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broad and mighty foundations under his feet, its beautiful and radiant domes above him, and the serene influence within his breast of the unspeakable Presence by which it is pervaded, will not fail in properly characterizing such a system, which teaches (Q. 128) goodness without a God; a continued existence without what goes by the name of 'soul;' happiness without an objective heaven; a method of salvation without any vicarious Saviour; a redemption by one's self as the redeemer, and without rites, prayers, penances, priests, or intercessory saints; and a summum bonum attainable in this life and in this world." When we see on what slight grounds are built these mighty Babels of human pride, we realize how true is that bold assertion of Donoso Cortes that there has been established since the prevarication of man, between the truth and human rea


"A lasting repugnance and an invincible repulsion. . . . On the contrary, between human reason and the absurd there is a secrect affinity and a close relationship. Sin has united them with the bond of indissoluble matrimony. The absurd triumphs over man precisely because it is devoid of all rights anterior and superior to human reason. Man accepts it precisely because it comes naked; because, being devoid of rights, it has no pretensions. His will accepts it because it is the offspring of his understanding, and his understanding takes delight in it because it is its own offspring, its own verbum, because it is a living testimony of its creative power. In the act of its creation man is like unto God and calls himself God. And if he be God, like unto God, in man's estimation all else is nothing. What matters it that the other be the God of truth, if he is himself the God of the absurd? At least he will be independent like God, he will be sovereign like God; by adoring his own production he will adore himself; by magnifying it he will be the magnifier of himself.

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-MERWIN-MARIE SNELL, in The Catholic World.


THAT most charming naturalist and genial observer of all things animate, Frank Buckland, used to say that oysters, like horses, have their points. He tells us that

"The points of an oyster are, first the shape, which to be perfect should resemble very much the petal of a rose-leaf. Next, the thickness of the shell; a first-class thoroughbred native* should have a shell of the tenuity of thin china or a Japanese tea-cup. It should also have an almost metallic ring, and a peculiar opalescent lustre on the inner side; the hollow for the animal of the oyster should be as much like an egg-cup as possible. Lastly, the flesh itself should be white and firm, and nut-like in taste. It is by taking the average proportion of meat to shell that oysters should be critically judged. The oysters at the head of the list are of course natives;' the proportion of a well-fed native is one-fourth meat. The nearest approach to natives, both in beauty and fatness, are the oysters of Milford in South Wales. The deep-sea oysters, such as the white-faced things dredged up in the Channel between England and France, are one-tenth meat; while the very worst are some Frenchmen, which are as thin and meager as French pigs.

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Natives" are oysters artificially reared, those found naturally being termed sea oysters.

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Such are some points of an oyster. But we nineteenth-century mortals have but little time to observe and consider all the points of even such things as lie very near to our hearts (I speak anatomically, of course)-things fit for digestion. I have no doubt that by some, perhaps many of my readers, the "petal of a rose-leaf" and the Japanese tea cup" will be dismissed as mere poetry, and that for them the philosophy of oysters may be summed up in the one statement, "the flesh should be white and firm and nut-like in taste;" that is if nut-like expresses with any due adequacy so pure and concentrated a relish. It is perhaps well for us that we are able thus to seize upon the points of real vital importance, and to eschew those which do not immediately concern us. We sit down to dinner and swallow our oysters without any idea of how they came to be raised, and without realizing, perhaps without knowing, that they are complex organized creatures instinct with life and motion.

Motion? Yes, motion. As I write there lies before me tastefully disposed on its natural dish an oyster in the form in which it glads the sight of hungry mortals when they have taken their seats at table. With fine scissors I snip off a delicate slice of the so-called "beard" which constitutes the oyster's gills; and this slice I place on a glass slip, covering it with a thin glass dish, and then transferring it to the stage of my microscope. Would that you could see the trembling, quivering, glancing life that is thus disclosed. The field of the microscope is occupied by the yellowish translucent material of which the gill is constructed. Across it run a number of closely set parallel bars, and here and there between the bars is an elongated slit. Each slit is the centre of a little living whirlpool; for the edges of the bars that bound it carry a vast number of delicate microscopic translucent hairs which are waving to and fro in ceaseless motion. The waves travel in one direction down one side of the slit and in the opposite direction up the other side of the slit. Hence the appearance of an elongated living whirlpool. In the eight or ten square inches of gill-surface there must be tens of thousands of these trembling life-whirlpools, all of which you suddenly engulf, with a gentle smothered smack of the lips.

