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CHINA AND THE CHINESE.
VISITS TO THE OPHTHALMIC INSTITUTION AT CANTON. ABOUT fourteen years ago, Colledge, the senior surgeon to her Majesty's superintendants in China, who was then in the service of the East India Company, formed the design of attempting to soften the prejudices of the Chinese, by the administration of medical and surgical relief in cases where native art had failed. This design he executed by opening an institution at Macao, which was conducted for four years by himself with the greatest success. The challenge which he sent to Britain and the United States induced Dr. Parker, from the latter country, to go and enter into his labours, and carry out his plans. The Doctor, through the help and advice of Colledge, and the pecuniary aid of foreign residents, established the hospital of which we are about to speak. The usefulness and prosperity of this institution will amply appear, I think, from the few following remarks. I may just observe, that this success encouraged us to form a society, which should give permanency to these attempts, and remove them from the liability of failing from the decease or retirement of an officer. A society was originated accordingly in 1838, at Canton, and was designated the "Medical Missionary Society in China."
they are treated with the same respect which the sex is wont to receive at our hands, in a country ennobled by religion and refined by civilisation. In the hall, they sit down, as they are called for, upon a chair near the physician, relate their history, answer questions, or ask if there is ground for hope-just as females would do among us. Their costume differs, and their manner varies a little, from our own; but in the great outlines and essentials of human nature they are the same. They attend to regimen, take their medicine at the stated periods, with a punctu ality that has increased in proportion to the fame of the medical adviser, and the number of cures he has performed. We have an opportunity of noting the difference which education and rank bestows upon individuals of the fair sex. We see, too, that, as we might expect, there is no small variation in natural endow. ment, both as to intellect and the susceptive disposition of the heart. Some are hard-featured and ungainly, with just enough complaisance to make them tolerable; some have but a moderate share of wit, and seem scarcely to know upon what errand they came; others are great gossips, and are so fond of prattling, that it is necessary to check them. Of course, I am now glancing at the most indifferent specimens, where neither native gift nor education has done much. If we take a better sample, we find
some that have an amiable softness, with an air that is charmingly feminine; others are remarkable for a certain majestic severity, and not a few for clear-headed sense and decision of character. One of the most interesting ladies that visited the hospital came with her husband, and gave us an opportunity of seeing how the
sort. It was soon evident that she looked up to him as her friend and protector; which I believe is, after all, the very best light in which a husband can be regarded. Her manners were remarkable for their simplicity, and her countenance for its good-humoured pleasantry. She and her maid seemed to stand in the reciprocal aspect of elder and younger sister. She walked round the hall contemplating the pictures, and ever and anon called upon her faithful attendant to share in her wonder or delight. To do the Chinese justice, they appear to have the knack of managing their servants without trouble, threats, or the affectation of severity. They are treated with mildness, addressed in a subdued tone, and allowed to offer their advice or information without the dread of reprehension.
