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BY AUGUSTA H UIELL SEA MAN

It is something to be able to boast that one is the oldest inhabitant of one's town or section. To make good this claim usually involves the possession of a plump one hundred years. The Testudo vicina, or Giant Tortoise, of the New York Zoëlogical Park, however, might smile scornfully on so paltry a record. For his two centuries of existence entitle him to the honor of being the oldest living creature in the United States. The Giant Tortoise is not native to North America, but hails from the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, several hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador. He seems, nevertheless, entirely happy in his New York surroundings, and apparently regrets in no wise the change of scene and climate. We are inclined to gasp when we learn his age, but there is something besides that astounding fact to recommend him to our interest and curiosity. He and his companions of the park, and a few scattered specimens in one or two other zoölogical gardens, are almost the last surviving members of a vanished race. Their extinction is due less to the usual combat with natural foes, as is the case with most wild creatures, than to a senseless and wasteful slaughter that has practically wiped out their species—during the last fifteen years. The enemies of this Giant Tortoise were three: the wild dogs and the natives, who killed them for food, and the oil-hunters, who sought them for their fat, from which an oil was extracted. Of the three, the last must bear the burden of responsibility for their greatest destruction. For the last hundred years, ships have touched at the Galápagos Islands and not infrequently, on leaving, have marooned there some unwelcome canine passenger. From these stray animals sprung a race of wild dogs whose chief food was the smaller tortoises, and often the eggs. The natives also entertained a decided liking for tortoise meat, and had some discretion been used in the killing, it would probably have made but little difference in the steadily increasing race. But, alas ! too prodigal with a stock they considered all but inexhaustible, they went about obtaining tortoise meat with the most deplorable recklessness. In numberless instances, one of the great creatures would be killed, only that some native might obtain a pound or two of the meat and a small piece of fat with which to cook it. All the remainder of the valuable flesh would be left for the wild dogs and carrion-birds.

But it was with the discovery that tortoise fat rendered an excellent oil, that the wholesale slaughter commenced. In 1903, it was reported that the shells of one hundred and fifty tortoises had been found lying near one of their drinkingpools, and half a mile away, at another pool, one hundred more—the work of a single raid Is it any wonder that, in 1912, a few scattered specimens in zoölogical parks are all that remain of what was, fifteen years ago, an innumerable race? In his native haunts, the Giant Tortoise subsists mainly on grass, cactus leaves, and water. Water he must have, and when, in the dry season, even the pools disappear, he makes good the deficiency with the succulent pulp of the cactus plant. In the Zoëlogical Park, however, he fares much better, and vegetables of every variety are his in their seasons. It is reported that he exhibits a particular fondness for tomatoes. From the illustration may be seen the expectant, almost jubilant, expression of his countenance while contemplating a yellow banana. The Giant Tortoise is amiable and law-abiding in disposition, while his life is simple and uneventful to a degree. He eats at all times and seasons, lumbers about his quarters with exceeding deliberation when in need of exercise, basks in the sun when not otherwise occupied, and spends hours without number drawn into his shell, fast asleep, oblivious of all creation. It is only during the warmer months that he is on exhibition in the outside inclosure. In the winter, he and his companions are gathered into an inner room of the reptile-house, where they sleep away the time, waking only to consume a little food occasionally. The following incident is the only one on record, to show that the Giant Tortoise ever varied the peaceful monotony of his existence at the park by creating any excitement. It is reported that one snowy winter day, when every tortoise was supposed to be wrapped securely in the arms of Morpheus, some one inadvertently left open the door of the inclosure. No one knows just how it happened, but our friend of the illustration must have waked, apparently realized his opportunity, and in the absence of any too watchful keeper, bethought himself of taking a stroll. A quarter of an hour later, there were noticed strange tracks in the snow on the path leading down to the bear-dens. For a time, it was supposed that one of the young elephants had escaped, and great was the consternation in consequence. But the tracks, though somewhat like an elephant's, were still obviously not an elephant's, since none of that tribe were missing. Subsequent investigation discovered our friend the Giant Tortoise serenely contemplating his fellowcaptives of the bear-dens ! The problem of returning him to his own inclosure was met by fac

along the Atlantic coast represented all that was to be the future United States; James Oglethorpe had not yet founded the colony of Georgia; and twenty years must elapse before the birth of George Washington. While yet this reptile was, comparatively speaking, a mere infant, the American and French revolutions occurred, and the United States as

