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    Ch. 24: Seen and Lost

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    Chapter 25
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    We can imagine what the feelings of a lapidary would be--an enthusiast
    whose life is given to the study of precious stones, and whose sole
    delight is in the contemplation of their manifold beauty--if a stranger
    should come in to him, and, opening his hand, exhibit a new unknown gem,
    splendid as ruby or as sapphire, yet manifestly no mere variety of any
    familiar stone, but differing as widely from all others as diamond from
    opal or cat's-eye; and then, just when he is beginning to rejoice in
    that strange exquisite loveliness, the hand should close and the
    stranger, with a mocking smile on his lips, go forth and disappear from
    sight in the crowd. A feeling such as that would be is not unfrequently
    experienced by the field naturalist whose favoured lot it is to live in
    a country not yet "thoroughly worked out," with its every wild
    inhabitant scientifically named, accurately described, and skilfully
    figured in some colossal monograph. One swift glance of the practised
    eye, ever eagerly searching for some new-thing, and he knows that here
    at length is a form never previously seen by him; but his joy is perhaps
    only for a few moments, and the prize is snatched from sight for ever.
    The lapidary might have some doubts; he might think that the stranger
    had, after all, only mocked him with the sight of a wonderful artificial
    gem, and that a close examination would have proved its worthlessness;
    but the naturalist can have no doubts: if he is an enthusiast, well
    acquainted with the fauna of his district, and has good eyesight, he
    knows that there is no mistake; for there it is, the new strange form,
    photographed by instantaneous process on his mind, and there it will
    remain, a tantalizing image, its sharp lines and fresh colouring
    unblurred by time.

    Walking in some open forest glade, he may look up just in time to see a
    great strange butterfly--a blue Morpho, let us say, wandering in some
    far country where this angel insect is unknown--passing athwart his
    vision with careless, buoyant flight, the most sylph-like thing in
    nature, and all blue and pure like its aerial home, but with a more
    delicate and wonderful brilliance in its cerulean colour, giving such
    unimaginable glory to its broad airy wings; and then, almost before his
    soul has had time to feel its joy, it may soar away unloitering over the
    tall trees, to be seen no more.

    But the admiration, the delight, and the desire are equally great, and
    the loss just as keenly felt, whether the strange species seen happens
    to be one surpassingly beautiful or not. Its newness is to the
    naturalist its greatest attraction. How beautiful beyond all others
    seems a certain small unnamed brown bird to my mind! So many years have
    passed and its image has not yet grown dim; yet I saw it only for a few
    moments, when it hopped out from, the thick foliage and perched within
    two or three yards of me, not afraid, but only curious; and after
    peering at me first with one eye and then the other, and wiping its
    small dagger on a twig, it flew away and was seen no more. For many days
    I sought for it, and for years waited its reappearance, and it was more
    to me than ninety and nine birds which I had always known; yet it was
    very modest, dressed in a brown suit, very pale on the breast and white
    on the throat, and for distinction a straw-coloured stripe over the
    eye--that ribbon which Queen Nature bestows on so many of her feathered
    subjects, in recognition, I suppose, of some small and common kind of
    merit. If I should meet with it in a collection I should know it again;
    only, in that case it would look plain and homely to me--this little
    bird that for a time made all others seem unbeautiful.

    Even a richer prize may come in sight for a brief period--one of the
    nobler mammalians, which are fewer in number, and bound to earth like
    ourselves, and therefore so much better known than the wandering
    children of air. In. some secluded spot, resting amidst luxuriant
    herbage or forest undergrowth, a slight rustling makes us start, and,
    lo! looking at us from the clustering leaves, a strange face; the
    leaf-like ears erect, the dark eyes round with astonishment, and the
    sharp black nose twitching and sniffing audibly, to take in the
    unfamiliar flavour of a human presence from the air, like the pursed-up
    and smacking lips of a wine-drinker tasting a new vintage. No sooner
    seen than gone, like a dream, a phantom, the quaint furry face to be
    thereafter only an image in memory.

