Sir John Lubbock suggests that they may perhaps be tolerated as scavengers: or, again, it is possible that they may prey upon the eggs or larvae of some of the parasites to whose attacks the ants are subject. In the first case, their use would be similar to that of the wild dogs in Constantinople or the common black John-crow vultures in tropical America: in the second case, they would be about equivalent to our own cats or to the hedgehog often put in farmhouse kitchens to keep down cockroaches.
The crowning glory of owning slaves, which many philosophic Americans (before the war) showed to be the highest and noblest function of the most advanced humanity, has been attained by more than one variety of anthood. Our great English horse-ant is a moderate slaveholder; but the big red ant of Southern Europe carries the domestic institution many steps further. It makes regular slave-raids upon the nests of the small brown ants, and carries off the young in their pupa condition. By-and-by the brown ants hatch out in the strange nest, and never having known any other life except that of slavery, accommodate themselves to it readily enough. The red ant, however, is still only an occasional slaveowner; if necessary, he can get along by himself, without the aid of his little brown servants. Indeed, there are free states and slave states of red ants side by side with one another, as of old in Maryland and Pennsylvania: in the first, the red ants do their work themselves, like mere vulgar Ohio farmers; in the second, they get their work done for them by their industrious little brown servants, like the aristocratic first families of Virginia before the earthquake of emancipation.
But there are other degraded ants, whose life-history may be humbly presented to the consideration of the Anti-Slavery Society, as speaking more eloquently than any other known fact for the demoralising effect of slaveowning upon the slaveholders themselves. The Swiss rufescent ant is a species so long habituated to rely entirely upon the services of slaves that it is no longer able to manage its own affairs when deprived by man of its hereditary bondsmen. It has lost entirely the art of constructing a nest; it can no longer tend its own young, whom it leaves entirely to the care of negro nurses; and its bodily structure even has changed, for the jaws have lost their teeth, and have been converted into mere nippers, useful only as weapons of war. The rufescent ant, in fact, is a purely military caste, which has devoted itself entirely to the pursuit of arms, leaving every other form of activity to its slaves and dependents. Officers of the old school will be glad to learn that this military insect is dressed, if not in scarlet, at any rate in very decent red, and that it refuses to be bothered in any way with questions of transport or commissariat. If the community changes its nest, the masters are carried on the backs of their slaves to the new position, and the black ants have to undertake the entire duty of foraging and bringing in stores of supply for their gentlemanly proprietors. Only when war is to be made upon neighbouring nests does the thin red line form itself into long file for active service. Nothing could be more perfectly aristocratic than the views of life entertained and acted upon by these distinguished slaveholders.
On the other hand, the picture has its reverse side, exhibiting clearly the weak points of the slaveholding system. The rufescent ant has lost even the very power of feeding itself. So completely dependent is each upon his little black valet for daily bread, that he cannot so much as help himself to the food that is set before him. Hueber put a few slaveholders into a box with some of their own larvae and pupae, and a supply of honey, in order to see what they would do with them. Appalled at the novelty of the situation, the slaveholders seemed to come to the conclusion that something must be done; so they began carrying the larvae about aimlessly in their mouths, and rushing up and down in search of the servants. After a while, however, they gave it up and came to the conclusion that life under such circumstances was clearly intolerable. They never touched the honey, but resigned themselves to their fate like officers and gentlemen. In less than two days, half of them had died of hunger, rather than taste a dinner which was not supplied to them by a properly constituted footman. Admiring their heroism or pitying their incapacity, Hueber at last gave them just one slave between them all. The plucky little negro, nothing daunted by the gravity of the situation, set to work at once, dug a small nest, gathered together the larvae, helped several pupae out of the cocoon, and saved the lives of the surviving slaveowners. Other naturalists have tried similar experiments, and always with the same result. The slaveowners will starve in the midst of plenty rather than feed themselves without attendance. Either they cannot or will not put the food into their own mouths with their own mandibles.
There are yet other ants, such as the workerless Anergates, in which the degradation of slaveholding has gone yet further. These wretched creatures are the formican representatives of those Oriental despots who are no longer even warlike, but are sunk in sloth and luxury, and pass their lives in eating bang or smoking opium. Once upon a time, Sir John Lubbock thinks, the ancestors of Anergates were marauding slaveowners, who attacked and made serfs of other ants. But gradually they lost not only their arts but even their military prowess, and were reduced to making war by stealth instead of openly carrying off their slaves in fair battle. It seems probable that they now creep into a nest of the far more powerful slave ants, poison or assassinate the queen, and establish themselves by sheer usurpation in the queenless nest. 'Gradually,' says Sir John Lubbock, 'even their bodily force dwindled away under the enervating influence to which they had subjected themselves, until they sank to their present degraded condition—weak in body and mind, few in numbers, and apparently nearly extinct, the miserable representatives of far superior ancestors maintaining a precarious existence as contemptible parasites of their former slaves.' One may observe in passing that these wretched do-nothings cannot have been the ants which Solomon commended to the favourable consideration of the sluggard; though it is curious that the text was never pressed into the service of defence for the peculiar institution by the advocates of slavery in the South, who were always most anxious to prove the righteousness of their cause by most sure and certain warranty of Holy Scripture.
'The Atlantosaurus,' said I, pointing affectionately with a wave of my left hand to all that was immortal of that extinct reptile, 'is estimated to have had a total length of one hundred feet, and was probably the very biggest lizard that ever lived, even in Western America, where his earthly remains were first disinhumed by an enthusiastic explorer.'
'Yes, yes,' my friend answered abstractedly. 'Of course, of course; things were all so very big in those days, you know, my dear fellow.'
'Excuse me,' I replied with polite incredulity; 'I really don't know to what particular period of time the phrase "in those days" may be supposed precisely to refer.'
My friend shuffled inside his coat a little uneasily. (I will admit that I was taking a mean advantage of him. The professorial lecture in private life, especially when followed by a strict examination, is quite undeniably a most intolerable nuisance.) 'Well,' he said, in a crusty voice, after a moment's hesitation, 'I mean, you know, in geological times ... well, there, my dear fellow, things used all to be so very big in those days, usedn't they?'
I took compassion upon him and let him off easily. 'You've had enough of the museum,' I said with magnanimous self-denial. 'The Atlantosaurus has broken the camel's back. Let's go and have a quiet cigarette in the park outside.'
But if you suppose, reader, that I am going to carry my forbearance so far as to let you, too, off the remainder of that geological disquisition, you are certainly very much mistaken. A discourse which would be quite unpardonable in social intercourse may be freely admitted in the privacy of print; because, you see, while you can't easily tell a man that his conversation bores you (though some people just avoid doing so by an infinitesimal fraction), you can shut up a book whenever you like, without the very faintest or remotest risk of hurting the author's delicate susceptibilities.
The subject of my discourse naturally divides itself, like the conventional sermon, into two heads—the precise date of 'geological times,' and the exact bigness of the animals that lived in them. And I may as well begin by announcing my general conclusion at the very outset; first, that 'those days' never existed at all; and, secondly, that the animals which now inhabit this particular planet are, on the whole, about as big, taken in the lump, as any previous contemporary fauna that ever lived at any one time together upon its changeful surface. I know that to announce this sad conclusion is to break down one more universal and cherished belief; everybody considers that 'geological animals' were ever so much bigger than their modern representatives; but the interests of truth should always be paramount, and, if the trade of an iconoclast is a somewhat cruel one, it is at least a necessary function in a world so ludicrously overstocked with popular delusions as this erring planet.
What, then, is the ordinary idea of 'geological time' in the minds of people like my good friend who refused to discuss with me the exact antiquity of the Atlantosaurian? They think of it all as immediate and contemporaneous, a vast panorama of innumerable ages being all crammed for them on to a single mental sheet, in which the dodo and the moa hob-an'-nob amicably with the pterodactyl and the ammonite; in which the tertiary megatherium goes cheek by jowl with the secondary deinosaurs and the primary trilobites; in which the huge herbivores of the Paris Basin are supposed to have browsed beneath the gigantic club-mosses of the Carboniferous period, and to have been successfully hunted by the great marine lizards and flying dragons of the Jurassic Epoch. Such a picture is really just as absurd, or, to speak more correctly, a thousand times absurder, than if one were to speak of those grand old times when Homer and Virgil smoked their pipes together in the Mermaid Tavern, while Shakespeare and Moliere, crowned with summer roses, sipped their Falernian at their ease beneath the whispering palmwoods of the Nevsky Prospect, and discussed the details of the play they were to produce to-morrow in the crowded Colosseum, on the occasion of Napoleon's reception at Memphis by his victorious brother emperors, Ramses and Sardanapalus. This is not, as the inexperienced reader may at first sight imagine, a literal transcript from one of the glowing descriptions that crowd the beautiful pages of Ouida; it is a faint attempt to parallel in the brief moment of historical time the glaring anachronisms perpetually committed as regards the vast lapse of geological chronology even by well-informed and intelligent people.
We must remember, then, that in dealing with geological time we are dealing with a positively awe-inspiring and unimaginable series of aeons, each of which occupied its own enormous and incalculable epoch, and each of which saw the dawn, the rise, the culmination, and the downfall of innumerable types of plant and animal. On the cosmic clock, by whose pendulum alone we can faintly measure the dim ages behind us, the brief lapse of historical time, from the earliest of Egyptian dynasties to the events narrated in this evening's Pall Mall, is less than a second, less than a unit, less than the smallest item by which we can possibly guide our blind calculations. To a geologist the temples of Karnak and the New Law Courts would be absolutely contemporaneous; he has no means by which he could discriminate in date between a scarabaeus of Thothmes, a denarius of Antonine, and a bronze farthing of her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria. Competent authorities have shown good grounds for believing that the Glacial Epoch ended about 80,000 years ago; and everything that has happened since the Glacial Epoch is, from the geological point of view, described as 'recent.' A shell embedded in a clay cliff sixty or seventy thousand years ago, while short and swarthy Mongoloids still dwelt undisturbed in Britain, ages before the irruption of the 'Ancient Britons' of our inadequate school-books, is, in the eyes of geologists generally, still regarded as purely modern.
