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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

A bird about the size of the peacock


though its plumage is exquisitely beautiful, the creature itself is simply ludicrous. It bears the same popular repute for sagacity as the goose of European farmyards. The _angasto_ has hair or wool so long that its limbs are almost hidden, just before shearing-time, in the tresses that hang from the body half way to the ground. The _calperze_, a bird no larger than a Norfolk turkey, has the hinder part developed to an enormous size, so that the graceful peacock-like neck and shoulders appear as if lost in the huge proportions of the body, and the little wings are totally unfit to raise it in the air; while it lays almost daily eggs as large as those of the ostrich and of peculiar richness and flavour. Nearly all the domestic birds kept for the sake of eggs or feathers have wings that look as if they had been clipped, and are incapable of flight. Creatures valued for their flesh, such as the _quorno_ (somewhat like the eland, but with the single horn so common among its congeners in Mars, and with a soft white hide), and the _viste_, a bird about the size of the peacock, with the form of the partridge and the flavour of grouse or black game, preserve more natural proportions. The wing-quills of the latter, however, having been systematically plucked for hundreds of generations, are now dwarfed and useless. These animals are not encouraged to make fat on the one hand, or to develop powerful muscles and sinews on the other. They are fed for part of the year on the higher and thinner pastures of the mountains. When brought down to the meadows of the plain, they are allowed to graze only for a few hours before sunset and after sunrise. They thus preserve much of the flavour of game or mountain sheep and cattle, which the oxen and poultry of Europe have lost; flavour, not quantity, being the chief object of care with Martial graziers. Sometimes, however, some peculiarity perfectly useless, or even inconvenient, appears to be naturally associated with that which is artificially developed. Thus the beak of the _elnerve_ is weak and often splits, so as to render its rearing troublesome and entail considerable losses; while the horns of the wool-bearing animals are long and strong enough to be formidable, but so rough and coarsely grained that they are turned to no account for use or ornament.

We were rapidly approaching the foot of the hills, where the river made another and abrupt turn. At this point the produce of the whole upper valley is generally embarked, and supplies from all other quarters are here received and distributed. In consequence, a town large and important for this planet, where no one who can help it prefers the crowded street to the freedom and expanse of the country, had grown up, with about a hundred and fifty houses, and perhaps a thousand inhabitants. It was so much matter of course that voyagers should disembark to cross the hills or to pursue their journey along the upper part of the river by road, that half-a-dozen different partnerships made it their business to assist in the transfer of passengers and light


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