    Sometimes the prize may be a very rich one, and actually within reach of
    the hand--challenging the hand, as it were, to grasp it, and yet
    presently slip away to be seen no more, although it maybe sought for day
    after day, with a hungry longing comparable to that of some poor tramp
    who finds a gold doubloon in the forest, and just when he is beginning
    to realize all that it means to him drops it in the grass and cannot
    find it again. There is not the faintest motion in the foliage, no
    rustle of any dry leaf, and yet we know that something has
    moved--something has come or has gone; and, gazing fixedly at one spot,
    we suddenly see that it is still there, close to us, the pointed
    ophidian head and long neck, not drawn back and threatening, but sloping
    forward, dark and polished as the green and purple weed-stems springing
    from marshy soil, and with an irregular chain of spots extending down
    the side. Motionless, too, as the stems it is; but presently the tongue,
    crimson and glistening, darts out and flickers, like a small jet of
    smoke and flame, and is withdrawn; then the smooth serpent head drops
    down, and the thing is gone.

    How I saw and lost the noble wrestling frog has been recounted in
    Chapter IV.: other tantalizing experiences of the same kind remain to be
    told in the present chapter, which is not intended for the severe
    naturalist, but rather for such readers as may like to hear something
    about the pains and pleasures of the seeker as well as the result of the
    seeking.

    One of my earliest experiences of seeing and losing relates to a
    humming-bird--a veritable "jewel of ornithology." I was only a boy at
    the time, but already pretty well acquainted with the birds of the
    district I lived in, near La Plata River, and among them were three
    species of the hummingbird. One spring day I saw a fourth--a wonderful
    little thing, only half as big as the smallest of the other three--the
    well-known Phaithornis splendens--and scarcely larger than a bumble-bee.
    I was within three feet of it as it sucked at the flowers, suspended
    motionless in the air, the wings appearing formless and mist-like from
    their rapid vibratory motion, but the rest of the upper plumage was seen
    distinctly as anything can be seen. The head and neck and upper part of
    the back were emerald green, with the metallic glitter usually seen in
    the burnished scale-like feathers of these small birds; the lower half
    of the back was velvet-black; the tail and tail-coverts white as snow.
    On two other occasions, at intervals of a few days, I saw this brilliant
    little stranger, always very near, and tried without success to capture
    it, after which, it disappeared from the plantation. Four years later I
    saw it once again not far from the same place. It was late in summer,
    and I was out walking on the level plain where the ground was carpeted
    with short grass, and nothing else grew there except a solitary stunted
    cardoou thistle-bush with one flower on its central stem above the
    grey-green artichoke-like leaves. The disc of the great thorny blossom
    was as broad as that of a sunflower, purple in colour, delicately
    frosted with white; on this flat disc several insects were
    feeding--flies, fireflies, and small wasps--and I paused for a few
    minutes in my walk to watch them. Suddenly a small misty object flew
    swiftly downwards past my face, and paused motionless in the air an inch
    or two above the rim of the flower. Once more my lost humming-bird,
    which I remembered so well! The exquisitely graceful form, half circled
    by the misty moth-like wings, the glittering green and velvet-black
    mantle, and snow-white tail spread open like a fan--there it hung like a
    beautiful bird-shaped gem suspended by an invisible gossamer thread.
    One--two--three moments passed, while I gazed, trembling with rapturous
    excitement, and then, before I had time to collect my faculties and make
    a forlorn attempt to capture it with my hat, away it flew, gliding so
    swiftly on the air that form and colour were instantly lost, and in
    appearance it was only an obscure grey line traced rapidly along the,
    low sky and fading quickly out ol sight. And that was the last I ever
    saw of it.