But behind that indivisible moment of recent time, that eighty thousand years which coincides in part with the fraction of a single swing of the cosmical pendulum, there lie hours, and days, and weeks, and months, and years, and centuries, and ages of an infinite, an illimitable, an inconceivable past, whose vast divisions unfold themselves slowly, one beyond the other, to our aching vision in the half-deciphered pages of the geological record. Before the Glacial Epoch there comes the Pliocene, immeasurably longer than the whole expanse of recent time; and before that again the still longer Miocene, and then the Eocene, immeasurably longer than all the others put together. These three make up in their sum the Tertiary period, which entire period can hardly have occupied more time in its passage than a single division of the Secondary, such as the Cretaceous, or the Oolite, or the Triassic; and the Secondary period, once more, though itself of positively appalling duration, seems but a patch (to use the expressive modernism) upon the unthinkable and unrealisable vastness of the endless successive Primary aeons. So that in the end we can only say, like Michael Scott's mystic head, 'Time was, Time is, Time will be.' The time we know affords us no measure at all for even the nearest and briefest epochs of the time we know not; and the time we know not seems to demand still vaster and more inexpressible figures as we pry back curiously, with wondering eyes, into its dimmest and earliest recesses.
These efforts to realise the unrealisable make one's head swim; let us hark back once more from cosmical time to the puny bigness of our earthly animals, living or extinct.
If we look at the whole of our existing fauna, marine and terrestrial, we shall soon see that we could bring together at the present moment a very goodly collection of extant monsters, most parlous monsters, too, each about as fairly big in its own kind as almost anything that has ever preceded it. Every age has its own specialite in the way of bigness; in one epoch it is the lizards that take suddenly to developing overgrown creatures, the monarchs of creation in their little day; in another, it is the fishes that blossom out unexpectedly into Titanic proportions; in a third, it is the sloths or the proboscideans that wax fat and kick with gigantic members; in a fourth, it may be the birds or the men that are destined to evolve with future ages into veritable rocs or purely realistic Gargantuas or Brobdingnagians. The present period is most undoubtedly the period of the cetaceans; and the future geologist who goes hunting for dry bones among the ooze of the Atlantic, now known to us only by the scanty dredgings of our 'Alerts' and 'Challengers,' but then upheaved into snow-clad Alps or vine-covered Apennines, will doubtless stand aghast at the huge skeletons of our whales and our razorbacks, and will mutter to himself in awe-struck astonishment, in the exact words of my friend at South Kensington, 'Things used all to be so very big in those days, usedn't they?'
Now, the fact as to the comparative size of our own cetaceans and of 'geological' animals is just this. The Atlantosaurus of the Western American Jurassic beds, a great erect lizard, is the very largest creature ever known to have inhabited this sublunary sphere. His entire length is supposed to have reached about a hundred feet (for no complete skeleton has ever been discovered), while in stature he appears to have stood some thirty feet high, or over. In any case, he was undoubtedly a very big animal indeed, for his thigh-bone alone measures eight feet, or two feet taller than that glory of contemporary civilisation, a British Grenadier. This, of course, implies a very decent total of height and size; but our own sperm whale frequently attains a good length of seventy feet, while the rorquals often run up to eighty, ninety, and even a hundred feet. We are thus fairly entitled to say that we have at least one species of animal now living which, occasionally at any rate, equals in size the very biggest and most colossal form known inferentially to geological science. Indeed when we consider the extraordinary compactness and rotundity of the modern cetaceans, as compared with the tall limbs and straggling skeleton of the huge Jurassic deinosaurs, I am inclined to believe that the tonnage of a decent modern rorqual must positively exceed that of the gigantic Atlantosaurus, the great lizard of the west, in propria persona. I doubt, in short, whether even the solid thigh-bone of the deinosaur could ever have supported the prodigious weight of a full-grown family razor-back whale. The mental picture of these unwieldy monsters hopping casually about, like Alice's Gryphon in Tenniel's famous sketch, or like that still more parlous brute, the chortling Jabberwock, must be left to the vivid imagination of the courteous reader, who may fill in the details for himself as well as he is able.
If we turn from the particular comparison of selected specimens (always an unfair method of judging) to the general aspect of our contemporary fauna, I venture confidently to claim for our own existing human period as fine a collection of big animals as any other ever exhibited on this planet by any one single rival epoch. Of course, if you are going to lump all the extinct monsters and horrors into one imaginary unified fauna, regardless of anachronisms, I have nothing more to say to you; I will candidly admit that there were more great men in all previous generations put together, from Homer to Dickens, from Agamemnon to Wellington, than there are now existing in this last quarter of our really very respectable nineteenth century. But if you compare honestly age with age, one at a time, I fearlessly maintain that, so far from there being any falling off in the average bigness of things generally in these latter days, there are more big things now living than there ever were in any one single epoch, even of much longer duration than the 'recent' period.
I suppose we may fairly say, from the evidence before us, that there have been two Augustan Ages of big animals in the history of our earth—the Jurassic period, which was the zenith of the reptilian type, and the Pliocene, which was the zenith of the colossal terrestrial tertiary mammals. I say on purpose, 'from the evidence before us,' because, as I shall go on to explain hereafter, I do not myself believe that any one age has much surpassed another in the general size of its fauna, since the Permian Epoch at least; and where we do not get geological evidence of the existence of big animals in any particular deposit, we may take it for granted, I think, that that deposit was laid down under conditions unfavourable to the preservation of the remains of large species. For example, the sediment now being accumulated at the bottom of the Caspian cannot possibly contain the bones of any creature much larger than the Caspian seal, because there are no big species there swimming; and yet that fact does not negative the existence in other places of whales, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, and hippopotami. Nevertheless, we can only go upon the facts before us; and if we compare our existing fauna with the fauna of Jurassic and Pliocene times, we shall at any rate be putting it to the test of the severest competition that lies within our power under the actual circumstances.
In the Jurassic age there were undoubtedly a great many very big reptiles. 'A monstrous eft was of old the lord and master of earth: For him did his high sun flame and his river billowing ran: And he felt himself in his pride to be nature's crowning race.' There was the ichthyosaurus, a fish-like marine lizard, familiar to us all from a thousand reconstructions, with his long thin body, his strong flippers, his stumpy neck, and his huge pair of staring goggle eyes. The ichthyosaurus was certainly a most unpleasant creature to meet alone in a narrow strait on a dark night; but if it comes to actual measurement, the very biggest ichthyosaurian skeleton ever unearthed does not exceed twenty-five feet from snout to tail. Now, this is an extremely decent size for a reptile, as reptiles go; for the crocodile and alligator, the two biggest existing lizards, seldom attain an extreme length of sixteen feet. But there are other reptiles now living that easily beat the ichthyosaurus, such, for example, as the larger pythons or rock-snakes, which not infrequently reach to thirty feet, and measure round the waist as much as a London alderman of the noblest proportions. Of course, other Jurassic saurians easily beat this simple record. Our British Megalosaurus only extended twenty-five feet in length, and carried weight not exceeding three tons; but, his rival Ceteosaurus stood ten feet high, and measured fifty feet from the tip of his snout to the end of his tail; while the dimensions of Titanosaurus may be briefly described as sixty feet by thirty, and those of Atlantosaurus as one hundred by thirty-two. Viewed as reptiles, we have certainly nothing at all to come up to these; but our cetaceans, as a group, show an assemblage of species which could very favourably compete with the whole lot of Jurassic saurians at any cattle show. Indeed, if it came to tonnage, I believe a good blubbery right-whale could easily give points to any deinosaur that ever moved upon oolitic continents.
The great mammals of the Pliocene age, again, such as the deinotherium and the mastodon, were also, in their way, very big things in livestock; but they scarcely exceeded the modern elephant, and by no means came near the modern whales. A few colossal ruminants of the same period could have held their own well against our existing giraffes, elks, and buffaloes; but, taking the group as a group, I don't think there is any reason to believe that it beat in general aspect the living fauna of this present age.
For few people ever really remember how very many big animals we still possess. We have the Indian and the African elephant, the hippopotamus, the various rhinoceroses, the walrus, the giraffe, the elk, the bison, the musk ox, the dromedary, and the camel. Big marine animals are generally in all ages bigger than their biggest terrestrial rivals, and most people lump all our big existing cetaceans under the common and ridiculous title of whales, which makes this vast and varied assortment of gigantic species seem all reducible to a common form. As a matter of fact, however, there are several dozen colossal marine animals now sporting and spouting in all oceans, as distinct from one another as the camel is from the ox, or the elephant from the hippopotamus. Our New Zealand Berardius easily beats the ichthyosaurus; our sperm whale is more than a match for any Jurassic European deinosaur; our rorqual, one hundred feet long, just equals the dimensions of the gigantic American Atlantosaurus himself. Besides these exceptional monsters, our bottleheads reach to forty feet, our California whales to forty-four, our hump-backs to fifty, and our razor-backs to sixty or seventy. True fish generally fall far short of these enormous dimensions, but some of the larger sharks attain almost equal size with the biggest cetaceans. The common blue shark, with his twenty-five feet of solid rapacity, would have proved a tough antagonist, I venture to believe, for the best bred enaliosaurian that ever munched a lias ammonite. I would back our modern carcharodon, who grows to forty feet, against any plesiosaurus that ever swam the Jurassic sea. As for rhinodon, a gigantic shark of the Indian Ocean, he has been actually measured to a length of fifty feet, and is stated often to attain seventy. I will stake my reputation upon it that he would have cleared the secondary seas of their great saurians in less than a century. When we come to add to these enormous marine and terrestrial creatures such other examples as the great snakes, the gigantic cuttle-fish, the grampuses, and manatees, and sea-lions, and sunfish, I am quite prepared fearlessly to challenge any other age that ever existed to enter the lists against our own for colossal forms of animal life.
