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Ch. 24: Seen and Lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W. H. Hudson