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would be nothing iuside that I could fancy, or my stomach digest. I often visit them, it is true, but a knock or two convince me that I must go elsewhere for support, and were you to listen attentively to the sound which my bill causes, you would know whether I am upon a healthy or an unhealthy tree. Wood and bark are not my food. I live entirely upon the insects which have already formed a lodgment in the distempered tree. When the sound informs me that my prey is there, I labour for hours together, till I get at it: and by consuming it for my own support, I prevent its further depredations in that part. "Thus, I discover for you your hidden and unsuspected foe, which has been devouring your wood in such secrecy, that you had not the least suspicion it was there. The hole which I make, in order to get at the pernicious vermin, will be seen by you as you pass under the tree. I leave it as a signal, to tell you,
that your tree has already stood too long. It is past its prime. Millions of insects, engendered by disease, are preying upon its vitals. Ere long it will fall a log in useless ruins. Warned by this loss, cut down the rest in time, and spare, O spare the unoffending woodpecker.”--(P. 131-132.)
After this we grieve to say that in page 138 we find our author laming himself in pursuit of a red headed woodpecker, at which he had not been able (how shall we write it?) to get a shot. Alas! the scoffers will lay hold of this little inconsistency, and urge Mr. Waterton's practice against his pleadings. But let them observe that our author is a naturalist, and he kills for the love of stuffing-not stuffing in the aldermanic sense of the word, or in Mrs. Glasse's sense of crumbs of bread, egg, and sweet herbs, but stuffing for the British Museum–he shoots one bird for the honour and glory of its species.
We now cite the vindication of the goat-sucker:The harmless, unoffending goat-sucker, from the time of Aristotle down to the present day, has been in disgrace with man. Father has handed down to son, and author to author, that this nocturnal thief subsists by milking the flocks. Poor injured little bird of night, how sadly hast thou suffered, and how foul a stain has inattention to facts put upon thy character. Thou hast never robbed man of any part of his property, nor deprived the kid of a drop of milk.
When the moon shines bright, you may have a fair opportunity of examining the goat-sucker. You will see it close by the cows, goats, and sheep, jumping up every now and then under their bellies. Approach a little nearer-he is not shy, "he fears no donger, for he knows no sin.” See how the nocturnal flies are tormenting the herd, and with what dexterity he springs up avd catches them as fast as they alight on the belly, legs, and udder of the animals. Observe how quiet they stand, and how sensible they seem of his good offices, for they neither strike at him, nor hit him with their tail, . nor tread on him, nor try to drive him away as an uncivil intruder. Were you to dissect him, and inspect his stomach, you would find no milk there. It is full of the flies which have been annoying the herd.--(P. 139-140.)
If we were a goat-sucker, as the ell-and-a-quarter-long writer of huckaback in the Morning Herald would say*, we should not relish that challenge to dissection. It reminds one too much of the judgment of Bajazet. A woman having charged one of his officers with goat-sucking, or in other words, stealing her milk, Bajazet questioned the fellow as to the fact, which he stoutly denied, asserting that he had not tasted milk that day. “We will soon see that,” said Bajazet, “and ascertain your guilt or innocence beyond a shadow of doubt. Cut open his stomach, guards, and see what there is in it.” The experiment, as it happened, proved the justness of the accusation. This shows a very inquisitive turn of mind and searching spirit in Bajazet, but it must be confessed that he discovered more curiosity about the truth than concern for the justice of the case, for if the fellow had
For, “ If we were the House of Commons;" “If we were the King and ParJiament; “If we were Mr. Canning ;” and such modes of speech, see the Morning Herald, passim.
been innocent, like Mr. Waterton's goat-suckers, the test would have been any thing but satisfactory to his personal feelings.