Again, it is a point worth noting that a great many of the very big animals which people have in their minds when they talk vaguely about everything having been so very much bigger 'in those days' have become extinct within a very late period, and are often, from the geological point of view, quite recent.
For example, there is our friend the mammoth. I suppose no animal is more frequently present to the mind of the non-geological speaker, when he talks indefinitely about the great extinct monsters, than the familiar figure of that huge-tusked, hairy northern elephant. Yet the mammoth, chronologically speaking, is but a thing of yesterday. He was hunted here in England by men whose descendants are probably still living—at least so Professor Boyd Dawkins solemnly assures us; while in Siberia his frozen body, flesh and all, is found so very fresh that the wolves devour it, without raising any unnecessary question as to its fitness for lupine food. The Glacial Epoch is the yesterday of geological time, and it was the Glacial Epoch that finally killed off the last mammoth. Then, again, there is his neighbour, the mastodon. That big tertiary proboscidean did not live quite long enough, it is true, to be hunted by the cavemen of the Pleistocene age, but he survived at any rate as long as the Pliocene—our day before yesterday—and he often fell very likely before the fire-split flint weapons of the Abbe Bourgeois' Miocene men. The period that separates him from our own day is as nothing compared with the vast and immeasurable interval that separates him from the huge marine saurians of the Jurassic world. To compare the relative lapses of time with human chronology, the mastodon stands to our own fauna as Beau Brummel stands to the modern masher, while the saurians stand to it as the Egyptian and Assyrian warriors stand to Lord Wolseley and the followers of the Mahdi.
Once more, take the gigantic moa of New Zealand, that enormous bird who was to the ostrich as the giraffe is to the antelope; a monstrous emu, as far surpassing the ostriches of to-day as the ostriches surpass all the other fowls of the air. Yet the moa, though now extinct, is in the strictest sense quite modern, a contemporary very likely of Queen Elizabeth or Queen Anne, exterminated by the Maoris only a very little time before the first white settlements in the great southern archipelago. It is even doubtful whether the moa did not live down to the days of the earliest colonists, for remains of Maori encampments are still discovered, with the ashes of the fireplace even now unscattered, and the close-gnawed bones of the gigantic bird lying in the very spot where the natives left them after their destructive feasts. So, too, with the big sharks. Our modern carcharodon, who runs (as I have before noted) to forty feet in length, is a very respectable monster indeed, as times go; and his huge snapping teeth, which measure nearly two inches long by one and a half broad, would disdain to make two bites of the able-bodied British seaman. But the naturalists of the 'Challenger' expedition dredged up in numbers from the ooze of the Pacific similar teeth, five inches long by four wide, so that the sharks to which they originally belonged must, by parity of reasoning, have measured nearly a hundred feet in length. This, no doubt, beats our biggest existing shark, the rhinodon, by some thirty feet. Still, the ooze of the Pacific is a quite recent or almost modern deposit, which is even now being accumulated on the sea bottom, and there would be really nothing astonishing in the discovery that some representatives of these colossal carcharodons are to this day swimming about at their lordly leisure among the coral reefs of the South Sea Islands. That very cautious naturalist, Dr. Guenther, of the British Museum, contents himself indeed by merely saying: 'As we have no record of living individuals of that bulk having been observed, the gigantic species to which these teeth belonged must probably have become extinct within a comparatively recent period.'
If these things are so, the question naturally suggests itself: Why should certain types of animals have attained their greatest size at certain different epochs, and been replaced at others by equally big animals of wholly unlike sorts? The answer, I believe, is simply this: Because there is not room and food in the world at any one time for more than a certain relatively small number of gigantic species. Each great group of animals has had successively its rise, its zenith, its decadence, and its dotage; each at the period of its highest development has produced a considerable number of colossal forms; each has been supplanted in due time by higher groups of totally different structure, which have killed off their predecessors, not indeed by actual stress of battle, but by irresistible competition for food and prey. The great saurians were thus succeeded by the great mammals, just as the great mammals are themselves in turn being ousted, from the land at least, by the human species.
Let us look briefly at the succession of big animals in the world, so far as we can follow it from the mutilated and fragmentary record of the geological remains.
The very earliest existing fossils would lead us to believe what is otherwise quite probable, that life on our planet began with very small forms—that it passed at first through a baby stage. The animals of the Cambrian period are almost all small mollusks, star-fishes, sponges, and other simple, primitive types of life. There were as yet no vertebrates of any sort, not even fishes, far less amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals. The veritable giants of the Cambrian world were the crustaceans, and especially the trilobites, which, nevertheless, hardly exceeded in size a good big modern lobster. The biggest trilobite is some two feet long; and though we cannot by any means say that this was really the largest form of animal life then existing, owing to the extremely broken nature of the geological record, we have at least no evidence that anything bigger as yet moved upon the face of the waters. The trilobites, which were a sort of triple-tailed crabs (to speak very popularly), began in the Cambrian Epoch, attained their culminating point in the Silurian, waned in the Devonian, and died out utterly in the Carboniferous seas.
It is in the second great epoch, the Silurian, that the cuttle-fish tribe, still fairly represented by the nautilus, the argonaut, the squid, and the octopus, first began to make their appearance upon this or any other stage. The cuttle-fishes are among the most developed of invertebrate animals; they are rapid swimmers; they have large and powerful eyes; and they can easily enfold their prey (teste Victor Hugo) in their long and slimy sucker-clad arms. With these natural advantages to back them up, it is not surprising that the cuttle family rapidly made their mark in the world. They were by far the most advanced thinkers and actors of their own age, and they rose almost at once to be the dominant creatures of the primaeval ocean in which they swam. There were as yet no saurians or whales to dispute the dominion with these rapacious cephalopods, and so the cuttle family had things for the time all their own way. Before the end of the Silurian Epoch, according to that accurate census-taker, M. Barrande, they had blossomed forth into no less than 1,622 distinct species. For a single family to develop so enormous a variety of separate forms, all presumably derived from a single common ancestor, argues, of course, an immense success in life; and it also argues a vast lapse of time during which the different species were gradually demarcated from one another.
Some of the ammonites, which belonged to this cuttle-fish group, soon attained a very considerable size; but a shell known as the orthoceras (I wish my subject didn't compel me to use such very long words, but I am not personally answerable, thank heaven, for the vagaries of modern scientific nomenclature) grew to a bigger size than that of any other fossil mollusk, sometimes measuring as much as six feet in total length. At what date the gigantic cuttles of the present day first began to make their appearance it would be hard to say, for their shell-less bodies are so soft that they could leave hardly anything behind in a fossil state; but the largest known cuttle, measured by Mr. Gabriel, of Newfoundland, was eighty feet in length, including the long arms.
These cuttles are the only invertebrates at all in the running so far as colossal size is concerned, and it will be observed that here the largest modern specimen immeasurably beats the largest fossil form of the same type. I do not say that there were not fossil forms quite as big as the gigantic calamaries of our own time—on the contrary, I believe there were; but if we go by the record alone we must confess that, in the matter of invertebrates at least, the balance of size is all in favour of our own period.
The vertebrates first make their appearance, in the shape of fishes, towards the close of the Silurian period, the second of the great geological epochs. The earliest fish appear to have been small, elongated, eel-like creatures, closely resembling the lampreys in structure; but they rapidly developed in size and variety, and soon became the ruling race in the waters of the ocean, where they maintained their supremacy till the rise of the great secondary saurians. Even then, in spite of the severe competition thus introduced, and still later, in spite of the struggle for life against the huge modern cetaceans (the true monarchs of the recent seas), the sharks continued to hold their own as producers of gigantic forms; and at the present day their largest types probably rank second only to the whales in the whole range of animated nature. There seems no reason to doubt that modern fish, as a whole, quite equal in size the piscine fauna of any previous geological age.
It is somewhat different with the next great vertebrate group, the amphibians, represented in our own world only by the frogs, the toads, the newts, and the axolotls. Here we must certainly with shame confess that the amphibians of old greatly surpassed their degenerate descendants in our modern waters. The Japanese salamander, by far the biggest among our existing newts, never exceeds a yard in length from snout to tail; whereas some of the labyrinthodonts (forgive me once more) of the Carboniferous Epoch must have reached at least seven or eight feet from stem to stern. But the reason of this falling off is not far to seek. When the adventurous newts and frogs of that remote period first dropped their gills and hopped about inquiringly on the dry land, under the shadow of the ancient tree-ferns and club-mosses, they were the only terrestrial vertebrates then existing, and they had the field (or, rather, the forest) all to themselves. For a while, therefore, like all dominant races for the time being, they blossomed forth at their ease into relatively gigantic forms. Frogs as big as donkeys, and efts as long as crocodiles, luxuriated to their hearts' content in the marshy lowlands, and lorded it freely over the small creatures which they found in undisturbed possession of the Carboniferous isles. But as ages passed away, and new improvements were slowly invented and patented by survival of the fittest in the offices of nature, their own more advanced and developed descendants, the reptiles and mammals, got the upper hand with them, and soon lived them down in the struggle for life, so that this essentially intermediate form is now almost entirely restricted to its one adapted seat, the pools and ditches that dry up in summer.
