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BY AUGUSTA HUIELL SEAMAN

It is something to be able to boast that one is the But it was with the discovery that tortoise fat oldest inhabitant of one's town or section. To rendered an excellent oil, that the wholesale make good this claim usually involves the pos- slaughter commenced. In 1903, it was reported session of a plump one hundred years. The Tes- that the shells of one hundred and fifty tortoises tudo vicina, or Giant Tortoise, of the New York had been found lying near one of their drinkingZoological Park, however, might smile scornfully pools, and half a mile away, at another pool, one on so paltry a record. For his two centuries of hundred more-the work of a single raid! Is it existence entitle him to the honor of being the any wonder that, in 1912, a few scattered specioldest living creature in the United States. mens in zoological parks are all that remain of

The Giant Tortoise is not native to North what was, fifteen years ago, an innumerable race? America, but hails from the Galápagos Islands in In his native haunts, the Giant Tortoise subthe Pacific, several hundred miles off the coast of sists mainly on grass, cactus leaves, and water. Ecuador. He seems, nevertheless, entirely happy Water he must have, and when, in the dry season, in his New York surroundings, and apparently even the pools disappear, he makes good the deregrets in no wise the change of scene and cli- ficiency with the succulent pulp of the cactus mate. We are inclined to gasp when we learn plant. In the Zoological Park, however, he fares his age, but there is something besides that much better, and vegetables of every variety are astounding fact to recommend him to our inter- his in their seasons. It is reported that he exest and curiosity. He and his companions of the hibits a particular fondness for tomatoes. From park, and a few scattered specimens in one or the illustration may be seen the expectant, almost two other zoological gardens, are almost the last jubilant, expression of his countenance while consurviving members of a vanished race. Their ex- templating a yellow banana. tinction is due less to the usual combat with natu- The Giant Tortoise is amiable and law-abiding ral foes, as is the case with most wild creatures, in disposition, while his life is simple and unthan to a senseless and wasteful slaughter that eventful to a degree. He eats at all times and has practically wiped out their species-during seasons, lumbers about his quarters with exceedthe last fifteen years.

ing deliberation when in need of exercise, basks The enemies of this Giant Tortoise were three: in the sun when not otherwise occupied, and the wild dogs and the natives, who killed them spends hours without number drawn into his for food, and the oil-hunters, who sought them for shell, fast asleep, oblivious of all creation. It is their fat, from which an oil was extracted. Of only during the warmer months that he is on exthe three, the last must bear the burden of re- hibition in the outside inclosure. In the winter, sponsibility for their greatest destruction.

he and his companions are gathered into an inner For the last hundred years, ships have touched room of the reptile-house, where they sleep away at the Galápagos Islands and not infrequently, on the time, waking only to consume a little food leaving, have marooned there some unwelcome occasionally. canine passenger. From these stray animals The following incident is the only one on recsprung a race of wild dogs whose chief food was ord, to show that the Giant Tortoise ever varied the smaller tortoises, and often the eggs.

the peaceful monotony of his existence at the The natives also entertained a decided liking for park by creating any excitement. It is reported tortoise meat, and had some discretion been used that one snowy winter day, when every tortoise in the killing, it would probably have made but was supposed to be wrapped securely in the arms little difference in the steadily increasing race. of Morpheus, some one inadvertently left open But, alas! too prodigal with a stock they consid- the door of the inclosure. No one knows just ered all but inexhaustible, they went about ob- how it happened, but our friend of the illustrataining tortoise meat with the most deplorable tion must have waked, apparently realized his recklessness. In numberless instances, one of the opportunity, and in the absence of any too watchgreat creatures would be killed, only that some ful keeper, bethought himself of taking a stroll. native might obtain a pound or two of the meat A quarter of an hour later, there were noticed and a small piece of fat with which to cook it. strange tracks in the snow on the path leading All the remainder of the valuable flesh would be down to the bear-dens. For a time, it was supleft for the wild dogs and carrion-birds.

