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The lands and rents of the debtor must not be seized so long as his chattels would satisfy the debt, and sureties were not to be called on when the principal was able to pay. Minor heirs and widows were released from the payment of interest on borrowed money remaining unpaid at the death of the borrower. King and barons both were prohibited from levying “ aids," or money assistance, (unless for certain important purposes,) from their feudal inferiors. The liberties of cities and boroughs were defined. The courts of common pleas were ordered to be held at some fixed and convenient place, and not to follow the king in his wanderings. When a person was convicted of offence, the fine should be proportioned to the fault, to be assessed by honest men of the neighborhood, and should take no man's means of living. Towns and individuals were not to be oppressed with the expense of building bridges needlessly; constables and bailiffs of the Crown were no longer to take a man's goods without prompt payment when demanded, nor take the horse and cart of a freeman, for carriage, without his consent. The fisheries of rivers were declared free, uniformity of weights and measures ordered, foreign merchants protected, and travel in foreign lands permitted ; no officers of the law to be made except those who knew the law, and would themselves respect it. The oppressive forest laws, to which we have already alluded, and which set the life of a buck above that of a man, were abolished.
But the key-note of the Great Charter, the foundation-stone of the liberties of the people, lay in the clause which stands thus in the original document: “Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut dissaisietur, aut utlugetur, aut exuletur, aut aliquo modo destruatur ; nec super eum ibimus, nec super eum mittemus, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum vel per legem terræ. Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus, aut differemus rectum aut judicium.” That is to say, in English: “ No freeman shall be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised (deprived of anything he possesses), or outlawed, or banished, or anyway destroyed, nor will we go upon him, nor will we send upon him (pronounce sentence against him, or allow any of the judges to do so), except by the legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. To none will we sell, to none deny, to none delay right and justice.”
When this passage was read clearly and distinctly, King John scowled, and ground his teeth, but made no open opposition. The document being read and laid upon the table, the king devoutly crossed himself in token of his sincerity, and signed the parchment with a smiling face, though rage and hate filled his heart. Then the heavy seal was attached. The Charter was deposited for safe-keeping in a sort of ark. The king and his followers departed in all haste for Windsor. The barons' army struck their tents, and set out again for London. The people swarmed down from the hillsides, and scattered to their homes. The barges sailed, and the boats rowed merrily down the river, and by night the henceforth historic field of Runnymede gave no trace, save in its crushed and mangled sward, of the eventful part it had played in the STORY OF THE GREAT CHARTER.
7. H. A. Bone.
THE WRENS OF NORTH AMERICA.
young readers who live in the country, there are in the United States ten other species of this family. They are all very interesting, and bear a close resemblance to one other in external appearance. Yet in their habits they exhibit great variations, and on this account, and because of certain differences in their figure, they may be divided into four groups. To make these variations more intelligible to those who will study these pages, we will make use of a classification of our own, designating them as the Creeping. Wrens, the Rock Wrens, the House Wrens, and the Marsh Wrens.
The first of these, the Creeping Wren, is most distinct in its appearance. By some naturalists it is regarded as a true Creeper, and not a Wren. Though there are several species of these Creeping Wrens in Mexico and Central America, there is only one kind found in the United States ; this is called the Brown-Headed Wren or Creeper. It is found only in the Border States adjoining Mexico, from the Rio Grande River to California. The country where it is the most common is a very desolate region, with a scanty vegetation, and no trees, — only varieties of the cactus plants, and thorny bushes. It is a very lively bird, sprightly in its movements; and its song consists of clear, loud, ringing notes, and is described by General Couch as rich and powerful. In its habits it very much resembles true wrens, creeping into holes under fallen leaves, and through the grass in search of insects.
It builds a very singular and remarkable nest. This is very large for the size of the bird, – perhaps the largest nest in proportion that is made by any bird. It is composed chiefly of a large mass of long grass, interwoven together, and laid flat between the branches of a large cactus. This great mass is sometimes more than a foot in diameter, and two feet in length. The cavity of this nest is ten or twelve inches from the opening, and has a long covered passage-way leading to it. It is very snug and warm, and is lined with soft downy feathers. The eggs are six in number, and are very beautiful, being covered all over with bright salmon-colored spots.
Of the Rock Wrens there are only two kinds in this country, and these are classed by naturalists in different genera. But their differences are very slight, and their habits are very much alike. One of these, the Whitethroated Wren, also called the Mexican Wren, is found only between the valleys of the Rio Grande and those of the Gita and Colorado Rivers. It is a very wild bird, living only among the enormous piles of boulder-rocks that constitute so large a portion of that region, hiding away in the deep crevices, and building its nest in places so inaccessible that no man has ever yet found it. It is a beautiful singer ; its notes are rich and clear. General Couch states that it makes the wild passes of those valleys echo and re-echo with its silver melody.
