1 SEPTEMBER 1900, Page 14


[TO THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] Six,—" Three splendid storks alighted in a field close by in May,—one was shot, and a very handsome specimen he has made in a glass case." There would not—the pity of it—be anything very curious, for all its blank brutality, in the above quotation, but for the connection in which it appears. The words quoted form the closing sentence of a letter about swallows in the Spectator of August 25th. The correspondent writes regretfully about the diminution in number of another migratory bird, the swallow. I thought as I read the letter (I never miss any letter or article about beast or bird life that appears in the Spectator) that the writer was a lover of birds, and I shared his interest in the swallow and the regret with which he spoke of the diminishing number of the martins visiting these shores of late years. I shared with him also his dislike of that cad of bird society, the sparrow. I was charmed with the letter as I went along. But never, never in all my life have words, written or spoken, more rudely shocked me than I was shocked by the sentence I have quoted at the end of a letter that otherwise seemed in sympathy with birds and birds' ways : "Three splendid storks [` splendid ' in what sense?] alighted in a field close by in May [alighted for a little rest, poor birds, tired after their long flight to reach their summer home],—one was shot, and a very handsome specimen he has made in a glass case " ! To me, who am neither sportsman nor collector, having, on the contrary, a senti- mental regard, a feeling almost akin to reverence, for the stork, the shooting of one of these harmless and beautiful birds seems an unspeakably wanton and cruel act. To shoot, to stuff, to glass-case a stork,—the horror of it. I come, Sir, from a country where the stork is held nearly as sacred as in Egypt of old, where, on the low-roofed farms and cottages in country and in town, the storks build their nest and rear their young ones unmolested, in absolute peace and undis- turbed quiet. The stork is indissolubly associated with life in Denmark, and ever present in the Danish summer land- scape, whether in field or in meadow, where he stalks about with stately gait, filling his big bill with snakes and frogs for

the larder at home ; or when standing still at a pool or in a low-lying meadow, as he does for hours on end on one of his long, red legs, the otter one tucked away under his wing; or floating home at eve on his large, motionless wings like an angel of peace ; or at the manceuvres in autumn, when the young ones' wings are tested before the grand passage, the "general," in mercy, sticking his bill through the weakling, for woe betide the unfortunate straggler that shall alight and seek rest, coming or going, on unfriendly shores; or at home, tame as the barn-door fowl, standing on the low roof of the farm, surveying the country, while guarding the nest, where his mate is busy with care for her downy wee ones. The stir in the yard or the street below disturbs him not. He is frightened at neither man nor beast. No one ever offered him violence or did him harm, and he comes back, therefore, to the cart-wheel plated on the roof as a framework for his nest, year after year, with faultless regularity,—and the Danish landscape retains one of its most charming and picturesque characteristics. No one in Denmark will ever need deplore the disappearance of the stork there because he was unkindly or inhospitably treated,—even to sportsmen and coollectors is he sacred. To shoot a stork !— the bringer of our "little sisters and brothers," the darling of the children's stories—ah, no ! that will surely never happen, or the character of my countrymen shall strangely alter.—