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HIGH ALTAR, ST. PETER'S. EVERY one has heard of St. Peter's, at Rome. Our engraving represents the High Altar in that edifice, which stands directly under the dome, around which, in large letters, occurs the well-known text, Matt. xyi. 18. on which the Romanists ground the supremacy of St. Peter and his reputed successors.
The High Altar is described as kind of pavilion, supported by four wreathed pillars of brass that are adorned with foliage, and strewn with bees-the emblem of Pope Urban VIII. Over every column there is an angel of brass, gilded, seventeen feet high; and there are figures of chil. dren, playing and walking, on the cornice. The height of the whole is about ninety feet. Under this altar there is a flight of stairs leading to a chapel, where it is pretended the body of St. Peter is deposited, and to the other holy places in the vaults of the church.”
The ceremony represented is that of a high mass for the late return of the Pope from his exile. It would certainly seem, from the character of the ceremonial, that he had less faith in the attachment of his people than in the bayonets of his French guards. A less fitting display for a would-be religious ceremony it were not easy to imagine; and the “successor of St. Peter" must have grown sadly forgetful of our Saviour's mandate to his putative predecessor, “Put up thy sword into its place, for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.”
THE REDWING'S FLIGHT.
The winter had scarcely passed away, and yet, as is so frequent in the month of February, there was occasionally a lovely interval of bright clear weather, which everybody enjoys all the more, as a sure harbinger of the coming Spring. Happy are they who live in the country then, for they may refresh themselves with the sweet fragrance of the early primrose, and watch with double zest the bursting bud and awakening snail.
Do not smile, young reader, for these same snails are by no means uninteresting creatures, and in other countries are esteemed for food, as much as the cockles and perriwinkles of our own coasts. Nay, in ancient times, ere taste had grown so fastidious as M. Soyer would fain persuade his patrons to be, snails were regarded as delicacies, and were duly preserved and fattened for the patrician table! But, to proceed to my story.
One afternoon Mr. Lee and his family started for their first Spring walk! The children were glad to escape from the town to which they had been confined during a long period of rainy weather, and after quitting the street, they ran and gambolled, while papa walked sedately after them, ready to make discoveries in the hedges and ditches, or to be the encyclopædia of his less experienced enquirers. They peeped under the overhanging ledges of rock, and admired the accuracy with which the maternal spider had poised her delicate silken egg purse upon the tip of some slender branch, so as to protect it from damp, and ensure a proper supply of air and motion to the treasure enclosed. They were amused, too, with the antics of the young tadpoles, and the dexterous activity with which they exercised their newly acquired limbs.
Ronald and Margaret gathered handfuls of wild snow-drop, far prettier and larger than its garden sister; rejoiced over some unexpected violets, and yielded themselves completely to the bliss of the passing moment.
Richard ran on to catch a glimpse of the railway train, and was the first to notice a flock of birds, passing and re-passing over the road. He climbed a gate to see what they were about, and then perceived what the high hedge had hitherto concealed, an elevated turnip-field, with here and there a blackberry bush upon it. On one of the bushes nearest to him he observed a small bird perched. It was a pretty creature, with flame coloured breast, and wings lined with orange colour ; while on the outer side, and under the tail, were clusters of white feathers, giving a cheerful aspect to the sober dun in which the back and outer side of the wings were arrayed. As Mr. Lee came towards the spot, Richard asked him what bird it was ?
At the sound of a voice the little creature uttered a very peculiar, harsh, discordant cry, and flew off, when a whole flock of similar species repeated the cry, and flew away too.
Oh, I am sorry!" exclaimed Richard; “I did not mean to frighten the little things away."
"Never mind," replied Mr. Lee, “they will return presently if we remain quiet."
Mr. Lee was right. Very soon they all resumed their former stations, and as Richard watched their mancuvres, he discovered other birds placed as sentinels on each of the four bushes which most nearly enclosed a square space, within which were a countless number, apparently very busy. Richard wondered what they were about, but he did not speak for fear he should scare them away again, and moreover he had a shrewd suspicion that his papa would desire him to use his own eyes to solve the question. Whilst he was watching, other detachments successively arrived, and then there seemed to be a grand marshalling and arranging of their ranks, a momentary fluttering on the wing with change of leaders, then a short flight and back again, and various other equally diverting evolutions; the four sentinels sitting all the while as demure as if they had no concern in the matter, and perfectly mute, except at intervals, when the same peculiar sound which had first caught Richard's attention was reiterated by the vigilant watch upon whose side the danger menaced.
“ What can all this bustle mean, papa ?” enquired the little boy at length, after the railway whistle had effectually dispersed the birds, and the departure of the long London train had released his own attention.
“ They are Redwings preparing to migrate for the summer,', answered Mr. Lee; "they prefer a cold climate, and having spent the winter here, they now adjourn to more northern regions ere the return of the mild weather, for which they are not adapted.”
“ But why do they all assemble together in this field, papa ?"
“ They are doing, my boy, what everybody else should do ere he sets about any great changes, making suitable preparation.”
“Dear!" exclaimed Margaret and Ronald, who had joined the group just in time to see the Redwings depart; “We thought migrating birds had nothing to do, but to spread their wings and start off.”
“Nay, my children,” replied Mr. Lee, “I believe all whose habits have been studied, are observed to make these cautious and prudent trials of their powers previously; and naturalists resident at Gibraltar, report similar care in all the tribes which rest awhile there before crossing the Straits.”
“How very interesting," said Margaret; "and do they find their way by instinct without any guide ?"
“We do not know the proceedings of all kinds of birds in these matters, but it seems a very general custom to select an old leader which may be supposed to possess more experience than the rest. Indeed, there are generally several birds which lead in turn, as those in the first ranks are more exposed to fatigue from the resistance of the air than those which they thus shelter."
“I dare say the new little birds are delighted the first time they go to a fresh country,” remarked Ronald.
“Perhaps they are,” said Mr. Lee," and perhaps they feel no concern about it, content to go wherever their parents lead them.”
“I should not like so much changing,” said Richard. " It must be very tiresome to leave one's own nest just after it is made nice and comfortable."
“ You forget, my son, that most birds build new nests every year, and the same instinct which leads them to prepare comfortable habitations, induces them also to seek a proper climate for their abode, so that their young ones may be suitably circumstanced for their tender infancy."
“If the birds could think at all,” remarked little Ronald, "I think they would be quite satisfied that they were going where God pleased, and they might be quite sure he would know the way and lead them safely."