Our traveller made four journeys in South America. His first journey was through Demerara and Essequibo; and his objects, as he informs us, were to collect a quantity of the wourali poison, and to penetrate the inland frontier of Portuguese Guiana. A great and interesting part of the commencement of the book is filled with accounts of the extraordinary poison we have mentioned, which it seems is made in the most deadly perfection in the wilds where our author sought it. This poison has long been known to naturalists, and has been described in the various European systems of Toxicology under the uame of the woorara poison. It appears to be a compound extract of several plants, but its activity probably depends upon one alone, which, according to Dr. Bancroft, belongs to a species of climbing shrub; and this is corroborated by the testimony of our traveller, who also confirms, in a very remarkable manner, the effects which the different writers on the subject have attributed to this deadly preparation. There are few subjects in natural history more interesting and extraordinary than the various modes by which life is destroyed by poisons; and we have been much struck with the luminous arrangement which Dr. Paris has given to these agents in the last edition of his Pharmacologia, a work abounding with information, and deservedly of the very highest authority. He divides all poisons into four classes, namely:- Ist. Those which act primarily through the medium of the nerves, without being absorbed, or exciting any local, inflammation. Of this class there are two orders; the one comprehending those poisons which so affect the nervous system as to paralyse the muscles of respiration and thus to kill by suffocation ; the other, those which act on the heart and destroy by syncope. The second class contains those which act through the medium of the circulation; and to this division the woorara or wourali evidently belongs; it appears to enter the circulating current through the veins, and not as some have supposed, through the absorbents. This has been placed beyond a doubt by the experiments of Mr. Brodie, related in the Philosophical Transactions for the year 1811. He tied the thoracic duct of a dog a little before its entrance into the veins; the woorara was then applied to a wound in the posterior extremities, and produced all the symptoms of poisoning. It was ascertained, on opening the body, that the communication had been completely interrupted in the thoracic duct. In another experiment the woorara was applied to the inferior extremity, and the limb was strongly tied above to prevent all communication by means of the blood vessels. The animal in this case did not experience any of the effects peculiar to this poison-it remained unharmed. It is evident, therefore, that the woorara is absorbed by the veins, and is thus brought into contact with the brain, which is thereby rendered incapable of affording the necessary supply of nervous influence to the muscles of respiration, in consequence of which, the animal dies from suffocation. The heart is not affected. It therefore follows, that if the action of the lungs can be supported by artificial means, until the brain can recover from the effects of the poison, the animal may be preserved. An experiment of M. Orfila, in which an animal was restored by the artificial inflation
of the lungs, has established this position. Our traveller appears to have been aware of this remedy, for he mentions inflation of the lungs under the head of antidotes ; indeed, all his observations and experiments tend to confirm the opinions which have already obtained concerning the nature of this poison. In the third class of poisons Dr. Paris has included those which enter the circulation, and act exclusively upon the spinal marrow without directly affecting the functions of the brain. In this case the nimal dies in a state of spasmodic convulsion. The celebrated poison of Java kills in this manner. His fourth class embraces all those corrosive substances which produce abrasion of the alimentary canal, and kill by exciting inflammation and gangrene.
We shall now proceed to extract a short history of the wourali (commonly called the woorara) poison, from the pages of Mr. Waterton; and it will be seen that the results of his experiments accord exactly, in all essential particulars, with those which have been made in Europe.
In the extreme wilds of Demarara and Essequibo, far away from any European settlement, there is a tribe of Indians who are known by the name of Macousbi.
Though the wourali poison is used by all the South American savages betwixt the Amazons and the Oroonoque, still this tribe make it stronger than any of the rest. The Indians in the vicinity of the Rio Negro are aware of this, and come to the Macoushi country to purchase it.
Much has been said concerning this fatal and extraordinary poison. Some have affirmed that its effects are almost instantaneous, provided the minutest particle of it mixes with the blood ; and others again, have maintained that it is not strong • enough to kill an animal of the size and strength of a man. The first have erred by lending a too willing ear to the marvellous, and believing assertions without sufcient proof.(P. 50.)
Mr. Waterton goes on to demonstrate, perhaps rather unnecessarily, that the Indians are not to be credited in all they say of the virtues of the poison; and he tells us, by way of example, the story of an Indian who assured him that he had seen a man killed in battle instantaneously, by the touch of an arrow poisoned with this preparation; but, on cross examination, it turned out that the slain man had been pierced completely through the heart! Others again, who have maintained that the poison is not of a strength to kill animals of the size of man, have, in Mr. Waterton's opinion, been misled by disappointment, (an odd word for the occasion, though the right one,) caused by their not having taken the proper care of the poisoned arrows, or by their trying the experiments with inferior poisons. With damp, for instance, the poison is said to lose its force, and to turn soft and mouldy, so that it will not enter the flesh with the arrow, but will remain at the mouth of the wound.