The hospital at Canton does not rival the institutions in this country in size and imposing appearance, as it was not erected with the view of accommodating in-door patients. The outdoor patients are provided with seats; and those whose cases cannot be treated without the constant watchfulness of the phy-relation of husband and wife was understood among the better sician or the surgeon, have apartments, or wards, where their friends can wait upon them, and contribute as much to their comfort as if they were at home. Monday is usually a day set apart for admitting fresh cases, when large crowds assemble, and present themselves in turn for examination. Their attitude is then in the highest degree respectful, and they accept with meekness the reproof which is sometimes dealt out to them by a Chinese attendant, when eagerness or impatience has prompted them to anticipate the order of succession, or come up out of their turn. All hopeful cases are admitted; the rest rejected, to the unspeakable discomfort of the poor sufferers, who then regard the last quivering flame of hope as quite extinguished. For their logic is simply this: if this man, who has wrought so many wonderful cures among us, gives me up, why my case is bad indeed. To soothe this disappointment, an amiable native is selected by the philanthropic Parker to explain the grounds of his refusal, who acts his part with a great deal of good feeling on one hand, and perspicuity on the other. This examination takes place in the large room below; and all that are admitted pass up a flight of stairs, for further investigation and treatment in a large hall for that purpose. Here they range themselves upon seats placed near the wall; the females at the top of the room, as being the more honourable place, and the males where they can find places below. Ladies of quality are shown into a little room by themselves; from this, however, they will often emerge, if permitted, and walk about the hall, to view the patients and the pictures that grace the walls. These pictures represent some important cases-first, before the operation, and secondly, after it had effected a cure. They consist mainly of patients who had laboured under the load of some enormous and frightful tumour, and whose restoration to pristine health and comfort had been accomplished by the skill and kindness of the foreigner. The females whose cases are of a serious nature are conducted to the room appropriated to the persons of quality, where the nature of the complaint is ascertained, advice given, or judgment pronounced upon it; in short,
Turning from the ladies a moment, we might take a short view of the genteeler part of the male out-patients. In these we have just such conduct as we had a right to expect from persons who reckon upon their polish and refinement; a courtesy that is minutely punctilious, but never stiff or formal, and a bearing that is dignified without being ostentatious; in a word, the most elegant man is the humblest person in the group. As you pass, he rises and makes a bow of acknowledgment, while all the rest remained fixed to their seats. If several are invited to come forward at once, he always brings up the rear, and accepts advice and medicine as the least worthy among the bystanders. As a sample of this, I may mention the instance of an officer in the army, who came to be treated for a fistula in the perinæum. Whether he was a "soldier and afeard," I shall not take upon me to say, as I had never the honour to follow him in the field of battle-but one thing was clear, that he had no relish for pain; for when the surgeon passed the probe into the wound, he cried "It smarts!" with all his might, to the unspeakable distress of his servant, who seemed to suffer more than his master, and echoed his cries in the most dolorous accents. It was plain, from his looks and his retinue, that he and hardness had seldom been very near acquaintances, as the Chinese generally endure the pain
of an operation with fortitude. High fare and much indulgence had rendered him an exception, and made him a sort of spoiled child among the rest. He had lately addicted himself to the study of the native medical works, and declared that he would find a better method of treatment than any that foreigners knew anything about. All this we took in good part, and smiled in reply to his After the examination was over, he recovered his goodhumoured looks, but still felt a lively horror of pain, and a displeasure at those rules of treatment which impose it as a part of their discipline. "Never let the doctor remove that tumour," said he to a native friend; "try other and better remedies." His theory and his practice, however, had little effect upon each other; and so he took home a bottle of medicine, with an instrument, and directions for its application. A few days after, he came back, saying, that when his servant applied the medicine, he cried out, of course, which frightened the man and made him desist: "Now," added he, "you do not care for my crying-therefore you must perform the office yourself." He then pointed to a numerous circle of patients, and observed, "To all those persons time is precious—to me it is of no importance; therefore, when you have dismissed the whole of them, then think of me." This is not a solitary instance of the same feeling of considerateness, and may, I think, be construed as a proof that Chinese humility is something more than an external show.
Among the patients at the hospital was a man long known to the foreign residents as a dealer in various articles of antique curiosity. He had broken the bones of the fore-arm, and had them set by the surgeon; but when I saw him, he was anxious to know when the splints were to be removed. From this I inferred that the art of reducing the ends of a fractured bone was unknown among the Chinese; especially as, in a collection of medicaments, I was shown one that was efficacious in cases of broken bone. "Poor fellows!" thought I, "if that is all that can be done by the doctors in the way of remedy, they must be sadly off when an accident of this sort occurs." Nor was this pity out of place, for the doctors in the south of China know nothing of the matter; for a man with an artificial joint in his arm came and obtained relief by the cohesion of the divided parts, when he little expected such a cure. But the conclusion must not be so sweeping as to allow of no exceptions; for since I left the country, I found, in turning over one of their books, rules for setting a broken bone, neatly delivered, with a very elegant substitute for the splints. It is so well contrived, that we might take a hint from it, and adopt one of the same fashion. There are many things in Chinese books with which the great bulk of native readers are but very imperfectly acquainted; for they have evidently declined in knowledge since usage has made Confucius, a man ignorant of all kinds of natural and scientific knowledge, the model of universal imitation.