The other, known among naturalists as the Rock Wren, seems to be pretty common all over the high sterile plains of the Rocky Mountains, throughout the central portion of Western North America. Its habits are very like those of the Mexican, for it lives in the crevices of rocks. It is described as a comparatively silent bird, having no song, and only uttering at intervals a weak but very thrilling cry. It feeds on spiders and other insects which it finds among the loose boulder-rocks that cover the mountains, passing rapidly in and out of the crevices in its search for food. Mr. Nuttall, the celebrated naturalist, gives an interesting account of his meeting with a family of Rock Wrens on the Western Colorado. The old birds, when he first noticed them, were feeding a brood of five young ones. Although these seemed to be fully grown, and able to provide for themselves, the great lazy things were making their parents wait upon them, and were constantly calling for more food. As soon as Mr. Nuttall approached them, all scattered, and pertinaciously hid themselves in cracks in the rocks. After the lapse of a few moments, a low cautious chirr was heard from the mother, as if saying to her children, “Keep still, my dears; don't one of you move”; and she immediately appeared herself, scolding the intruder, and jerking herself into the most angry attitudes she was capable of assuming. Though it is more than thirty years since this bird has been known, no one has yet been able to find where it breeds; though there is not much doubt that it places its nests in the crevices of rocks, out of sight, and probably out of human reach.
The House Wrens are divided by naturalists into two genera, but their differences are too slight to be worth mentioning here. There are six or seven varieties in the United States, and all of them very interesting birds, whose history is well worthy the attention of our readers. They are the Great Carolina Wren, Bewick's Wren, the common House Wren, Parkman's Wren, the Winter Wren, and the Wood Wren. By some, however, the last two are supposed to be of the same species. As the habits of these species are very similar, we will describe first and more particularly those of
It is found
the common House Wren, the most familiar of our wrens. throughout the United States from Maine to Florida, and from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains. In some localities it is much more abundant than in others. It makes its appearance in Massachusetts early in May, and remains until September. We have no bird in America that more nearly replaces with us, in its familiar ways, the Robin Redbreast of Europe, than this wren, though their dispositions are not alike. Our wren is a wideawake, pert, saucy little fellow. His familiarity has a slight tinge of impudence in it. He seems and acts as if he were conferring a favor upon us by coming around and living in the houses we provide for his comfort. Sometimes he gives himself airs, and scolds away at you with a ludicrous affectation, if you are too familiar with his home or his family. But, notwithstanding the airs he gives himself, the wren is a universal favorite, and his odd ways only make him the more entertaining.
He is a very ingenious little fellow; and when he builds his nest in a hollow tree, and the opening is too large, he makes the entrance smaller by building up a strong barricade of interwoven twigs. He is persevering, industrious, and not to be daunted by obstacles that seem even quite formidable. A pair once took possession of a large clothes-line box in the yard of the late Rev. Henry Ware, in Cambridge, Mass., which the little fellows actually undertook to fill up with materials for a nest. After accumulating about half a bushel of articles of almost every conceivable description, including old suspenders, snakes' skins, &c., the wrens constructed a compact, wellwoven nest in the midst of them.
In another case, a farmer who had left his coat several weeks hanging in his barn, was rather surprised to find a nest full of young wrens in one of its sleeves the first time he tried to put it on.
A friend of ours, who was living near Chicago, was visited by a pair of wrens that built their first nest over the door of his room. In this they were disturbed by the opening and shutting of the door, and their second nest was built on a shelf, in the room itself, — they going in and out through a convenient knot-hole in the unceiled wall. Though shy at first, they soon came to be familiar, and to disregard his presence in the room.
When the young were hatched, however, at first the mother was very unwilling any persons should approach her nest, but would fly at them, and strike at their heads. But, finding they did her young ones no injury, she became more gentle, and allowed the family to peep into her nest without making any objections, and would remain on her nest. In the morning, before the inmates of the room were out of their bed, she would perch on the headboard, twittering close to their heads. Familiar as she was, she never seemed willing to have them watch her when she fed her young ones, and would stop whenever she noticed that any one was looking at her; though if people were in the room reading, or with their backs turned, their presence did not disturb her. The male bird was more shy than the female, and, though equally industrious with his mate, would never bring the food he collected into the room if any one was there, but would wait at the knot-hole till his more courageous wife came ; then he would give it to her to take in. We are sorry to have to add that a sad fate befell this interesting family. One morning, just as the young birds were nearly ready to fly, a strange cat found its way into the room, and destroyed the mother and all the young birds. The surviving wren, widowed and childless, for a while kept about the premises, uttering now and then a sorrowful twitter, and then was seen no more for the season. The next year he reappeared with a new mate, and occupied the same spot, undiscouraged by the fate that had befallen his former family.