    The case of this small "winged gem," still wandering nameless in the
    wilds, reminds me of yet another bird seen and lost, also remarkable for
    its diminutive size. For years I looked for it, and when the wished-for
    opportunity came, and it was in my power to secure it, I refrained; and
    Fate punished me by never permitting me to see it again. On several
    occasions while riding on the pampas I had caught glimpses of this
    minute bird flitting up mothlike, with uncertain tremulous flight, and
    again dipping into the weeds, tall grass, or thistles. Its plumage was
    yellowish in hue, like sere dead herbage, and its extremely slender body
    looked longer and slimmer than it was, owing to the great length of its
    tail, or of the two middle tail-feathers. I knew that it was a
    Synallaxis--a genus of small birds of the Woodhewer family. Now, as I
    have said in a former chapter, these are wise little birds, more
    interesting--I had almost said more beautiful--in their wisdom, or
    wisdom-simulating instincts, than the quatzel in its resplendent green,
    or the cock-of-the-rock in its vivid scarlet and orange mantle. Wrens
    and mocking-birds have melody for their chief attraction, and the name
    of each kind is, to our minds, also the name of a certain kind of sweet
    music; we think of swifts and swallows in connection with the mysterious
    migratory instinct; and humming-birds have a glittering mantle, and the
    miraculous motions necessary to display its ever-changing iridescent
    beauty. In like manner, the homely Dendrocolaptidae possess the genius
    for building, and an account of one of these small birds without its
    nest would be like a biography of Sir Christopher Wren that made no
    mention of his works. It was not strange then that when I saw this small
    bird the question rose to my mind, what kind of nest does it build?

    One morning in the month of October, the great breeding-time for birds
    in the Southern Hemisphere, while cautiously picking my way through a
    bed of eardoon bushes, the mysterious little creature flitted up and
    perched among the clustering leaves quite near to me. It uttered a
    feeble grasshopper-like chirp; and then a second individual, smaller,
    paler-coloured, and if possible shyer than the first, showed itself for
    two or three seconds, after which both birds dived once more into
    concealment. How glad I was to see them! for here they were, male and
    female, in a suitable spot in my own fields, where they evidently meant
    to breed. Every day after that I paid them one cautious visit, and by
    waiting from five to fifteen minutes, standing motionless among the
    thistles, I always succeeded in getting them to show themselves for a
    few moments. I could easily have secured them then, but my wish was to
    discover their nesting habits; and after watching for some days, I was
    rewarded by finding their nest; then for three days more I watched it
    slowly progressing towards completion, and each time I approached it one
    of the small birds would flit out to vanish into the herbage. The
    structure was about six inches long, and not more than two inches in
    diameter, and was placed horizontally on a broad stiff eardoon leaf,
    sheltered by other leaves above. It was made of the finest dry grass
    loosely woven, and formed a simple perfectly straight tube, open at both
    ends. The aperture was so small that I could only insert my little
    finger, and the bird could not, of course, have turned round in so
    narrow a passage, and so always went in at one end and left by the
    other. On visiting the spot on the fourth day I found, to my intense
    chagrin, that the delicate fabric had been broken and thrown down by
    some animal; also, that the birds had utterly vanished--for I sought
    them in vain, both there and in every weedy and thistly spot in the
    neighbourhood. The bird without the nest had seemed a useless thing to
    possess; now, for all my pains, I had only a wisp of fine dry grass in
    my hand, and no bird. The shy, modest little creature, dwelling
    violet-like amidst clustering leaves, and even when showing itself still
    "half-hidden from the eye," was thereafter to be only a tantalizing
    image in memory. Still, my case was not so hopeless as that of the
    imagined lapidary; for however rare a species may be, and near to its
    final extinction, there must always be many individuals existing, and I
    was cheered by the thought that I might yet meet with one at some future
    time. And, even if this particular species was not to gladden my sight
    again, there were others, scores and hundreds more, and at any moment I
    might expect to see one shining, a living gem, on Nature's open extended
    palm.

    Sometimes it has happened that an animal would have been overlooked or
    passed by with scant notice, to be forgotten, perhaps, but for some
    singular action or habit which has instantly given it a strange
    importance, and made its possession desirable.

