« AnteriorContinuar »
“ Until the naked membrane acquires its tinge of red, it is not easy to distinguish between the two sexes; but on the approach of the first winter, the young males show a rudiment of the tuft of hairs upon the breast, consisting at first of a mere tubercle : in the second year, the tuft is about three inches long; and in the third the bird attains its adult form, although it certainly continues to increase in size and beauty for several years. Females have their full size and colouring at the end of four years : they then possess the pectoral fascicle, four or five inches in length, but much thinner than in the male. This appendage is more frequently observed, and is acquired at an earlier period of life, in the wild than in the domestic female.
“ The wild turkey has been found native from the north-western territory of the United States to the Isthmus of Panama. Towards the north, Canada appears to be the limit of its range; but from this country, as well as from the more densely peopled parts of the American Union, where it was once extremely abundant, it is gradually disappearing before the encroachments of the lord of the creation. To the west, the Rocky Mountains seem to form a barrier that it has never passed, if, indeed, it has reached them ; but the wooded districts of the western States are still plentifully supplied with this valuable game, which there forms an important part of the subsistence of the hunter and the traveller. In the north-eastern States it is now become extremely rare, although it is still occasionally found in the mountainous parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania; while in the south, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, where, three centuries ago, it was most plentiful, have still a small supply."
The varied plumage of the bird in the domesticated state is well known to every one ; and in no species is that sure mark of subjection to man more strongly seen. Every gradation of colour, from its original bronze, passing into buff, and, in many instances, into pure white, may be observed in these strutting denizens of our farm-yards.
But handsome as is the wild turkey (Meleagris Gallopavo), which has been our theme, there is yet another wild American species (Meleagris ocellata), first described by Cuvier, from a bird which was once English, but is now the property of the French Government, far more beautiful.
The crew of a vessel who were cutting wood in the Bay of Honduras saw three of these noble birds, and succeeded in taking one alive. It was sent to Sir Henry Halford; but an accident, while yet it was on the Thames, deprived it of life, and Sir Henry presented it to Mr. Bullock, whose museum, then in the Egyptian Hall, was the place of deposit for the most valuable subjects of Natural History. When that rich collection was dispersed, this unique specimen was suffered to leave the country with a multitude of other rarities, which are, even now, the stars of foreign establishments. It was heart-breaking to see one fine lot knocked down after another, and to learn that it was become the property of our inore enlightened and more liberal rivals, and no longer to remain on English ground. M. Temminck has given a good figure of it in the “Planches Coloriées ;” and the following is, in great part, from Sir William Jardine's description, which was taken from that of Temminck.
In size it is nearly equal to the common turkey, but the tail is not so ample. The bill is of the same form, and the base with a caruncle, which is apparently capable of the same dilatations and contractions with that of its congener. The head and two-thirds of the neck are naked, and appear of the same livid colour, but without any trace of the fleshy tubercles on the lower part which are so prominent a feature in the physiognomy of the common turkey: the only appearance of any is five or six above each eye, five upon the centre of the crown, and, upon the side of the neck, six or seven, arranged in a line above each other, and at nearly equal distances. Upon the breast there was no trace of the tuft of hair; but the plumage was somewhat damaged, and the examination of other specimens must determine whether this character is also present in the species under consideration. The feathers are rounded at the ends; those of the lower part of the neck, the upper part of the back, the scapulars, and the lower part, are of a metallie green or bronze hue, terminated by two bands, one black, and that next the tip of a golden bronze. On the other parts of the back, the distribution of the colours is the same; but, towards the tail coverts, the tints become comparatively vivid, the bronzed hues changing into rich blue or emerald-green, according to the incidence of the rays of light, and the band next the tip becoming broader and more golden. Upon the rump, red becomes mingled with the tints, so as to remind the observer of the throat of the ruby-crested humming-bird. A band of deep velvety black separates the blue from this border, and makes the brightness of the latter more striking. The hidden part of each feather is gray, mottled with black : upon the tail and upper coverts this gray part becomes apparent, and the marks take the form of subcircular bars, two of which surrounding the blue band give to each feather an ocellated appearance. From the arrangement of the tail-coverts and the lower feathers of the rump there are four rows with these ocellated tips, where the gray basal portion of the feathers is visible, combining very chastely with the more vivid colour, and keeping down its lustre. The tail is rounded, and consists of fourteen feathers. The lower parts of the body are banded with bronze, black, and green ; but they want the brilliancy of the upper plumage. The quills and bastard-wing are black, edged obliquely with white, which almost entirely occupies the outer margin of the first. The outer webs of the secondaries are of a pure white, the central bands not appearing when the wings are closed : the uppermost are blotched in the centre with black, lustrous with green ; and this blotching, as the feathers shorten, extends more over their surface, leaving the edge only of the last white. The greater coverts are of a chestnut colour; and the feet and legs are of a fine lake, or purplish red.
