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Life of a Scotch Naturalist, Thomas Edward
Chapter XIII. Literature and Correspondence


A great misfortune befell Edward in 1854: his friend, the Rev. Mr. Smith, died. He was a man whose richly cultivated mind and warm heart endeared him to all with whom he came in contact. He was almost the only man of culture in the neighborhood who appreciated the character of Edward. He not only made himself his friend, but became his helper. Edward was under the impression that people looked down upon him and his work because he was a poor shoe-maker. There were other persons who knew of Edward’s perseverance, self-denial, and uncomplainingness, and also of his efforts to rise into a higher life; but they did not help him as Mr. Smith did. The true Christian gentleman treated the poor man as his friend. He treated him as one intelligent man treats another. The shoe-maker from Banff was always made welcome at the minister’s fireside at Monquhitter.

Mr. Smith helped Edward with books. He lent him such books as he had from his own library; and he borrowed books from others, in order to satisfy Edward’s inquiries about objects in natural history. He wandered about the fields with him, admiring his close observation; and he urged him to note down the facts which he observed, in order that they might be published to the world.

In one of the last letters addressed by Mr. Smith to Edward he observed: “It is, I conceive, the great defect in the natural sciences that we know so little of the real habits and instincts of the animal creation. In helping to fill up this gap, your personal minute and accurate observations will be of no little service; although individuals, solemn and wise in their own conceit, may look upon some of them as so strange as to be altogether fabulous; and that for no better reason than because during all their lives — having exercised their faculties only in eating, drinking, and sleeping—the things related have never come under the notice either of their eyes or their ears.”

We find, from a letter of Professor Dickie, that Mr. Smith endeavored to obtain employment for Edward as a preserver of British birds for the natural history collection in King’s College, Aberdeen. Many kindly letters passed between Edward and the minister of Monquliitter, sometimes about newly discovered birds, at other times about the troubles and sicknesses of their respective families. Air. Smith’s suggestion that Edward should note down his observations for publication was not, as we have seen, without effect, as the latter afterward became a contributor to the Naturalist, the Zoologist, the Ibis, the Linncean Journal, and other natural history publications.

In one of Edward’s articles in the Zoologist, he thus refers to a circumstance which happened during one of the last excursions he took with his reverend friend. He is referring to the partridge (.Perclrix cinerea). “A very cun-nino* and faithful mother is the female; for w hen she has ego's, she never leaves her nest without hiding them so carefully that it is almost impossible to detect their whereabouts; and if you take her by surprise, away she hobbles on one leg, and a wing trailing on the ground, as if wounded!. Wandering about the Waggle Hill one day with my friend, the Rev. Air. Smith, I chanced to observe a moor-fowl squatted on the ground among the heather, close to my feet; in fact, I stood above her before I noticed her. Being summer-time, I at once guessed the nature of the case. On my friend coming up, I drew his attention to the bird over which I stood. ‘Oh,' he said, ‘ she s surely dead, Mr. Edward.’ ‘Oh, no,’ said I; ‘there are eggs or young beneath her.’ ‘ Well/ he answered, ‘ if so, it is certainly a very wonderful circumstance; but we shall see.’ Then, stooping down, he touched the bird, but she did not move. ‘ She must be alive,’ he said, ‘ because she is warm; but she must be wounded, and not able to rise or fly.’ ‘ Oh no,’ I once more said; ‘ she has something beneath her which she is unwilling to leave.’ The bird allowed him to stroke her without moving, except turning her head to look at him. On my friend’s dog Sancho coming up and putting his nose close to her, she crept away through the bushes for some distance, and then took to flight, leaving a nest and fifteen eggs exposed to our gaze. Before leaving, we carefully closed up the heather again, so as to conceal as much as possible the nest and its beauteous treasure; and I need not say that we were both delighted with what we had seen. Mr. Smith was particularly struck with the incident, as he had never seen any thing of the kind before; and he remarked, ‘I verily believe that I could not have credited the fact if I had not seen it myself,’ and he afterward spoke of it with the greatest admiration.”

