Birds Of Paradise
( Originally Published 1902 )
THE irrational creatures have an instinct which prompts them to take particular care of their clothing; this is especially true of birds. There are some, however, that overdo their attention to their wardrobe; they puff out and spread their feathers and strut ridiculously. There are some whose vanity gets them into a great deal of trouble. The birds of paradise are the coxcombs of the trees. Scarcely anything affords them so much pleasure as showing off their fine feathers. In the countries in which they live, the males will select a tree sufficiently conspicuous for the purpose, and will dance from branch to branch, exhibiting the clothing of which they are so proud. The natives, taking advantages of the early sport and dress-parade, thump a single bird with a blunt arrow, stunning it, and causing it to fall, when it is picked up and killed without the shedding of blood. But the rest of the birds are so bent on the display of their finery that they pay no attention to this massacre until quite a number have been destroyed.
A proper care for dress is a duty, but excessive attention to the wardrobe is a weakness, a fault. The human powter-pigeons, peacocks, and birds of paradise can be seen strutting and sporting on the streets every day. Nothing makes them so happy as for people to be attracted by the beauty of the feathers which they wear. They are the dudes and butterflies of society. It would be well if the vain displays of such were only an idle exercise. They are the occasions of the greatest moral danger. Vanity is a vice which exposes the soul to the arrows of Satan, which so frequently bring it down.