    I was once engaged in the arduous and monotonous task of driving a large
    number of sheep a distance of two hundred and fifty miles, in
    excessively hot weather, when sheep prefer standing still to travelling.
    Five or six gauchos were with me, and we were on the southern pampas of
    Buenos Ayres, near to a long precipitous stony sierra which rose to a
    height of five or six hundred feet above the plain. Who that has
    travelled for eighteen days on a dead level in a broiling sun can resist
    a hill? That sierra was more sublime to us than Conon-dagua, than
    Illimani.

    Leaving the sheep, I rode to it with three of the men; aad after
    securing our horses on the lower slope, we began our laborious ascent.
    Now the gaucho when taken from his horse, on which he lives like a kind
    of parasite, is a very slow-moving creature, and I soon left my friends
    far behind. Coming to a place where ferns and flowering herbage grew
    thick, I began to hear all about me sounds of a character utterly unlike
    any natural sound I was acquainted with--innumerable low clear voices
    tinkling or pealing like minute sweet-toned, resonant bells--for the
    sounds were purely metallic and perfectly bell-like. I was completely
    ringed round with the mysterious music, and as I walked it rose and sank
    rhythmically, keeping time to my steps. I stood still, and immediately
    the sounds ceased. I took a step forwards, and again the fairy-bells
    were set ringing, as if at each step my foot touched a central meeting
    point of a thousand radiating threads, each thread attached to a peal of
    little bells hanging concealed among the herbage. I waited for my
    companions, and called their attention to the phenomenon, and to them
    also it was a thing strange and perplexing. "It is the bell-snake!"
    cried one excitedly. This is the rattle-snake; but although at that time
    I had no experience of this reptile, I knew that he was wrong. Yet how
    natural the mistake! The Spanish name of "bell-snake" had made him
    imagine that the whirring sound of the vibrating rattles, resembling
    muffled cicada music, is really bell-like in character. Eventually we
    discovered that the sound was made by grasshoppers; but they were seen
    only to be lost, for I could not capture one, so excessively shy and
    cunning had the perpetual ringing of their own little tocsins made them.
    And presently I had to return to my muttons; and afterwards there was no
    opportunity of revisiting the spot to observe so singular a habit again
    and collect specimens. It was a very slender grasshopper, about an inch
    and a half long, of a uniform, tawny, protective colour--the colour of
    an old dead leaf. It also possessed a protective habit common to most
    grasshoppers, of embracing a slender vertical stem with its four fine
    front legs, and moving cunningly round so as to keep the stem always in
    front of it to screen itself from sight. Only other grasshoppers are
    silent when alarmed, and the silence and masking action are related, and
    together prevent the insect from being detected. But this particular
    species, or race, or colony, living on the sides of the isolated sierra,
    had acquired a contrary habit, resembling a habit of gregarious birds
    and mammals. For this informing sound (unless it mimicked some
    _warning-sound,_ as of a rattlesnake, which it didn't) could not
    possibly be beneficial to individuals living alone, as grasshoppers
    generally do, but, on the contrary, only detrimental; and such a habit
    was therefore purely for the public good, and could only have arisen in
    a species that always lived in communities.