THE GALĀPAGos Tortoise AT THE zoölogical PARK – DINNER-TIME.

ing him in the proper direction, and giving him a smart rap on his shell. In the course of time, his leisurely locomotion brought him back to his own lawful domain. Perhaps in all the two centuries of his existence, he had never experienced anything quite so exciting before But it is the astonishing age of these reptiles that suddenly causes us to look upon the span of threescore years and ten as a paltry and insignificant thing indeed. Let us stand before the inclosure and consider these facts: here is a living, breathing creature, moving about and consuming food even as ourselves. Yet when it first saw the light (1712 or before), Queen Anne still occupied the throne of England, and Louis XIV that of France. A line of thinly settled villages

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sumed its place among the nations; and no one can tell to what age this creature may yet attain. That it has grown since its introduction to the park, the increased number of rings around the segments of its shell attest. Possibly it is now enjoying only middle life, and will be viewed with interested speculation by our descendants of the fifth and sixth generation, even as it is by us. If simple vegetarian diet, a nervous-system perfect almost to the point of non-existence, congenial surroundings in which there is small likelihood of accident, and an absolute lack of anything to do or worry about, be conditions that permit the possibility of indefinitely prolonging life, then are those conditions triumphantly vindicated by this very Methuselah of tortoises

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It was springtime in the village of Plymouth, more than two hundred and fifty years ago. There are sweet, bright days in New England now, but the Plymouth of to-day is a very different thing from the village of that time, for then only one street sloped down to the water's edge, and on the hill above stood a fort with shining Ca1111011. Huldah and Timothy Speedwell stood talking eagerly at their father's gate. “Oh, Timothy, I am afraid come.” “Patience" replied Timothy. “Cecile always keeps her word. She is not like most girls.” “But, Timothy, the shadow of the meeting

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house is growing long. and you know we must be back by supper-time.” “Look!” cried Timothy, pointing toward a fence farther down the street. At that moment, a little girl sprang over it, and came running toward them. “I thought the sewing would never be done!” she cried. “And at the very end, Aunt Dorcas kept me to warn me of the Indians. She said if she were my father, I should never leave the stockade.” “It is true about the Indians,” said Timothy. “I overheard the governor saying to my father yesterday that they were threatening the settlements again. Come quickly, Huldah, lest my mother hear.” “Nay, if the Indians be coming—” began Huldah, hanging back. “I do not care for Aunt Dorcas when my father gives me leave,” cried Cecile. “Huldah, if you linger, we shall have no time left to go a-Maying.” “What is that?” asked both children together. “Why, don't you know?” exclaimed Cecile. “Have you never brought home the May? Tomorrow will be May-day, and we must gather boughs and fasten them against the door-posts, to please the fairies.” “But,” interrupted Huldah, “I am sure that must be wrong, for tales of fairies are idle inventions.” “My grandmother told me,” retorted Cecile, “and, pray, how should you be wiser than my grandmother? Last year, in England, we trimmed the May-pole on the green with flowers and ribbons, and danced about it until sunset.”