posed that one of the young elephants had es

ANT

caped, and great was the consternation in conse- along the Atlantic coast represented all that was
quence. But the tracks, though somewhat like an to be the future United States; James Oglethorpe
elephant's, were still obviously not an elephant's, had not yet founded the colony of Georgia ; and
since none of that tribe were missing. Subse- twenty years must elapse before the birth of
quent investigation discovered our friend the George Washington.
Giant Tortoise serenely contemplating his fellow- While yet this reptile was, comparatively
captives of the bear-dens! The problem of re- speaking, a mere infant, the American and French
turning him to his own inclosure was met by fac- revolutions occurred, and the United States as-

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ing him in the proper direction, and giving him a sumed its place among the nations; and no one smart rap on his shell. In the course of time, his can tell to what age this creature may yet attain. leisurely locomotion brought him back to his own That it has grown since its introduction to the lawful domain. Perhaps in all the two centuries park, the increased number of rings around the of his existence, he had never experienced any- segments of its shell attest. Possibly it is now thing quite so exciting before !

enjoying only middle life, and will be viewed But it is the astonishing age of these reptiles with interested speculation by our descendants of that suddenly causes us to look upon the span of the fifth and sixth generation, even as it is by us. threescore years and ten as a paltry and insignifi- If simple vegetarian diet, a nervous system cant thing indeed. Let us stand before the inclo- perfect almost to the point of non-existence, consure and consider these facts: here is a living, genial surroundings in which there is small likebreathing creature, moving about and consuming lihood of accident, and an absolute lack of anyfood even as ourselves. Yet when it first saw thing to do or worry about, be conditions that the light (1712 or before), Queen Anne still oc- permit the possibility of indefinitely prolonging cupied the throne of England, and Louis XIV life, then are those conditions triumphantly vindithat of France. A line of thinly settled villages cated by this very Methuselah of tortoises !

VOL. XXXIX.–87–88.

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by M.Eloise Talbot

house is growing long, and you know we must be back by supper-time."

"Look!" cried Timothy, pointing toward a fence farther down the street.

At that moment, a little girl sprang over it, and came running toward them.

"I thought the sewing would never be done !" she cried. “And at the very end, Aunt Dorcas

kept me to warn me of the Indians. She said if she were my father, I should never leave the stockade."

"It is true about the Indians," said Timothy. “I overheard the governor saying to my father yesterday that they were threatening the settlements again. Come quickly, Huldah, lest my mother

hear." "Nay, if the Indians be coming-” began Huldah, hanging back.

"I do not care for Aunt Dorcas when my father gives me leave,” cried Cecile. “Huldah,

if you linger, we shall have no time left to go It was springtime in the village of Plymouth, a-Maying." more than two hundred and fifty years ago.

"What is that?" asked both children together. There are sweet, bright days in New England "Why, don't you know?” exclaimed Cecile. now, but the Plymouth of to-day is a very differ- "Have you never brought home the May? Toent thing from the village of that time, for then morrow will be May-day, and we must gather only one street sloped down to the water's edge, boughs and fasten them against the door-posts, and on the hill above stood a fort with shining to please the fairies."

"But," interrupted Huldah, “I am sure that Huldah and Timothy Speedwell stood talking must be wrong, for tales of fairies are idle ineagerly at their father's gate.

ventions.” “Oh, Timothy, I am afraid she will not "My grandmother told me," retorted Cecile, come.'

"and, pray, how should you be wiser than my "Patience !" replied Timothy. “Cecile always grandmother? Last year, in England, we keeps her word. She is not like most girls." trimmed the May-pole on the green with flowers

“But, Timothy, the shadow of the meeting- and ribbons, and danced about it until sunset.”

cannon.

