CHAP. 76. (55.)—AN AUGURY DERIVED FROM EGGS BY AN EMPRESS.
And, what is even more singular still, eggs can be hatched
also by a human being. Julia Augusta, when pregnant in
her early youth of Tiberius Cæsar, by Nero, was particularly
desirous that her offspring should be a son, and accordingly
employed the following mode of divination, which was then
much in use among young women: she carried an egg in her
bosom, taking care, whenever she was obliged to put it down,
to give it to her nurse to warm in her own, that there might
be no interruption in the heat: it is stated that the result promised by this mode of augury was not falsified.
It was perhaps from this circumstance, that the modern invention took its rise, of placing eggs in a warm spot and covering them with chaff, the heat being maintained by a moderate
fire, while in the meantime a man is employed in turning them.
By the adoption of this plan, the young, all of them, break
the shell on a stated day. There is a story told of a breeder
of poultry, of such remarkable skill, that on seeing an egg he
could tell which hen had laid it. It is said also that when a
hen has happened to die while sitting, the males have been seen
to take her place in turns, and perform all the other duties of a
brood-hen, taking care in the meantime to abstain from crowing. But the most remarkable thing of all, is the sight of a
hen, beneath which ducks' eggs have been put and hatched.—
At first, she is unable to quite recognize the brood as her own,
while in her anxiety she gives utterance to her clucking as
she doubtfully calls them; then at last she will stand at the
margin of the pond, uttering her laments, while the ducklings, with Nature for their guide, are diving beneath the water.