The reptiles, again, are a class in which the biggest modern forms are simply nowhere beside the gigantic extinct species. First appearing on the earth at the very close of the vast primary periods—in the Permian age—they attained in secondary times the most colossal proportions, and have certainly never since been exceeded in size by any later forms of life in whatever direction. But one must remember that during the heyday of the great saurians, there were as yet no birds and no mammals. The place now filled in the ocean by the whales and grampuses, as well as the place now filled in the great continents by the elephants, the rhinoceroses, the hippopotami, and the other big quadrupeds, was then filled exclusively by huge reptiles, of the sort rendered familiar to us all by the restored effigies on the little island in the Crystal Palace grounds. Every dog has his day, and the reptiles had their day in the secondary period. The forms into which they developed were certainly every whit as large as any ever seen on the surface of this planet, but not, as I have already shown, appreciably larger than those of the biggest cetaceans known to science in our own time.
During the very period, however, when enaliosaurians and pterodactyls were playing such pranks before high heaven as might have made contemporary angels weep, if they took any notice of saurian morality, a small race of unobserved little prowlers was growing up in the dense shades of the neighbouring forests which was destined at last to oust the huge reptiles from their empire over earth, and to become in the fulness of time the exclusively dominant type of the whole planet. In the trias we get the first remains of mammalian life in the shape of tiny rat-like animals, marsupial in type, and closely related to the banded ant-eaters of New South Wales at the present day. Throughout the long lapse of the secondary ages, across the lias, the oolite, the wealden, and the chalk, we find the mammalian race slowly developing into opossums and kangaroos, such as still inhabit the isolated and antiquated continent of Australia. Gathering strength all the time for the coming contest, increasing constantly in size of brain and keenness of intelligence, the true mammals were able at last, towards the close of the secondary ages, to enter the lists boldly against the gigantic saurians. With the dawn of the tertiary period, the reign of the reptiles begins to wane, and the reign of the mammals to set in at last in real earnest. In place of the ichthyosaurs we get the huge cetaceans; in place of the deinosaurs we get the mammoth and the mastodon; in place of the dominant reptile groups we get the first precursors of man himself.
The history of the great birds has been somewhat more singular. Unlike the other main vertebrate classes, the birds (as if on purpose to contradict the proverb) seem never yet to have had their day. Unfortunately for them, or at least for their chance of producing colossal species, their evolution went on side by side, apparently, with that of the still more intelligent and more powerful mammals; so that, wherever the mammalian type had once firmly established itself, the birds were compelled to limit their aspirations to a very modest and humble standard. Terrestrial mammals, however, cannot cross the sea; so in isolated regions, such as New Zealand and Madagascar, the birds had things all their own way. In New Zealand, there are no indigenous quadrupeds at all; and there the huge moa attained to dimensions almost equalling those of the giraffe. In Madagascar, the mammalian life was small and of low grade, so the gigantic aepyornis became the very biggest of all known birds. At the same time, these big species acquired their immense size at the cost of the distinctive birdlike habit of flight. A flying moa is almost an impossible conception; even the ostriches compete practically with the zebras and antelopes rather than with the eagles, the condors, or the albatrosses. In like manner, when a pigeon found its way to Mauritius, it developed into the practically wingless dodo; while in the northern penguins, on their icy perches, the fore limbs have been gradually modified into swimming organs, exactly analogous to the flippers of the seal.
Are the great animals now passing away and leaving no representatives of their greatness to future ages? On land at least that is very probable. Man, diminutive man, who, if he walked on all fours, would be no bigger than a silly sheep, and who only partially disguises his native smallness by his acquired habit of walking erect on what ought to be his hind legs—man has upset the whole balanced economy of nature, and is everywhere expelling and exterminating before him the great herbivores, his predecessors. He needs for his corn and his bananas the fruitful plains which were once laid down in prairie or scrubwood. Hence it seems not unlikely that the elephant, the hippopotamus, the rhinoceros, and the buffalo must go. But we are still a long way off from that final consummation, even on dry land; while as for the water, it appears highly probable that there are as good fish still in the sea as ever came out of it. Whether man himself, now become the sole dominant animal of our poor old planet, will ever develop into Titanic proportions, seems far more problematical. The race is now no longer to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Brain counts for more than muscle, and mind has gained the final victory over mere matter. Goliath of Gath has shrunk into insignificance before the Gatling gun; as in the fairy tales of old, it is cunning little Jack with his clever devices who wins the day against the heavy, clumsy, muddle-headed giants. Nowadays it is our 'Minotaurs' and 'Warriors' that are the real leviathans and behemoths of the great deep; our Krupps and Armstrongs are the fire-breathing krakens of the latter-day seas. Instead of developing individually into huge proportions, the human race tends rather to aggregate into vast empires, which compete with one another by means of huge armaments, and invent mitrailleuses and torpedos of incredible ferocity for their mutual destruction. The dragons of the prime that tare each other in their slime have yielded place to eighty-ton guns and armour-plated turret-ships. Those are the genuine lineal representatives on our modern seas of the secondary saurians. Let us hope that some coming geologist of the dim future, finding the fossil remains of the sunken 'Captain,' or the plated scales of the 'Comte de Grasse,' firmly embedded in the upheaved ooze of the existing Atlantic, may shake his head in solemn deprecation at the horrid sight, and thank heaven that such hideous carnivorous creatures no longer exist in his own day.
There is something at first sight rather ridiculous in the idea of eating a fossil. To be sure, when the frozen mammoths of Siberia were first discovered, though they had been dead for at least 80,000 years (according to Dr. Croll's minimum reckoning for the end of the great ice age), and might therefore naturally have begun to get a little musty, they had nevertheless been kept so fresh, like a sort of prehistoric Australian mutton, in their vast natural refrigerators, that the wolves and bears greedily devoured the precious relics for which the naturalists of Europe would have been ready gladly to pay the highest market price of best beefsteak. Those carnivorous vandals gnawed off the skin and flesh with the utmost appreciation, and left nothing but the tusks and bones to adorn the galleries of the new Natural History Museum at South Kensington. But then wolves and bears, especially in Siberia, are not exactly fastidious about the nature of their meat diet. Furthermore, some of the bones of extinct animals found beneath the stalagmitic floor of caves, in England and elsewhere, presumably of about the same age as the Siberian mammoths, still contain enough animal matter to produce a good strong stock for antediluvian broth, which has been scientifically described by a high authority as pre-Adamite jelly. The congress of naturalists at Tuebingen a few years since had a smoking tureen of this cave-bone soup placed upon the dinner-table at their hotel one evening, and pronounced it with geological enthusiasm 'scarcely inferior to prime ox-tail.' But men of science, too, are accustomed to trying unsavoury experiments, which would go sadly against the grain with less philosophic and more squeamish palates. They think nothing of tasting a caterpillar that birds will not touch, in order to discover whether it owes its immunity from attack to some nauseous, bitter, or pungent flavouring; and they even advise you calmly to discriminate between two closely similar species of snails by trying which of them when chewed has a delicate soupcon of oniony aroma. So that naturalists in this matter, as the children say, don't count: their universal thirst for knowledge will prompt them to drink anything, down even to consomme of quaternary cave-bear.
There is one form of fossil food, however, which appears constantly upon all our tables at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day, and which is so perfectly familiar to every one of us that we almost forget entirely its immensely remote geological origin. The salt in our salt-cellars is a fossil product, laid down ages ago in some primaeval Dead Sea or Caspian, and derived in all probability (through the medium of the grocer) from the triassic rocks of Cheshire or Worcestershire. Since that thick bed of rock-salt was first precipitated upon the dry floor of some old evaporated inland sea, the greater part of the geological history known to the world at large has slowly unrolled itself through incalculable ages. The dragons of the prime have begun and finished their long (and Lord Tennyson says slimy) race. The fish-like saurians and flying pterodactyls of the secondary period have come into existence and gone out of it gracefully again. The whole family of birds has been developed and diversified into its modern variety of eagles and titmice. The beasts of the field have passed through sundry stages of mammoth and mastodon, of sabre-toothed lion and huge rhinoceros. Man himself has progressed gradually from the humble condition of a 'hairy arboreal quadruped'—these bad words are Mr. Darwin's own—to the glorious elevation of an erect, two-handed creature, with a county suffrage question and an intelligent interest in the latest proceedings of the central divorce court. And after all those manifold changes, compared to which the entire period of English history, from the landing of Julius Caesar to the appearance of this present volume (to take two important landmarks), is as one hour to a human lifetime, we quietly dig up the salt to-day from that dry lake bottom and proceed to eat it with the eggs laid by the hens this morning for this morning's breakfast, just as though the one food-stuff were not a whit more ancient or more dignified in nature than the other. Why, mammoth steak is really quite modern and commonplace by the side of the salt in the salt-cellar that we treat so cavalierly every day of our ephemeral existence.
The way salt got originally deposited in these great rock beds is very well illustrated for us by the way it is still being deposited in the evaporating waters of many inland seas. Every schoolboy knows of course (though some persons who are no longer schoolboys may just possibly have forgotten) that the Caspian is in reality only a little bit of the Mediterranean, which has been cut off from the main sea by the gradual elevation of the country between them. For many ages the intermediate soil has been quite literally rising in the world; but to this day a continuous chain of salt lakes and marshes runs between the Caspian and the Black Sea, and does its best to keep alive the memory of the time when they were both united in a single basin. All along this intervening tract, once sea but now dry land, banks of shells belonging to kinds still living in the Caspian and the Black Sea alike testify to the old line of water communication. One fine morning (date unknown) the intermediate belt began to rise up between them; the water was all pushed off into the Caspian, but the shells remained to tell the tale even unto this day.
