a foot long; eyes, fierce :
“ Fierce on the hunter's quiver'd band
He rolls his eyes of swarthy glow.” Altogether presents a savage, formidable appearance ; female, the smaller ; large, oblong hump over the shoulders. Covering, long fine hair, almost like wool ; dull, rusty-coloured ; lengthens as winter approaches.
II. Regions where found. Common in the unsettled parts of the north and west of America, — north of the St. Lawrence ; west of the Mississippi. European species — Poland, Austria (Carpathian Mountains), Russia (Caucasian Mountains). Gradually retires as civilisation extends.
III. Habits, Disposition, &c. Ruminant; feeds upon the plains in the morning and evening ; retires to the forests during the day. Gregarious ; traverses plains and swims rivers in dense masses ; met with in herds of thousands (contrast with the ox, which leads a solitary life). The male less vigilant than the female. Often fight together ; their roaring then resembles distant thunder; when
“the bellowing war begins Their eyes flash fury.” Never attacks man but in defence.
IV. Manner of Hunting and Capture. Numbers hunted and slaughtered for sport; driven by the Indians over precipices, many killed in the fall ; grass around their feeding-place fired; many crushed in endeavouring to escape ; two thousand have been so killed at a time ; snared by the lasso, i. e., a long cord with a running noose, thrown by a horseman.
V. Uses. Indians nearly dependent upon it alone for subsistence.
1. Flesh. — Eaten ; superior in flavour, but coarser, than that of our domestic ox ; female's flesh the more tender; the hump considered a delicacy.
2. Skins. Dressed with the hair on, made into “ buffalo robes," blankets, and dresses, by the Indians.
3. Hair. - Manufactured into cloth, hats, stockings, &c.
4. Hides - into leather.
Note. “ Its flesh is their principal, sometimes their only, food ; eaten fresh on the prairies during their hunt, and dried in their winter villages. The skin is put to various uses ; it forms the material of their lodges, of their bales for packing