The women display singular courage and confidence in the foreigner, even in the most trying seasons, and therefore prove how well they can appreciate his skill and his humanity. Rank, talents, education, or wealth, and their opposites, never modify that magnanimous reliance which they always place in the foreigner's ability to help them, when fate or providence has not rendered it impossible. When one dies from an operation, no stir, no uproar is made about it: the doctor, they say, can heal disease, but cannot heal or modify the decisions of Heaven. We find in many a coyness that is very becoming, especially if they happen to possess many attractions; but it is as distinct as possible from fear, or that flitting shyness which we see among the Malays at Borneo. All is self-possession, and a conscious regard to what is fitting and proper. I have seen a poor creature brought into the operator's room, without a single native female near her,
undergo a fearful operation without a groan, and pay the surgeon at the end of it with a beautiful smile of complacency for the trouble he had taken. Pain could never put them out of humour with their benefactor, even in moments of the deepest suffering. We praise these females with a sort of enthusiasm; but we must not withhold from the males the meed that belongs so justly to them; for if a patient endurance of the sharpest agonies, and a grateful acceptation of all that is done for them, can earn our applause, I am sure they deserve it. Chinese men and Chinese women we have under our eye night and day: they speak their sentiments freely; they applaud our diligence, or complain of delay; they debate and converse with each other, and then tell the result or the particulars to the physician, as if they thought he would regard with indulgence whatever was amiss. In short, we behold them in all the realities of their character; but we search in vain for those untractable oddities which we had expected to find:-the more closely they are sought for, and the more minutely we analyse the features of their behaviour, the less eccentric and unreasonable they appear. Their peculiarities they have; but these may be reduced to some principle of action, or be shown to be the result of some usage or custom in honour among them, to which obedience must be paid as a matter of duty. But whatever may be their prepossessions, they give way at once if they are found to displease their benefactor; which evinces the existence of a fund of good sense at the bottom which is more than a match for all the irreducible or secret quantities in the constitution.
One thing is well worthy of our attention, and that is the gratitude which is ready to start forth, in word or deed, at every fitting occasion. They set it off with expressions of the most flattering description, and present it with the highest tokens of veneration. They bring offerings according to their ability, which were at first refused; but this refusal so hurt their feelings, that it was found necessary to accept freely what was freely given. They are accompanied with many elegant ceremonies of worship—a letter of thanks, and sometimes a eulogistic poem, with a display of sightly ornaments. This gratitude is not an evanescent thing; the benefactor is for ever after recognised with the liveliest tokens of esteem, by the patient and all his friends and relatives. This I take to be the genuine effect of education, and by no means a wild plant in nature's garden. In China, education is the sine quá non with all ranks; and here, I think, we have one of the productions of such a bias in favour of a careful and systematic training. I was some time at Borneo, and laboured among the diseases of the Malay population; but I did not find a single example of gratitude to form an exception to the general indifference, and was therefore obliged to impute its non-appearance to the lamentable deficiency of moral or educational culture.