    On another occasion, in the middle of the hot season, I was travelling
    alone across-country in a locality which was new to me, a few leagues
    east of La Plata River, in its widest part. About eleven o'clock in the
    morning I came to a low-lying level plain where the close-cropped grass
    was vivid green, although elsewhere all over the country the vegetation
    was scorched and dead, and dry as ashes. The ground being so favourable,
    I crossed this low plain at a swinging gallop, and in about thirty
    minutes' time. In that half-hour I saw a vast number of snakes, all of
    one kind, and a species new to me; but my anxiety to reach my
    destination before the oppressive heat of the afternoon made me hurry
    on. So numerous were the snakes in that green place that frequently I
    had as many as a dozen in sight at one time. It looked to me like a
    coronelia--harmless colubrine snakes--but was more than twice as large
    as either of the two species of that genus I was already familiar with.
    In size they varied greatly, ranging from two to fully five feet in
    length, and the colour was dull yellow or tan, slightly lined and
    mottled with shades of brown. Among dead or partially withered grass and
    herbage they would have been undistinguishable at even a very short
    distance, but on the vivid green turf they were strangely conspicuous,
    some being plainly visible forty or fifty yards away; and not one was
    seen coiled up. They were all lying motionless, stretched out full
    length, and looking like dark yellow or tan-coloured ribbons, thrown on
    to the grass. It was most unusual to see so many snakes together,
    although not surprising in the circumstances. The December heats had
    dried up all the watercourses and killed the vegetation, and made the
    earth hard and harsh as burnt bricks; and at such times snakes,
    especially the more active non-venomous kinds, will travel long
    distances, in their slow way, in search of water. Those I saw during my
    ride had probably been attracted by the moisture from a large area of
    country; and although there was no water, the soft fresh grass must have
    been grateful to them. Snakes are seen coiled up when they are at home;
    when travelling and far afield, they lie as a rule extended full length,
    even when resting--and they are generally resting. Pausing at length,
    before quitting this green plain, to give my horse a minute's rest, I
    got off and approached a large snake; but when I was quite twelve yards
    from it, it lifted its head, and, turning deliberately round, came
    rather swiftly at me. I retreated, and it followed, until, springing on
    to my horse, I left it, greatly surprised at its action, and beginning
    to think that it must be venomous. As I rode on the feeling of surprise
    increased, conquering haste; and in the end, seeing more snakes, I
    dismounted and approached the largest, when exactly the same thing
    occurred again, the snake rousing itself and coming angrily at me when I
    was still (considering the dull lethargic character of the deadliest
    kinds) at an absurd distance from it. Again and again I repeated the
    experiment, with the same result. And at length I stunned one with a
    blow of my whip to examine its mouth, but found no poison-fangs in it.

    I then resumed my journey, expecting to meet with more snakes of the
    same kind at my destination; but there were none, and very soon business
    called me to a distant place, and I never met with this species
    afterwards. But when I rode away from that green spot, and was once more
    on the higher, desolate, wind-swept plain surrounding it--a rustling sea
    of giant thistles, still erect, although dead, and red as rust, and
    filling the hot blue sky with silvery down--it was with a very strange
    feeling. The change from the green and living to the dead and dry and
    dusty was so great! There seemed to be something mysterious,
    extra-natural, in that low level plain, so green and fresh and snaky,
    where my horse's hoofs had made no sound--a place where no man dwelt,
    and no cattle pastured, and no wild bird folded its wing. And the
    serpents there were not like others--the mechanical coiled-up thing we
    know, a mere bone-and-muscle man-trap, set by the elements, to spring
    and strike when trodden on: but these had a high intelligence, a lofty
    spirit, and were filled with a noble rage and astonishment that any
    other kind of creature, even a man, should venture there to disturb
    their sacred peace. It was a fancy, born of that sense of mystery which
    the unknown and the unusual in nature wakes in us--an obsolescent
    feeling that still links us to the savage. But the simple fact was
    wonderful enough, and that has been set down simply and apart from all
    fancies. If the reader happens not to be a naturalist, it is right to
    tell him that a naturalist cannot exaggerate consciously; and if he be
    capable of unconscious exaggeration, then ho is no naturalist. He
    should hasten "to join the innumerable caravan that moves" to the
    fantastic realms of romance. Looking at the simple fact scientifically,
    it was a case of mimicry--the harmless snake mimicking the fierce
    threatening gestures and actions proper to some deadly kind. Only with
    this difference: the venomous snake, of all deadly things in nature, is
    the slowest to resentment, the most reluctant to enter into a quarrel;
    whereas in this species angry demonstrations were made when the intruder
    was yet far off, and before he had shown any hostile intentions.

