Is it really efficacious? Despite the general belief, I venture to doubt it, after fruitless experiments on my own fingers and those of other members of my household during the winter of 1895, when the severe and persistent cold produced an abundant crop of chilblains. None of us, treated with the celebrated unguent, observed the swelling to diminish; none of us found that the pain and discomfort was in the least assuaged by the sticky varnish formed by the juices of the crushed tigno. It is not easy to believe that others are more successful, but the popular renown of the specific survives in spite of all, probably thanks to a simple accident of identity between the name of the remedy and that of the infirmity: the Provencal for “chilblain” is tigno. From the moment when the chilblain and the nest of the Mantis were known by the same name were not the virtues of the latter obvious? So are reputations created.
In my own village, and doubtless to some extent throughout the Midi, the tigno—the nest of the Mantis, not the chilblain—is also reputed as a marvellous cure for toothache. It is enough to carry it upon the person to be free of that lamentable affection. Women wise in such matters gather them beneath a propitious moon, and preserve them piously in some corner of the clothes-press or wardrobe. They sew them in the lining of the pocket, lest they should be pulled out with the handkerchief and lost; they will grant the loan of them to a neighbour tormented by some refractory molar. “Lend me thy tigno: I am suffering martyrdom!” begs the owner of a swollen face.—“Don’t on any account lose it!” says the lender: “I haven’t another, and we aren’t at the right time of moon!”
We will not laugh at the credulous victim; many a remedy triumphantly puffed on the latter pages of the newspapers and magazines is no more effectual. Moreover, this rural simplicity is surpassed by certain old books which form the tomb of the science of a past age. An English naturalist of the sixteenth century, the well-known physician, Thomas Moffat, informs us that children lost in the country would inquire their way of the Mantis. The insect consulted would extend a limb, indicating the direction to be taken, and, says the author, scarcely ever was the insect mistaken. This pretty story is told in Latin, with an adorable simplicity.
THE GOLDEN GARDENER.—ITS NUTRIMENT
In writing the first lines of this chapter I am reminded of the slaughter-pens of Chicago; of those horrible meat factories which in the course of the year cut up one million and eighty thousand bullocks and seventeen hundred thousand swine, which enter a train of machinery alive and issue transformed into cans of preserved meat, sausages, lard, and rolled hams. I am reminded of these establishments because the beetle I am about to speak of will show us a compatible celerity of butchery.