The issues of a desirable kind that have flowed from this enterprise of medical philanthropy may be briefly summed up under the following heads :-1. It has taught us new lessons as to what the Chinese are, and in the end showed that they have sense and feeling enough to give a good man from abroad the heartiest welcome. 2. It has developed our character, and convinced the most incredulous that in skill and benevolence China has nothing to match the foreigner; and thus offers the fairest pledge to recommend to their notice that Saviour who taught us to give, hoping for nothing. As this hospital was not spared during the late proceedings of Commissioner Lin, I shrewdly suspect that we were gaining too good a name by a great deal among the subjects of the Celestial Empire. The good report of the foreigner floating on the wings of gratitude, and the lying and abusive edicts of official pride, were not of any kin, and so could not dwell together
in the same region. 3. We study disease under new forms and upon new constitutions, and are thereby enabled to improve our knowledge as to the history and causes of different varieties of human malady. And here I may mention a fact that will be interesting to the non-medical as well as the professional part of my readers, and that is, the little tendency we meet in the constitu. tion of the Chinese to take on an inflammatory action; so that the risk of an operation is diminished a hundred fold, and the surgeon feels that if blood sufficient to minister to the powers of life be left in the body, the patient will be sure to do well. This fact has thrown an air of the marvellous over the history of the hospital; for it seems like a divine interposition, when we have so much success with so few failures. 4. It has put us in the way of getting a more intimate view of the several medicaments, with their uses, which are employed by native physicians, and will, of course, not fail to enlarge our means of doing good, at the time it is advancing the cause of truth and general information.
RESPECTABLE GOOD-FOR-NOTHING PEOPLE. THERE are, and we are sure the reader must have come across some of them in the course of his life, a curious description of persons, who, possessing many of those qualities which one would think well adapted for securing success in the world, and presenting none obviously of an opposite description, yet never do succeed; who never can, somehow or other, manage to get on. Yet are the particular kind of people whom we mean neither dissipated, dishonest, nor deficient in ability. On the contrary, they are decent, respectable persons-grave, sober, and intelligent; their whole manner and bearing, character and dispositions, being eminently calculated to impress you with the most favourable opinion of them; and, at the same time, to excite your utmost wonder at the fact above alluded to, namely, their being always unfortunate, and never able, seemingly, to rise above the most humble circumstances.
It is a curious case—a puzzling one-and often has it puzzled us; for we have had more than one agreeable acquaintance of the class of whom we are speaking, persons whom we both esteemed and respected.
What, then, is wrong in these cases? for that there must be something wrong, after all, is evident; some deficiency there must be somewhere ;-no doubt of it.
The broad fact is, that the worthy persons of whom we speak -notwithstanding their gravity, their steadiness, their intelligence-are found, on trial, to be absolutely and literally good for nothing. They want ordinary tact, they want worldly wisdom, and are deficient in energy and decision of character; and therein lies the secret of their utter uselessness. All their good sense is theoretical, none of it practical; and, therefore, of no value whatever to the owner as an instrument for working his advancement in life. It will not enable him to remove the smallest obstacle
that comes in his way. He indeed tries to do so with it, but finds it totally incompetent to the task.
Others coming the same road, but provided with better working tools, cast the difficulty aside in an instant; our worthy good-for-nothing looking on all the while, with a face of innocent amazement, and wondering how in the world they do it. The thing perplexes him sadly. Than the decent, sensible, respectable good-for-nothing, no man on earth is more willing to do well if he only knew how; but this, some way or other, he never can find out; and the consequence is that he is always to be found dozing along the lower paths that wind round the base of the hill of fortune. He can by no means, although he has often tried it, find out that which leads to the summit; and in his perplexity gazes, with a look of amazement and non-comprehension, on those who have gained higher elevations than himself, and who are gradually increasing their height with every circuit. He cannot conceive how the mischief they got there; and the greater is his
wonder that he sees amongst them many who started on the journey of life from the same point with himself, nay, many from much lower positions. The former, then, must have, some time or other, given him the slip; the latter, the go-by. They must; but how and when they did this, he cannot tell. It must have been when he was asleep, and no lack of such opportunity was there; for our worthy, respectable good-for-nothing is always that keeps him in the humble position in which we always find asleep. It is, in fact, the circumstance of his being never awake him.