    My last case--the last, that is, of the few I have selected--relates to
    a singular variation in the human species. On this occasion I was again
    travelling alone in a strange district on the southern frontier of
    Buenos Ayres. On a bitterly cold midwinter day, shortly before noon, I
    arrived, stiff and tired, at one of those pilgrims' rests on the pampas
    --a wayside _pulperia,_ or public house, where the traveller can procure
    anything he may require or desire, from a tumbler of Brazilian rum to
    make glad his heart, to a poncho, or cloak of blue cloth with fluffy
    scarlet lining, to keep him warm o' nights; and, to speed him on his
    way, a pair of cast-iron spurs weighing six pounds avoirdupois, with
    rowels eight inches in diameter, manufactured in this island for the use
    of barbarous men beyond the sea. The wretched mud-and-grass building was
    surrounded by a foss crossed by a plank drawbridge; outside of the
    enclosure twelve or fourteen saddled horses were standing, and from the
    loud noise of talk and laughter in the bar I conjectured that a goodly
    company of rough frontiersmen were already making merry at that early
    hour. It was necessary for me to go in among them to see the proprietor
    of the place and ask permission to visit his kitchen in order to make
    myself a "tin of coffee," that being the refreshment I felt inclined
    for. When I went in and made my salutation, one man wheeled round square
    before me, stared straight into my oyes, and in an exceedingly
    high-pitched reedy or screechy voice and a sing-song tone returned my
    "good morning," and bade me call for the liquid I loved best at his
    expense. I declined with thanks, and in accordance with gaucho etiquette
    added that I was prepared to pay for his liquor. It was then for him to
    say that he had already been served and so let the matter drop, but he
    did not do so: he screamed out in his wild animal voice that he would
    take gin. I paid for his drink, and would, I think, have felt greatly
    surprised at his strange insolent behaviour, so unlike that of the
    usually courteous gaucho, but this thing affected me not at all, so
    profoundly had his singular appearance and voice impressed me; and for
    the rest of the time I remained in the place I continued to watch him
    narrowly. Professor Huxley has somewhere said, "A variation frequently
    occurs, but those who notice it take no care about noting down the
    particulars." That is not a failing of mine, and this is what I noted
    down while the man's appearance was still fresh in memory. He was about
    five feet eleven inches in height--very tall for a gaucho--straight and
    athletic, with exceedingly broad shoulders, which made his round head
    look small; long arms and huge hands. The round flat face, coarse black
    hair, swarthy reddish colour, and smooth hairless cheeks seemed to show
    that he had more Indian than Spanish blood in him, while his round black
    eyes were even more like those of a rapacious animal in expression than
    in the pure-blooded Indian. He also had the Indian or half-breed's
    moustache, when that natural ornament is permitted to grow, and which is
    composed of thick bristles standing out like a cat's whiskers. The mouth
    was the marvellous feature, for it was twice the size of an average
    mouth, and the two lips were alike in thickness. This mouth did not
    smile, but snarled, both when he spoke and when he should have smiled;
    and when he snarled the wliolo of his teeth and a part of the gums were
    displayed. The teeth were not as in other human beings--incisors,
    canines, and molars: they were all exactly alike, above and below, each
    tooth a gleaming white triangle, broad at the gum where it touched its
    companion teeth, and with a point sharp as the sharpest-pointed dagger.
    They were like the teeth of a shark or crocodile. I noticed that when he
    showed them, which was very often, they were not set together as in
    dogs, weasels, and other savage snarling animals, but apart, showing the
    whole terrible serration in the huge red mouth.