Now, when a bit of the sea gets cut off in this way from the main ocean, evaporation of its waters generally takes place rather faster than the return supply of rain by rivers and lesser tributaries. In other words, the inland sea or salt lake begins slowly to dry up. This is now just happening in the Caspian, which is in fact a big pool in course of being slowly evaporated. By-and-by a point is reached when the water can no longer hold in solution the amount of salts of various sorts that it originally contained. In the technical language of chemists and physicists it begins to get supersaturated. Then the salts are thrown down as a sediment at the bottom of the sea or lake, exactly as crust formed on the bottom of a kettle. Gypsum is the first material to be so thrown down, because it is less soluble than common salt, and therefore sooner got rid of. It forms a thick bottom layer in the bed of all evaporating inland seas; and as plaster of Paris it not only gives rise finally to artistic monstrosities hawked about the streets for the degradation of national taste, but also plays an important part in the manufacture of bonbons, the destruction of the human digestion, and the ultimate ruin of the dominant white European race. Only about a third of the water in a salt lake need be evaporated before the gypsum begins to be deposited in a solid layer over its whole bed; it is not till 93 per cent. of the water has gone, and only 7 per cent. is left, that common salt begins to be thrown down. When that point of intensity is reached, the salt, too, falls as a sediment to the bottom, and there overlies the gypsum deposit. Hence all the world over, wherever we come upon a bed of rock salt, it almost invariably lies upon a floor of solid gypsum.
The Caspian, being still a very respectable modern sea, constantly supplied with fresh water from the surrounding rivers, has not yet begun by any means to deposit salt on its bottom from its whole mass; but the shallow pools and long bays around its edge have crusts of beautiful rose-coloured salt-crystals forming upon their sides; and as these lesser basins gradually dry up, the sand, blown before the wind, slowly drifts over them, so as to form miniature rock-salt beds on a very small scale. Nevertheless, the young and vigorous Caspian only represents the first stage in the process of evaporation of an inland sea. It is still fresh enough to form the abode of fish and mollusks; and the irrepressible young lady of the present generation is perhaps even aware that it contains numbers of seals, being in fact the seat of one of the most important and valuable seal-fisheries in the whole world. It may be regarded as a typical example of a yet youthful and lively inland sea.
The Dead Sea, on the other hand, is an old and decrepit salt lake in a very advanced state of evaporation. It lies several feet below the level of the Mediterranean, just as the Caspian lies several feet below the level of the Black Sea; and as in both cases the surface must once have been continuous, it is clear that the water of either sheet must have dried up to a very considerable extent. But, while the Caspian has shrunk only to 85 feet below the Black Sea, the Dead Sea has shrunk to the enormous depth of 1,292 feet below the Mediterranean. Every now and then, some enterprising De Lesseps or other proposes to dig a canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea, and so re-establish the old high level. The effect of this very revolutionary proceeding would be to flood the entire Jordan Valley, connect the Sea of Galilee with the Dead Sea, and play the dickens generally with Scripture geography, to the infinite delight of Sunday school classes. Now, when the Dead Sea first began its independent career as a separate sheet of water on its own account, it no doubt occupied the whole bed of this imaginary engineers' lake—spreading, if not from Dan to Beersheba, at any rate from Dan to Edom, or, in other words, along the whole Jordan Valley from the Sea of Galilee and even the Waters of Merom to the southern desert. (I will not insult the reader's intelligence and orthodoxy by suggesting that perhaps he may not be precisely certain as to the exact position of the Waters of Merom; but I will merely recommend him just to refresh his memory by turning to his atlas, as this is an opportunity which may not again occur.) The modern Dead Sea is the last shrunken relic of such a considerable ancient lake. Its waters are now so very concentrated and so very nasty that no fish or other self-respecting animal can consent to live in them; and so buoyant that a man can't drown himself, even if he tries, because the sea is saturated with salts of various sorts till it has become a kind of soup or porridge, in which a swimmer floats, will he nill he. Persons in the neighbourhood who wish to commit suicide are therefore obliged to go elsewhere: much as in Tasmania, the healthiest climate in the world, people who want to die are obliged to run across for a week to Sydney or Melbourne.
The waters of the Dead Sea are thus in the condition of having already deposited almost all their gypsum, as well as the greater part of the salt they originally contained. They are, in fact, much like sea water which has been boiled down till it has reached the state of a thick salty liquid; and though most of the salt is now already deposited in a deep layer on the bottom, enough still remains in solution to make the Dead Sea infinitely salter than the general ocean. At the same time, there are a good many other things in solution in sea water besides gypsum and common salt; such as chloride of magnesia sulphate of potassium, and other interesting substances with pretty chemical names, well calculated to endear them at first sight to the sentimental affections of the general public. These other by-contents of the water are often still longer in getting deposited than common salt; and, owing to their intermixture in a very concentrated form with the mother liquid of the Dead Sea, the water of that evaporating lake is not only salt but also slimy and fetid to the last degree, its taste being accurately described as half brine, half rancid oil. Indeed, the salt has been so far precipitated already that there is now five times as much chloride of magnesium left in the water as there is common salt. By the way, it is a lucky thing for us that these various soluble minerals are of such constitution as to be thrown down separately at different stages of concentration in the evaporating liquid; for, if it were otherwise, they would all get deposited together, and we should find on all old salt lake beds only a mixed layer of gypsum, salt, and other chlorides and sulphates, absolutely useless for any practical human purpose. In that case, we should be entirely dependent upon marine salt pans and artificial processes for our entire salt supply. As it is, we find the materials deposited one above another in regular layers; first, the gypsum at the bottom; then the rock-salt; and last of all, on top, the more soluble mineral constituents.
The Great Salt Lake of Utah, sacred to the memory of Brigham Young, gives us an example of a modern saline sheet of very different origin, since it is in fact not a branch of the sea at all, but a mere shrunken remnant of a very large fresh-water lake system, like that of the still-existing St. Lawrence chain. Once upon a time, American geologists say, a huge sheet of water, for which they have even invented a definite name, Lake Bonneville, occupied a far larger valley among the outliers of the Rocky Mountains, measuring 300 miles in one direction by 180 miles in the other. Beside this primitive Superior lay a second great sheet—an early Huron—(Lake Lahontan, the geologists call it) almost as big, and equally of fresh water. By-and-by—the precise dates are necessarily indefinite—some change in the rainfall, unregistered by any contemporary 'New York Herald,' made the waters of these big lakes shrink and evaporate. Lake Lahontan shrank away like Alice in Wonderland, till there was absolutely nothing left of it; Lake Bonneville shrank till it attained the diminished size of the existing Great Salt Lake. Terrace after terrace, running in long parallel lines on the sides of the Wahsatch Mountains around, mark the various levels at which it rested for awhile on its gradual downward course. It is still falling indeed; and the plain around is being gradually uncovered, forming the white salt-encrusted shore with which all visitors to the Mormon city are so familiar.
But why should the water have become briny? Why should the evaporation of an old Superior produce at last a Great Salt Lake? Well, there is a small quantity of salt in solution even in the freshest of lakes and ponds, brought down to them by the streams or rivers; and, as the water of the hypothetical Lake Bonneville slowly evaporated, the salt and other mineral constituents remained behind. Thus the solution grew constantly more and more concentrated, till at the present day it is extremely saline. Professor Geikie (to whose works the present paper is much indebted) found that he floated on the water in spite of himself; and the under sides of the steps at the bathing-places are all encrusted with short stalactites of salt, produced from the drip of the bathers as they leave the water. The mineral constituents, however, differ considerably in their proportions from those found in true salt lakes of marine origin; and the point at which the salt is thrown down is still far from having been reached. Great Salt Lake must simmer in the sun for many centuries yet before the point arrives at which (as cooks say) it begins to settle.
That is the way in which deposits of salt are being now produced on the world's surface, in preparation for that man of the future who, as we learn from a duly constituted authority, is to be hairless, toothless, web-footed, and far too respectable ever to be funny. Man of the present derives his existing salt-supply chiefly from beds of rock-salt similarly laid down against his expected appearance some hundred thousand aeons or so ago. (An aeon is a very convenient geological unit indeed to reckon by; as nobody has any idea how long it is, they can't carp at you for a matter of an aeon or two one way or the other.) Rock-salt is found in most parts of the world, in beds of very various ages. The great Salt Range of the Punjaub is probably the earliest in date of all salt deposits; it was laid down at the bottom of some very ancient Asiatic Mediterranean, whose last shrunken remnant covered the upper basin of the Indus and its tributaries during the Silurian age. Europe had then hardly begun to be; and England was probably still covered from end to end by the primaeval ocean. From this very primitive salt deposit the greater part of India and Central Asia is still supplied; and the Indian Government makes a pretty penny out of the dues in the shape of the justly detested salt-tax—a tax especially odious because it wrings the fraction of a farthing even from those unhappy agricultural labourers who have never tasted ghee with their rice.
The thickness of the beds in each salt deposit of course depends entirely upon the area of the original sea or salt-lake, and the length of time during which the evaporation went on. Sometimes we may get a mere film of salt; sometimes a solid bed six hundred feet thick. Perfectly pure rock-salt is colourless and transparent; but one doesn't often find it pure. Alas for a degenerate world! even in its original site, Nature herself has taken the trouble to adulterate it beforehand. (If she hadn't done so, one may be perfectly sure that commercial enterprise would have proved equal to the occasion in the long run.) But the adulteration hasn't spoilt the beauty of the salt; on the contrary, it serves, like rouge, to give a fine fresh colour where none existed. When iron is the chief colouring matter, rock-salt assumes a beautiful clear red tint; in other cases it is emerald green or pale blue. As a rule, salt is prepared from it for table by a regular process; but it has become a fad of late with a few people to put crystals of native rock-salt on their tables; and they decidedly look very pretty, and have a certain distinctive flavour of their own that is not unpleasant.