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“Oh, oh!” cried Huldah. “Now I know it must be wicked, for it is very sinful to dance. My mother told us so.” “Is it?” said Cecile, regretfully. “I did not know it. So many things are sinful, now that I am come to New England. But surely there can be no harm in gathering flowers to show that the spring has come, even in this cold Plymouth.” Huldah and Timothy had found life much more interesting since Cecile had come from England to join her father in the Plymouth settlement. They had seen her first on a Sabbath morning. She had worn a white gown, and a wonderful hat with nodding pink roses, from beneath which her blue eyes looked with frank surprise at the bare church and grave congregation. But the grown people shook their heads. They whispered of Master Goodwin's young French wife, who died when Cecile was a baby, and they said the child's name was scarce a godly one. Aunt Dorcas did her best. She spun early and late, till Cecile was clad in a suit of gray, as befitted a child of the wilderness. She braided the golden hair, and taught Cecile to sit silent in the presence of her elders; but every day the curls grew tighter, and all the silence in the world could not banish the laughter from her voice. Master Goodwin was a grave man who had crossed the sea for conscience' sake. He never interfered with Aunt Dorcas's strict rule, but if the elders of the church could have looked into his great oak chest, they would have rubbed their eyes to see a child's hat with pink roses laid carefully away. Fortunately big chests keep their secrets well, and neither Cecile nor Aunt Dorcas knew. Timothy and Huldah had never known anybody before who seemed to think it was the chief business of life to laugh and play. This afternoon Cecile was too happy to walk. She skipped along, singing a little French song, and when they had passed the high palisade which guarded the settlement, she seized Huldah's hand and broke into a run, which only ended as they entered the forest. Hundreds of birds were flying among the trees, and fresh, young leaves were unfolding, but the winter had been hard, and though the children wandered far, no flowers could they find. Timothy, weary of the search, climbed a tree, while Huldah, still doubtful of the lawfulness of the enterprise, contented herself with gathering twigs into her apron. All at once Cecile shouted joyously. She had been pushing the fallen leaves about, and suddenly she uncovered a lovely, trailing vine, the like of which none of them had ever seen before. Its leaves were small, and peeping

out beneath them were starry blossoms, pink and white, and sweet as are no other flowers but those of the Plymouth woods. “Look '" cried Cecile, “these flowers must be the May that grows in New England " . . . Timothy scrambled down from the tree, and Huldah forgot her scruples. They filled their hands as full as they could hold, and Huldah fell to plaiting a basket of rushes, which Cecile heaped with blossoms. “Will you hang this at your aunt's door?” asked Huldah. “No 1" exclaimed Cecile. “She does not love flowers. I shall hang it at the door of my best friend in Plymouth. But, dear Huldah, what is it? What frightens you?” Huldah's face had grown suddenly white, and she was staring into the distant hollow with terrified eyes. Cecile whirled around. The evening had crept upon them unnoticed. At first she could see nothing among the trees, but gradually she perceived a figure outlined against them. It was a tall, gaunt man. There were horrible marks upon his face, and a feather above his head cast an unearthly shadow. “It is the Evil Spirit,” whispered Huldah, with trembling lips. “Oh, Cecile, it is because of these wicked May-flowers ” “Do not be afraid,” said Timothy, throwing his arm about her, but trembling, too. “I will take care of you. Let us leave the flowers, and go home.” But Cecile looked steadily at the motionless figure. “If it is the Evil Spirit,” she said, “I will tell him to go away.” She laid down her basket, and walked straight into the shadow. Huldah hid her face in horror, and even Timothy did not dare to stir. They could feel the thumping of their hearts, while a moment passed that seemed an age; then they heard Cecile's clear voice. “Thou foolish Timothy, be quick | Fetch me some water It is but an Indian, and his poor arm is bleeding.” Huldah gasped again and clutched at Timothy, for an Indian was hardly less dreadful to her than a wicked spirit; but Timothy pulled himself away, ashamed, and ran to help Cecile. The Indian had seated himself upon a big boulder. His strong, brown arm was torn from shoulder to elbow as if by the claws of a wild beast, which was further indicated by some raw pieces of bear's meat on the ground beside him. Cecile was tearing her apron into strips. She

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