Edward also numbered among his friends the Rev. Alexander Boyd, of Crimond. It was through the Rev. Mr. Smith that Edward was first introduced to him. Mr. Smith was anxious that Edward should examine and observe the birds of Strathbeg, near which the village of Crimond is situated. Crimond is about thirty-five miles from Banff, ten miles from Peterhead, and about seven from Fraserburgh.

The loch of Strathbeg was at one time of limited extent. It was connected with the sea at its eastern extremity; but a hill of sand having, about the beginning of last century, been blown across the opening during a furious east wind, the connection between the loch and the sea was closed, and it became a fresli-water loch, as it remains to this day. The scenery in the neighborhood is by no means picturesque; but the loch is very attractive to sportsmen, in consequence of the number of wild fowl that frequent it, or that breed among the islands and marshes at its western extremity.

The Rev. Mr. Boyd was the parish minister of Crimond. his hospitable manse was always open to Edward when he visited the neighborhood. In one of Mr. Boyd’s letters to Edward, he said: “We have exactly the sort of room that will suit you, and you will be left at liberty to pursue your researches at your convenience; the room being so situated that you can go out or come in at any hour of the day or night, without any one being the wiser. There will always be something in the cupboard to refresh you before starting at day-break, or when you come home at night, though every one in the house may be asleep. And you may continue with us the whole week, if you be so disposed. My coble will always be at your service, and I hope to be able to accompany you on some of your rambles, though I am not nearly so agile now as I have been Mrs. Boyd is now quite well, though she had a long illness after you were here; and we have a young specimen of zoology to show you which is worth all the rare birds of Strathbeg put together!”

The number of water-fowl that Edward found about the loch was very great. During winter-time it was the haunt of birds from far and near, in prodigious numbers. In summer-time it was the breading-place of numerous birds of a different kind. The people of the neighborhood say that “all the birds of the world come here in winter.” In angry weather, when the ocean is tempest-tossed, the seabirds fly in, and, mingling with the natives, constitute a very motley group. The number of birds is so great that when a gun is fired they rise on masse, and literally darken the air, while their noise is perfectly deafening.

The swans are among the largest birds that frequent the loch. Edward found the beautiful white hooper (Ci/ynius ferns'), and the no less fair and elegant l'olish swan (Cyfirms immutaJnlis). The geese were innumerable: the bean goose (Anser segetum), the pink-footed goose (A brachy-rynclius), the white-pointed goose (A erythropns), the barnacle goose {A. lezicopsis), the brent goose {A. brenta), the Canadian goose (A Canadensis), and even the Egyptian goose (A JEgyptiacus). The last mentioned was first detected by Mr. Boyd himself. In a letter to Edward, dated the 24th of November, 1853, he said: “One morning lately I was informed that there was a strange bird of the goose tribe in my mill-dam. I sallied forth with a telescope in one hand and a double-barrel, loaded with No. 1, in the other. I first took a leisurely look at him with the former at less than one hundred yards distance, when I made the following observations: Size and appearance those of a

small wild goose; head, brown and gray mixed; back, rich brown, lightish; breast and neck, gray; tail, dark or black; tips of wings, ditto, and glossy; legs and bill, reddish; a dark ring round the neck, and a dark spot right on the centre of the breast. He was nibbling the tender grass on the dam banks. I then approached nearer. Instead of flying, he merely swam away to the other side of the pond, and seemed either very tired or else accustomed to the presence of man. I was quite within shot of him, but, from his tameness, I conjectured that he was some fancy animal escaped from a gentleman’s demesne. I then went for some corn, and scattered it on the banks, and as soon as I moved away he came to eat it. When startled, he generally makes a circuit of a quarter of a mile and returns again ; but latterly he goes to the loch of Strathbeg all night, and returns in the morning for his corn. I am afraid he will not be spared long, although I have sent word in several directions that he is not to be shot. I should be glad if he would become domesticated. I wish you would look over some of your books and tell me what he is. I have not seen a bird of the same kind before.”