Our English salt supply is chiefly derived from the Cheshire and Worcestershire salt-regions, which are of triassic age. Many of the places at which the salt is mined have names ending in wich, such as Northwich, Middlewich, Nantwich, Droitwich, Netherwich, and Shirleywich. This termination wich is itself curiously significant, as Canon Isaac Taylor has shown, of the necessary connection between salt and the sea. The earliest known way of producing salt was of course in shallow pans on the sea-shore, at the bottom of a shoal bay, called in Norse and Early English a wick or wich; and the material so produced is still known in trade as bay-salt. By-and-by, when people came to discover the inland brine-pits and salt mines, they transferred to them the familiar name, a wich; and the places where the salt was manufactured came to be known as wych-houses. Droitwich, for example, was originally such a wich, where the droits or dues on salt were paid at the time when William the Conqueror's commissioners drew up their great survey for Domesday Book. But the good, easy-going mediaeval people who gave these quaint names to the inland wiches had probably no idea that they were really and truly dried-up bays, and that the salt they mined from their pits was genuine ancient bay-salt, the deposit of an old inland sea, evaporated by slow degrees a countless number of ages since, exactly as the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake are getting evaporated in our own time.
Such, nevertheless, is actually the case. A good-sized Caspian used to spread across the centre of England and north of Ireland in triassic times, bounded here and there, as well as Dr. Hull can make out, by the Welsh Mountains, the Cheviots, and the Donegal Hills, and with the Peak of Derbyshire and the Isle of Man standing out as separate islands from its blue expanse. (We will beg the question that the English seas were then blue. They are certainly marked so in a very fine cerulean tint on Dr. Hull's map of Triassic Britain.) Slowly, like most other inland seas, this early British Caspian began to lose weight and to shrivel away to ever smaller dimensions. In Devonshire, where it appears to have first dried up, we get no salt, but only red marl, with here and there a cubical cast, filling a hole once occupied by rock-salt, though the percolation of the rain has long since melted out that very soluble substance, and replaced it by a mere mould in the characteristic square shape of salt crystals. But Worcestershire and Cheshire were the seat of the inland sea when it had contracted to the dimensions of a mere salt lake, and begun to throw down its dissolved saline materials. One of the Cheshire beds is sometimes a hundred feet thick of almost pure and crystalline rock-salt. The absence of fossils shows that animals must have had as bad a time of it there as in the Dead Sea of our modern Palestine. The Droitwich brine-pits have been known for many centuries, since they were worked (and taxed) even before the Norman Conquest, as were many other similar wells elsewhere. But the actual mining of rock-salt as such in England dates back only as far as the reign of King Charles II. of blessed memory, or more definitely to the very year in which the 'Pilgrim's Progress' was conceived and written by John Bunyan. During that particular summer, an enterprising person at Nantwich had sunk a shaft for coal, which he failed to find; but on his way down he came unexpectedly across the bed of rock-salt, then for the first time discovered as a native mineral. Since that fortunate accident the beds have been so energetically worked and the springs so energetically pumped that some of the towns built on top of them have got undermined, and now threaten from year to year, in the most literal sense, to cave in. In fact, one or two subsidences of considerable extent have already taken place, due in part no doubt to the dissolving action of rain water, but in part also to the mode of working. The mines are approached by a shaft; and, when you get down to the level of the old sea bottom, you find yourself in a sort of artificial gallery, whose roof, with all the world on top of it, is supported every here and there by massive pillars about fifteen feet thick. Considering that the salt lies often a hundred and fifty yards deep, and that these pillars have to bear the weight of all that depth of solid rock, it is not surprising that subsidences should sometimes occur in abandoned shafts, where the water is allowed to collect, and slowly dissolve away the supporting columns.
Salt is a necessary article of food for animals, but in a far less degree than is commonly supposed. Each of us eats on an average about ten times as much salt as we actually require. In this respect popular notions are as inexact as in the very similar case of the supply of phosphorus. Because phosphorus is needful for brain action, people jump forthwith to the absurd conclusion that fish and other foods rich in phosphates ought to be specially good for students preparing for examination, great thinkers, and literary men. Mark Twain indeed once advised a poetical aspirant, who sent him a few verses for his critical opinion, that fish was very feeding for the brains; he would recommend a couple of young whales to begin upon. As a matter of fact, there is more phosphorus in our daily bread than would have sufficed Shakespeare to write 'Hamlet,' or Newton to discover the law of gravitation. It isn't phosphorus that most of us need, but brains to burn it in. A man might as well light a fire in a carriage, because coal makes an engine go, as hope to mend the pace of his dull pate by eating fish for the sake of the phosphates.
The question still remains, How did the salt originally get there? After all, when we say that it was produced, as rock-salt, by evaporation of the water in inland seas, we leave unanswered the main problem, How did the brine in solution get into the sea at all in the first place? Well, one might almost as well ask, How did anything come to be upon the earth at any time, in any way? How did the sea itself get there? How did this planet swim into existence at all? In the Indian mythology the world is supported upon the back of an elephant, who is supported upon the back of a tortoise; but what the tortoise in the last resort is supported upon the Indian philosophers prudently say not. If we once begin thus pushing back our inquiries into the genesis of the cosmos, we shall find our search retreating step after step ad infinitum. The negro preacher, describing the creation of Adam, and drawing slightly upon his imagination, observed that when our prime forefather first came to consciousness he found himself 'sot up agin a fence.' One of his hearers ventured sceptically to ejaculate, 'Den whar dat fence come from, ministah?' The outraged divine scratched his grey wool reflectively for a moment, and replied, after a pause, with stern solemnity, 'Tree more ob dem questions will undermine de whole system ob teology.'
However, we are not permitted humbly to imitate the prudent reticence of the Indian philosophers. In these days of evolution hypotheses, and nebular theories, and kinetic energy, and all the rest of it, the question why the sea is salt rises up irrepressible and imperatively demands to get itself answered. There was a sapient inquirer, recently deceased, who had a short way out of this difficulty. He held that the sea was only salt because of all the salt rivers that run into it. Considering that the salt rivers are themselves salted by passing through salt regions, or being fed by saline springs, all of which derive their saltness from deposits laid down long ago by evaporation from earlier seas or lake basins, this explanation savours somewhat of circularity. It amounts in effect to saying that the sea is salt because of the large amount of saline matter which it holds in solution. Cheese is also a caseous preparation of milk; the duties of an archdeacon are to perform archidiaconal functions; and opium puts one to sleep because it possesses a soporific virtue.
Apart from such purely verbal explanations of the saltness of the sea, however, one can only give some such account of the way it came to be 'the briny' as the following:—
This world was once a haze of fluid light, as the poets and the men of science agree in informing us. As soon as it began to cool down a little, the heavier materials naturally sank towards the centre, while the lighter, now represented by the ocean and the atmosphere, floated in a gaseous condition on the outside. But the great envelope of vapour thus produced did not consist merely of the constituents of air and water; many other gases and vapours mingled with them, as they still do to a far less extent in our existing atmosphere. By-and-by, as the cooling and condensing process continued, the water settled down from the condition of steam into one of a liquid at a dull red heat. As it condensed, it carried down with it a great many other substances, held in solution, whose component elements had previously existed in the primitive gaseous atmosphere. Thus the early ocean which covered the whole earth was in all probability not only very salt, but also quite thick with other mineral matters close up to the point of saturation. It was full of lime, and raw flint, and sulphates, and many other miscellaneous bodies. Moreover, it was not only just as salt as at the present day, but even a great deal salter. For from that time to this evaporation has constantly been going on in certain shallow isolated areas, laying down great beds of gypsum and then of salt, which still remain in the solid condition, while the water has, of course, been correspondingly purified. The same thing has likewise happened in a slightly different way with the lime and flint, which have been separated from the water chiefly by living animals, and afterwards deposited on the bottom of the ocean in immense layers as limestone, chalk, sandstone, and clay.
Thus it turns out that in the end all our sources of salt-supply are alike ultimately derived from the briny ocean. Whether we dig it out as solid rock-salt from the open quarries of the Punjaub, or pump it up from brine-wells sunk into the triassic rocks of Cheshire, or evaporate it direct in the salt-pans of England and the shallow salines of the Mediterranean shore, it is still at bottom essentially sea-salt. However distant the connection may seem, our salt is always in the last resort obtained from the material held in solution in some ancient or modern sea. Even the saline springs of Canada and the Northern States of America, where the wapiti love to congregate, and the noble hunter lurks in the thicket to murder them unperceived, derive their saltness, as an able Canadian geologist has shown, from the thinly scattered salts still retained among the sediments of that very archaic sea whose precipitates form the earliest known life-bearing rocks. To the Homeric Greek, as to Mr. Dick Swiveller, the ocean was always the briny: to modern science, on the other hand (which neither of those worthies would probably have appreciated at its own valuation), the briny is always the oceanic. The fossil food which we find to-day on all our dinner-tables dates back its origin primarily to the first seas that ever covered the surface of our planet, and secondarily to the great rock deposits of the dried-up triassic inland sea. And yet even our men of science habitually describe that ancient mineral as common salt.
We went to Ogbury Barrows on an archaeological expedition. And as the very name of archaeology, owing to a serious misconception incidental to human nature, is enough to deter most people from taking any further interest in our proceedings when once we got there, I may as well begin by explaining, for the benefit of those who have never been to one, the method and manner of an archaeological outing.
