Imatges de pÓgina
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

have named there are upwards of forty they have secured, and which, in many
others, in twenty of which, containing small cases, is so big in comparison with their
specimens, the view is through the surface own size, that they are compelled to drop
of the water as well as through the front it before they reach the spot were they
glasses, while the other twenty-one are re- had hoped to devour it in safety. From
serve receptacles) there is not one which prawns to lobsters is a natural step, and
cannot be brought, when needed, into free pausing before the tank where these last-
contact with the
open air.

named specimens are contained, our guide A very cursory inspection will show informs us that they are on the whole a that the expectations of the success of maligned race, being accredited with an this aquarium are based upon the fact amount of bad temper, and an inclination that in its construction the useful and the for free - fighting, which they certainly practical have been studied, rather than do not possess. One noticeable point the ridiculous theatrical decoration with in the physical organisation of the lobster which its predecessors have been dis- is, that should one of its legs become figured. In most of the continental injured, the lobster immediately drops aquaria (notably in the aquarium at Ber- it off, the point of severance being at the lin, which cost forty-five thousand pounds, last joint close to the body; no bleeding and which may be cited as a splendid ensues, for a skin immediately forms over specimen of costly wrong-doing), money the stump, and a new limb then begins to has been lavishly expended upon decoration grow. It will be strange, perhaps, to the of rockwork, which is placed outside the uninitiated to learn that the lobster casts tanks, with the view of giving the specta- its shell as the snake casts its skin or the tors the idea that they are in a submarine bird moults its feathers. When the fish grotto. This is an expensive attempt at becomes aware of this approaching event deception, which deceives no one, and is -conscious that during the time of its inutterly useless. That rockwork is essen- disposition it will be utterly helpless in the tial for the comfort of the animals we event of attack, in its soft state, when other grant, but then it must be placed, as at animals can easily tear it up as foodthe Crystal Palace, inside the tank. Errors it establishes itself beneath a shelving such as this are seldom, if ever, committed rock, with a rock on either side, and by any educated naturalist, but spring from burrowing into a hole, throws up the the fertile brain of the scenic artist or sand and shingle which it has thus distheatrical property-man; and hence, when placed, as a kind of earthwork in front of

, they exist, it may be judged that they it. When the shell is finally cast, the never coexist with the right spirit which lobster is in a state of exhaustion, but recontrives and conducts what is purely a maining perfectly quiet its vigour returns, natural history exhibition with permanent and in about three days the new shell has

become hard and strong enough to enable It is now, however, time more closely to its wearer to pursue its ordinary life. In inspect the inhabitants of the tanks, and this same tank is the great spiny lobster or our first halt is made before number seven- crawfish, differing from its fellows in the teen, at the far end, where are the prawns. fact that its limbs are single-clawed, and At the moment of our arrival but few that its external antennæ are furnished with of these gentry seemed to be about, and sharp bristling points, enabling it to repel we saw nothing but half a dozen prawns any troublesome attack, such attacks being walking with great dignity over the always made from the promptings of hunshingle and rocks at the bottom of the ger, never from spite, as with man. tank, as though enjoying a constitutional. In other tanks are specimens of the The next instant a shower of food, con conger-eel and the fresh-water eel, the latsisting of chopped mussel, was poured ter living perfectly well in sea-water, both into the tank, and not merely did the hiding by day and searching for their food promenading prawns relax their dignity at night'; soles and flounders swimming and strike upwards in search of their gracefully, the former with a snake-like, dinner, but the whole scene changed in an undulating motion; cod, of which there are instant. From the rocks to which they eight members of its family present,

all had been clinging, or under which they of them feeding well and growing fast, in. had been concealing, came prawns in cluding whiting. Of the labridæ, so-called scores, all hunting for their food; now because of their protusile lips (or wrasses tussling with each other for choice morsels, in their English name), there are several now swimming away with the prize which specimens living and flourishing. The male



