Imagens das páginas
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AMONG the “enjoyments ahead,” fishing, after his own fashion, fills no inconsiderable space in the imagination of the traveller. Captain Basil Hall describes scenes of this sort with hardly less gusto than the chase of his little French privateer in the Irish Channel. He says, Perhaps there is not any more characteristic evidence of our being within the tropical regions--one, I mean, which strikes the imagination more forcibly—than the company of those picturesque little animals, the flyingfish. It is true, that a stray one or two may sometimes be seen far north, making a few short skips out of the water; and I even remember seeing several close to the edge of the banks of Newfoundland, in latitude forty-five degrees. These, however, had been swept out of their natural position by the huge gulf-stream, an ocean in itself, which retains much of its temperature far into the northern regions, and possibly helps to modify the climate over the Atlantic. But it is not until the voyager has fairly reached the heart of the torrid zone that he sees the flying-fish in perfection. No familiarity with the sight can ever render us indifferent to the graceful flight of these most interesting of the finny, or, rather, winged tribe. On the contrary, like a bright day, or a smiling countenance, or good company of any kind, the more we see of them, the more we learn to value their presence. I have, indeed, hardly ever observed a person so dull, or unimaginative, that his eye did not glisten as he watched a shoal, or, it may well be called, a covey of flying-fish rise from the sea, and skim along for several hundred yards. There is something in it so very peculiar, so totally dissimilar to every thing else in other parts of the world, that our wonder goes on increasing every time we see even a single one take its flight. The incredulity, indeed, of the old Scotch wife on this head is sufficiently excusable. “You may hae seen rivers o' milk, and mountains o' sugar,” said she to her son, returned from a



voyage; “but you'll ne'er gar me believe you hae seen a fish that could flee."

The pleasant trade which had wafted us, with different degrees of velocity, over a distance of more than a thousand miles, at last gradually failed. The first symptom of the approaching calm was the sails beginning to flap gently against the masts--so gently, indeed, that we half hóped it was caused, not so much by the diminished force of the breeze, with which we were very unwilling to part, as by that long and peculiar swell which,

« In the torrid clime Dark heaving,"

has found the hand of a master-artist to embody it in a description more technically correct, and certainly far more graphic in all its parts, than if the picture had been filled up from the log-books of ten thousand voyagers. The same noble writer, by merely letting his imagination run wild a little, has also given a sketch of what might take place were one of these calms to be perpetual; and so true to nature is all his pencilling, that many a time, when day after day has passed without a breath of wind, and there came no prospect of any breeze, I have recollected the following strange lines, and almost fancied that such might be our own dismal fate:

“ The rivers, lakes, and ocean, all stood still,
And nothing stirred within their silent depths ;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal; as they dropped,
They slept on the abyss without a surge.
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave;
The moon, their mistress, had expired before;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air
And the clouds perished.”

In vain we looked round and round the horizon for some traces of a return of our old friend the trade, but could distinguish nothing save one polished, dark-heaving sheet of glass, reflecting the unbroken disk of the sun, and the bright, clear sky. The useless helm was lashed amidships, the yards were lowered on the cap, and the boats were dropped into the water to fill up the cracks and rents caused by the fierce heat. A listless feeling stole over us, and we lay about the decks gasping for breath, in vain seeking for some alleviation to our thirst by drink, drink, drink! Alas, the transient indulgence only made the matter worse.

A heavy squall succeeded this calm, then a dead calm again, in which the difficulty of keeping company at sea, when the helm is useless, without sad accidents from the collision of ships, was strikingly exemplified. At length a light air pump sprung up in a distant quarter, and the story thus proceeds :

While we were stealing along under the genial influence of this new-found air, which as yet was confined to the upper sails, and every one was looking open-mouthed to the eastward to catch a gulp of cool air, about a dozen flyingfish rose out of the water, just under the fore-chains, and skimmed away to windward at the height of ten or twelve feet above the surface.

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