The first thing you have to do is to catch your secretary. The genuine secretary is born, not made; and therefore you have got to catch him, not to appoint him. Appointing a secretary is pure vanity and vexation of spirit; you must find the right man made ready to your hand; and when you have found him you will soon see that he slips into the onerous duties of the secretariat as if to the manner born, by pure instinct. The perfect secretary is an urbane old gentleman of mature years and portly bearing, a dignified representative of British archaeology, with plenty of money and plenty of leisure, possessing a heaven-born genius for organisation, and utterly unhampered by any foolish views of his own about archaeological research or any other kindred subject. The secretary who archaeologises is lost. His business is not to discourse of early English windows or of palaeolithic hatchets, of buried villas or of Plantagenet pedigrees, of Roman tile-work or of dolichocephalic skulls, but to provide abundant brakes, drags, and carriages, to take care that the owners of castles and baronial residences throw them open (with lunch provided) to the ardent student of British antiquities, to see that all the old ladies have somebody to talk to, and all the young ones somebody to flirt with, and generally to superintend the morals, happiness, and personal comfort of some fifty assorted scientific enthusiasts. The secretary who diverges from these his proper and elevated functions into trivial and puerile disquisitions upon the antiquity of man (when he ought rather to be admiring the juvenility of woman), or the precise date of the Anglo-Saxon conquest (when he should by rights be concentrating the whole force of his massive intellect upon the arduous task of arranging for dinner), proves himself at once unworthy of his high position, and should forthwith be deposed from the secretariat by public acclamation.
Having once entrapped your perfect secretary, you set him busily to work beforehand to make all the arrangements for your expected excursion, the archaeologists generally cordially recognising the important principle that he pays all the expenses he incurs out of his own pocket, and drives splendid bargains on their account with hotel-keepers, coachmen, railway companies, and others to feed, lodge, supply, and convey them at fabulously low prices throughout the whole expedition. You also understand that the secretary will call upon everybody in the neighbourhood you propose to visit, induce the rectors to throw open their churches, square the housekeepers of absentee dukes, and beard the owners of Elizabethan mansions in their own dens. These little preliminaries being amicably settled, you get together your archaeologists and set out upon your intended tour.
An archaeologist, it should be further premised, has no necessary personal connection with archaeology in any way. He (or she) is a human being, of assorted origin, age, and sex, known as an archaeologist then and there on no other ground than the possession of a ticket (price half-a-guinea) for that particular archaeological meeting. Who would not be a man (or woman) of science on such easy and unexacting terms? Most archaeologists within my own private experience, indeed, are ladies of various ages, many of them elderly, but many more young and pretty, whose views about the styles of English architecture or the exact distinction between Durotriges and Damnonians are of the vaguest and most shadowy possible description. You all drive in brakes together to the various points of interest in the surrounding country. When you arrive at a point of interest, somebody or other with a bad cold in his head reads a dull paper on its origin and nature, in which there is fortunately no subsequent examination. If you are burning to learn all about it, you put your hand up to your ear, and assume an attitude of profound attention. If you are not burning with the desire for information, you stroll off casually about the grounds and gardens with the prettiest and pleasantest among the archaeological sisters, whose acquaintance you have made on the way thither. Sometimes it rains, and then you obtain an admirable chance of offering your neighbour the protection afforded by your brand-new silk umbrella. By-and-by the dull paper gets finished, and somebody who lives in an adjoining house volunteers to provide you with luncheon. Then you adjourn to the parish church, where an old gentleman of feeble eyesight reads a long and tedious account of all the persons whose monuments are or are not to be found upon the walls of that poky little building. Nobody listens to him; but everybody carries away a vague impression that some one or other, temp. Henry the Second, married Adeliza, daughter and heiress of Sir Ralph de Thingumbob, and had issue thirteen stalwart sons and twenty-seven beautiful daughters, each founders of a noble family with a correspondingly varied pedigree. Finally, you take tea and ices upon somebody's lawn, by special invitation, and drive home, not without much laughter, in the cool of the evening to an excellent table d'hote dinner at the marvellously cheap hotel, presided over by the ever-smiling and urbane secretary. That is what we mean nowadays by being a member of an archaeological association.
It was on just such a pleasant excursion that we all went to Ogbury Barrows. I was overflowing, myself, with bottled-up information on the subject of those two prehistoric tumuli; for Ogbury Barrows have been the hobby of my lifetime; but I didn't read a paper upon their origin and meaning, first, because the secretary very happily forgot to ask me, and secondly, because I was much better employed in psychological research into the habits and manners of an extremely pretty pink-and-white archaeologist who stood beside me. Instead, therefore, of boring her and my other companions with all my accumulated store of information about Ogbury Barrows, I locked it up securely in my own bosom, with the fell design of finally venting it all at once in one vast flood upon the present article.
Ogbury Barrows, I would have said (had it not been for the praiseworthy negligence of our esteemed secretary), stand upon the very verge of a great chalk-down, overlooking a broad and fertile belt of valley, whose slopes are terraced in the quaintest fashion with long parallel lines of obviously human and industrial origin. The terracing must have been done a very long time ago indeed, for it is a device for collecting enough soil on a chalky hillside to grow corn in. Now, nobody ever tried to grow corn on open chalk-downs in any civilised period of history until the present century, because the downs are so much more naturally adapted for sheep-walks that the attempt to turn them into waving cornfields would never occur to anybody on earth except a barbarian or an advanced agriculturist. But when Ogbury Downs were originally terraced, I don't doubt that the primitive system of universal tribal warfare still existed everywhere in Britain. This system is aptly summed up in the familiar modern Black Country formula, 'Yon's a stranger. 'Eave 'arf a brick at him.' Each tribe was then perpetually at war with every other tribe on either side of it: a simple plan which rendered foreign tariffs quite unnecessary, and most effectually protected home industries. The consequence was, each district had to produce for its own tribe all the necessaries of life, however ill-adapted by nature for their due production: because traffic and barter did not yet exist, and the only form ever assumed by import trade was that of raiding on your neighbours' territories, and bringing back with you whatever you could lay hands on. So the people of the chalky Ogbury valley had perforce to grow corn for themselves, whether nature would or nature wouldn't; and, in order to grow it under such very unfavourable circumstances of soil and climate, they terraced off the entire hillside, by catching the silt as it washed slowly down, and keeping it in place by artificial barriers.
On the top of the down, overlooking this curious vale of prehistoric terraces, rise the twin heights of Ogbury Barrows, familiar landmarks to all the country side around for many miles. One of them is a tall, circular mound or tumulus surrounded by a deep and well-marked trench: the other, which stands a little on one side, is long and narrow, shaped exactly like a modern grave, but of comparatively gigantic and colossal proportions. Even the little children of Ogbury village have noticed its close resemblance of shape and outline to the grassy hillocks in their own churchyard, and whisper to one another when they play upon its summit that a great giant in golden armour lies buried in a stone vault underneath. But if only they knew the real truth, they would say instead that that big, ungainly, overgrown grave covers the remains of a short, squat, dwarfish chieftain, akin in shape and feature to the Lapps and Finns, and about as much unlike a giant as human nature could easily manage. It maybe regarded as a general truth of history that the greatest men don't by any means always get the biggest monument.
The archaeologists in becoming prints who went with us to the top of Ogbury Barrows sagaciously surmised (with demonstrative parasol) that 'these mounds must have been made a very long time ago, indeed.' So in fact they were: but though they stand now so close together, and look so much like sisters and contemporaries, one is ages older than the other, and was already green and grass-grown with immemorial antiquity when the fresh earth of its neighbour tumulus was first thrown up by its side, above the buried urn of some long-forgotten Celtic warrior. Let us begin by considering the oldest first, and then pass on to its younger sister.
Ogbury Long Barrow is a very ancient monument indeed. Not, to be sure, one quarter so ancient as the days of the extremely old master who carved the mammoth on the fragments of his own tusk in the caves of the Dordogne, and concerning whom I have indited a discourse in an earlier portion of this volume: compared with that very antique personage, our long barrow on Ogbury hill-top may in fact be looked upon as almost modern. Still, when one isn't talking in geological language, ten or twenty thousand years may be fairly considered a very long time as time goes: and I have little doubt that from ten to twenty thousand years have passed since the short, squat chieftain aforesaid was first committed to his final resting-place in Ogbury Long Barrow. Two years since, we local archaeologists—not in becoming prints this time—opened the barrow to see what was inside it. We found, as we expected, the 'stone vault' of the popular tradition, proving conclusively that some faint memory of the original interment had clung for all those long years around the grassy pile of that ancient tumulus. Its centre, in fact, was occupied by a sepulchral chamber built of big Sarsen stones from the surrounding hillsides; and in the midst of the house of death thus rudely constructed lay the mouldering skeleton of its original possessor—an old prehistoric Mongoloid chieftain. When I stood for the first moment within that primaeval palace of the dead, never before entered by living man for a hundred centuries, I felt, I must own, something like a burglar, something like a body-snatcher, something like a resurrection man, but most of all like a happy archaeologist.
The big stone hut in which we found ourselves was, in fact, a buried cromlech, covered all over (until we opened it) by the earth of the barrow. Almost every cromlech, wherever found, was once, I believe, the central chamber of just such a long barrow: but in some instances wind and rain have beaten down and washed away the surrounding earth (and then we call it a 'Druidical monument'), while in others the mound still encloses its original deposit (and then we call it merely a prehistoric tumulus). As a matter of fact, even the Druids themselves are quite modern and commonplace personages compared with the short, squat chieftains of the long barrows. For all the indications we found in the long barrow at Ogbury (as in many others we had opened elsewhere) led us at once to the strange conclusion that our new acquaintance, the skeleton, had once been a living cannibal king of the newer stone-age in Britain.