We have given this description, not without hope that it may perchance meet the eye of some one who has the will as well as the power to bring the magnificent bird to this country. What has been done once may be done again; and we trust that, next time, it will be done effectually. With the naturalized poultry from Asia, Africa, and America before our eyes, there cannot exist a doubt that the Ocellated Turkey would thrive with us. The benefactor who conferred the domestic turkey upon Europe is unknown. He who succeeds in naturalizing the ocellated turkey will have the merit of introducing the most beautiful addition to our parks and homesteads—to say nothing of its utility-since the importation of the peacock; and, in these days of record, his name will not be forgotten.
SCENES IN A COUNTRY HOUSE.
NO. 1.--TWELFIH NIGHT AT CLAVERING HALL.
The announcement in the various papers that“ Clavering Hall would be the scene of great gaiety during the season of Christmas, and would boast a succession of distinguished visiters,"contained in it more truth than such paragraphs can usually boast. True, indeed, it was that Lord and Lady Clavering had determined that their winter festivities should this year be worthy of the fame they had acquired amongst their Sussex neighbours. As, however, the enjoyments of Christmas-day had been necessarily tempered by the more serious observances which its occurrence on a Sunday required, and as the same scruples had forbid them to dance beyond the verge of the new year, they reserved their greatest efforts, and their pleasantest neighbours, for their party on the Twelfth Night.
On the evening of that day the various guests had duly arrived, happy mothers and smiling daughters in well-filled carriages, and a few younger brothers in the solitary dignity of a hack chaise from the nearest mailcoach road. The dressing-bell had rung, and already both old and young were profiting by its hint. Here perhaps was some mere dandy, whose toilet boasted all the luxuries of a petite maîtresse. Further on some budding flower of loveliness, dejà femme par la beauté, encore enfant dans ses manières, on whom to bestow additional adornment was but “ to paint the lily," was wondering whom she should meet, and thinking whom she would like to meet. In the next chamber some dowager, once “passing fair,” now, alas! past, who felt that, as the Frenchman says, “Cette beauté ne fut plus écrite sur son front qu'en traces hieroglyphiques," was in vain running after her flying charms, which have already got many years start of her, or carefully occupied in planting “beauty's ensign on her cheeks.” Here, too, the newly-arrived abigail, frozen from cold and with everything to unpack, was attempting to do that in twenty minutes which, on less important occasions, required a good hour,-namely, to give as juvenile an appearance as possible to one whom racketing, and raking, and “many a vanished year,” had combined to stamp“ with all the characters of age.”
While, then, the various guests were thus occupied with their toilette, there was one in a small room at the top of the house who appeared busied with other cares than those of dress. A young and cleverlooking man with handsome features was intently writing on small strips of paper. This was the tutor of the family, who had been requested by Lady C avering to write the characters which were to be drawn, on the appearance of the twelfth-cake, after dinner. He had been the favourite companion at College of Lord Clavering's eldest son; but, alas ! those talents which had ensured his popularity there, could not preserve him from the necessity of accepting a dependent situation, and he gladly yielded to the warmly-expressed wish of Mr. Clavering that it should at least be in the family of his friend. Even here, however, the impossibility of his mixing on terms of perfect equality with the different guests became apparent, and it was only in consequence of his young pupils joining in the sports of the evening, and from a
wish to add to their amusement, that he consented, at Lady Clavering's request, to undertake what was likely to bring him more into notice than he wished. He was, however, young and naturally of high spirits, and the composition of the characters, which had been begun as a task, he, when once in the vein, pursued with zest.