"I suppose," says Professor Huxley, "that when the sapid and slippery morsel-which is and is gone, like a flash of gustatory summer lightning-glides along the palate, few people imagine that they are swallowing a piece of machinery (and going machinery too) greatly more complicated than a watch." All that I propose to do here is to say a few words suitable for those who do not like to be altogether ignorant of such matters, but have neither the time. nor the inclination to be fully instructed, on the life-history of the oyster from its birth to its descent into the eager and expectant tomb. I would that I could induce each one of my readers to ex

amine an oyster. I am not asking him to dissect it. All that is necessary is to turn over its parts with a toothpick.

First let him notice, before the oyster is opened, how tightly the two valves of the shell are closed. An oyster, if the shell be not chipped or otherwise injured, may live for two months or more out of water, especially if it be placed with the hinge uppermost. The water within the shell is thus retained in the most favorable position for keeping the gills moist. But if the shell be chipped, the water drains away or evaporates, and the creature dies.

The opening of an oyster, like many another apparently simple operation, requires some skill and is based upon previous knowledge. The hollow between the valves of the shell is occupied by the living mollusk. From valve to valve there passes a powerful muscle, the scar of the attachment of which is readily seen near the center of the inner face of an empty shell. It is by means of this muscle that the oyster closes its valves with such a firm grip. To open the oyster it is necessary to skillfully insert a strong flat knife between the living mollusk and its shell, and to cut the muscle close to its point of attachment. When this is done, the shell gapes about half an inch through the action of an elastic cushion near the hinge, which when the shell is closed is in a state of compression, but which when the oyster dies and the muscle relaxes, or when the muscle is severed, serves by its elasticity to force the shell agape.

When the oyster has been opened and the valve of the shell has been removed, the following points about its structure may be readily made out, and all the more readily if it be placed in a soup-plate of water. In the first place, the mollusk will perhaps not occupy the whole surface of the shell. This is due to severe muscular spasms consequent to the shock its system has recently undergone. But in the living state, closely applied to the whole of the interior of the two valves, are the two lobes of the mantle, which are given off from the body as thin layers of fleshy substance, the edges of which are thickened and bear a coarse reddish-brown or dusky fringe. In the contracted mollusk, as it lies in the shell before us, the mantle-lobes may be recognized by their fringed edges.

Our next task is to find out which is head and which is tail in our oyster; or rather-since it hath neither head nor tail-its top and bottom, its front and rear. The hinge is at the top, the valves of the shell on either side. The oyster usually rests on its larger and more convex left valve, so that, like a flounder, it lies on its side. The hinder margin of the shell is usually somewhat straighter than its anterior edge. This and the shape of the shell will generally serve to distinguish right from left and front from back. But the front of the contained mollusk itself may readily be distinguished from its rear by the sickle-shaped gills, four in number, which curve

round in front of the body, and lie between the mantle-lobes. The gills are often spoken of as the "beard." And in addition to this fleshy beard there is also a kind of fleshy mustache, consisting of two flaps on each side arising from the corners of the wide slit-like mouth, which must be sought in front, beneath a sort of hood under the hinge. It lies in the vestibule-a cavity which extends for some distance above the body. The mouth leads into a coiled alimentary canal which terminates just above the hinder end of the sickle-shaped gills in another large chamber. The observer will have no difficulty in recognizing the curved gills with their delicate radiating striations, will readily find the vestibule and mouth at their upper ends, and may pass his toothpick into the large posterior chamber which runs along the whole length of their inner edges, communicating with the tubes of their somewhat spongy substance, and opening widely beneath and behind the body.