The only weapons or implements we could discover in the barrow were two neatly chipped flint arrowheads, and a very delicate ground greenstone hatchet, or tomahawk. These were the weapons of the dead chief, laid beside him in the stone chamber where we found his skeleton, for his future use in his underground existence. A piece or two of rude hand-made pottery, no doubt containing food and drink for the ghost, had also been placed close to his side: but they had mouldered away with time and damp, till it was quite impossible to recover more than a few broken and shapeless fragments. There was no trace of metal in any way: whereas if the tribesmen of our friend the skeleton had known at all the art of smelting, we may be sure some bronze axe or spearhead would have taken the place of the flint arrows and the greenstone tomahawk: for savages always bury a man's best property together with his corpse, while civilised men take care to preserve it with pious care in their own possession, and to fight over it strenuously in the court of probate.
The chief's own skeleton lay, or rather squatted, in the most undignified attitude, in the central chamber. His people when they put him there evidently considered that he was to sit at his ease, as he had been accustomed to do in his lifetime, in the ordinary savage squatting position, with his knees tucked up till they reached his chin, and his body resting entirely on the heels and haunches. The skeleton was entire: but just outside and above the stone vault we came upon a number of other bones, which told another and very different story. Some of them were the bones of the old prehistoric short-horned ox: others belonged to wild boars, red deer, and sundry similar animals, for the most part skulls and feet only, the relics of the savage funeral feast. It was clear that as soon as the builders of the barrow had erected the stone chamber of their dead chieftain, and placed within it his honoured remains, they had held a great banquet on the spot, and, after killing oxen and chasing red deer, had eaten all the eatable portions, and thrown the skulls, horns, and hoofs on top of the tomb, as offerings to the spirit of their departed master. But among these relics of the funeral baked meats there were some that specially attracted our attention—a number of broken human skulls, mingled indiscriminately with the horns of deer and the bones of oxen. It was impossible to look at them for a single moment, and not to recognise that we had here the veritable remains of a cannibal feast, a hundred centuries ago, on Ogbury hill-top.
Each skull was split or fractured, not clean cut, as with a sword or bullet, but hacked and hewn with some blunt implement, presumably either a club or a stone tomahawk. The skull of the great chief inside was entire and his skeleton unmutilated: but we could see at a glance that the remains we found huddled together on the top were those of slaves or prisoners of war, sacrificed beside the dead chieftain's tomb, and eaten with the other products of the chase by his surviving tribesmen. In an inner chamber behind the chieftain's own hut we came upon yet a stranger relic of primitive barbarism. Two complete human skeletons squatted there in the same curious attitude as their lord's, as if in attendance upon him in a neighbouring ante-chamber. They were the skeletons of women—so our professional bone-scanner immediately told us—and each of their skulls had been carefully cleft right down the middle by a single blow from a sharp stone hatchet. But they were not the victims intended for the piece de resistance at the funeral banquet. They were clearly the two wives of the deceased chieftain, killed on his tomb by his son and successor, in order to accompany their lord and master in his new life underground as they had hitherto done in his rude wooden palace on the surface of the middle earth.
We covered up the reopened sepulchre of the old cannibal savage king (after abstracting for our local museum the arrowheads and tomahawk, as well as the skull of the very ancient Briton himself), and when our archaeological society, ably led by the esteemed secretary, stood two years later on the desecrated tomb, the grass had grown again as green as ever, and not a sign remained of the sacrilegious act in which one of the party then assembled there had been a prime actor. Looking down from the summit of the long barrow on that bright summer morning, over the gay group of picnicking archaeologists, it was a curious contrast to reinstate in fancy the scene at that first installation of the Ogbury monument. In my mind's eye I saw once more the howling band of naked, yellow-faced and yellow-limbed savages surge up the terraced slopes of Ogbury Down; I saw them bear aloft, with beating of breasts and loud gesticulations, the bent corpse of their dead chieftain; I saw the terrified and fainting wives haled along by thongs of raw oxhide, and the weeping prisoners driven passively like sheep to the slaughter; I saw the fearful orgy of massacre and rapine around the open tumulus, the wild priest shattering with his gleaming tomahawk the skulls of his victims, the fire of gorse and low brushwood prepared to roast them, the heads and feet flung carelessly on top of the yet uncovered stone chamber, the awful dance of blood-stained cannibals around the mangled remains of men and oxen, and finally the long task of heaping up above the stone hut of the dead king the earthen mound that was never again to be opened to the light of day till, ten thousand years later, we modern Britons invaded with our prying, sacrilegious mattock the sacred privacy of that cannibal ghost. All this passed like a vision before my mind's eye; but I didn't mention anything of it at that particular moment to my fellow-archaeologists, because I saw they were all much more interested in the pigeon-pie and the funny story about an exalted personage and a distinguished actress with which the model secretary was just then duly entertaining them.
Five thousand years or so slowly wore away, from the date of the erection of the long barrow, and a new race had come to occupy the soil of England, and had driven away or reduced to slavery the short, squat, yellow-skinned cannibals of the earlier epoch. They were a pastoral and agricultural people, these new comers, acquainted with the use and abuse of bronze, and far more civilised in every way than their darker predecessors. No trace remains behind to tell us now by what fierce onslaught the Celtic invaders—for the bronze-age folk were presumably Celts—swept through the little Ogbury valley, and brained the men of the older race, while they made slaves of the younger women and serviceable children. Nothing now stands to tell us anything of the long years of Celtic domination, except the round barrow on the bare down, just as green and as grass-grown nowadays as its far earlier and more primitive neighbour.
We opened the Ogbury round barrow at the same time as the other, and found in it, as we expected, no bones or skeleton of any sort, broken or otherwise, but simply a large cinerary urn. The urn was formed of coarse hand-made earthenware, very brittle by long burial in the earth, but not by any means so old or porous as the fragments we had discovered in the long barrow. A pretty pattern ran round its edge—a pattern in the simplest and most primitive style of ornamentation; for it consisted merely of the print of the potter's thumb-nail, firmly pressed into the moist clay before baking. Beside the urn lay a second specimen of early pottery, one of those curious perforated jars which antiquaries call by the very question-begging name of incense-cups; and within it we discovered the most precious part of all our 'find,' a beautiful wedge-shaped bronze hatchet, and three thin gold beads. Having no consideration for the feelings of the ashes, we promptly appropriated both hatchet and beads, and took the urn and cup as a peace-offering to the lord of the manor for our desecration of a tomb (with his full consent) on the land of his fathers.
Why did these bronze-age people burn instead of burying their dead? Why did they anticipate the latest fashionable mode of disposal of corpses, and go in for cremation with such thorough conviction? They couldn't have been influenced by those rather unpleasant sanitary considerations which so profoundly agitated the mind of 'Graveyard Walker.' Sanitation was still in a very rudimentary state in the year five thousand B.C.; and the ingenious Celt, who is still given to 'waking' his neighbours, when they die of small-pox, with a sublime indifference to the chances of infection, must have had some other and more powerful reason for adopting the comparatively unnatural system of cremation in preference to that of simple burial. The change, I believe, was due to a further development of religious ideas on the part of the Celtic tribesmen above that of the primitive stone-age cannibals.
When men began to bury their dead, they did so in the firm belief in another life, which life was regarded as the exact counterpart of this present one. The unsophisticated savage, holding that in that equal sky his faithful dog would bear him company, naturally enough had the dog in question killed and buried with him, in order that it might follow him to the happy hunting-grounds. Clearly, you can't hunt without your arrows and your tomahawk; so the flint weapons and the trusty bow accompanied their owner in his new dwelling-place. The wooden haft, the deer-sinew bow-string, the perishable articles of food and drink have long since decayed within the damp tumulus: but the harder stone and earthenware articles have survived till now, to tell the story of that crude and simple early faith. Very crude and illogical indeed it was, however, for it is quite clear that the actual body of the dead man was thought of as persisting to live a sort of underground life within the barrow. A stone hut was constructed for its use; real weapons and implements were left by its side; and slaves and wives were ruthlessly massacred, as still in Ashantee, in order that their bodies might accompany the corpse of the buried master in his subterranean dwelling. In all this we have clear evidence of a very inconsistent, savage, materialistic belief, not indeed in the immortality of the soul, but in the continued underground life of the dead body.
With the progress of time, however, men's ideas upon these subjects began to grow more definite and more consistent. Instead of the corpse, we get the ghost; instead of the material underground world, we get the idealised and sublimated conception of a shadowy Hades, a world of shades, a realm of incorporeal, disembodied spirits. With the growth of the idea in this ghostly nether world, there arises naturally the habit of burning the dead in order fully to free the liberated spirit from the earthly chains that clog and bind it. It is, indeed, a very noticeable fact that wherever this belief in a world of shades is implicitly accepted, there cremation follows as a matter of course; while wherever (among savage or barbaric races) burial is practised, there a more materialistic creed of bodily survival necessarily accompanies it. To carry out this theory to its full extent, not only must the body itself be burnt, but also all its belongings with it. Ghosts are clothed in ghostly clothing; and the question has often been asked of modern spiritualists by materialistic scoffers, 'Where do the ghosts get their coats and dresses?' The true believer in cremation and the shadowy world has no difficulty at all in answering that crucial inquiry; he would say at once, 'They are the ghosts of the clothes that were burnt with the body.' In the gossiping story of Periander, as veraciously retailed for us by that dear old grandmotherly scandalmonger, Herodotus, the shade of Melissa refuses to communicate with her late husband, by medium or otherwise, on the ground that she found herself naked and shivering with cold, because the garments buried with her had not been burnt, and therefore were of no use to her in the world of shades. So Periander, to put a stop to this sad state of spiritual destitution, requisitioned all the best dresses of the Corinthian ladies, burnt them bodily in a great trench, and received an immediate answer from the gratified shade, who was thenceforth enabled to walk about in the principal promenades of Hades among the best-dressed ghosts of that populous quarter.