He had already completed the number, when he remembered that they were all, to a certain degree, uncomplimentary, and he determined to write one in a different style for the sake of Lucy, the second daughter, who, perhaps from the fact of her not having yet left the school-room, treated him more as her elder brother's friend than as her younger brothers' tutor. He finished his lines, and secretly hoping that fortune would be good enough to allot that particular character to her, he thrust the rest of them into his pocket, and descended to the drawingroom. If the thought occurred to him as he walked down stairs that the other characters were by no means flattering, it was only to smile at the recollection, as he soon dismissed all ide that any one could take offence where none was meant.
He found the whole party assembled in the drawing-room, and his handsome figure and clever countenance attracted attention, and produced inquiry among the young ladies who did not know him; when, however, they learnt that it was only Mr. Arthur, the tutor," they were satisfied, and let him retreat into his quiet corner.
Dinner passed off, as such dinners in the country will do, but heavily to all except those who were able to establish an animated tête-à-têté. The Marquis of Dulwich, who, in consideration of his title, enjoyed the brevet rank of a man of talent, fired off, at sundry long intervals, some very ponderous puns, which were duly repeated to those who were not fortunate enough to hear them the first time, and also to some that were; and Mr. Rose Green, the fine gentleman of the party, enlightened the natives as to the last chit-chat of the clubs, and the merits of the Opera Buffa. The only portion of the party that seemed really merry was collected at a side-table, and included Lucy, the second daughter, of course, and (also of course) the tutor. Indeed, as the merry laugh of the former reached the ears of Lady Clavering, she dispatched a look in that direction, which seemed to say very clearly,“ Remember, my dear Lucy, you are not in the school-room.”
At length, dinner over, and the whole party, including the gentlemen, assembled in the drawing-room, the twelfth-cake was produced, and Mr. Arthur was deputed by Lady Clavering to carry round the slips of paper on which were written the characters. He would gladly have avoided this, but as he did not like to refuse, he secretly determined to take advantage of this to give his friend Lucy the character he had written for her. It was settled that none should look at their characters till it was their turn to read it aloud to the party. Unluckily for poor Mr. Arthur he was detected in the act of accomplishing his mancuvre as to Lucy, by that young lady herself, who exclaimed, with characteristic simplicity
“ Oh! but, Mr. Arthur, you did not do it fair; you shuffled this one into my hand;
you When he was thus taxed with it, his glowing cheeks would have rendered any denial useless, even if he had intended one. Unfortunately, all this attracted general attention to him and his characters, and the
reading aloud of the one he had given to Lucy was looked for with curiosity.
“ I dare say,” cried one, that Miss Lucy is not the only one to whom Mr. Arthur has taken care to give an appropriate character.”
“ Oh no,” said another, we shall no doubt each of us get either a warning or a compliment."
The Marquis of Dulwich, who was rather deaf, inquired what it was they were saying, and Lady Clavering, who, though annoyed at the whole thing, thought it better not to show it, replied
dear Lord, it is only that they have detected Mr. Arthur here in conjuring a particular character into the hand of my little girl
, Lucy; and now they say they are sure he has done so to all of us, and that we shall each find something appropriate said of us.”
“ Eh? what ? ah! capital !” said the Marquis; “ well, then, as the reading is to begin with me, and as my eyes are not very good by candlelight, I will just get Mr. Arthur to read mine."
Mr. Arthur would gladly have excused himself, he was obliged however to take the strip of paper and read as follows :
That your usual silence is wisdom indeed. The Marquis, who had listened with a smile of approval to the first lines, made a very ineffectual attenipt to get up a laugh at the end, while the rest of the party, seeing this, made an ineffectual effort to suppress one. Very much obliged to Mr. Arthur, I am sure,” said the Marquis.
It was now, however, Mr. Rose Green's turn to read; opening his slip of paper he found it headed
You lose nothing in weight since your head is so thick. Mr. Rose Green made some sarcastic remark about Mr. Arthur's having a very happy talent for delicate satire, and thrust his paper into his waistcoat pocket. The lady of the house, who was next to him, found herself the possessor of the following name and verse :
For remembering every one's faults—but your own. Lady Clavering having managed to take the thing more good-humouredly than those who had preceded her, others followed. It were, however, useless to describe each person to whom the following names and characters were allotted. Suffice it to say, that they read their verses with a look and a tone which too often seemed to imply“ that was levelled at me,” and with a want of spirit and ear for poetry which almost tempted Mr. Arthur to exclaim, with Orlando, “I pray you mar no more of my verses with reading them ill-favouredly." The following, by means flattering descriptions, were distributed in some cases most unhappily happily.