    After getting his gin he joined in the boisterous conversation with the
    others, and this gave me an opportunity of studying his face for several
    minutes, all the time with a curious feeling that I had put myself into
    a cage with a savage animal of horrible aspect, whose instincts were
    utterly unknown to me, and were probably not very pleasant. It was
    interesting to note that whenever one of the others addressed him
    directly, or turned to him when speaking, it was with a curious
    expression, not of fear, but partly amusement and partly something else
    which I could not fathom. Now, one might think that this was natural
    enough purely on account of the man's extraordinary appearance. I do not
    think that a sufficient explanation; for however strange a man's
    appearance may be, his intimate friends and associates soon lose all
    sense of wonder at his strangeness, and even forget that he is unlike
    others. My belief is that this curiosity, or whatever it was they showed
    in their faces, was due to something in his character--a mental
    strangeness, showing itself at unexpected times, and which might flash,
    out at any moment to amuse or astonish them. There was certainly a
    correspondence between the snarling action of the mouth and the
    dangerous form of the teeth, perfect as that in any snarling animal; and
    such animals, it should be remembered, snarl not only when angry and
    threatening, but in their playful moods as well. Other and more
    important correspondences or correlations might have existed; and the
    voice was certainly unlike any human voice I have ever heard, whether in
    white, red, or black man. But the time I had for observation was short,
    the conversation revealed nothing further, and by-and-by I went away in
    search of the odorous kitchen, where there would be hot water for
    coffee, or at all events cold water and a kettle, and materials for
    making a fire--to wit, bones of dead cattle, "buffalo chips," and rancid
    fat.

    I have never been worried with the wish, or ambition to be a head-hunter
    in the Dyak sense, but on this one occasion I did wish that it had been
    possible, without violating any law, or doing anything to a
    fellow-creature which I should not like done to myself, to have obtained
    possession of this man's head, with its set of unique and terrible
    teeth. For how, in the name of Evolution, did he come by them, and by
    other physical peculiarities--the snarling habit and that high-pitched
    animal voice, for instance--which made him a being different from
    others--one separate and far apart? Was he, so admirably formed, so
    complete and well-balanced, merely a freak of nature, to use an
    old-fashioned phrase--a sport, or spontaneous individual variation--an
    experiment for a new human type, imagined by Nature in some past period,
    inconceivably long ago, but which she had only now, too late, found time
    to carry out? Or rather was he like that little hairy maiden exhibited
    not long ago in London, a reproduction of the past, the mystery called
    reversion--a something in the life of a species like memory in the life
    of an individual, the memory which suddenly brings back to the old man's
    mind the image of his childhood? For no dream-monster in human form ever
    appeared to me with so strange and terrible a face; and this was no
    dream but sober fact, for I saw and spoke with this man; and unless cold
    steel has given him his quietus, or his own horse has crushed him, or a
    mad bull sored him--all natural forms of death in that wild land--he is
    probably still living and in the prime of life, and perhaps at this very
    moment drinking gin at some astonished traveller's expense at that very
    bar where I met him. The old Palaeolithic man, judging from the few
    remains we have of him, must have had an unspeakably savage and, to our
    way of thinking, repulsive and horrible aspect, with his villainous low
    receding forehead, broad nose, great projecting upper jaw, and
    retreating chin; to meet such a man face to face in Piccadilly would
    frighten a nervous person of the present time. But his teeth were not
    unlike our own, only very much larger and more powerful, and well
    adapted to their work of masticating the flesh, underdone and possibly
    raw, of mammoth and rhinoceros. If, then, this living man recalls a type
    of the past, it is of a remoter past, a more primitive man, the volume
    of whose history is missing from the geological record. To speculate on
    such a subject seems idle and useless; and when I coveted possession of
    that head it was not because I thought that it might lead to any fresh
    discovery. A lower motive inspired the feeling. I wished for it only
    that I might bring it over the sea, to drop it like a new apple of
    discord, suited to the spirit of the times, among the anthropologists
    and evolutionists generally of this old and learned world. Inscribed, of
    course, "To the most learned," but giving no locality and no
    particulars. I wished to do that for the pleasure--not a very noble kind
    of pleasure, I allow--of witnessing from some safe hiding-place the
    stupendous strife that would have ensued--a battle more furious, lasting
    and fatal to many a brave knight of biology, than was ever yet fought
    over any bone or bony fragment or fabric ever picked up, including the
    celebrated cranium of the Neanderthal.
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