About two years ago, a small vessel under English colours was plundered by some of the inhabitants of the Low Islands, which were then under the dominion of the Queen of Tahiti. It was believed that the perpetrators were instigated to this act by some indiscreet laws issued by her majesty. The British government demanded compensation; which was acceded to, and a sum of nearly three thousand dollars was agreed to be paid on the first of last September. The Commodore at Lima ordered Captain Fitz Roy to inquire concerning this debt, and to demand satisfaction if it were not paid. Captain Fitz Roy accordingly requested an interview with the Queen Pomarre, since famous from the ill-treatment she has received from the French; and a parliament was held to consider the question, at which all the principal chiefs of the island and the queen were assembled. I will not attempt to describe what took place, after the interesting account given by Captain Fitz Roy. The money, it appeared, had not been paid; perhaps the alleged reasons were rather equivocal; but otherwise I cannot sufficiently express our general surprise at the extreme good sense, the reasoning powers, moderation, candour, and prompt resolution, which were displayed on all sides. I believe we all left the meeting with a very different opinion of the Tahitians from what we entertained when we entered. The chiefs and people resolved to subscribe and complete the sum which was wanting; Captain Fitz Roy urged that it was hard that their private property should be sacrificed for the crimes of distant islanders. They replied that they were grateful for his consideration, but that Pomarre was their Queen, and that they were determined to help her in this her difficulty. This resolution and its prompt execution, for a book was opened early the next morning, made a perfect conclusion to this very remarkable scene of loyalty and good feeling.
We know48 that the extreme regions of North America many degrees beyond the limit where the ground at the depth of a few feet remains perpetually congealed, are covered by forests of large and tall trees. In a like manner, in Siberia, we have woods of birch, fir, aspen, and larch, growing in a latitude49 (64°) where the mean temperature of the air falls below the freezing point, and where the earth is so completely frozen, that the carcass of an animal embedded in it is perfectly preserved. With these facts we must grant, as far as quantity alone of vegetation is concerned, that the great quadrupeds of the later tertiary epochs might, in most parts of Northern Europe and Asia, have lived on the spots where their remains are now found. I do not here speak of the kind of vegetation necessary for their support; because, as there is evidence of physical changes, and as the animals have become extinct, so may we suppose that the species of plants have likewise been changed.
The number of spiders, in proportion to other insects, is here compared with England very much larger; perhaps more so than with any other division of the articulate animals. The variety of species among the jumping spiders appears almost infinite. The genus, or rather family of Epeira, is here characterized by many singular forms; some species have pointed coriaceous shells, others enlarged and spiny tibi?. Every path in the forest is barricaded with the strong yellow web of a species, belonging to the same division with the Epeira clavipes of Fabricius, which was formerly said by Sloane to make, in the West Indies, webs so strong as to catch birds. A small and pretty kind of spider, with very long fore-legs, and which appears to belong to an undescribed genus, lives as a parasite on almost every one of these webs. I suppose it is too insignificant to be noticed by the great Epeira, and is therefore allowed to prey on the minute insects, which, adhering to the lines, would otherwise be wasted. When frightened, this little spider either feigns death by extending its front legs, or suddenly drops from the web. A large Epeira of the same division with Epeira tuberculata and conica is extremely common, especially in dry situations. Its web, which is generally placed among the great leaves of the common agave, is sometimes strengthened near the centre by a pair or even four zigzag ribbons, which connect two adjoining rays. When any large insect, as a grasshopper or wasp, is caught, the spider, by a dexterous movement, makes it revolve very rapidly, and at the same time emitting a band of threads from its spinners, soon envelops its prey in a case like the cocoon of a silkworm. The spider now examines the powerless victim, and gives the fatal bite on the hinder part of its thorax; then retreating, patiently waits till the poison has taken effect. The virulence of this poison may be judged of from the fact that in half a minute I opened the mesh, and found a large wasp quite lifeless. This Epeira always stands with its head downwards near the centre of the web. When disturbed, it acts differently according to circumstances: if there is a thicket below, it suddenly falls down; and I have distinctly seen the thread from the spinners lengthened by the animal while yet stationary, as preparatory to its fall. If the ground is clear beneath, the Epeira seldom falls, but moves quickly through a central passage from one to the other side. When still further disturbed, it practises a most curious man?uvre: standing in the middle, it violently jerks the web, which is attached to elastic twigs, till at last the whole acquires such a rapid vibratory movement, that even the outline of the spiderâ€™s body becomes indistinct.