We have seen that on the sides of the gills and around the microscopic slits by which they are pierced, there are myriads of delicate, translucent hairs continually lashing the water. Upon the activity of these hairs the oyster depends for food, for oxygen, for very life. At first sight the oyster would seem to be in bad case. It is fixed and sedentary all its adult life. Its ancestors had indeed, like most bivalve mollusks that now exist, a fleshy foot projecting between the inner gill-plates, by means of which they could perform some sort of sluggish motion. But through lazy and sedentary habits the oyster tribe has lost, or well-nigh lost, this foot; the oyster has literally one foot-and that its only one-in the grave. This, however, is no very great disadvantage, for though the cockle is able to hop with some effect, the monopedal progression of mollusks would give them but a lame chance of a livelihood had they no other method of capturing their prey. The food of the oyster consists of such microscopic organisms and organic particles as float freely in the water. By the lashing of the invisible gill-hairs a current of water is set up which partly sweeps upward along the gill-plates to the vestibule, and partly passes in at the slit-like gillmeshes, and thus through their spongy and tubular structure into the posterior chamber. Thus through the edges of the shell, and between the mouth margins, a constant current passes inward; while an equally constant current passes outward through the posterior chamber. The blood in the gills is thus aerated; the ejecta from the alimentary canal (and also the kidney) are swept out; and at the same time food-bearing water is carried to the vestibule where the myriad transparent hairs which cover the "mustaches" sweep the unsuspecting minutiæ into the slit-like mouth.

I often wonder whether so tasty a morsel as the oyster itself possesses a sense of taste. Were Nature just, this sense should be

well developed. One would fain hope that our sapid friend's fleshy mustaches may minister to taste; that for him too there may be some gleams of "gustatory summer lightning." As a hope, however, it must remain: there is no conclusive evidence that the oyster possessses a sense of taste. Indeed it does not appear that Nature has been in any way lavish toward the oyster, in the matter of sensory endowments. Its sense of hearing has gone along with the foot, in which organ the auditory sac is lodged in less sedentary mollusks. Smell, or rather some sense by means of which it can test the incoming water, it may have. A sense of touch, distributed especially, it may be, along the mantle-fringe, is undoubtedly present. There are no eyes; but the dusky-colored mantle-fringe is probably vaguely sensitive to light. For when the shadow of an approaching boat is thrown on to a bed of oysters they are said to close their valves before any undulation of the water can have reached them. I have not been able to glean any anecdotes of the intelligence of oysters. The most favorable report I can give is from the pages of the Rev. W. Bingley's Animal Biography :

"The oyster has been represented, by many authors, as an animal destitute not only of motion, but of every species of sensation. It is able, however, to perform movements which are perfectly consonant to its wants, to the dangers it apprehends, and to the enemies by which it is attacked. Instead of being destitute of sensation, oysters are even capable of deriving some knowledge from experience. When removed from situations that are constantly covered with the sea, they open their shells, lose their water, and die in a few days. But when taken from similar situations, and laid down in places from which the sea occasionally retires, they feel the effect of the sun's rays, or of the cold air, or perhaps apprehend the attacks of enemies, and accordingly learn to keep their shells close till the tide returns.

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From this it would seem that if an oyster be left high and dry he briefly considers his situation: if he deems it probable that the tide will rise and again submerge him, he shuts his shell and determines to hold out as long as he can. But if he thinks there is no chance of the tide's returning he gives way to despair, opens his valves, and dies. As to his facts, however, Mr. Bingley seems to be right. Just as some fresh-water organisms may be gradually accustomed to water with a greater and greater amount of salt, until they can live in sea-water which would have killed them had they been suddenly placed in it, so may oysters be gradually accustomed to a longer and longer exposure to the air without gaping. And this fact is turned to practical account in the so-called oyster-schools of France. But on the amount of intelligence involved in the process I leave others to speculate; for I am terribly skeptical of our ever attaining to much knowledge of molluscan psychology.

During the summer months oysters become "sick," and are then out of season. But the sickness is not unto death but unto life. For if a sick oyster be examined, the mantle-cavity and the inter

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