Pheasant Jungles. By William Beebe. (Putoams. 12s. lid.)
As has been affirmed before in these columns, Mr. William Beebe is one of the most attractive living writers, and spends his life in collecting experiences that turn sedentary persons with unsedentary temperament simply green with envy.
'Why did we never, when bicycling home in the dusk, feel a flying lemur cannon against us, and then discover that it had left a baby lemur clinging to our clothes 'I Yet that is one of the least exciting (though not the least unusual) of the adventures that Mr. Beebe encountered in discharge of his duties as director of tropical research for the New York Zoological Society. This time his particular business was to observe pheasants and jungle fowl in Ceylon, on the Tibetan slopes of Kinchinjunga, on the borderland between Burma and China, in the central Malayan range (where lives the ocellated argus pheasant that no white man has yet seen living, not even Mr. Beebe, though he heard them calling close to him, time after time), and finally among the Dyaks of Borneo, in whose huts blackened human heads are still a fashionable decoration.
But although pheasants make the warp of his book, em- broidered upon it are incidents in the life of a baby sun-bear ; recollections of slipping down an ice slope in the Himalayas with fifteen hundred feet drop below you (that came of follow- ing a snow leopard's track) ; the pursuit of a half-grown flying squirrel by a pine marten in the dark ; the loan of two hundred dollars suddenly offered by a " red sarong-clad half- naked Malay boatman " (and accepted) ; the sight of a wild peacock deliberately annoying a Russell's viper ; monkeys robbing the tree-built nest of an Inn:cyan pheasant ; and above all, the murderous onslaught of hail in the Himalayas.
If this is not quite so good a book as The Arcturus Adventure, that is because it is not continuously written ; but probably Mr. Beebe is too busy experiencing and exploring to give his talent to a long composition, which- should have its own inherent rhythm. Meanwhile, wherever he goes, let us devoutly hope that he will continue to escape ; side glimpses show that the life of an explorer is not easily insurable, and that a big price in physical suffering has to be paid for his experiences. Not the least of this comes from the necessity of remaining motionless in some cramped hiding-place, for hours upon hours.