of Labrus mixtus, the blue-striped wrasse, which the creature forcibly ejects from a is the most gorgeous fish of the British short pipe or funnel, and by altering the seas : its body is marked with longitudinal position of which, it can change the direcbands of most brilliant blue on a gronnd tion of its progress. Shrimps are the food of greenish brown bronze, while the fins on which the octopus and its near relative, are of deep yellow bordered with blue. the eledone, in the same tank, live, and when The female is of a light red colour, with they are hungry they sally forth from their black and white spots on the back. As home and drop down over the sand where these beauties in the male cannot be well the shrimps are burrowing. These feel their discerned in the ordinary way, they have persecutors and endeavour to fly, but the been accommodated with a special tank, thin webbed skin connecting the eight feet swimming in which they can be looked of the octopus encloses them like a net, down upon obliquely from above. In and they are the monster's prisoners, to neighbouring tanks are the dragonet, the be devoured at his leisure. sharp spines on whose gill-covers can Of sea anemones, there are in the Crysinflict wounds when he is handled, and the tal Palace Aquarium twenty-one species, all brilliantly glowing green of the eyes of alive and doing well. Of these the largest which, combined with its gorgeous hues is the Tealia crassicornis, or thick-horned generally, especially in the male, makes it anemone, which, owing to its great size, deserve its English epithet of gemmeous sometimes ten inches across when fully exdragonet. The gobies and blennies, which panded, permits its interior to be easily are so tame that they will suffer themselves examined. The smallest in the aquarium to be taken up in the hand, and will some- is never more than one-tenth of an inch in times feed there, are also present. There, diameter at its greatest stretch. Although too, is the sea-water stickle-back, which to the uninstructed and unobservant eye builds itself a regular nest of seaweed these anemones appear to belong to the sewn together with threads exuded from vegetable rather than to the animal kingits body (as spiders exude the materials dom, looking like specimens of weed or for their webs), the greedy bullhead, the fungus, only two, they being coral, out of gurnard, with elegant jay-like winged pec- the twenty-one specimens in the Crystal toral fins, and the poisonous weever. Our Palace Aquarium are absolutely non-locoguide has reserved to the last the real lions motive, being fixed immovably during the of the aquarium, the octopus and the sea whole of their existence to a hard base. anemones.

All the others have the power of locomoThe octopus has lately enjoyed a vast tion, accomplished in a snail-like manner, amount of popularity. He has been de- in various degrees: one of them, the placlared to be the pieuvre, or devil-fish, which mose anemone, having been known to travel attacked the hero of Victor Hugo's Toilers from three to six inches in twenty-four of the Sea, and it has been declared of him hours. The anemones are carnivorous, that he will leave the water and attack a and are fed with the flesh of the mussel, man on the shore. Certainly in any con- which is cut into small pieces, and being test with the octopus in the Crystal Palace handed to them by an attendant, with a Aquarium, either in or out of the water, a pair of wooden tongs, is grasped by the man would have much the best of it. The tentacles, and by them conveyed to the octopus belongs to the family of “cuttles," mouth in the centre of the topinost disc, and is a carnivorous mollusc, with a body which, gaping open, receives it and passes enclosed in a soft, thick, tough, elastic bag, it into the stomach. The high state of instead of being enclosed—as in the case health of this collection of anemones is of the whelk, who is the poor relation of shown by the fact that they are almost the same family-in a hard spiral shell. all nearly constantly open, even by day, For a foot the octopus has a broad flat this being the normal condition of anemones organ, cut up radially into eight strips, in the sea, where they are seldom closed, which are armed on their under surfaces save when in the act of taking food, or with rows of cup-shaped suckers, with when stranded. In the Crystal Palace, which it can take firm hold even after indeed, they are quite as much expanded death. The bases of the eight feet are by day as by night, though, with one exconnected by a thin webbed skin, and ception (anthea), they are nocturnal. As when the animal wishes to shoot back- the process of seeing them and the other wards through the water these bases are animals fed is very popular, especially with drawn together, while the swiftness of the the visitors on Saturday afternoons, it motion is increased by the stream of water has been found necessary to make Sunday a jour maigre, or absolute starvation day, in a hoarse and confidential way to the chief in order to keep them in health. A curious of the establishment in a corner, was no proof of the need of an aquarium such as other than Mrs. Rudd herself. this, as a means of instruction, is to be The mansion where the festivities came found in the fact that most English people, off was a sort of letting villa, one in a long of all classes, refuse to recognise water row, where the lady had taken apartments creatures as “animals.” They may be for the season. When the guest entered fish, shell-fish, or anything but animals, as the hall, his hat was violently taken from of course they are.