From Mr. Boyd’s minute description of the bird, Edward was enabled to inform him that it could be nothing else than a specimen of that rare species, the Egyptian goose. After about two months’ sojourn in Mr. Boyd’s mill-pond, the bird flew away on the day preceding the great snowstorm of January., 1854, and never returned. Mr. Boyd was afterward enabled to ascertain the correctness of Edward’s information. He was in Liverpool, and while visiting a poulterer’s yard, he observed a bird exactly like the one that had taken shelter in his mill-pond. On inquiring its name, he was informed that it was an Egyptian goose.

The mallard, the widgeon, the teal, the garganey, the pintail, the ferruginous, the harlequin, the shoveler, the sliiel-drake, and the eider-duck, visited the loch in vast numbers. The ducks were ten times more numerous than the geese. There were the scaup (Fuligula marila), the tufted (F. cristata), the red-headed pochard or dun-bird (F. ferina), and the golden-eyed garrot (Clangula garrottd). The rednecked grebe and the black-chinned grebe also bred in the loch. Herons, bitterns, spoonbills, glossy ibises, snipes, woodcocks, green sandpipers, ruffs, dotterels, gray pliala-ropes, were also to be seen. These were the birds that mostly frequented the loch in winter. There were numerous flocks of gulls of various species, and other shore-birds, which only made visits to the loch for shelter during storms.

'When spring approached, the birds became restless. The flocks began to break up, and flights of birds disappeared daily. At length the greater part of the winter birds left, except a few stragglers. An entirely different set of birds now began to make their appearance. You could now hear the shrill whistle of the redshank, the bright carol of the lark, the wire-like call of the dunlin, the melancholy note of the wagtail, the boom of the snipe, and the pleasant peewit of the lapwing. There were also the black-headed bunting, the ring-dotterel, the wheat-ear, the meadow pipit, the reed warbler, the rose linnet, the twite, the redshank, the black-headed gull, and the arctic tern, which bred in suitable localities round the loch. Among the remaining birds were several specimens of the skua, coots, water-bens, swifts, and several kinds of swallows. The whimbrel, green-skank, water-rail, pied wagtail, roseate tern, and water-ouzel also frequented the neighborhood of the loch, but did not breed there.

In an account of “The Birds of Strathbeg,” which Edward afterward published in the Naturalist, he mentioned the curious manner in which the ring-dotterel contrives to divert attention from her nest.

While strolling along the sands in the month of July, a friend who was with him fired at a tern. Without knowing what he had fired at, Edward saw a ring-dotterel before him, which, he thought, must be the bird. It was lame, and dragging its wing behind it as if it had been sorely wounded. It lay down, as if dead. Edward came up, and put his hand down to secure it. The bird rose and flew away. Then it dropped again, hobbled and tottered about, as if inviting him to pursue it. “I stood a few seconds,” says Edward, “considering whether I would follow or not; then oil I started, determined to have it. Away went the bird, twiddling and straddling, and away I followed in hot pursuit. Round and round the sand-hillocks we scrambled until I was perfectly wearied. Nothing but the novelty of the affair could have kept me in pursuit of the wounded bird.

“In this way we continued, until I saw that I could make nothing of it by fair means; so I doubled round and met it fair in front. I was about to take hold of it, when, to my amazement, it rose and flew. Its flight, however, was of short duration, as it again suddenly dropped down, and lay on the sand as if dead. ‘ You are mine now at last,’ said I, as I observed it fall. I accordingly proceeded to take it up, in order to put it in my pocket. But, lo ! it rose again and flew away; when once more it suddenly dropped behind one of the larger hillocks. It was a beautifully marked specimen, and, fearing lest I should lose it altogether, I determined to put a stop to the wild-goose chase. Having put my gun in readiness, I proceeded in the direction in which the bird fell. But it did not rise. I searched all round, but there was no bird! I met my friend, and inquired if he had fired at a ring-dotterel. No; he had only shot at a tern. ‘ But, by-tlie-bye,’ he added, 'I found a nest and the young of that bird as I came along.’