The respectable good-for-nothing is always a person of quiet and inoffensive disposition. He would not hurt a fly, poor soul— when any body injures him. Indeed, he resents nothing ;-never, not he. He injures nobody, and does not know how to resent it at any rate, by any active proceeding. His countenance, too, is mild and intelligent, but always most piteously lugubrious. It is as long as a fiddle-back, and has an expression of heart-rending sorrow about it that is most truly affecting. He, in fact, seems always as if he had just recovered from a fit of crying; and so touching is this expression that we could never look on the grave, dismal, sensible face that exhibited it without being likely to cry too. No wonder, however, poor man, that he should look dismal; for, being, as has been already said, a remarkably intelligent person, his sense of his own unhappy state, of the strange fatality that prevents him getting on like other people, is very acute; and the more distressing that he cannot, for the life of him, see the why or the wherefore of his ill-luck. He thus endures not only the misery of misfortune, but the perplexity of being unable to account
The good-for-nothing will frequently be found to be of that description of persons who have made a fair start in the world under favourable circumstances; who have yet, and without any apparent fault of their own, gone, as the saying is, to "pigs and whistles" before they have got half-way on their journey; and who, by some fatality, can never manage to get their heads up again-never regain their lost footing, but continue during the remainder of their natural lives to be in reality, and to exhibit the appearance of, respectable unfortunates; that is, grave, melancholy-looking persons in shabbyish apparel, who wander about doing nothing, but always looking as if they would do something if they only knew what to do. These persons, including, of course, our worthy good-for-nothing, blame the world, and the world in turn blames them. They say the world used them ill, took advantage of them, and did not give them fair play. The world stoutly people, and that they ought to have looked more sharply after their denies the charge, and says it used them no worse than other own interests. The good-for-nothing, in short, calls the world a rogue, and the world calls him a fool; and there the matter stands between them.
We have said more than once that the respectable good-fornothing is a sensible sort of person. He is very sensible; nay, often a bit of a philosopher. It is, in truth, astonishing how rationally he talks. Yet it must be confessed that there is a peculiar kind of ponderosity about his good sense. It yields a terribly dull, leaden sound, and, to a fastidious judge of the article, does not seem to be quite genuine. There is nothing about it, indeed, with which you can quarrel; still it never, somehow or other, impresses you with a very high opinion of the owner. By the way, there is a great deal of this kind of sense to be met with in the world. There are persons who will talk for hours in the most unexceptionable strain, nay, who never talk otherwise; giving utterance to a world of the soundest doctrines, and most undeniable truths; and who, yet, never impress you with the idea of their being clever people. On the contrary, you are very apt to be guilty of the irreverence of deeming them bores; seeing that it is one of the qualities of the most formidable description of bore to speak fluently and sensibly on all things. world and its ways, and you would be amazed at the shrewdness To return to our worthy friend. Keep him speaking only of the and soundness of his remarks-at the correctness of his views-and the justness of his appreciation of conduct and motive. But bring him in contact with that world-thrust him into the midst of its strife, and you at once discover his weakness. You at once perceive his total want of energy, and activity, and tact. He cannot see an inch beyond his nose, and is taken by surprise by everything that happens. There seems, too, an unaccountable sort of powerlessness about him; for, somehow or other, he never can begin anything nor get through anything like other people ; and, when emergencies overtake him, he gets bewildered, confused, stupified-looking very like a timid person who is threatened with
being ridden over by a coach. He does not know which way to run-he hesitates-and the consequence is, that he is immediately knocked down, laid prostrate, and left sprawling in the mud, with probably a couple of broken legs. We think it hardly necessary to add, that our worthy good-for-nothing is generally a bit of a simpleton ;-nay, a good deal of one, credulous and gullible. He swallows everything that is placed before him with unsuspecting avidity; and this weakness is betrayed in his countenance; for, notwithstanding it exhibits also a certain expression of intelligence, it would not take a Lavater to discover, in association and mingling with this expression, marked indications of that feebleness of character, amounting to imbecility, which renders our worthy friend what he is, namely, good-for-nothing.