him by a robust country girl, who forthAnd now we take leave of our companion, with attached a large label to the crown having seen fully enough to be certain that by what seemed to be a huge corking-pin ; in him the Crystal Palace Aquarium has a for the material cracked and crunched most efficient and devoted manager, and under the cruel operation. It was immethe inhabitants of its tanks a loving and diately made to form part of a large bank or intelligent curator, who, from natural mound, which was being built up against ability and long study, knows, perhaps, the wall, and seemed already tottering. more than any one else of the habits and Another girl (lent) ran up-stairs to annecessities of the strange creatures whose nounce, and showed me to the hawk-faced home is under the sea.

hostess, who was dressed in a limp, black dress, and seemed to be allowed the privi

lege, as hostess, of being distinguished by A BATCH OF BALLS.

an almost squalidness of attire. The room,

a little lodging-house drawing-room, had That no such weary and laborious task been almost left bare, the furniture had been exists as that of marrying one's daughters, cleared out, and a few chairs were set round any matron will tell us, who, with method the wall with quite regimental accuracy. I and monster drudgery, lays herself to the saw the company arrive, who all entered task. Under the average conditions of the with a sort of delight, as if after a long world, it would be Sisyphean. The worn separation. The gentlemen were jocular;

, barrister who toils on for fifteen or twenty | the ladies high-spirited; at whom a number years before he gets a brief has an agreeable of apparent spinsters seated round, their function compared with that of the matron backs laid against the wall, gazed with dewho has to find husbands, instead of briefs, light. There was infinite zest and spirit for her three hopeless and helpless daugh over the whole-various young men always ters. But some blessed philanthropist arose, coming up to the hostess to consult or some angel of mercy, who saw and pitied, give advice, proud of their important and then invented the ball. We shall never relations with her, and she directing them lose it, whatever inversions of society take in a maternal way. But there was a place; we shall always have the ball left. difficulty about the music. To gain room There are, of course, infinite varieties, the family instrument, a cottage, with that from the most elementary shape of the guitar-like tone which such war-worn vetepastime to the highest. Here are some rans commonly have, had been put ontpersonal experiences of the


side the door, and at it Wilkie, the wellTo the hobbledehoy every shape of the known stationer and librarian, who also delicacy—even the rudest—comes welcome. sold cheap music, and this very instrument, Like the schoolboy, he has an appetite for presided. On special occasions Wilkie was what is coarse and indigestible. In that accustomed to bring a little medicinestate of life, while sojourning in lodgings chest, so it appeared to be, but which he by the seaside, I once received an invita- called a euphonion, which was placed on tion to Mrs. Rudd's soirée, or dance. It a chair beside him, and on which he was an unpretending attempt, supported played occasionally with his right hand, by slender resources, but was in reality a the effect being of a “jingle-jangle” sort, tremendous effort.

but in the place considered equal to For days before we heard in the shops of a fine orchestra. On this occasion he Mrs. Rudd's party, and Miss Mirkins, the had supplemented his own exertions with sole milliner of the place, was known to what he called a

" cello.”

