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and the exterior vanes towards the body; so that, whether the pinion be extended or shut, the edge is as neatly sloped, and completely finished, as if trimmed constantly with a pair of scissors.
MRS. HARCOURT. Here is the quill-feather of a goose: take the microscope, children, and examine the laminæ, or small feathers, which compose the vanes. You will discover as much contrivance and design in each of those small parts, as in the whole feather.
AUGUSTA. I should have thought it a perfect feather, if I had not seen it put into the glass. One side is thin and smooth, but the other edge is divided into two rows of hairs, broad at bottom, and narrow toward the top.
CECILIA. I see the hairs you mention very plainly: those on one side are straight, but those on the other are hooked.
CHARLES. Do you remark that the hooked beards are always placed next those that are straight? I suppose that is for the purpose. of bracing the lamina together.
SOPHIA. Had these vanes consisted of one continued membrane, an accidental injury would be irreparable, and the poor bird must remain lame, and find a difficulty in flying, till the return of the moulting season.
HENRY. How large it looks! We should never have known half of these wonders without microscopes.
MR. HARCOURT. We have been insensibly led from one thing to another, till our time is fully spent. I designed to have related to you many entertaining particulars relative to the different methods of catching birds, but they must be deferred till a future opportunity.
HENRY. Pray let us hear them to-morrow night. I wish it were not too late now.
MR. HARCOURT. With all my heart. I promise to resume the same subject at our next meeting. Adieu!
HENRY. My mind was so taken up with the conversation last night, when I went to bed, that I dreamed of nothing but decoys and setting of traps. Pray, papa, begin to tell us those contrivances for catching birds, which you had not time to relate.
MR. HARCOURT. It is with great willingness I comply with your request, since I am certain your tenderness [and humanity will never permit you to avail yourself of my information, to entrap or destroy a harmless bird wantonly. All creatures are given for our use, and are subject to our power. It is therefore allowable to kill them for food, or other necessary purposes; but the boy who is capable of inflicting pain, without any other motive than that vile and debasing one, of beholding the sufferings of the poor victim, is
already hardened to a degree that prepares him for the perpetration of cruelty towards his fellow men, when arrived at manhood. Geese and ducks are caught by various means, in different countries. It would be tedious to repeat every particular method, as many of them have a great similarity; but there is one, used both in the East and West Indies, as well as in China, that is very curious. Charles is acquainted with it, and will save me the trouble of describing it.
CHARLES. The fowler wades into the water up to the chin; and having his head covered with the skin of a dried gourd, called a calabash, approaches the ducks, which, unmindful of this object, suffer him to mix among them, when he takes as many as he pleases, with the greatest facility, by drawing them by the legs under the water. This method is often practised on the river Ganges, substituting the earthern vessels of the Gentoos instead of calabashes. These vessels are what the Gentoos boil their rice in, and are called kutcharee pots. When once they have been used, they look upon them as defiled, and
throw them into the river, where they are picked up for the purpose I have mentioned.
MRS. HARCOURT. The Chinese prefer tame ducks to wild ones; and, it is said, hatch great numbers by artificial heat. The eggs are laid in boxes of sand, and placed upon a brick hearth, to which is given a proper heat during the time required for hatching them. The ducklings are fed with the flesh of crawfish and crabs, chopped small, and mixed with boiled rice. In about a fortnight they are put under the care of an old duck, which teaches them to provide for themselves; being first habituated to a sampane, or boat, from which the whole flock, often to the number of three or four hundred, thus brought up, go out to feed, and return at command. About the time of cutting the rice, and reaping the crop, these duck-sampanes are commonly seen rowing up and down the river, according to the opportunity of procuring food; which is found plentifully when the tide ebbs, on the rich plantations which are overflowed at high water. It is surprising to see thousands of ducks belonging to different boats,