RAMBLES OF AN AMERICAN NATURALIST.-No. VI.
tage in the night, my notions of the numbers we should bring
ABOUT a quarter of a mile above the house I lived in, on Curtis's Creek, the shore was a sand-bank, or bluff, twenty or thirty feet high, crowned with a dense young pine-forest to its very edge. Almost directly opposite, the shore was flat, and formed a point extending in the form of a broad sand-bar for a considerable distance into the water; and when the tide was low, this flat afforded a fine level space, to which nothing could approach, in either direction, without being easily seen. At a short distance from the water, a young swamp-wood of maple, gum, oaks, &c., extended back towards some higher ground. As the sun descended, and threw his last rays in one broad sheet of golden effulgence over the crystal mirror of the waters, innumerable companies of crows arrived daily, and settled on this point, for the purpose of drinking, picking up gravel, and uniting in one body prior to retiring for the night to their accustomed dormitory. The trees adjacent, and all the shore, would be literally blackened by those plumed marauders, while their increasing outcries, chattering, and screams were almost deafening. It certainly seems that they derive great pleasure from their social habits, and I often amused myself by thinking the uninterrupted clatter which was kept up, as the different gangs united with the main body, was produced by the recital of the adventures they had encountered during their last marauding excursions. As the sun became entirely sunk below the horizon, the grand flock crossed to the sand-bluff on the opposite side, where they generally spent a few moments in picking up a further supply of gravel, and then, rising in dense and ample column, they sought their habitual roost in the deep entanglements of the distant pines. This daily visit to the point, so near to my dwelling, and so accessible by means of the skiff, led me to hope that I should have considerable success in destroying them. Full of such anticipations, I loaded two guns, and proceeded in my boat to the expected place of action, previous to the arrival of the crows. My view was to have my boat somewhere about half-way between the two shores, and as they never manifested much fear of boats, to take my chance of firing upon the main body as they were flying over my head to the opposite side of the river. Shortly after I had gained my station, the companies began to arrive, and everything went on as usual. But whether they suspected some mischief from seeing a boat so long stationary in their vicinity, or could see and distinguish the guns in the boat, I am unable to say: the fact was however, that when they set out to fly over, they passed at an elevation which secured them from my artillery effectually, although, on ordinary occasions, they were in the habit of flying over me at a height of not more than twenty or thirty feet. I returned home without having had a shot, but resolved to try if I could not succeed better the next day. The same result followed the experiment; and when I fired at one gang, which it appeared possible to attain, the instant the gun was discharged the crows made a sort of halt, descended considerably, flying in circles, and scream-be employed in the following manner: After having made a sort ing most vociferously, as if in contempt or derision. Had I been prepared for this, a few of them might have suffered for their bravado. But my second gun was in the bow of the boat, and before I could get it, the black gentry had risen to their former security, While we were sitting at tea that evening, a black came to inform me that a considerable flock of crows, which had arrived too late to join the great flock, had pitched in the young pines, not a great way from the house, and at a short distance from the roadside. We quickly had the guns in readiness; and I scarcely could restrain my impatience until it should be late enough and dark enough to give us a chance of success. Without thinking of anything but the great number of the crows and their inability to fly to advan
Had I succeeded in obtaining some living crows, they were to