The composition is thus described ; many of the ingredients are, we conceive, thrown in merely to mystify the chemical operation, and to give it the appearance of a sort of charm:
A day or two before the Macoushi Indian prepares his poison, he goes into the forest in quest of the ingredients. A vine grows in these wilds, which is called wourali. It is from this that the poison takes its name, and it is the principal ingredient. When he has procured enough of this, he digs up a root of a very bitter taste, ties them together, and then looks about for two kinds of bulbous plants, which contain a green and glutinous juice. He fills a little quake, which he carries on his back, with the stalks of these ; and lastly, ranges up and down till he finds two species of ants. One of them is very large and black, and so venomous that its sting produces a fever; it is most commonly to be met with on the ground. The other is a little red ant, which stings like a nettle, and generally has its nest under the leaf of a shrube After abtain.. ing these, lie has no more need to range the forest.
A quantity of the strongest Indian pepper is used ; but this he has already planted round his hut. The pounded fangs of the Labarri snake, and those of the Counacouchi, are likewise added. These he commonly has in store, for when he kills a snake, he generally extracts the fangs, and keeps them by him.
Having thus found the necessary ingredients, he scrapes the wourali vine and bitter root into thin shavings, and puts them into a kind of colander made of leaves; this he holds over an earthen pot, and pours water on the shavings; the liquor which comes through has the appearance of coffee. When a sufficient quantity bas been procured, the shavings are thrown aside. He then bruises the bulbous stalks, and squeezes a proportionate quantity of their juice through his hands into the pot. Lastly, the snakes' fangs, ants, and pepper, are bruised, and thrown into it. It is then placed on a slow fire, and as it boils, more of the juice of the wourali is added, according as it may be found necessary, and the scum is taken off with a leaf; it remains on the fire till reduced to a thick syrrup of a deep brown colour. As soon as it has arrived at this state, a few arrows are poisoned with it, to try its strength. If it answer the expectations, it is poured out into a calabash, or little pot, of Indian manufacture, which is carefully covered with a couple of leaves, and over them a piece of deer's skin, tied round with a cord. They keep it in the most dry part of the hut; and from time to time, suspend it over the fire, to counteract the effects of dampness.
We now come to the effects. Death, according to our author, is caused almost immediately by this poison, but it is a death without pain or struggle; the stricken animal languishes into a sleep. “ The wourali poison,” says Mr. Waterton, “ destroys life's action so gently that the victim appears to be in no pain whatever; and probably, were the truth known, it feels none, saving the momentary smart at the time the arrow enters."
Its strength was proved on a middle-sized dog. He was wounded in the thigh, in order that there might be no possibility of touching a vital part. In three or four minutes he began to be affected, smelt at every little thing on the ground around him, and looked wistfully at the wounded part. Soon after this he staggered, laid himself down, and never rose more. He barked once, though not as if in pain. His voice was low and weak, and in a second attempt it quite failed him. He now put his head betwixt his fore-legs, and raising it slowly again, he fell over on his side. His eye immediately became fixed, and though his extremities every now and then shot convulsively, he never showed the least desire to raise up his head. His heart fluttered much from the time he laid down, and at intervals beat very strong, then stopped for a moment or two, and then beat again ; and continued faintly beating several minutes, after every other part of his body seemed dead.
In a former experiment upon the dog, some faint resistance on the part of nature was observed, as if existence struggled for superiority ; but in the following instance of the sloth, life sunk in death without the least apparent contention, without a cry, without a struggle, and without a groan. This was an ai, or three toed sloth. It was in the possession of a gentleman who was collecting curiosities. He wished to bave it killed, in order to preserve the skin, and the wourali poison was resorted to as the easiest death.
Of all animals, not even the toad and tortoise excepted, this poor ill-formed creature is the most tenacious of life. It exists long after it has received wounds which would have destroyed any other animal; and it may be said, on seeing a mortally wounded sloth, that life disputes with death every inch of flesh in its body.