“In a few minutes we stood beside the young ones. The spot I found to be only about three yards in advance of where my attention was first attracted to the apparently wounded bird. Having collected the little downy things, and placed them in a hollow among the sand, we again took our departure. In doing so, what should we meet but my old friend the dotterel, which again commenced its former pranks! But, no ! It was too late ; the truth had oozed out. The bird had completely deceived me, and my friend laughed heartily at my mistake.”

During one of Edward’s visits to Crimond Manse, to which some gentlemen of the neighborhood had been invited to meet him, Mr. Boyd, after dinner, when the ladies had left the room, expressed his surprise that something had not been done to enable Edward to obtain more time to pursue his researches in natural history. The gentlemen present cordially agreed with him. Mr. Boyd then proposed to insert a notice in the Fraserburgh Advertiser, and to circulate it extensively in the neighborhood. The following forms part of the article:

“During the past month our district has been visited by Mr. Edward, from Banff, a naturalist of no mean attainments, and one who, we doubt not, will soon bring himself into public notice, both by his indefatigable researches into natural science, and his valuable contributions to various scientific periodicals While there are few branches of

natural history in which he does not take an interest, it is in ornithology that he shines most conspicuously, and in this he was much encouraged by the late Rev. Mr. Smith, of Monquhitter We cordially wish Mr. Edward every success in the various fields of research upon which he has entered. It is but justice to a most deserving person to draw attention to his praiseworthy endeavors, in the midst of many difficulties, to perfect his knowledge of natural history, and to recommend it to all around him, especially the young. Happy would it be if our tradesmen were to take a leaf out of Mr. Edward’s book, and, instead of wasting their time, squandering their means, and imbittering their existence in the haunts of dissipation, they would sally forth in these calm summer evenings to rural scenes and sylvan solitudes, to woo Nature in her mildest aspect; to learn a lesson from the moth or the spider; to listen to the hum of the bee or the song of birds; to mark the various habits and instincts of animals, and thus to enrich their minds with useful and entertaining knowledge.”

Mr. Boyd’s object in publishing this notice was to attract the attention of the working-classes to the study of natural history; and. with this object he was of opinion that Edward should endeavor to disseminate among them the information which he had acquired during his long experience. He proposed that Edward should get up a series of rudimentary lectures on natural history, illustrated by specimens of birds and other objects. The lectures were first to be delivered in Banff, and, if they succeeded there, they were afterward to be delivered in Fraserburgh and other towns. Edward proceeded to prepare his illustrations. About two hundred were put in readiness. He was also negotiating for the purchase of a powerful magnifying glass, so that his patrons might better see the minute wonders of Nature as exhibited in her works.

As there was then an institution at Banff, which had been formed, among other purposes, “For the Discovery and Encouragement of Native Genius and Talent,” Mr. Boyd believed that the members would at once give their hearty co-operation to his proposed scheme. He proposed the formation of a local committee, in order that the rudimentary lectures might be brought out under their patronage. Edward was requested to name some gentlemen in Banff with whom Mr. Boyd might communicate on the subject. This was a poser; for Edward knew only a few hard-working men like himself. Nevertheless, he did give the name of a gentleman who, he thought, might give his assistance. When the gentleman was applied to, he politely declined. Edward was asked to name another. He named another, and he also declined. Thus the proposal, from which Mr. Boyd had expected so much, fell to the ground, and it was no more heard of.

