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was still flung in everybody's face; the
brandy-pawnee passed freely round; the
hot vapours of lights, company, and tobacco-
smoke created an unwholesome atmosphere;
the lamps were flickering in their sockets; and
the house seemed, on the whole, not so much
on fire as it had appeared to be when I
entered the shining avenue.


ON a slip of glass I have a small patch of
green scum which I fished up, the day before
yesterday, from the surface of the mud at the
bottom of a shallow pool. The fishing
apparatus consisted of an iron ladle, to take, and
a wide-mouthed bottle to receive, the entire
catch of treasure-trove which was poured into
the receptacle ladleful by ladleful. The
mud, the green scum, and the water of the
pool were all mixed up together into a
confused mass of heterogeneous sludge. But,
after a few hours' repose in the bottle, I
found that its contents occupied exactly the
same relative positions as they did in their
native puddle. The green scum had again
overspread the surface of the mud, forming a
creamy coat, interposed between it and the
water. And, to-day, a green film is gradually
creeping up the inside of the bottle, with an
evident tendency to mount. I submit a tiny
patch of the ambitious scum to the microscope,
and I behold what might be,—if magnified
two-hundred-and-twenty diameters,—a bunch
of bright grass-green ribbons, or a liberal
handful of transparent blades of grass; only
the blades are not gathered into a tuft by any
root or common starting-point; each ribbon
or leaf is isolated, independent, and complete
in itself. The bit of scum thus looks like a
selling-off bargain, consisting of individual
remnants of green satin ribbon all of the same
pattern, and of the very same breadth, but of
different lengths. Some lie straight, like mown
stems of green corn that have fallen to the
ground, crossing each other at random; some
are elegantly bent into curves. While I am
admiring the beauty of their hue and their
regularity of form, several of them begin to
twitch and stir! My eyes must deceive me;
it cannot be that grassy leaves have the
faculty of spontaneous motion. I watch
again; and there are three or four more of
the ribbons jerking themselves sideways, and
then turning steadily in one direction like the
minute-hand of a clock, while others swing
slowly backward and forward, like a
pendulum. It is no optical delusion. They really
do move.

By slightly shifting the slip of glass, so as
to bring a fresh portion of the mysterious
patch into the field of view, I light upon
several blades that are entirely separated
from the rest. Observing one of them
fixedly, I clearly make out that, although
lying straight like a walking-stick, it has also
a progressive motion. One end, which is
roundly blunt, might be considered a tail, like
that of a leech; the other end is more pointed,
representing a head, and,—yes, I am quite
sure of the fact,—the head keeps turning to
the right and the left, as if it were feeling its
way, like a wandering earthworm whose
mother had turned it out of doors above-
ground, or were searching for food like a
hungry caterpillar. Can it be a worm? It
is clearly subdivided into joints. It is
undoubtedly some microscopic annelid.

My old friend Henry Baker is at hand,—
not in the flesh, but in the calf-skin binding
and in him I find an account of the hair-
like insect, of which notice was first taken
nearly a hundred years ago by his curious
friend, Mr. William Arderon of the city of
Norwich. He tells me that its progressive
motion differs from that of all animals
besides, that it has neither feet, nor fins, nor
hairs, but appears perfectly smooth and
transparent, with the head bending one way and
the tail another; nor is any internal motion,
or particularly opaque part to be perceived,
which may determine one to suppose it the
stomach or other of the intestines; only the
body, which is nearly straight, appears
composed of such parallel rings as the windpipe
of land animals consist of. He describes how
a multitude of these little creatures placed
themselves, as it were by agreement, in
separate companies on the side of the jar
containing them, and appeared marching
upward in rows; how, when each of these
swarms grew weary of its situation and had
a mind to change its quarters, each army held
on its way without confusion or intermixture,
proceeding with great regularity and order,
as if under the direction of wise leaders.
And he remarks that this amusing incident
serves to show that, however mean or
contemptible these creatures may appear to us,
the Power that created them has not left them
destitute of sagacity, to associate together and
act unanimously for the benefit of the
community. This is what Henry Baker, Fellow
of the Royal Society in London, tells me; and
I have not the slightest suspicion of his
meaning to tell me anything but the truth.
My modern guides and instructors inform
me that my animated ribbons, my living
blades of grass, my hair-like insects, are
nothing but a crop of humble plants!
That I must call them Oscillatorias; that
their birth and parentage are still obscure;
that they are of great interest to the
microscopist, on account both of the extreme
simplicity of their structure and of the peculiar
animal-like movements which they exhibit;
and finally, that I shall render a service to
science by clearing up their history. All I
have yet been able to discover, is that
Oscillatorias are themselves cleared up and
swallowed whole by sundry infusorial
animalcules; and, as the bodies of these
latter are transparent, and for the most
part colourless, the object so swallowed is