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the barking of a dog, which gave me fresh courage, and going a little further, I came to a part of the common which I knew; so that I then easily found my way home, after having almost despaired of doing it.
When I got home, my father told me I had seen what people call a will-of-the-wisp, and said that these things are only vapours which rise out of the earth in moist and fenny places.
Adapted from “ Sandford and Merton."
The days are cold, the nights are long,
Save thee, my pretty love!
The kitten sleeps.upon the hearth;
Then why so busy thou ?
Nay! start not at that sparkling light;
sin-gu-bar work-screw equir-sel
parallel entitled scorpion
scor-pion This singular animal is destined by nature to live and die in the trees; and to do justice to him, should be examined in this his upper element. He is a scarce and solitary animal, and being good food, he is never allowed to escape.
He inhabits remote and gloomy forests, where snakes take up their abode, and where cruelly-stinging ants and scorpions, and swamps, and innumerable thorny shrubs and bushes obstruct the steps of civilised man. He has no soles on his feet, and he is evidently ill at ease when he tries to move on the ground. His fore-legs, or more
correctly speaking, his arms, are apparently much too long, while his hind-legs are very short, and look as if they could be bent almost to the shape of a corkscrew. Both the fore and hind legs, by their form, and by the manner in which they are joined to the body, are quite incapable of supporting the poor animal on the earth, as the bodies of other quadrupeds are supported by their legs. Now granted that he supported himself on his legs like other animals, nevertheless he would be in pain, for he has no soles to his feet, and his claws are very sharp and long and curved; so that, were his body supported by his feet, it would be by their extremities, just as your body would be were you to throw yourself on all fours, and try to support it on the ends of your toes and fingersa trying position. Were the floor of glass, or of a polished surface, the sloth could not move; but as the ground is generally rough, with little protuberances upon it, such as stones, or roots of grass, &c., this just suits the sloth, and he moves his fore-legs in all directions, in order to find something to lay hold of; and when he has succeeded, he pulls himself forward, and is thus enabled to travel onwards, but at the same time in so tardy and awkward a manner, as to acquire for him the name of sloth.
Indeed, his looks and his gestures evidently betray his uncomfortable situation, and as a sigh every now and then escapes him, we may be entitled to conclude that he is actually in pain.
The sloth, in its wild state, spends its whole life in trees, and never leaves them but through force, or by accident. An all-ruling Providence has ordered man
to tread on the surface of the earth, the eagle to soar in the skies, and the monkey and squirrel to inhabit the trees. Still these may change their relative situations without feeling much inconvenience; but the sloth is doomed to spend his whole life in the trees. What is more extraordinary, not upon the branches, like the squirrel and the monkey, but under them. He moves suspended from the branch, he rests suspended from it, and he sleeps suspended from it. To enable him to do this, he must have a very different formation from that of any known quadruped. Hence it is but fair to surmise that it enjoys life just as much as any other animal
When asleep, he supports himself from a branch parallel to the earth. He first seizes the branch with one arm, and then with the other, and after that brings up both his legs, one by one, to the same branch, so that all four are in a line; he seems perfectly at rest in this position. There is a singularity in his hair different from that of all other animals; it is thick and coarse at the extremity, and gradually tapers to the root, when it becomes fine as a spiders web. His fur has so much the hue of the moss which grows on the branches of the trees, that it is very difficult to make him out when at rest. He moves from tree to tree by the interwoven branches. He travels at a good round pace; and were you to see him pass from tree to tree as I have done, you would never think of calling him a sloth.
One day I saw a large two-toed sloth on the ground upon a bank of a river ; how he had got there nobody could tell. The Indian with me said he had never
surprised a sloth in such a situation before; he would hardly have come there to drink, for both above and below the place the branches of the trees touched the water, and afforded him an easy and safe access to it. Be this as it may, though the trees were not above twenty yards from him, he could not make his way through the sand time enough to escape before we landed. As soon as we got up to him he threw himself on his back, and defended himself in gallant style with his fore-legs. “Come, poor fellow !” said I to him, “if thou hast got into a hobble to-day, thou shalt not suffer for it; I'll take no advantage of thee in thy misfortune. The forest is large enough both for thee and me to rove in ; go thy ways up above, and enjoy thyself in these endless wilds; it is more than probable thou wilt never have another interview with man. So fare thee well.” On saying this, I took a long stick which was lying there, held it for him to hook on, and then conveyed him to a high and stately tree. He now went off in a side direction, and caught hold of the branch of a neighbouring tree; he then proceeded towards the heart of the forest. I stood looking on, lost in amazement at his singular mode of progress. I followed him with my eye till the intervening branches closed in betwixt us; and then I lost sight for ever of the two-toed sloth. I was going to add that I never saw a sloth take to his heels in such earnest; but the expression will not do, for the sloth has no heels.
Adapted from "Waterton's Wanderings.”