Shortly after this event, Mr. Boyd died suddenly. Edward thus refers to the event: “It was but yesterday, at noon,1 that my friend the Rev. Mr. Boyd, of Crimond— while full of life and strength, and with every prospect of enjoying many, many long years to come—left his young and courteous partner and two blooming little ones, to enjoy a short walk with a neighboring gentleman. Alas! short was the walk indeed, and, woe is me! never to return. A few paces, and he dropped down and almost instantly expired. Alas! another of my best friends gone. Cruel death ! if thy hand continues to strip me thus, thou wilt soon, very soon, leave me desolate; and then who will take notice of the poor naturalist? Well may the parish of Crimond say, ‘We have lost that which we may never again find.’ Well might Mercy weep, and Religion mourn his premature departure, for in him they have lost a friend on earth; and I, alas! a friend too, and a benefactor.”

Edward completed his article on “The Birds of Strathbeg” only two days after Mr. Boyd’s death. It had been written out at his instance, and was afterward published in the Naturalist. It was one of the first papers to which Edward subscribed his own name.

So soon as Edward’s name and address appeared in the Naturalist and Zoologist, he was assailed by letters from all parts of the country. English dealers asked him to exchange birds with them. Private gentlemen offered exchanges of moths and butterflies. Professors, who were making experiments on eggs, requested contributions of eggs of all kinds. A naturalist in Norfolk desired to have a collection of sternums, or breast bones, of birds. “I have no doubt,” says Edward, “that many of my correspondents thought me unceevil, but really it would have taken a fortune in postage-stamps to have answered their letters.”

But although Edward received many applications from naturalists in different parts of the country, he himself applied to others to furnish names for the specimens which he had collected. We find a letter from Mr. Macdonald, secretary to the Elgin Museum, referring to eighty-five zoophytes which Edward had sent him to be named. Edward had no other method of obtaining the scientific names for his objects. “The naming of them,” said Mr. Macdonald, “has cost me some time and trouble Some of the zoophytes are fine specimens; others are both fine and rare. One or two have not as yet been met with on our shores. They seem to be quite new.” We also find Edward communicating with Mr. H. F. Staunton, a well-known London naturalist, relative to moths, butterflies, beetles, and other insects.

But Edward could not live on zoophytes and butterflies. His increasing family demanded his attention; and shortly after his article on “The Birds of Strathbeg” had appeared in the Naturalist, we find him applying in different directions for some permanent situation. He was willing to be a police-officer, a tide-waiter, or any thing that would bring in a proper maintenance for his family. With this object, one of his friends at Fraserburgh made an application to Mr. Charles W. Peach, then an officer of customs at Wick.

Mr. Peach was a well-known naturalist, and he has since become distinguished in connection with recent discoveries in geology. Mr. Peach had once visited Edward, in company with Mr. Greive, the customs officer at Banff. In answer to the application made to him from Fraserburgh, he said:

“I do know our friend Mr. Edward, of Banff, and I have thought a great deal about him of late. I have wondered how he was getting on in bread-and-porridge affairs. Oh, these animal wants! How often do they ride rough-shod over the intellectual man, not so much on his own account, as for those dependent on him. I have been thinking of Edward’s excellent wife and her flock of seven girls, which I saw when at Banff. They were all neat and clean, and well cared for, in a wee hit roomie—the walls covered with cases of birds. When we called, there was a sweet-cake and a glass of wine for myself and Mr. Greive. I was unhappy at refusing his wine—for you know I am an out-and-out teetotaller — but I took his cake with thankfulness. And now, what can I do for that good man and his wife and family?”

Mr. Peach went on to say that a great many Glut-men were employed at Wick harbor, to patrol the shore night and day, and prevent the landing of brandy, tobacco, and other excisable articles; that he could give Edward employment for a time at that work, hut that it could not he permanent. His age was beyond that which would allow of his being appointed a tide-waiter. Mr. Peach added, “I will not lose sight of the appointment of subcuratorship. This would be the very thing. If forty or fifty pounds a year could be obtained, that would be glorious!”