of concealment of brushwood within good gunshot distance, the crows were to be fastened by their wings on their backs, between two pegs; yet not so closely as to prevent them from fluttering or struggling. The other crows, who are always very inquisitive where their species is in any trouble, were expected to settle down near the captives; and the latter would certainly seize the first that came near enough with their claws, and hold on pertinaciously. This would have produced fighting and screaming in abundance; and the whole flock might gradually be so drawn into the fray as to allow many opportunities of discharging the guns upon them with full effect. This I have often observed, that when a quarrel or fight took place in a large flock or gang of crows, a circum
stance by no means infrequent, it seemed soon to extend to the whole; and during the continuance of their anger, all the usual caution of their nature appeared to be forgotten, allowing them selves at such times to be approached closely, and, regardless of men, fire-arms, or the fall of their companions, continuing their wrangling with rancorous obstinacy. A similar disposition may be produced among them by catching a large owl, and tying it with a cord of moderate length to the limb of a naked tree in a neighbourhood frequented by the crows. The owl is one of the few enemies which the crow has much reason to dread, as it robs the nests of their young, whenever they are left for the shortest time. Hence, whenever crows discover an owl in the daytime, like many other birds, they commence an attack upon it, screaming most vociferously, and bringing together all of their species within hearing. When once this clamour has fairly begun and their passions are fully aroused, there is little danger of their being scared away, and the chance of destroying them by shooting is continued as long as the owl remains uninjured. But one such opportunity presented during my residence where crows were abundant, and this was unfortunately spoiled by the eagerness of one of the gunners, who, in his anxiety to demolish one of the crows, fixed upon some that were most busy with the owl, and killed it instead of its disturbers, which at once ended the sport. When the crows leave the roost at early dawn, they generally fly to a naked or leafless tree in the nearest field, ard there plume themselves and chatter until the daylight is sufficiently clear to show all objects with distinctness. Of this circumstance I have taken advantage several times to get good shots at them in this way. During the daytime, having selected a spot within proper distance of the tree frequented by them in the morning, I have built with brushwood and pine-bushes a thick, close screen, behind which one or two persons might move securely without being observed. Proper openings through which to level the guns were also made, as the slightest stir or noise could not be made at the time of action without a risk of rendering all the preparations fruitless. The guns were all in order and loaded before going to bed; and at an hour or two before daylight we repaired quietly to the field and stationed ourselves behind the screen, where, having mounted our guns at the loop-holes to be in perfect readiness, we waited patiently for the daybreak. Soon after the grey twilight of the dawn began to displace the darkness, the voice of one of our expected visitants would be heard from the distant forest, and shortly after a single crow would slowly sail towards the solitary tree, and settle on its very summit. Presently a few more would arrive singly, and in a little while small flocks followed. Conversation among them is at first rather limited to occasional salutations, but as the flock begins to grow numerous, it becomes general and very animated, and by this time all that may be expected on this occasion have arrived. This may be known also, by observing one or more of them descend to the ground, and if the gunners do not now make the best of the occasion,
be lost, as the whole gang will presently sail off, scattering as they go. However, we rarely waited till there was a danger of their departure, but as soon as the flock had fairly arrived and were still crowded upon the upper parts of the tree, we pulled triggers together, aiming at the thickest of the throng. In this way, by killing and wounding them, with two or three guns, a dozen or more would be destroyed. It was of course needless to expect to find a similar opportunity in the same place for a long time afterwards, as those which escaped had too good memories to return to so disastrous a spot. By ascertaining other situations at considerable distances, we could every now and then obtain similar advantages over them.
