16 ANTS, AMPHISBAENAS BASILISKS
There are no basilisks nowadays, but their remembrance still lives in many of our proverbs.
The Demon of Cathay and his proceedings recall several of our old fairy tales, especially some of the Arabian Nights. He could talk the language of man and imitate any voice he chose, so that if he found a solitary traveller walking through a forest he would call to him by his name in the tones of some of his friends. The traveller would leave the path and go in the direction of the voice, when the Demon would spring out and devour him. Or he would mimic the roll of drums, or the blast of trumpets, and the poor man in surprise would think he must be drawing near a city, or at any rate approaching an army, so he would go in search of the sounds, only to find, when it was too late, that it was a trick of his deadly enemy's.
Quite as strange as the creatures on dry land were those that dwelt in the sea, for every animal that lived on earth had its fellow in the ocean. We read of sea-bears, sea-foxes, sea-asses, even of sea-peacocks; and now and then one might be found on the beach after a great storm.
Once some Dutch women, going down to the shore after a gale to see what they could pick up, were startled at finding a beautiful girl, with a fish's tail, lying among the shells and sea-weeds, beyond high-water mark. This was a mermaid, as anybody else would have known—a gentle creature, but without a soul. They took her home and taught her to spin and weave, and to kneel before a crucifix ; but she was not happy, and always tried to escape into the sea. The Dutch women did not mean to be cruel, but they liked to have her there, and she was useful to them, so they kept a close watch upon her, and she lingered on in their house for fifteen years, fading gradually away, and dying in the year 1418.
On the opposite side of the North Sea, in the Firth of Forth, as well as in the Baltic and the Bed Sea, sea-monks