These suggestions ended in disappointment. Edward could not remove to Wick to accept a temporary appointment; and the subcuratorship could not be obtained. He therefore went on with his old work—natural history and shoe-making. But he must have been pressed by the growing wants of his family, as we find his collection of birds advertised for sale at the beginning of 1855. Again be bad recourse to his savings - bank; and again it relieved him, tbougb be parted with the results of his work during many laborious years.

He still went on writing for the periodicals. At the end of 1855 we find an article of his in the Zoologist, entitled “ Moth-bunting; or, An Evening in a Woodand in the following year be commenced in the same periodical “A List of the Birds of Banffshire, accompanied with Anecdotes.” The list was completed in eight articles, wbich appeared in 1856 and the two following years. Although his publications were received with much approval, they did not serve to increase his income, for be never received a farthing for any of his literary contributions.

Before parting with Edward’s descriptions of birds, a few extracts may be given from his articles in the Zoologist. And first, about song-birds:

“The song thrush or mavis (Turdus musicus). Who is there that has ever trod the weedy dale or whinny brake in early spring, and, having beard the mellow voice of this musician of the grove, was not struck with delight, and enchanted at the peculiar richness and softness of his tones? For my own part, I must say that of all the birds which adorn and enliven our woods, I love this one the most. There is to me a sweetness in his song which few, if any, of the other song-birds possess. Besides, be is one of the first to bail with his hymn of praise the young and opening year.

“Next to the mavis, the lark or the laverock is the bird for me, and lias been since I first learned to love the little warblers of the woods and fields. How oft, ob! bow oft, has the lark’s dewy couch been my bed, and its canopy, the hip-hazure vault, been my only covering, while overtaken by night during my wanderings after nature! And, oh! bow sweet such nights are, and bow short they seem—soothed as I have been to repose by the evening hymn of the lark, and aroused by their early lays at the first blink of morn!

“The goldfinch is also a good singing-bird. If any one wishes to have a cage-bird to cheer him with its song, let him get a male hybrid between this species and the canary, and I am sure he will not be disappointed The goldfinch’s nest is one of nature’s masterpieces. What a beautiful piece of workmanship ! how exquisitely woven together ! how light, compact, soft, and warm in its internal lining ! and how complete! What hand could imitate the woolly, feathery, mossy, cup-formed, half-ball-like structure? How vain the attempt!

“The bullfinch, though much admired as a cage-bird, can not be said to be much of a songster. It is kept more for its beauty than its music, though it is sometimes able to ‘pipe’ a very pretty tune. Now, with respect to its food. Great numbers of bull-finches are annually destroyed by our gardeners and nursery-men because they are supposed to be destructive. Now, it is a fact well known to ornithologists that although the sparrow, greenfinch, chaffinch, wren, bullfinch, and other birds, do not themselves actually live on insects, yet these form the chief food for their young. Such being the case, what an enormous and countless number of noxious and destructive creatures must they destroy! But we poor short-sighted mortals do not know this. We are all in the dark as regards the good they do us. Let them meddle with any of our seeds or fruits, and the hue and cry is, ‘ Get guns and shoot every one of them.’ I hope a better day will soon arise for these lovely little birds, when they will be cherished and encouraged rather than hated and destroyed.”

The story is told of an ancient philosopher having been killed by an eagle that dropped a tortoise upon his head for the purpose of breaking its shell. The story seems to be confirmed by the practice of the carrion and hooded crows, thus described by Edward: “They are to be found on certain parts of our coast all the year round. Our keepers destroy them whenever the opportunity occurs. I wonder that our fishermen do not destroy them also, as they feed upon a certain crustacean (Carcinus mamas) which is often used for bait. One would think that the crab’s shell would be proof against the crow; but no. He goes aloft with the crab, and lets it fall upon a stone or a rock chosen for the purpose. If it does not break, he seizes it again, goes up higher, lets its fall, and repeats his operation again and again until his object is accomplished. When a convenient stone is once met with, the birds resort to it for a long time. I myself know a pretty high rock that has been used by successive generations of crows for about twenty years.

“Besides being fond of crabs, these carrion crows are fond of fish, and though they are good fishers themselves, they seldom lose an opportunity of assailing the heron when he has made a successful dive. They rush at him immediately, and endeavor to seize his food from him. Early in the summer of 1845, while loitering about the hills of Boyndie, I observed a heron flying heavily along, as if from the sea—that rich and inexhaustible magazine of nature— and pursued by a carrion crow, followed at some distance by two magpies. They had not proceeded far when two hooded crows made their appearance, and quickly joined their black associate. The heron had by this time got into an open space between two woods, and it would appear that his enemies intended to keep him there until he had satisfied their demands. During the whole time that the affray lasted, or nearly half an hour, they did not suffer him to proceed above a few yards in any way, either backward or forward, his principal movements being in ascending or descending alternate^, in order to avoid the assaults of his pursuers. Having chosen their battle-ground, I crept behind a whin-bush, from whence I had an uninterrupted view of the whole affair.

“The manoeuvring of the crows with the heron was most admirable. Indeed, their whole mode of procedure had something in it very remarkable. So well did each seem to understand his position, that the one never interfered with the other’s point of attack. One, rising higher than the heron, descended upon him like a dart, aiming the blow in general at his head; another at the same time pecked at him sideways and from before; while the third assailed him from beneath and behind. The third crow, which peeked at him from behind, seized hold of the heron’s feet, which, being extended at full length backward, formed a very tempting and prominent object for the crow to fix on. This movement had the effect, each time, of turning the heron over, which was the signal for a general outburst of exultation among the three black rogues, manifested by their louder cawings and whimsical gesticulations—no doubt laughing (if crows can laugh) at seeing their opponent turning topsy-turvy in the air, which, from his unwieldy proportions, was rather a comical sight.

“During one of his somersaults, the heron disgorged something, but, unfortunately for him, it was not observed by any of the crows. When it fell to the ground, the magpies, which were still chattering about, fell upon it and devoured it. Finding no relief from what he had dropped, and being still hard pressed, he again disgorged what appeared to be a small fish. This was noticed by one of the hooded crows, who speedily descended, picked it up, and made off with it, leaving his two companions to fight the battle out. The heron, having now got rid of one of his pursuers, determined to fly away in spite of all opposition. But his remaining assailants, cither disappointed at the retreat of their comrade, or irritated at the length of the stru2.-o;lc, recommenced their attack with renewed vigor. So artfully did they manage, that they kept the heron completely at bay, and baffled all his endeavors to get away. Wearied at last of the contest, lie once more dropped something, which, from its length, seemed to be an eel. On its being observed by his opponents, they quickly followed it. In their descent, they fell a fighting with each other. The consequence was that the eel, falling to the ground, was set upon by the magpies. The crows gave up fighting, descended to the ground, and assailed the magpies. The latter were soon repulsed. Then the crows seized hold of the eel with their bills, and kept pulling at it until eventually it broke in two. Each kept hold of its portion, when they shortly rose up and flew away among the trees. In the mean time, the heron was observed winging his way in the distance; sick at heart, because he had been plundered by thieves, and robbed of the food which he had intended for his family.”

The carrion and hooded crows also attack hares and rabbits. “ While walking one morning along the Deveron with a friend, our attention was attracted by what seemed to us to be the faint cries of a child in distress. On looking in the direction from which the sounds proceeded, we beheld two crows pursuing and tormenting a hare, by every now and then pouncing down upon it. Each blow seemed to be aimed at the head; and each time that one was given the hare screamed piteously. The blows soon had the effect of stupefying the creature. Sometimes they felled it to the ground. We eventually lost sight of the crows, but doubtless they would at last kill and devour the hare. I remember, while out on the hills at Boyndie, witnessing another though a less daring attack. Concealed among some trees and bushes, waiting for a cuckoo which I expected to pass, I observed a half-grown rabbit emerge from some whins, and begin to frolic about close by. Presently down pops a hoodie, and approaches the rabbit, whisking, prancing, and jumping. He seemed to be most friendly, courteous, and liumorsome to the little rabbit. All of a sudden, however, as if he meant to finish the joke with a ride, he mounts the back of the rabbit. Up springs the latter, and away he runs. But short was his race. A few sturdy blows about tlie bead from the bill of the crow laid him dead in a few seconds.”

By the year 1858 Edward had accumulated another splendid collection. It was his third, and probably his best. The preserved birds were in splendid order. Most of them were in their natural condition—flying or fluttering, pecking or feeding—with their nests, their eggs, and sometimes their young. He had also a large collection of insects, including many rare beetles—together with numerous fishes, crustaceans, zoophytes, mollusks, fossils, and plants.

Although Edward still continued his midnight explorations, he felt that he must soon give them up. Lying out at night can not be long endured in this country. It is not the cold, so much as the damp, that rheumatizes the muscles and chills the bones. When going out at night, Edward was often advised to take whisky with him. He was told that, if he would drink it when he got wet or cold, it would refresh and sustain him, and otherwise do him a great deal of good. Those who knew of his night-wanderings wondered how he could ever have endured the night air and been kept alive without the liberal use of whisky. But Edward always refused. lie never took a drop of whisky with him; indeed, he never drank it, either at home or abroad. “I believe,” he says, “that if I had indulged in drink, or even had I used it at all on these occasions, I could never have stood the cold, the wet, and the other privations to which I was exposed. As for my food, it mainly consisted of good oatmeal cakes. It tasted very sweet, and was washed down with water from the nearest spring. Sometimes, when I could afford it, my wife boiled an egg or two, and these were my only luxuries. But, as I have already said, water was my only drink.”

In 1858 Edward had reached his forty-fourth year. At this age, men who have been kindly reared and fairly fed are usually in their prime, both of mind and body. But Edward had used himself very hardly; he had spent so many of his nights out-of-doors, in the cold and the wet; he had been so tumbled about among the rocks; he had so often, with all his labors, to endure privation, even to the extent of want of oatmeal—that it is scarcely to be wondered at if at that time his constitution should have been in to show marks of decay. He had been frequently laid up by colds and rheumatism. Yet, when able to go out again, he usually returned to his old courses.

At last his health gave way altogether. He was compelled to indulge in the luxury of a doctor. The doctor was called in, and found Edward in a rheumatic fever, with an ulcerated sore throat. There he lay, poor man, his mind wandering about his birds. He lay for a month. He got over his fever, but he recovered his health slowly. The doctor had a serious talk with him. Edward was warned against returning to his old habits. He was told that, although his constitution had originally been sound and healthy, it had, by constant exertion and exposure to cold and wet, become impaired to a much greater degree than had at first been supposed. Edward was also distinctly informed that if he did not at once desist from his nightly wanderings, his life would not be worth a farthing. Here, it appeared, was to be the end of his labors in natural history.

Next came the question of family expenditure and doctor’s bills. Edward had been ill for a month, and the debts incurred during that time must necessarily be paid. There was his only savings-bank — his collection of birds — to meet the difficulty. He was forced to draw upon it again. Accordingly, part of it was sold. Upward of forty cases of birds went, together with three hundred specimens of mosses and marine plants, with other objects not contained in cases. When these were sold, Edward lost all hopes of ever being able again to replenish his shattered collection.

Although Edward’s strength had for the most part been exhausted, his perseverance was not. We shall next find him resorting to another branch of natural history, in which he gathered his most distinguished laurels.


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