"Oh, oh!” cried Huldah. “Now I know it out beneath them were starry blossoms, pink and must be wicked, for it is very sinful to dance. white, and sweet as are no other flowers but My mother told us so."

those of the Plymouth woods. "Is it?" said Cecile, regretfully. "I did not “Look !" cried Cecile, “these flowers must be know it. So many things are sinful, now that I the May that grows in New England !" am come to New England. But surely there can Timothy scrambled down from the tree, and be no harm in gathering flowers to show that the Huldah forgot her scruples. They filled their spring has come, even in this cold Plymouth.” hands as full as they could hold, and Huldah fell

Huldah and Timothy had found life much more to plaiting a basket of rushes, which Cecile interesting since Cecile had come from England heaped with blossoms. to join her father in the Plymouth settlement. “Will you hang this at your aunt's door?” They had seen her first on a Sabbath morning. asked Huldah. She had worn a white gown, and a wonderful hat "No!" exclaimed Cecile. “She does not love with nodding pink roses, from beneath which her flowers. I shall hang it at the door of my best blue eyes looked with frank surprise at the bare friend in Plymouth. But, dear Huldah, what is church and grave congregation. But the grown it? What frightens you?" people shook their heads. They whispered of Huldah's face had grown suddenly white, and Master Goodwin's young French wife, who died she was staring into the distant hollow with terwhen Cecile was a baby, and they said the child's rified eyes. name was scarce a godly one.

Cecile whirled around. The evening had crept Aunt Dorcas did her best. She spun early and upon them unnoticed. At first she could see late, till Cecile was clad in a suit of gray, as be- nothing among the trees, but gradually she perfitted a child of the wilderness. She braided the ceived a figure outlined against them. It was a golden hair, and taught Cecile to sit silent in the tall, gaunt man. There were horrible marks upon presence of her elders; but every day the curls his face, and a feather above his head cast an grew tighter, and all the silence in the world unearthly shadow. could not banish the laughter from her voice. "It is the Evil Spirit,” whispered Huldah, with

Master Goodwin was a grave man who had trembling lips. “Oh, Cecile, it is because of these crossed the sea for conscience' sake. He never wicked May-flowers !" interfered with Aunt Dorcas's strict rule, but if "Do not be afraid," said Timothy, throwing his the elders of the church could have looked into arm about her, but trembling, too. "I will take his great oak chest, they would have rubbed their care of you. Let us leave the flowers, and go eyes to see a child's hat with pink roses laid home.” carefully away. Fortunately big chests keep But Cecile looked steadily at the motionless their secrets well, and neither Cecile nor Aunt figure. Dorcas knew.

"If it is the Evil Spirit,” she said, “I will tell Timothy and Huldah had never known any him to go away." body before who seemed to think it was the chief She laid down her basket, and walked straight business of life to laugh and play. This after- into the shadow. noon Cecile was too happy to walk. She skipped Huldah hid her face in horror, and even Timalong, singing a little French song, and when othy did not dare to stir. They could feel the they had passed the high palisade which guarded thumping of their hearts, while a moment passed the settlement, she seized Huldah's hand and that seemed an age; then they heard Cecile's broke into a run, which only ended as they en- clear voice. tered the forest.

"Thou foolish Timothy, be quick! Fetch me Hundreds of birds were flying among the trees,

ndian, and his poor and fresh, young leaves were unfolding, but the arm is bleeding.” winter had been hard, and though the children Huldah gasped again and clutched at Timothy, wandered far, no flowers could they find. Tim- for an Indian was hardly less dreadful to her othy, weary of the search, climbed a tree, while than a wicked spirit; but Timothy pulled himself Huldah, still doubtful of the lawfulness of the away, ashamed, and ran to help Cecile. enterprise, contented herself with gathering The Indian had seated himself upon a big twigs into her apron. All at once Cecile shouted boulder. His strong, brown arm was torn from joyously. She had been pushing the fallen leaves shoulder to elbow as if by the claws of a wild about, and suddenly she uncovered a lovely, trail- beast, which was further indicated by some raw ing vine, the like of which none of them had ever pieces of bear's meat on the ground beside him. seen before. Its leaves were small, and peeping Cecile was tearing her apron into strips. She

some water! It is but an

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