The ai was wounded in the leg, and put down on the floor about two feet from the table ; it contrived to reach the leg of the table, and fastened itself on it, as if wishful to ascend. But this was its last advancing step; life was ebbing fast, though imperceptibly; nor could this singular production of nature, which has been formed of a texture to resist death in a thousand shapes, make any stand against the wourali poison.
First, one fore leg let go its hold, and dropped down motionless by its side; the other gradually did the same. The fore legs having now lost their strength, the sloth slowly doubled its body, and placed its head betwixt its hind legs, which still adhered to the table ; but when the poison had affected these also, it sunk to the ground, but sunk so gently, that you could not distinguish the movement from an ordinary motion; and had you been ignorant that it was wounded with a poisoned arrow, for would never have suspected that it was dying. Its mouth was shut, nor had any froth or saliva collected there. There was no subsultus tendinum, or any visible alteration in its breathing. During the tenth minute from the time that it was wounded, it stirred, and that was all; and the minute after, life's spark went out.
From the time the poison began to operate, you would have conjectured that sleep was overpowering it, and you would have exclaimed, “ Pressit que jacentem, dulcis et alta quies, placidæque simillima morti.”
There are now two positive proofs of the effect of this fatal poison, viz. the death of the dog, and that of the sloth. But these animals were nothing remarkable for size ; and the strength of the poison in large animals might yet be doubted, were it not for what follows.
A large well-fed ox, from nine hundred to a thousand pounds weight, was tied to a stake by a rope sufficiently long to allow him to move to and fro. Having no large concourite spikes at hand, it was necessary, on account of his superior size, to put three wild hog arrows into him ; one was sent into each thigh, just above the hock, in order to avoid wounding a vital part, and the third was shot transversely into the extremity of the nostril.
The poison seemed to take effect in four minutes. Conscious as though he would fall, the ox set himself firmly on his legs, and remained quite still in the same place, till about the fourteenth minute, when he smelled the ground, and appeared as if inclined to walk. He advanced a pace or two, staggered and fell, and remained ex. tended on his side, with his head on the ground. His eye, a few minutes ago so bright and lively, 'now became fixed and dim; and though you put your hand close to it as if to give him a blow, he never closed his eyelid.
His legs were convulsed, and his head, from time to time, started involuntarily; but he never showed the least desire to raise it from the ground; he breathed hard, and emitted foam from his mouth. The startings, or subsultus tendinum, now became gradually weaker and weaker; his hinder parts were fixed in death, and in a minute or two more his head and fore legs ceased to stir.
Nothing now remained to show that life was still within him, except that his heart faintly beat and fluttered at intervals. In five-and-twenty minutes from the time of his being wounded, he was quite dead. His flesh was very sweet and savoury at dinner.
By these experiments, Mr. Waterton argues that the power of the poison is established, and that the quantity of it being proportioned to the size and strength of the animal, the effect will be fatal. The Indiáns make use of it in small quantities to kill their game, and shoot birds with arrows poisoned with it, and discharged from their blow-pipes. This simple but curious engine of destruction is minutely described by our traveller ; it is constructed of a hollow reed about ten feet long, the arrow which is blown from it is about as many inches long. The operations of the South American Indian sportsmen are thus painted :
With a quiver of poisoned arrows slung over his shoulder, and with his blow-pipe in his hand, in the same position as a soldier carries his musket, see the Macoushi Indian advancing towards the forest in quest of powises, maroudis, waracabos, and other feathered game.
These generally sit high up in the tall and tufted trees, but still are not out of the Indian's reach ; for his blow-pipe, at its greatest elevation, will send an arrow three hundred feet. Silent as midnight he steals under them, and so cautiously does he tread the ground, that the fallen leaves rustle not beneath his feet. His ears are open to the least sound, while his eye, keen as the lynx, is employed in finding out the game in the thickest shade. Often he imitates their cry, and decoys them from tree to tree, till they are within range of his tube. Then taking a poisoned arrow from his quiver, he puts it into the blow-pipe, and collects his breath for the fatal puff.
About two feet from the end through which he blows, there are fastened two teeth of the acouri, and these serve him for a sight. Silent and swift the arrow flies, and seldom fails to pierce the object at which it is sent. Sometimes the wounded bird remains in the same tree where it was shot, and in three minutes falls down at the