Yet on this be busy making up at least two dresses for night the united power of all instruthe same party. The confectioner had ments did not carry the music into the received orders, and once repairing there room, and the friendly young men held for lunch, I was told that a hawk-like old consultations with the hostess, vehemently lady in black, who had been giving orders urging on each other that some change was necessary. They went to the un- There was a mild retiring gentleman residhappy performer privately, and in succes- ing with his family between Richmond and sion, in vain striving to stimulate him. Twickenham. I think he had to do with The difficulty was to convey the reproof stock-broking; at least he went into London delicately to Wilkie, whose well-known every day, and I always, on no evidence, testy disposition might resent such treat- set down the Stock Exchange as his destiment. But nothing would do. . In the nation. They had not been long among room the dancers were all leaning forward us, but his wife and two pretty girls, in an attitude of attention, trying to catch though shy, inspired an interest. The the sound; some, fancying they had caught latter, we saw, enjoyed dancing; they it, starting long in advance of the others. were asked to all the little revels in the From experience, I can say myself that the district. These compliments entailed oblieffect was very odd and grotesque, the gations, which every one could see were combined sound of the orchestra having a resting on them uneasily. Soon, instigated muffled effect, something like a musical- by these prickings of conscience, and the box, that was most exasperating: Experi- restless pressure of the malicious, they ments were tried, moving the instrument were beguiled into issuing invitations to a and chair right across the door, while sort of hybrid programme, half musical, the performer sat exactly in the door- half terpsichorean. From that hour a perway, with his back to the dancers. This ceptible change was noticed in the hitherto answered to a certain extent, though it smiling air of the family. They became amounted to complete imprisonment, and wan and haggard, and borne down by an shut Mr. Wilkie off from his “jingle- open weight of care. Mr. Cooke, such was jangles” and his companion. However, the his name, gave the idea of having some vigour of the performance never seemed to dark and fraudulent stock-broking transabate. The cheeks of the rustic young action on his soul. But it was all the ball; ladies blazed with a fiery heat, for the they were overwhelmed and crushed by carpet had not been removed, and a grit- the sense of responsibility. Every refusal like dust was mounting in fine clouds, was a stab, and would be a disgrace to them, and getting into our throats. To the un- Yet owing to the labours of some interested sophisticated, however, this seemed enjoy friends all was going well, and all promised able, and an element only common to all well. Still the forebodings of these unballs. They were happy in their delu- happy people were to be realised. sion. At one, supper was served, our Hasit been remarked how often a contrehostess being awfully exercised during the temps is so nicely selected, as to fall on the preceding half-hour, during which the weakest part of the victims, thus adding a maids had been rushing wildly up and special piquancy to the visitation ? Thus, if down the stairs. There was none of that the person dreading misfortune is peculiarly misplaced delicacy through which the sensitive to ridicule, it is pitched so as to genteeler host pretends to know nothing fall in this very direction. There is someof what is going on. I will not even ven- thing almost demoniac in this. Now, as ture to deny that she had been in the the Cooke family were a shy, sensitive kitchen herself

, putting a few finishing party, shrinking away from rude jests, or touches. However, there it was, a banquet even from light persiflage, they were to be in itself : a great many glasses filled with selected for a visitation of a peculiarly pink and yellow liquid, glasses filled with grotesque and ridiculous kind, from which a jagged yellow formation which we knew even robust natures would have shrunk. to be the jellies, glasses filled with cream; The entertainment was about beginning, in fact, on analysis, the whole seemed to be and so far was full of promise. The girls contained in glasses ; save, of course, the looked charming, and their spirits fast rising. sandwiches. However, it was wonderful Mrs. Cooke had already lost that shrinking for her, a widow lady of moderate means, away or “dodging” air, which always gave and we all felt obliged to her. After the the idea that she was avoiding a blow. The meal, Mr. Wilkie, much refreshed, found embezzlement expression was fast passing himself once more in the doorway, and as- away from her husband's face. The comserting his right to his faithful musical pany was pouring in. They were being accompaniment, succeeded in getting the congratulated: “so successful,” "quite a “ jingle- jangles” within masterly reach, feature of the season," “ so charming,” and played away till dawn.