About the years 1800-4, the crows were so vastly accumulated, and destructive in the state of Maryland, that the government, to hasten their diminution, received their heads in payment of taxes, at the price of three cents each. The store-keepers bought them of the boys and shooters, who had no taxes to pay, at a rather lower rate, or exchanged powder and shot for them. This measure caused a great havoc to be kept up among them, and in a few years so much diminished the grievance that the price was withdrawn. Two modes of shooting them in considerable numbers were followed, and with great success; the one, that of killing them while on the wing towards the roost, and the other attacking them in the night when they had been for some hours asleep. I have already mentioned the regularity with which vast flocks move from various quarters of the country to their roosting-places every afternoon, and the uniformity of the route they pursue. In cold weather, when all the small bodies of water are frozen, and they are obliged to protract their flight towards the bays or sea, their return is a work of considerable labour, especially should a strong
wind blow against them; at this season also, being rather poorly fed, they are of necessity less vigorous. Should the wind be adverse, they fly as near the earth as possible, and of this the shooters at the time I allude to took advantage. A large number would collect on such an afternoon, and station themselves close along the footway of a high bank, over which the crows were in the habit of flying; and as they were in a great degree screened from sight as the flock flew over, keeping as low as possible because of the wind, their shots were generally very effectual. The stronger was the wind, the greater was their success. The crows that were not injured found it very difficult to rise; and those that diverged laterally only came nearer to gunners stationed in expectation of such movements. The flocks were several hours in passing over; and as there was generally a considerable interval between each company of considerable size, the last arrived, unsuspicious of what had been going on, and the shooters had time to recharge their arms. But the grand harvest of crow heads was derived from the invasion of their dormitories, which are well worthy a particular description, and should be visited by every one who wishes to form a proper idea of the number of these birds that may be accumulated in a single district. The roost is most commonly the densest pine thicket that can be found, generally at no great distance from some river, bay, or other sheet of water, which is the last to freeze, or rarely is altogether frozen. To such a roost the crows, which are, during the daytime, scattered over perhaps more than a hundred miles of circumference, wing their way every afternoon, and arrive shortly after sunset. Endless columns pour in from various quarters, and as they arrive pitch upon their accustomed perches, crowding closely together for the benefit of the warmth and the shelter afforded by the thick foliage of the pine. The trees are literally bent by their weight, and the ground is covered for many feet in depth by their dung, which, by its gradual fermentation, must also tend to increase the warmth of the roost. Such roosts are known to be thus occupied for years, beyond the memory of individuals; and I know of one or two which the oldest residents in the quarter state to have been known to their grandfathers, and probably had been resorted to by the crows during several ages previous. There is one of great age and magnificent extent in the vicinity of Rock Creek, an arm of the Patapsco. They are sufficiently numerous on the rivers opening into the Chesapeake, and are everywhere similar in their general aspect. Wilson has signalised such a roost at no great distance from Bristol, Pen.; and I know by observation, that not less than a million of crows sleep there nightly during the winter
To gather crow heads from the roost, a very large party was made up, proportioned to the extent of surface occupied by the dormitory. Armed with double-barrelled and duck guns, which threw a large charge of shot, the company was divided into small parties; and these took stations, selected during the daytime, so as to surround the roost as nearly as possible. A dark night was always preferred, as the crows could not when alarmed fly far, and the attack was delayed until full midnight. All being at their posts, the firing was commenced by those who were most advantageously posted, and followed up successively by the others, as the affrighted crows sought refuge in their vicinity. On every side the carnage then raged fiercely, and there can scarcely be conceived a more forcible idea of the horrors of a battle, than such a scene afforded. The crows screaming with fright and the pain of wounds, the loud deep roar produced by the raising of their whole number in the air, the incessant flashing and thundering of the guns, and the shouts of their eager destroyers, all produced an effect which can never be forgotten by any one who has witnessed it, nor can it well be adequately comprehended by those who have not. Blinded by the blaze of the powder, and bewildered by the thicker darkness that ensues, the crows rise and settle again at a short distance, without being able to withdraw from the field of danger; and the sanguinary work is continued until the shooters are fatigued, or the approach of daylight gives the survivors a chance of escape. Then the work of collecting the heads from the dead and wounded began, and this was a task of considerable difficulty, as the wounded used their utmost efforts to conceal and defend themselves. The bill and half the front of the skull were cut off together, and strung in sums for the tax-gatherer; and the product of the night divided according to the nature of the party formed. Sometimes the great mass of shooters were hired for the night, and received no shares of scalps, having their ammunition provided by the employers; other parties were formed of friends and neighbours, who clubbed for the ammunition, and shared equally in the result.