when a little commotion arose at the other I recal another party with which, how- end of the room, where Mrs. Rounders, the ever, the higher grotesque is associated. curate's lady, was sitting.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Now, it has been mentioned that the of a detachment of young officers just whole parish felt a good-natured interest arriving, in their light manner, and enin the Cookes and their little undertaking. countering this procession on the stairs. One result of this feeling was that Mrs. They must have thought it was some rite Rounders, a portly lady, with a large and of inauguration peculiar to the district. regularly increasing family, though she After that it may be imagined with what had not been very well lately, resolved heart the ball proceeded. On every face " that on no account would she disappoint during waltz and galop was a sly twinkle. her own girls, Harriet and Charlotte.” Even the musicians grinned as they fiddled. She would take them herself, and she did Meanwhile the stairs became a sort of

She was now, or up to that moment thoroughfare. At one, arrived Doctor had been, looking on with a smiling com- Gunter, the eminent practitioner in that placency and interest.

line, who had been sent for from Kew, and The phrase was used“ regularly and in- had been called out of bed; he tramped upcreasing” family, and, indeed, no astrono- stairs, jostling the dancers who were passing mer could count more accurately on the down, and causing wonder and amazement. return of some planet than could the curate Women in large bonnets began to be on that annual contribution to his house- seen. By two it was known through the hold. But there was a disturbing element mansion that everything had gone happily, which no

one had reckoned upon—the and at a little after that hour, the curate agitation and excitement. At the end of himself, a red-faced gentleman, and Doctor the room suddenly came a flutter, of which Gunter, peremptorily called on the host to 1 Mrs. Rounders seemed to be the centre. dismiss the guests, the latter saying “ he Faces looked anxiously towards the door, would not answer for it” if this step were and a matron, in quality of aide-de-camp, not taken. It had to be done. In three came spurring to Mrs. Cooke. A hurried weeks we lost this amiable family, who whisper, and a spasm


agony shot never held up their heads again, and, inacross the unbappy hostess's face. She deed, could not bear to look any of us in flew to her husband, and his face seemed as the face. Mrs. Rounders, on the contrary, though the embezzlement had really been took all the airs of a heroine, and always discovered, and the officers of justice were maintained that “the Cookes had behaved waiting below. Horror was, indeed, on with gross in humanity;" Mr. Rounders all faces, joined with helplessness. They even going so far as to say that “he'd like could do nothing, and did nothing. From to have seen how they'd have looked if any. a distance it seemed as though friendly ad- thing had gone wrong." visers, experienced, too, in these delicate I recal a large public ball where, in the matters, were pressing prompt retirement middle of a crowded waltz a sudden crash on the suffering lady, which was sternly was heard, and a tall and elderly major in and haughtily resisted. That sort of pride, full regimentals was seen to fall. His partwhich Charles Lamb was perhaps the first ner rose at once, but the major lay so help, to point out, as always associated with less, that the zealous stewards assumed ' the situation, was present. Her only terms that he was intoxicated, and collected round were, that she should be carried from the him with a view to removing him. Two atroom with the seat on which she reposed. tempted to raise him, laying aside their The situation was so critical, that some wands for the purpose; but an angry roar resolute friends of the house, who, in the from the major, accompanied by an oath, helplessness of the family, took all on made them desist, though it confirmed themselves, at once agreed to it, and, them in their original view. It was prewith great promptness, brought up the sently found that the elderly major's hip two hired waiters, who seemed not a little was broken-a heavy penalty to pay

for perplexed at the service required of them, a waltz, The scene then became an odd which was certainly not within the duties one; dancing was suspended, a vast crowd they had covenanted for. These men, how- gathered round a prostrate gentleman in ever, are in the habit of seeing a good deal regimentals, who was lying perfectly flat, of life, and are perhaps astonished at his eyes staring at the chandelier, the nothing. But the amazed guests, who had stewards gazing down on him as if on no idea of what had happened, or was going guard. The embarrassment was how to to happen, were confounded at the spectacle remove im. At the slightest touch he of a portly lady, in ball-dress, flowers, &c., shrieked. A shutter, a door, were sugchaired through the rooms on the shoulders gested. Finally, a squeaking sound was of waiters! I never shall forget the faces heard in the distance, and a party of


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »