MR. WILTON. "Well done! George; very nicely repeated indeed: you are a most promising member of our little society; and we will drink your health in some of Grandy's elder-wine to-night at supper, and not forget the honors to be added thereto. Now, is it determined how we are to proceed; whether we take the seas of Asia, or enter on the broad waves of the various oceans which wash many of the shores of Europe?"
CHARLES. "The seas first, sir. I have the list of those for consideration belonging to this most interesting division of the globe: the Caspian, between Turkey, Persia, and Tartary; the Whang-hai, or Yellow Sea, in China; the Sea of Japan; the Sea of Ochotsh or Lama; the Chinese Sea; the Bay of Bengal; the Persian Gulf; and the Arabian Gulf or Red Sea: these are the largest; but there are numbers of small seas, some of them so entirely inland that they should more properly be called lakes; of these, the largest is the Sea of Aral. The bays and gulfs around Asia are so numerous that you would be tired of hearing their names. North, are the Bays of Carskoe and Obskaia: south, Tonquin, Siam, Cambay, and Cutch; east, Macao and Petchelee; west, Balkan, Kindelnisk, and Krasnai Vodi; the latter in the Caspian."
GEORGE. "Are those all, Charles? why, from your preface, I thought you would be at least ten minutes enumerating the Bays of Asia."
CHARLES. "Were I to name all, I could do it in less time than ten minutes; but I should incur too great a liability for my trouble, as I should be expected to describe the situations of all, and that would be beyond my capability."
DORA. "The Caspian falls to my share: it is usually called by the Persians, 'Derrieh Hustakhan' (Sea of Astrachan). It is likewise called the 'Derrieh Khizzar.' The absence of all shipping, save now and then a solitary Russian craft; the scarcity of sea-weed, and the want of the refreshing salt scent of the ocean, together with the general appearance of the coast, suggest the idea of an immense lake. Numbers of that large fish called 'sturgeon' are taken from the waters of the Caspian; and there is quite a colony of fishermen engaged in this occupation on the Persian coast; and during the season they catch thousands of these useful fish. No part of a sturgeon is wasted: the roe is taken out, salted, and stowed away in casks; this is known by the name of 'caviare,' and is esteemed a great luxury. From the sound or air-bladder isinglass is made, simply by being hung in the sun for a time; and the fish itself is dried, and exported to various parts of the world. Astracan is the chief seat of Caspian commerce."
MR. WILTON. "And here the traveller finds collected into a focus all the picturesque items that have struck him elsewhere. Alongside of a Tartar dwelling stretches a great building blackened by time, and by its architecture and carvings carrying you back to the middle ages. A European shop displays its fashionable haberdashery opposite a caravanserai; the magnificent cathedral overshadows a pretty mosque with its fountain; a Moorish balcony contains a group of young European ladies, who set you thinking of Paris; whilst a graceful white shadow glides mysteriously under the gallery of an old palace. All contrasts are here met together; and so it happens, that in passing from one quarter to another you think you have made but a short promenade, and you have picked up a stock of observation and reminiscences belonging to all times and places. The Russians ought to be proud of this town; for, unlike others in this country, it is not of yesterday's formation, and is the only place throughout the empire where the traveller is not plagued with the cold monotonous regularity which meets him at every other city in Russia. The Caspian Sea covers an extent of 120,000 square miles, and is the largest salt lake known."
MR. BARRAUD. "Near a place called Semnoon, not many miles from Asterabad, there formerly stood a city of Guebres, named Dzedjin, with which a droll legend is connected:—
"'When Semnoon was built, the water with which it was supplied flowed from the city of the Guebres, who one day turned the stream, and cut off the supplies. Sin and Lam (two prophets), seeing the town about to perish for want of water, repaired to Dzedjin, and entreated the chiefs of that place to allow the stream to return to its old channel. This they at first refused, but finally made an agreement, that on the payment of a sum equal to a thousand tomauns, or 500l., the water should be allowed to flow into the city as long as life remained in the head of a fly, which was to be cut off and thrown into a basin of water. This was done; but, to the great astonishment of the Guebres, the head retained life during thirteen days, which so exasperated them against Sin and Lam, whom they perceived to be men of God that they sent an armed party to Semnoon to make them prisoners.
"'Meanwhile Sin and Lam had received intelligence of their designs, and fled. The first village they halted at was called Shadderron, where, having rested awhile, they continued their flight, strictly enjoining the inhabitants not to tell their pursuers the direction which they had taken. Shortly afterwards the Guebres arrived, and inquired where they had gone. The villagers did not mention the direction in words, but treacherously indicated it by turning their heads over their right shoulders, in which position they became immovably fixed; and since then all their descendants have been born with a twist in the neck towards the right shoulder.'"
Here the boys had some difficulty in repressing their laughter; for Charles placed his head in the position of the faithless Shadderrons, and looked so mischievously at George, that he was obliged to cover his eyes, or he would have stopped the story by a boisterous shout of merriment.
MR. BARRAUD continued: "'The fugitives next arrived at a place called Giorvenon, on quitting which they left the same injunctions as before. On the arrival of the pursuers, however, the people pointed out the direction of their flight by stretching their chins straightforward. An awful peal of thunder marked the divine displeasure; and the inhabitants of Giorvenon now found themselves unable to bring their heads back to their proper position; and the curse likewise descended to their posterity, who have since been remarkable for long projecting chins. After a long chase, the Guebres overtook the prophets at the foot of a steep hill, up which they galloped into a small plain, where, to the astonishment and disappointment of their pursuers, the earth opened and closed over them. It was now evening; and the Guebres, placing a small heap of stones over the spot where Sin and Lam had disappeared, retired for the night. Early the next morning the Guebres repaired thither with the intention of digging out the prophets; but, to their confusion, they found the whole plain covered with similar heaps of stones, so that all their endeavors to find the original pile were completely baffled, and they returned to Dzedjin disappointed. There is now a small mosque, said to cover the exact spot where Sin and Lam sank into the ground, which is called Seracheh, to which people resort to pray, and make vows; and close by is an almost perpendicular rock, whence (the inhabitants aver) may be seen the marks of the feet of the horses ridden by the Guebres!'"
This story amused the children much, and they would gladly have listened to Mr. Barraud while he related some other extraordinary tradition, but his reply to their request silenced these wishes.
"Every place," said he, "throughout this wild country has a legend: were I to tell you all, there would be no time for business. I merely selected this because it is concerning a town situated on the shores of the Caspian Sea, and gives you a tolerable idea of the superstition of its inhabitants."
MR. WILTON. "The Caspian extends about 700 miles in length, and 200 in breadth. The northern shores of this sea are low and swampy, often overgrown with reeds; but in many other parts the coasts are precipitous, with such deep water that a line of 450 fathoms will not reach the bottom. The best haven in the Caspian is that of Baku; that of Derbent is rocky, and that of Sensili not commodious, though one of the chief ports of trade."
DORA. "The Whang-hai, or Yellow Sea, on the coast of China, contains several islands,—Tebu-sou, Lowang, Tsougming, Vun-taichan, Fouma, and Stanton's Island. By the Straits of Corea we can enter the Sea of Japan, sail along by the great Japan Islands, the principal of which are Niphon, Kinsin, and Sikokf, and, passing the Jesso Isles, go through the Channel of Tartary, and enter the Sea of Ochotsk or Lama."
MRS. WILTON. "A very good route, Dora, but rather too expeditious to be advantageous. These islands and seas are connected with many interesting facts. And why pass the Island of Sagalien without a glance? I am sure, could you have seen one of the people, your attention would have been sufficiently arrested to stay your rapid flight o'er land and sea. The Sagaliens are similar in many respects to the Tartar tribes. Their dress is a loose robe of skins, or quilted nankeen, with a girdle. They tattoo their upper lip blue. Their huts or cabins of timber are thatched with grass, with a fire-place in the centre. The native name of this large island is Tehoka.
"Between Japan and Mantchooria is the great peninsula of Corea, remarkable for the coldness of its climate, although in the latitude of Italy. We are told that in the northern parts snow falls in so large quantities as to render it necessary to dig passages under it in order to go from one house to another. It is supposed that the surface of this country being so extremely mountainous is the cause of this curious climate. There are numbers of ponies here not more than three feet high!"
GEORGE. "Oh what sweet creatures! how very much I would like to have one; actually not larger than a dog: how very pretty they must be."
EMMA. "Around the three great islands of Japan, I observe countless numbers of little ones,—are they in any way connected with Japan?"
MR. WILTON. "Yes, my dear; they all belong to the kingdom of Japan."
EMMA. "And what sort of people are the Japanese?"
MR. WILTON. "Very similar in appearance to their neighbors, the Chinese, with a yellow complexion and small oblique eyes: there is this difference, however; their hair is thick and bushy, while the hair of the Chinese is cultivated in a long tail. A Japanese is certainly rather ludicrous, in both manners and appearance. His head half-shaved; the hair which is left accumulated on the crown of his head; his body wrapped (when travelling) in an enormous covering of oiled paper, and a large fan in his hand, he presents an extraordinary figure. These people are very particular concerning points of etiquette, and have many books written on the proper mode of taking a draught of water, how to give and receive presents, and all the other minutiae of behavior."
GRANDY. "The Japanese have curious notions with regard to the life eternal. They believe that the souls of the virtuous have a place assigned to them immediately under heaven, while those of the wicked wander in the air until they expiate their offences."
CHARLES. "I am very glad that is not my creed, for I should not at all enjoy life with the continual idea of wicked spirits hovering in the air around me. They might as reasonably believe in ghosts."
MRS. WILTON. "In the Indian and China Seas, and in many other parts of the great tropical belt, the periodical winds called 'monsoons' are found. The south-west monsoon prevails from April to October, between the equator and the tropic of Cancer: and it reaches from the east coast of Africa to the coasts of India, China, and the Philippine Islands. Its influence extends sometimes into the Pacific Ocean, as far as the Marcian Isles, or to longitude about 145 east; and it reaches as far north as the Japan Islands. The north-east monsoon prevails from October to May, throughout nearly the same space, that the south-west monsoon prevails in during the former season. But the monsoons are subject to great obstructions by land; and in contracted places, such as Malacca Straits, they are changed into variable winds. Their limits are not everywhere the same; nor do they always shift exactly at the same period, but they are generally calculated upon about the times I have mentioned."
EMMA. "Mamma, are not trade-winds something like monsoons?"
MRS. WILTON. "So far similar that they are confined to a certain region, and are tolerably regular in their operations. The trade-winds blow, more or less, from the eastern half of the compass to the western. Their chief region lies between the tropics from 23-1/2 north to 23-1/2 south latitude, although in some parts of the world they extend farther; but it is only in the open parts of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans that the true trade-winds blow. These winds shift many degrees of latitude in the course of the year; but skilful navigators usually know where to catch them, and make them serviceable in helping to blow their richly laden vessels 'o'er the glad waters of the bright blue sea.'"
GEORGE. "Do you know the cause of these regular winds, papa? You say learned men try to discover why such things are so, and generally find out causes from their effects."
MR. WILTON. "Exactly so, my boy; and learned women do the same: as an instance, I will quote the learned Mrs. Somerville on this very subject, and give you an excellent reply to your question.
"'The heat of the sun occasions the trade-winds, by rarefying the air at the equator, which causes the cooler and more dense part of the atmosphere to rush along the surface of the earth to the equator, while that which is heated is carried along the higher strata to the poles, forming two currents in the direction of the meridian. But the rotatory velocity of the air corresponding to its geographical situation, decreases towards the poles; in approaching the equator it must therefore revolve more slowly than the corresponding parts of the earth, and the bodies of the surface of the earth must strike against it with the excess of their velocity, and by its reaction they will meet with a resistance contrary to their motion of rotation; so that the wind will appear, to a person supposing himself to be at rest, to blow in a contrary direction to the earth's rotation, or from east to west, which is the direction of the trade-winds.'"
GEORGE. "May I read that to-morrow, papa? I do not quite understand it; and if you have the book, I could read it over and over until I found out the meaning."
MR. WILTON. "You will find it in Mrs. Somerville's 'Mechanism of the Heavens.' If you come to my study to-morrow morning before I leave home, I will assist you in the solution of the difficulties."
MR. BARRAUD. "In an account of Cabul I have read a fine description of the commencement of a monsoon:—'The approach is announced by vast masses of clouds that rise from the Indian Ocean, advancing towards the north-east, gathering and thickening as they approach the land. After some threatening days, the sky assumes a troubled appearance in the evening, and the monsoon sets in generally during the night. It is attended by such a violent thunder-storm as can scarcely be imagined by those who have only witnessed the phenomenon in a temperate climate. It generally begins with violent blasts of wind, which are succeeded by floods of rain. For some hours lightning is seen without intermission: sometimes it only illuminates the sky, and shows the clouds near the horizon; at others, it discovers the distant hills, and again leaves all in darkness; when, in an instant, it reappears in vivid and successive flashes, and exhibits the nearest objects in all the brightness of day. During all this time the distant thunder never ceases to roll, and is only silenced by some nearer peal, which bursts on the ear with such a sudden and tremendous crash, as can scarcely fail to strike the most insensible heart with awe. At length the thunder ceases, and nothing is heard but the continued pouring of the rain and the rushing of the rising streams.'"
CHARLES. "I would much rather live in our temperate climate than between the tropics; for everything connected with the elements is so outrageously violent, that I should be continually in a state of alarm, and in constant dread of a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake, or some such awful visitation.'"
GRANDY. "Why should you fear, my dear boy? Who, or what, can harm you if you follow that which is good? Is not the arm of the Lord mighty to save? and is it not stretched forth all the day long to defend his own children? Has he not promised to be a stronghold whereunto the faithful may always resort, and to be a house of defence for his people? Cast thy fear from thee, Charles; rely on God's gracious promises, and pray for faith to believe in his omnipotence."
DORA. "The Sea of Ochotsk. This sea is nearly land-locked, being in this respect, as well as in size and general situation, not unlike Hudson's Bay. The waters are shallow, not exceeding (about fifty miles from land) fifty fathoms, and rarely giving, even in the centre, above four times the depth just mentioned. There are three gulfs belonging to this sea, the Gulf of Penjinsk, the Gulf of Gijiginsk, and the Gulf of Tanish; but not many islands of consideration."
MR. WILTON. "Although Asia cannot vie with Europe in the advantages of inland seas, yet, in addition to a share of the Mediterranean, it possesses the Red Sea and Gulf of Persia, the Bays of Bengal and Nankin, and other gulfs already mentioned, which diversify the coasts much more than those of either Africa or America, and have doubtless contributed greatly to the early civilization of this celebrated division of the globe. I wish each of you young folks to describe the following seas as I mention their names. Dora, tell me all you have learnt respecting the Red Sea."
DORA. "The Red Sea, or Arabian Gulf of antiquity, constitutes the grand natural division between Asia and Africa; but its advantages have been chiefly felt by the latter, which is entirely destitute of inland seas. Egypt and Abyssinia, two of the most civilized countries in that division, have derived great benefits from that celebrated sea, which, from the Straits of Babelmandel to Suez, extends about 21 deg., or 1470 British miles, terminating not in two equal branches, as delineated in old maps, but in an extensive western branch; while the eastern ascends little beyond the parallel of Mount Sinai."
GRANDY. "The Gulf of Suez was the scene of the most stupendous miracle recorded in Exodus—the Passage of the Israelites,—when God clave in sunder the waters of the sea, and caused them to rise perpendicularly, so as to form a wall unto the Israelites, on their right hand, and on their left. This is not to be read figuratively, but literally; for in Exodus xv. 8, it is said they 'stood as an heap,' and were 'congealed,' or suspended, as though turned into ice:—'And with the blast of thy nostrils, the waters were gathered together: the floods stood upright as an heap; the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.'"
MR. WILTON. "Emma, I call upon you for the account of the Persian Gulf; but you seem so intent on the book before you, that I feel a little curious to know the subject of your meditations."
EMMA. "You shall hear, papa, although perhaps you may laugh at me afterwards. I was thinking that it seemed rather absurd for people who are constantly voyaging to the East Indies to go such an immense way round Africa, when by cutting a passage through the Isthmus of Suez they could arrive at the desired haven in half the time. What is the width of the isthmus, papa? Would such a thing be practicable, or am I very foolish?"
MR. WILTON. "Not at all, my dear, as I will readily prove. The width is about seventy-five miles; and there has been a communication between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Strabo, the historian, asserts that a canal was built by Sesostris, king of Egypt; and in February, 1799, Napoleon, then General of the French Republic, accompanied by some gentlemen skilled in such matters, proceeded from Cairo to Suez with the view of discovering the vestiges of this ancient canal. They were successful: they found traces of it for several leagues, together with portions of the old great wall of Sesostris, which guarded the eastern frontiers of Egypt, and protected the canal from the sands of the desert. It was a short time since in contemplation to renew this communication by the same means as those used by Sesostris; viz., by forming a canal for the advantage of commerce, &c.; which advantage is well explained by Mr. Edward Clarkson, in an article on Steam Navigation, thus: 'The distance from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea by the Suez navigable canal would be from eighty to ninety miles. The time consumed by a steamboat in this transit might be averaged at five hours. What is the time now consumed in the transit through Egypt by the voyager from England to Bombay? and what is the nature of the transit? Passengers, packages, and letters, after being landed at Alexandria, are now conveyed by the Mahmoudie Canal forty miles to Atfeh, on the Nile. This consumes twelve hours, and is performed by a track-boat, attended by numerous inconveniences. The passengers, goods, and letters are landed at Atfeh; they are there reshipped, and carried by steamboat from Atfeh up the Nile to Boulac, a distance of 120 miles. This water transit consumes eighteen hours. At Boulac, which is the port of Cairo, the passengers, goods, and letters are again unshipped, and have a land transit of two miles before they arrive at Cairo. At that capital a stoppage of twelve hours, which is considered indispensable to travellers, occurs. A fourth transit then takes place to Suez from Cairo, across the Desert. This is performed by vans with two and four horses, donkey-chairs (two donkeys carrying a species of litter between them for ladies and children,) and is often attended, owing to the scarcity of good horses, with great inconveniences. The distance of this land transit is eighty-four miles, and consumes thirty-six hours. The whole distance by the present line is thus 246 miles; by the projected line it is 80: the transit by the present line consumes four days; the transit by the proposed line would not consume more than five hours!'.
"'Instead of a land, and river, and desert transit, with all the obstructions and inconveniences of track-boats, native steamers, donkey-chairs, and vans, shipping and unshipping, there will be no land transit, and the whole passage may be made by sea from London to Bombay without stoppage. Instead of four days being consumed in the Egyptian transit, five hours will only be requisite. Moreover, the 2l. 12s. expense caused by the present transit in Egypt, and charged to each person, will in future be saved by every passenger.'"
MR. BARRAUD. "I propose a vote of thanks to Emma for introducing the subject, as by so doing we have gained a great deal of information."
MR. WILTON. "There you see, Emma, you are not laughed at, but we all thank you, for revealing your thoughts. Now to the Persian Gulf, if you have any particulars."
EMMA. "The Persian Gulf is another noted inland sea, about half the length of the Red Sea, and is the grand receptacle of those celebrated rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. The small bays within this gulf are Katiff Bay, Assilla Bay, Erzoog Bay. There are various islands and large pearl banks here; and on the Euphrates, not many miles from these shores, stands Chaldaea. The inhabitants are the Beni Khaled Arabs, descendants of the founders of the 'Great Babylon.'"
GEORGE. "Oh, papa, I have a discovery: here is an island nobody has noticed—its name is Dahalac."
MRS. WILTON. "That was certainly an omission, for Dahalac is a large island, sixty miles in circumference. It contains goats which have long silky hair, and furnishes gum-lac, the produce of a particular kind of shrub. To this island vessels repair for fresh water, which, however, is very bad, being kept in 370 dirty cisterns!"
MR. BARRAUD. "This district is especially interesting to Christians, for here are situated the mounts celebrated in Scripture. In the centre of Armenia you may observe Mount Ararat, a detached elevation with two summits; the highest covered with perpetual snow. On this mountain rested the Ark, when God sent his vengeance over all the earth, and destroyed every living thing. Mount Lebanon is in Syria; and not far distant stands Mount Sinai, an enormous mass of granite rocks, with a Greek convent at its base, called the convent of St. Catharine: here was the law delivered to Moses, inscribed on two tables of stone by the Most High God."
MR. WILTON. "The whole coast of Oman, in South Arabia, which on the north is washed by the waters of the Persian Gulf, and on the south by the Sea of Oman, abounds with fish; and, as the natives have but few canoes, they generally substitute a single inflated skin, or sometimes two, across which they place a flat board. On this contrivance the fisherman seats himself, and either casts his small hand-net, or plays his hook and line. Some capital sport must arise occasionally, when the sharks, which are here very numerous and large, gorge the bait; for, whenever this occurs, unless the angler cuts his line, (and that, as the shark is more valued by them than any other fish, he is often unwilling to do,) nothing can prevent his rude machine from following their track; and the fisherman is sometimes, in consequence, carried out a great distance to sea. It requires considerable dexterity to secure these monsters; for when they are hauled up near to the skins, they struggle a good deal, and if they happen to jerk the fisherman from his seat, the infuriate monster dashes at once at him. Many accidents arise in this manner; but if they succeed in getting him quickly alongside, they soon despatch him by a few blows on the snout."
[Footnote 7: Vide Lieutenant Wellsted's Travels in Arabia.]
MRS. WILTON. "There are many little circumstances of interest connected with the Persian Gulf. In several parts fresh springs rise in the middle of the salt water, particularly near the Islands of Baharein. The whole shore of this gulf is lined with islands; and on its shores are several independent Arabs, who almost all live in the same manner. They subsist by maritime trade, and by the peril and other fisheries. Their food consists of dates, fish, and dhoura bread. Their arms are muskets, with matchlocks, sabres, and bucklers. These tribes, among whom the Houles are the most powerful, all speak the Arabic language, and are enemies to the Persians, with whom they form no alliances. Their houses are so wretched, that an enemy would think it lost labor to destroy them. As they generally have but little to lose on land, if a Persian army approaches, all the inhabitants of the towns and villages go on board their little vessels, and take refuge in some island in the Persian Gulf until the enemy retires."
EMMA. "Where are the Baharein Isles, mamma?"
MRS. WILTON. "Near the Arabian shore. They are remarkable for the pearl fishery, which is carried on in their neighborhood during the months of June, July, and August; a fishery which, in the sixteenth century, was estimated at 500,000 ducats. The name Baharein signifies two seas."
[Footnote 8: A ducat is of the value of nine shillings and threepence sterling.]
MR. WILTON. "Well, Charles; what can you tell us about the little Sea of Aral?"
CHARLES. "Not much I am afraid, sir. The Sea of Aral, or Eagles, is situated about 100 miles east of the Caspian, and is nearly 200 miles in length and 70 in breadth; it is surrounded with sandy deserts, and has been little explored; its waters are not so salt as the Caspian, but there are many small saline lakes in its vicinity. There is a remarkable detached sea in Siberia, or Asiatic Russia, which we have not noticed, called Baikal Sea; it extends from the 51 deg. to the 55 deg. of north latitude. This sea is 350 miles in length and only 50 in breadth. The water is fresh and transparent, yet of a green or sea tinge, commonly frozen in the latter end of December, and clear of ice in May. At particular periods it is subject to violent and unaccountable storms, whence, as terror is the parent of superstition, probably springs the Russian name of Svetoie More, or the Holy Sea. There are many seals here, and abundance of fish, particularly a kind of herring called omuli."
MR. WILTON. "Very good, Charles. Now, my son, try your best memory on the Eastern Sea."
GEORGE. "I am glad you have given me that sea to describe, for I have been much amused with the curious names of the islands printed on the map in these waters. A little group not far from 'Tchusan' is called 'the Bear and Cubs;' another 'Lowang,' or 'Buffalo's Nose;' another 'Chutta-than,' or 'Shovel-nosed Shark.' Near the Japan Isles there is a little cluster called 'Asses' Ears.' This sea is called by the Chinese Tong-hai; and in it are the large islands Formosa and Loo-choo; but I know nothing of them."
MRS. WILTON. "I will aid you there, George, because you have done well to remember all those difficult names. Formosa is a fine fertile island, belonging to the Chinese, where oxen are used for equestrian purposes for want of horses or asses. The Loo-choo Islands constitute a little civilized kingdom, tributary to China. There are thirty-six of them. The capital is Kinching. These isles were discovered by the Chinese many hundred years ago. Their products are sulphur, copper, tin, shells, and mother-of-pearl. The inhabitants vie with the Japanese in the manufacture of lacquered ware. Loo-choo itself is one of the most delightful places in the world, with a temperate climate and great fertility. All animal creation here is of a diminutive size, but all excellent in their kind. The people are amiable and virtuous, though, unhappily, worshippers of Confucius."
MR. WILTON. "The China Sea falls to Dora's share: are you prepared, my dear?"
DORA. "I think so, sir. It lies south-west of China, and connected with it are the Gulfs of Siam and Tonquin. In the former are the Islands Hastings and Tantalem: the latter washes the coast of Cochin China; a coast that suffers more from the encroachment of the sea than any other known: in five years the sea gained 190 feet from east to west. The low country is exposed to an uncomfortable degree of heat during part of the year, and the rains are so plentiful, that boats are navigable over the fields and hedges, and the children go out in small barks to fish for the mice which cling to the branches of the trees."
EMMA. "Poor little mice! I dare say they would rather be playthings for children than be drowned."
CHARLES. "They need no fishing-tackle for their sport; I suppose they catch them in their hands. Do you know, Dora?"
DORA. "I believe they do.—Now what comes next? Oh! Hainan. It lies in the China Sea; its capital is Kiang-tchou. In the southern part this island is mountainous, but towards the north it is more level, and productive of rice; in the centre there are mines of gold; and on the shores are found small blue fish, which the Chinese value more than we do those known as gold and silver fish. The blue fish will not survive long after they are caught, and two days' confinement to a glass bowl suffices to end their lives."
MR. BARRAUD. "The Gulf of Tonquin and the adjacent seas are remarkable for dreadful whirlwinds, called 'typhons.' After calm weather they are announced by a small black cloud in the north-east part of the horizon, which gradually brightens until it becomes white and brilliant. This alarming appearance often precedes the hurricane twelve hours."
CHARLES. "Pray what is the cause of this dreadful 'typhon?'"
MR. BARRAUD. "They seem to arise from the mutual opposition of the north-wind coming down from the mountains of the continent and the south-wind proceeding from the ocean. Nothing can exceed their fury. They are accompanied by dreadful thunder, lightning, and heavy rain. After five or six hours a calm succeeds; but the hurricane soon returns in the opposite direction with additional fury, and continues for an equal interval."
GEORGE. "Papa, there are seas of all colors, for I have actually found a Blue Sea. Here it is, between Loo-choo and China. What droll people the Chinese are! they have such odd names for their places."
MR. WILTON. "Yes; they call China Tchou-Koo, or the 'Centre of the World;' for in their overweening pride, they consider other countries as mere strips surrounding their territory; and their names and titles are very grand. At a distance of six hundred paces from the shore of the 'Yang-tse-Kiang' is the wonderful Island of Chin-shan, or 'Golden Mountain.' This island is covered with gardens and pleasure-houses. Art and nature have united their efforts to give it the most enchanting aspect. It is in the fields of this isle that the shrub grows producing the cotton of which the article known by the name of Nankeen is made. The fibre is not white like other cotton, but of a delicate orange color, which it preserves after it is spun and woven."
MR. BARRAUD. "There are many noble lakes in China, particularly in the province of Howquang, which name signifies 'Country of Lakes;' and I remember reading of a traveller who often observed on one near the Imperial Canal, thousands of small boats and rafts, constructed for a singular species of fishery. 'On each boat or raft are ten or a dozen birds, which, at a signal from the owner, plunge into the water; and it is astonishing to see the enormous size of the fish with which they return grasped within their bills.' They appeared to be so well trained, that it did not require either ring or cord about their throats to prevent them from swallowing any portion of their prey, except what the master was pleased to return to them for encouragement and food. The boat used by these fishermen is of a remarkably light make, and is often carried to the lake, together with the fishing-birds, by the fishermen themselves."
CHARLES. "What preposterous things people do in other countries! How strange to train birds to catch fish!"
"Why, Charles, we have fishing-birds in England," exclaimed George. "The only difference between them is, that our birds fish for themselves, while the Chinese birds fish for their masters. I have often seen the kingfishers pounce upon their prey, and I have heard of herons and storks living on fish caught by themselves."
MR. WILTON. "Quite true, George; and this proves that many 'traveller's wonders' cease to be wonderful when we examine into the circumstances and particulars, or compare their relations with the commonplace occurrences of everyday life. Now for the Bay of Bengal, which contains the fine islands of Andaman, Nicobar, and Ceylon; for the particulars of these islands I beg to refer the members to Mrs. Wilton."
MRS. WILTON. "We will describe them according to their merits; and by so doing, the last will be first. Ceylon is considered the finest and richest island in the world: we read that the stones are rubies and sapphires, that amonium scents the marshes, and cinnamon the forests, and that the most common plants furnish precious perfumes. Its length is about 250 miles, its breadth 150. Its principal productions are gold, silver, and other metals; excellent fruits of all kinds; delicious spices; ivory, cotton, silk, musk, and many varieties of precious stones. The chief town is Candy, situated on a mountain in the middle of the island. Trincomale and Columbo are its other great towns. I forgot to tell you that elephants of the most handsome and valuable kind run here in herds, as the wild boars do in the forests of Europe; while the brilliant peacock and bird of paradise occupy the places of our rooks and swallows.
"The Andainans—The inhabitants are probably cannibals; their antipathy to strangers is singularly strong. They possess all the characteristics of the negro, but scarcely know how to build a boat, or manage a rope; however, they have acquired a little more civilization since the foundation of an English establishment on the Great Andaman, for the reception of criminals sent from Bengal.
"The Nicobar Isles are inhabited by a harmless inoffensive race of people; and here, as also in Andaman, are found the edible bird's-nests so much esteemed in China."
MR. BARRAUD. "These nests form an extensive article of commerce: they are built by a little bird called the Jaimalani, black as jet, and very much like a martin, but considerably smaller. The nests are made of a slimy gelatinous substance found on the shore, of the sea-weed called agal-agal, and of a soft, greenish, sizy matter, often seen on rocks in the shade, when the water oozes from above. The best are found in damp caves, very difficult of access. They are sold at a high price, and considered a great luxury, consequently only consumed by the great people of China, chiefly by the emperor and his court."
MR. WILTON. "George looks as if he did not relish the idea of feasting on bird's-nests. I believe the Chinese monopolize these delicacies entirely, and they are quite welcome so to do, as they are not esteemed elsewhere: so do not look so scornful George; the inhabitants of the celestial empire would not offer you a bird's-nest for your supper if you paid them a visit. They cost, I have heard, their weight in silver! Emma, can you tell me in what sea to look for the Maldives?"
EMMA. "Yes, dear papa, Maldives and Laccadives are both in the Arabian Sea. The first are small islands, or rocks, just above the water. The Dutch trade with the natives for cowries, little shells used as money on some parts of the coasts of Africa and India. Ships from India sometimes resort thither to procure sharks' fins for those epicures the Chinese, who consider them an excellent seasoning for soup.
"The Laccadives are about five degrees further north, and are in themselves larger islands, but not so numerous as the Maldives. Bombay, which is the central point of communication between India and Europe, is on the Arabian Sea. Have we not devoted sufficient time to Asia, mamma?"
MRS. WILTON. "I scarcely think so, my dear; we could find subjects for conversation which would profitably occupy the hours of many meetings in this delightful quarter of the world. Remember here were our first parents placed, when in innocence and happiness they were created by Almighty God; here in the Garden of Eden they dwelt enjoying the light of His countenance; here they fell in guilt and misery, and were banished from the presence of their offended God; here was the prophecy fulfilled, for here was born our Blessed Saviour. By Him was the great and wondrous work of redemption accomplished; He offered Himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; He gave us the Everlasting Gospel, and He has become our mediator with God: by Him we gain access to the Father; by His blood only can we be cleansed; by His merits only can we hope for salvation; and only through His Grace assisting us can we perform that which is right and well-pleasing in the eyes of our Heavenly Father: then believing in Him, trusting in Him, rejoicing in Him, Christ will be our All in all here, and All in all hereafter. There are many lakes and small inland seas in Asia, memorable as having been the scene of our Blessed Saviour's labors, trials, and triumphs. Not the most insignificant on the list is the lake of Genesareth, sometimes called the Sea of Galilee, or Sea of Tiberias; for near here is situated Nazareth, the great city of Jesus Christ. About six miles to the south stands the hill of Tabor, which a venerable tradition assigns as the scene of Christ's transfiguration; and on the south-west side of the Gulf of St. Jean d'Acre is Mount Carmel, where, we are told, the prophet Elijah proved his divine mission by the performance of many miracles. Thousands of Christians once lived in caves of the rocks around this mountain, which then was covered with chapels and gardens: at the present day naught but scattered ruins remain to prove the truth of these statements."
MR. WILTON. "A most extraordinary fact relating to this sea is, that its waters are 300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean: and this reminds me of the Dead Sea, situated in Palestine, which covers from 450 to 500 square miles; for its waters are no less than 1300 feet below the Mediterranean. We are told by many who have visited this sea, that neither fish nor shells are to be found in it, and that its shores, frightfully barren, are never cheered by the note of any bird. The inhabitants in its vicinity, however, are not sensible of any noxious quality in its vapor; and the accounts of birds falling down dead in attempting to fly over it are entirely fabulous. The water is exceedingly nauseous, and the effluvia arising from it unwholesome, but so buoyant, that gentlemen, who have made the attempt from curiosity, have found it impossible to sink. An Irishman, named Cortigan, some fifteen years ago, conveyed a boat to the waters of the Dead Sea, and, aided by an old Maltese sailor, rowed nearly all round. He was a week exploring, and imagined he had made great discoveries; but no one knew what they were, for on the eighth day he became seriously ill. He was carried to the shore by his companion, and expired soon after in the hut of a Bedouin Arab. We are led to believe that in this place stood the famous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed by the wrath of God, and utterly buried beneath this bituminous lake."
GRANDY. "We have gone through our toils this evening with no personal inconvenience; but that is owing to our travels being of the mind instead of the body: for what man journeying through Arabia but has felt the annoyances of heat, the pangs of thirst and unutterable anguish from the horrors of a lingering death? That we stay-at-home travellers may justly appreciate the blessings of home, I will give you an instance of the sufferings of those who are compelled to wander.
The Slave Merchant.
"The caravans which carry goods from Bagdat to Aleppo usually pass by Anah. They pay tribute to the Arabs, who reckon themselves Lords of the Desert, even to the east of Euphrates. They have to encounter the dangers of the suffocating winds, the swarms of locusts, and the failure of water, as soon as they depart from the line of the river. A French traveller tells us he witnessed one of the most appalling scenes of this kind between Anah and Taibu. The locusts, having devoured everything, perished in countless heaps, poisoning with their dead bodies the ponds which usually afforded water when no springs were near.
[Footnote 9: Maltebrun.]
"This traveller saw a Turk running down from a hillock, with despair in his looks. 'I am,' cried he, 'the most ill-fated man in the world. I have purchased, at an enormous rate, 200 young women, the finest of Greece and Georgia. I brought them up with great care, and now, when arrived at the age of marriage, I have come with them on my way to Bagdat, thinking to dispose of them to advantage. Alas! they are all now dying of thirst in this desert.' The traveller, going round the hillock, beheld a sight of horror. In the midst of twelve eunuchs and about a hundred camels, he saw all these girls, from twelve to fifteen years old, stretched on the ground in the agonies of a burning thirst and inevitable death. Some had already been buried; a larger number had fallen down by the side of their keepers, who had not sufficient strength left to bury them. On every hand were heard the sobs of the dying; and the cries of those in whom enough of life still remained, begging for a drop of water. The traveller hastened to open his flask, in which a little water was left, and was now offering it to one of these poor victims. 'You fool!' exclaims his Arabian conductor, 'would you have us also to perish for want of water?' and with his arrow he laid the girl dead at his feet; laid hold of the bottle, and threatened the life of any one who dared to touch it. He advised the Turkish merchant to go on to Taibu, where he would find water. 'No,' said the Turk, 'at Taibu the robbers would carry off all my slaves.' The Arab forced the traveller to accompany him. At the moment of their departure, these unfortunates, losing the last ray of hope, uttered a piercing shriek: the Arab was affected, he took one of the girls, poured some drops of water on her burning lips, and placed her on his camel, intending her as a present for his wife. The poor girl fainted repeatedly on passing the dead bodies of her companions. The small stock of water of the travellers was soon exhausted, when they discovered a well of fresh clear water. Here, disconcerted by the depth of the well, and the shortness of their rope, they tore their clothes into strips, which they tied together, and, with this frail cordage, contrived to take up the water in small quantities, dreading the loss of their bucket, and the disappointment of their hopes. Through such perils and anxieties, they at last found their way to Syria."
MRS. WILTON. "With this we will conclude the evening's business; and as we have been so much in the East, I have prepared a little present for each of you, in the form of a Chinese Puzzle; and whenever you exercise your patience on them (and I assure you they will require it, for they are most ingenious) you will think of our travels, and of the many little facts you learnt while visiting the lands of other nations. Also, I wish you to endeavor to gain knowledge, not merely for ornament and reputation, but because your mind is a rich storehouse, by means of which you may glorify God, and do much for the happiness of your fellow-creatures."
Mrs. Wilton then produced a beautiful Japan box, and, opening it, displayed to the admiring gaze of the young party a number of curious contrivances to tease and tire impatient folks, exquisitely cut in ivory, and mother-of-pearl, and light woods. Each puzzle was ticketed; and, highly delighted, they all sat down to partake of the good things spread on the table, determined to vie with each other in trials of skill and perseverance on their curious little toys. We wish them success, and "Good night."
There was an old and quiet man, And by thy fire sat he: "And now," he said, "to you I'll tell A dismal thing which once befel To a ship upon the sea."
"Oh, mamma, dear mamma," exclaimed Emma, bursting into the parlor where Mrs. Wilton was sitting at work, "everything goes wrong to-day. Look here, the postman has brought a note from Dora Leslie: she has been to a party, caught a cold, and is obliged to remain in the house for I know not how long. What can we do without her? I am sure my portion will not be ready; for, in the first place, I know not how to begin with America: the number of seas, gulfs, and bays quite puzzles me, and I have felt so miserable all day, because I have no notes prepared for the meeting."
Mrs. Wilton continued her sewing while Emma thus gave vent to her feelings; then quietly taking her hand, "My dear little girl," said she, "sit down by me and listen.
"Many years ago there dwelt in a little cot on a hill's side an aged matron and her grandchild; they were alone, but not lonely, for they were happy in each other's society; their wants were few, and their gratitude unbounded. There were no neighbors near them,—no gossips to drop in upon them, and fritter away the precious moments. They subsisted on the produce of their garden, and labored for their daily bread in gladness of heart.
"Every morn, almost with the sun, Eva arose, fed the chickens that fluttered around her, and went through her business merrily,—richly rewarded by the approving smile of her aged parent, when she blessed her darling before retiring to rest.
"But 'man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward,' and this happy pair were not exempt from the curse. One night, the wind blew, the rain fell in torrents, thunder and lightning rent the skies, and, in fear and trembling, the aged woman and her fair grandchild wept and prayed, until the glorious sun rose above the horizon, and proclaimed the advent of another day. Then Eva stepped to the cottage door, and gazed in speechless agony on the devastation wrought by the fury of the elements in one single night. The beautiful path, lately so trim and neat, which led to her garden, was blocked up with stones borne from the mountain's side by the violence of the torrent. Her vines were crushed and drooping; and even the poor birds came not to her side, but remained crowded together in a corner under the shade of the cottage roof.
"'Alas! alas!' cried she, 'where is the pretty path I used to tread,—where are my flowers, my shrubs,—where all my joys and happiness? Gone! gone! and left desolation and misery in their stead. I cannot repair this damage, I shall no longer have pleasure in my work, for one storm has undone the toil of months; and now our cottage must stand in a wilderness, our garden must be overgrown with weeds, and my chickens must die of starvation!' then, wringing her hands, she sank on the earth and wept.
"How long she wept I know not, but she was aroused by a gentle pressure on her shoulder; and, raising her eyes, she beheld a beautiful female, whose cheerful, good-natured countenance put to shame the tears of despair which bedewed the cheeks of the fair Eva.
"'Why weepest thou?' said she; 'why not be up and doing? What has been done, can in like manner be again effected. Arise, and follow me.'
"'But I am alone,' remonstrated the weeping girl; 'and without assistance am unable to repair these ravages.'
"'I will assist thee,' replied her beauteous visitor; 'fear not, together we will accomplish much.' So saying, she led forth the gentle girl, and in a few hours their voices might be heard in one united stream of flowing harmony, filling the air with delicious sounds, and the heart of the aged woman with rapture.
"For many days, Eva worked in company with her angelic friend, until, at length, Desolation acknowledged her power, and disappeared. Her garden was restored to its pristine beauty,—the path was cleared.—her favorites flocked around her; and again kneeling in thankfulness at her grandmother's feet, she read her evening lesson, and praised Almighty God, who in love and mercy sent 'Peace on earth, Goodwill toward all men.' Now, my child, who thinkest thou was Eva's helpmate?"
"I know not, dear mamma, unless it were Perseverance."
"No, my dear," replied Mrs. Wilton; "Perseverance might have hindered instead of assisting her; she might have persevered in her resolution to await the total destruction of her little property. No, her heavenly companion was 'Goodwill.' Entreat her aid, Emma, set about your task with renewed energy, and certain I am that you will be successful."
Emma Wilton appreciated her mamma's kindness, and the result of her labors will be seen in the following pages.
"I see one of our number missing," said Mr. Wilton, as he opened the large Atlas. "What has become of Dora Leslie?"
"She is slightly indisposed, my dear," replied Mrs. Wilton; "but Emma will be her substitute."
"What an industrious little girl!" exclaimed her papa; "and you are really going to supply the meeting with information sufficient to prevent us from feeling the loss of your friend. You are resolved we shall not be becalmed, eh?"
"Ah! papa, you know not what has happened. I have been nearly becalmed, but, in a lucky moment, mamma sent a gentle breeze which filled my sails, and carried me gaily on my course, or I fear I should have been ill prepared to supply the deficiencies to-night. If the members approve the following plan, we will act upon it. I propose, that we start from England, cross the North Atlantic Ocean, enter Baffin's Bay by Davis's Straits, and following the coast, work our way round to the other waters in America."
MR. WILTON. "I see not the slightest objection to the plan; and we will call at all the islands which lie in our way, beginning with Madeira. This name is a corruption of Madera, so called by its first discoverers on account of the uncommon luxuriance of its foliage. It is an exquisitely beautiful island, with every variety of climate in various parts: the soil is volcanic, though there has been no eruption within the memory of man. Madeira belongs to the Portuguese, and lies north of the Canaries. Madeira is about sixty miles long, and forty broad: its chief town is Funchal.
[Footnote 10: Madera signifies wooded.]
"The Canary Isles, formerly called Fortunate Isles, belong to Spain. The three largest are Grand Canary, Teneriffe, and Ferro. These islands are famous for wine, and those pretty little singing birds called Canaries.
"Teneriffe, the second in size, is remarkable for a volcanic mountain, called the Peak."
CHARLES. "Are we not going out of our way, sir, to look at these islands? Baffin's Bay is much more to the north."
MR. WILTON. "You are right, Charles; but on voyages of discovery we are permitted to wander hither and thither at will, so long as it be for the advantage of all parties."
GEORGE. "But ships of war, papa, may not go out of the way: they are obliged to be very orderly, are they not?"
MR. WILTON. "So long as the winds will allow them, they keep on their course together, but adverse winds will send them far asunder at times, as in the case of the destruction of the Spanish Armada 'He blew with His winds, and they were scattered,' was the motto inscribed on the medal Queen Elizabeth caused to be struck in commemoration of that great victory."
MR. BARRAUD. "England can never forget the destruction of the Spanish Armada, for it was the immediate cause of the acquisition of so many colonies to England. The signal success which attended Sir Francis Drake and others, induced them again to sally forth with sanguine hopes of extending the kingdom of their sovereign. This was providential; at least, that is my view of it: all this was wisely arranged that England might, by obtaining dependencies, strive to enlighten, moralize, and spiritualize the people who acknowledged the same temporal sovereign with herself, that in due time they might also acknowledge the same spiritual sovereign."
GEORGE. "I should like to go on board a man-of-war, and see all the arrangements; because so many men on board one ship must need close packing, I should think."
MR. WILTON. "You shall be gratified, my boy. Put on your coat and hat: we will go on board one of Her Majesty's ships before the gentlemen have dined."
EMMA. "Papa is only joking, George; you may sit still. I can guess what you are going to say, papa. 'Is not our voyage imaginary, and should we not be consistent?' Am I right?"
MR. WILTON. "Very nearly, my dear. You are very sharp to-night: the extra duty has quickened your discernment."
CHARLES. "I enjoy this imaginary travelling very much; but I must confess, if everything connected with it is to be consistent, I shall not be at all satisfied with my supper."
"No! no!" exclaimed the other children; "supper is to be real, because we get really hungry."
"But, papa," added George, "can you tell me any of the ways of a man-of-war?"
MR. WILTON. "Yes, my dear. I will fulfil my promise, and initiate you in some of the mysteries which are enacted at dinner-time on board of one of these wonderful vessels. As the hour of noon approaches, the cooks of the messes may be seen coming up the fore and main hatchways with their mess-kids in their hands, the hoops of which are kept as bright as silver, and the woodwork as neat and as clean as the pail of the most tidy dairymaid. The grog also is now mixed in a large tub, under the half-deck, by the quarter-masters of the watch below, assisted by other leading and responsible men among the ship's company, closely superintended, of course, by the mate of the hold, to see that no liquor is abstracted, and also by the purser's steward, who regulates the exact quantity of spirits and of water to be measured out. The seamen, whose next turn it is to take the wheel, or heave the lead, or who have to mount the mast-head to look out, as well as the marines who are to be planted as sentries at noon, are allowed to take both their dinner and their grog beforehand. These persons are called 'seven-bell-men,' from the hour at which they have their allowance served to them.
"Long before twelve o'clock all these and various other minor preparations have been so completely made, that there is generally a remarkable stillness over the whole ship just before the important moment of noon arrives. The boatswain stands near the break of the forecastle, with his bright silver call or whistle in his hand, which ever and anon he places just at the tip of his lips to blow out any crumbs which threaten to interfere with its melody, or to give a faint' too-weet, too-weet,' as a preparatory note to fix the attention of the boatswain's mates, who being, like their chief, provided with calls, station themselves at intervals along the main-deck, ready to give due accompaniment to their leader's tune.
"The boatswain keeps his eye on the group of observers, and well knows when the 'sun is up' by the stir which takes place amongst the astronomers; or by noticing the master working out his latitude with a pencil on the ebony bar of his quadrant or on the edge of the hammock railing,—though, if he be one of your modern, neat-handed navigators, he carries his look-book for this purpose. In one way or other the latitude is computed as soon as the master is satisfied the sun has reached his highest altitude in the heavens. He then walks aft to the officer of the watch, and reports twelve o'clock, communicating also the degrees and minutes of the latitude observed. The lieutenant proceeds to the captain wherever he may be, and reports that it is twelve and that so-and-so is the latitude. The same formal round of reports is gone through, even if the captain be on deck and has heard every word spoken by the master, or even if he have himself assisted in making the observation.
"The captain now says to the officer of the watch, 'Make it twelve!' The officer calls out to the mate of the watch, 'Make it twelve!' The mate, ready primed, sings out to the quarter-master, 'Strike eight bells.'
"And lastly, the hard-a-weather old quarter-master, stepping down the ladder, grunts out to the sentry at the cabin door, 'Turn the glass, and strike the bell!'
"By this time the boatswain's call has been in his mouth for several minutes, his elbow in the air, and his finger on the stop, ready to send forth the glad tidings of a hearty meal. Not less ready, or less eager, are the groups of listeners seated at their snow-white deal tables below, or the crowd surrounding the coppers, with their mess-kids acting the part of drums to their impatient knuckles. At the first stroke of the bell, which, at this particular hour, is always sounded with peculiar vivacity, the officer of the watch exclaims to the boatswain, 'Pipe to dinner!'
"These words, followed by a glorious burst of shrill sounds, 'long drawn out,' are hailed with a murmur of delight by many a hungry tar and many a jolly marine. The merry notes are nearly drowned the next instant in the rattle of tubs and kettles, the voices of the ship's cook and his mates bawling out the numbers of the messes, as well as by the sound of feet tramping along the decks and down the ladders with the steaming ample store of provisions, such as set up and brace the seaman's frame, and give it vigor for any amount of physical action.
"Then comes the 'joyous grog!' that nautical nectar, so dear to the lips of every true-hearted sailor, with which he washes down Her Majesty's junk, as he roughly but good-humoredly styles the government allowance of beef; and while he quaffs off his portion, or his whack, as he calls it, he envies no man alive, and laughs to scorn those party philanthropists who describe his life as one of unhappy servitude. The real truth is, there is no set of men in the world, in their condition of life, who are better taken care of than the sailors and marines of the navy, or who, upon the whole, are more content and happy. There, George, what think you of all that?"
GEORGE. "Why, that they must be a merry set of fellows, and I should like to be a 'Middy' amongst them."
EMMA. "Oh! George, do not wish to be a sailor: remember Frederic Hamilton.—The next islands we come in sight of are Cape Yerd Islands near Africa. They were discovered in 1446 by the Portuguese, their present proprietors; they are remarkably fertile. St. Jago is the largest, and is the residence of the Portuguese viceroy."
CHARLES. "May we now steer north, and call at the Azores or Western Isles? We shall then be half-way between Europe and America."
MR. WILTON. "We shall be very willing to accompany you, if you will entertain us when there."
CHARLES. "That might be done at a moderate expense, for they are delightful islands, with a fine climate, a spacious harbor, good anchorage, and all essentials,—but they are subject to earthquakes; therefore it is not advisable to prolong our visit One remarkable circumstance I had almost forgotten is, that no noxious animal can exist, or is ever to be found on these islands."
MRS. WILTON. "The Azores are also called the Land of Falcons, because when discovered there were so many of these birds found tame on the islands. They are 800 miles from the shores of Portugal, and belong to that kingdom. Nature appears everywhere smiling; the plains wave with golden harvests, delicious fruits adorn the sides of the hills, and the towering summits are covered with evergreens. But, as Charles observes, they are volcanic; and many new islands have been raised from the bottom of the sea by volcanic action. In the year 1720 one of these phenomena took place, on approaching which next day an English captain observes:—'We made an island of fire and smoke. The ashes fell on our deck like hail and snow, the fire and smoke roared like thunder.' The inhabitants of the Azores are an innocent, honest race, who prefer peace to conquest, and distinction in industry rather than in arms."
EMMA. "My course is now tolerably plain; but while we are so near Newfoundland, we may as well look in upon the people. This large island shuts up the northern entrance into the Gulf of St. Lawrence; is for the most part barren and unfruitful, and covered with perpetual fogs."
MR. BARRAUD. "These fogs are, no doubt, produced by the currents that flow from the Antilles, and remain for a time between the great bank and the coast before they escape into the Atlantic Ocean."
CHARLES. "Sir, I do not understand how the currents can cause a fog."
MR. BARRAUD. "It is because these streams, coming from tropical regions, are warmer than the water surrounding the banks of Newfoundland, and necessarily warmer than the atmosphere, consequently they cause a vapor to arise which obscures the island with a moist and dense air. Newfoundland was for a long time considered the inhospitable residence of fishermen; but of late it has doubled its population and industry, and the activity of the British nation has added another fine colony to the civilized world."
MRS. WILTON. "Newfoundland is the nearest to Great Britain of any of our North American possessions. It is rather larger than England and Wales. Its chief town is St. John's. It was discovered in 1497 by John Cabot. The fisheries here are the chief wealth of the island, and consist principally of codfish, herrings, and salmon. The great Bank of Newfoundland, which appears to be a solid rock, is 600 miles long, and in some places 200 broad."
CHARLES. "Newfoundland is famous for dogs; but I find the most numerous there are not like those we call Newfoundland dogs, which are large handsome animals, for they are comparatively rare. The most abundant are creatures with lank bodies, thin legs and tail, and a thin tapering snout. They are very intelligent though, and would beat the Chinese birds in catching fish; for Mr. Jukes, a gentleman who has been to Newfoundland, says of one of these dogs:—'He sat on a projecting rock beneath a fish-flake, or stage, where the fish are laid to dry, watching the water, which had a depth of six or eight feet, and the bottom of which was white with fish-bones. On throwing a piece of cod-fish into the water, three or four heavy, clumsy-looking fish, called in Newfoundland "sculpins," with great heads and mouths, and many spines about them, generally about a foot long, would swim in to catch it. These he would watch attentively, and the moment one turned his broadside to him, he darted down like a fish-hawk, and seldom came up without the fish in his mouth. As he caught them, he carried them regularly to a place a few yards off, where he laid them down; and his owner told us that in the summer he would sometimes make a pile of fifty or sixty a day, just at that place. He never attempted to eat them, but seemed to be fishing purely for his own amusement. I watched him for about two hours; and when the fish did not come, I observed he once or twice put his right foot in the water, and paddled it about. This foot was white, and my friend said he did it to "toll" or entice the fish.' Cunning dog was he not, George?"
GEORGE. "Yes; he would make his master's fortune if the fish he caught were worth selling."
EMMA. "To get into Baffin's Bay, we must go through Davis's Straits, so called from their discoverer, John Davis, who sailed through them in 1585; and following the coast on the north side, we shall pass South-east Bay and Coburg Bay. In 1818 Captain Ross completed the circumnavigation of this oblong bay. The middle of it seems everywhere occupied with impenetrable ice, between which and the land is the only passage for ships."
MRS. WILTON. "That portion of the bay you have just described washes the shores of Greenland and the Arctic Regions. Greenland is considered as a peninsula attached to America, wretchedly barren, for no trees grow there. But God, who made man of the dust, also promised to supply his wants, and most wonderfully is this exemplified with regard to Greenland. To provide the inhabitants with the means of warming and nourishing their bodies, God causes the sea to drive vast quantities of wood from distant shores, and with thankfulness the poor Greenlanders regularly gather these providential supplies from their own coasts. Some parts of Greenland are nothing more than huge masses of rocks, intermingled with immense blocks of ice, thus forming at once the image of chaos and winter."
GEORGE. "Is it not near Greenland the ships go to catch whales?"
MR. BARRAUD. "Yes; and, as you have mentioned the subject, we may as well stop and inquire into the particulars of this fishing."
GEORGE. "I remember reading that there are three sorts of whales—the finback, the right whale, and the sperm whale; but I should like to hear how they are caught."
MR. BARRAUD. "A man is stationed at the mast-head to look out, and as soon as he perceives a whale, he shouts, 'There she blows!' Immediately all hands are on the move to prepare the boats: this takes but a short time, and the chase commences. I will now give you an American account of such a chase.
"'The moment of intense excitement now arrived. We pulled as if for life or death. Not a word was spoken, and scarcely a sound was heard from our oars. One of the men sprang to his feet, and grasped a harpoon. A few more strokes of the oar, and we were hard upon the whale. The harpooner, with unerring aim, let fly his irons, and buried them to the sockets in his huge carcass. "Stern all!" thundered the mate. "Stern all!" echoed the crew, but it was too late. Our bows were high and dry on the whale's head! Infuriated with the pain produced by the harpoons, and, doubtless, much astonished to find his head so roughly used, he rolled half over, lashing the sea with his flukes (tail), and in his struggles dashing in two of the upper planks. "Boat stove! boat stove!" was the general cry. "Silence," thundered the mate as he sprang to the bow, and exchanged places with the harpooner; "all safe, my hearties! stern hard! stern! stern! before he gets his flukes to bear upon us." "Stern all!" shouted we, and in a moment more we were out of danger. The whale now "turned flukes," and dashed off to windward with the speed of a locomotive, towing us after him at a tremendous rate. We occasionally slacked line in order to give him plenty of play. A stiff breeze had sprung up, causing a rough, chopping sea; and we leaked badly in the bow-planks; but, notwithstanding the roughness of the sea, we went with incredible swiftness. "Hoorah!" burst from every lip. We exultingly took off our hats, and gave three hearty cheers; but while we were skimming along so gallantly, the whale suddenly turned, and pitched the boat on her beam-ends. Every one who could grasp a thwart hung on to it, and we were all fortunate enough to keep our seats. For as much as a ship's length the boat flew through the water on her gunwale, foaming and whizzing as she dashed onward. It was a matter of doubt as to which side would turn uppermost, until we slacked out the line, when she righted. To have a boat, with all her iron, lances, gear, and oars, piled on one's head in such a sea, was rather a startling prospect to the best swimmer. Meantime, the whale rose to the surface to spout. The change in his course enabled another boat to come up, and we lay on our oars, in order that Mr. D——, (the other mate) might lance him.—He struck him in a vital part the first dart, as was evident from the whale's furious dying struggles; but in order to make sure, we hauled up and lanced the back of his head. Foaming and breaching, he plunged from wave to wave, flinging high in the air torrents of blood and spray. The sea around was literally a sea of blood. At one moment his head was poised in the air; the next, he buried himself in the gory sea, carrying down, in his vast wake, a whirlpool of foam and slime. But this respite was short; he rose again, rushing furiously upon his enemies; but a slight prick of a lance drove him back with mingled fury and terror. Whichever way he turned, the barbed irons goaded him to desperation. Now and again intensity of agony would cause him to lash the waters with his huge flukes, till the very ocean appeared to heave and tremble at his power. Tossing, struggling, dashing over and over in his agony, he spouted up the last of his heart's blood. Half an hour before, he was free as the wave, sporting in all the pride of gigantic strength and unrivalled power. He now lay a lifeless mass; his head towards the sun, his tremendous body heaving to the swell, and his destroyers proudly cheering over their victory.'"
EMMA. "It seems very cruel to catch these poor creatures."
MRS. WILTON. "They are tortured as little as possible; but they are so strong, that it requires immense skill and bravery to contend with them. Their usefulness justifies the act, for I know not what we should do without some of the comforts produced from these monsters of the deep."
EMMA. "What part does the oil come from?"
MR. BARRAUD. "First, from the blubber which is the outer covering, or, as whalers call it, the 'blanket-piece;' this is stripped off by means of an ingenious contrivance, cut into pieces, and the oil boiled out. Secondly, from the head, which is called the 'case,' and sometimes contains from ten to fifteen barrels of oil and spermaceti. A sperm whale frequently yields as much as 120 barrels of oil. Forty-five barrels is considered a medium size."
GEORGE. "I hope, when we go to Jamaica, we shall see some whales."
MR. WILTON. "No doubt we shall. I have often seen them rolling and spouting in the wide Atlantic: and you will also see the flying fish skimming in the hollows of the waves: they are very pretty."
GRANDY. "Yes, they are, poor unfortunates! for, though possessing the qualifications of a bird as well as a fish, they are so persecuted by enemies in both elements, that, whether taking their temporary flight through the air, or gliding through the waters, their double faculty proves insufficient to defend or secure them from pursuit."
CHARLES. "What creatures war against these innocent fish, madam?"
GRANDY. "While in the air the man-of-war bird pounces upon them; and they are chased in the water by the bonito and albacore: thus constantly persecuted, they do not become very numerous."
CHARLES. "Icy Peak, in Greenland, is an enormous mass of ice near the mouth of a river: it diffuses such a brilliancy through the air, that it is distinctly perceived at a distance of more than ten leagues. Icicles, and an immense vault, give this edifice of crystal a most magic appearance."
EMMA. "Shall we now continue our voyage through Lancaster Sound?"
MRS. WILTON. "I have been considering whether it would not be better to finish with these northern latitudes before we proceed on our voyage. In that case we will test the hospitality of the people of Spitzbergen, Iceland, Nova Zembla, Ferroe Isles, and sundry others in this part of the Atlantic and Frozen Ocean, and then descend to warmer climates."
MR. WILTON. "A very good plan, if we do not get blocked up by the ice in these dreadful seas. By-the-by, there is an account of such a calamity happening to a vessel some years ago.—In the year 1775, Captain Warrens, master of the 'Greenland,' a whale-ship, was cruising about in the Frozen Ocean, when at a little distance he observed a vessel. Captain Warrens was struck with the strange manner in which her sails were disposed, and with the dismantled aspect of her rigging. He leaped into his boat with several seamen, and rowed towards her. On approaching, he observed that her hull was miserably weather-beaten, and not a soul appeared on deck, which was covered with snow to a considerable depth. He then hailed her crew, but no answer was returned. Previous to stepping on board, an open port-hole near the main-chains caught his eye; and, on looking into it, he perceived a man reclining back in a chair, with writing materials on a table before him; but the feebleness of the light made everything very indistinct. The party went upon deck, and, having removed the hatchway, descended to the cabin. They first came to the apartment which Captain Warrens viewed through the port-hole. A terror seized him as he entered it: its inmate retained his former position, and seemed to be insensible to strangers. He was found to be a corpse! and a green damp mould had covered his cheeks and forehead, and veiled his open eyeballs. He had a pen in his hand, and a log-book lay before him. The last sentence in its unfinished page ran thus:—
"'Nov. 14th, 1762.
"'We have now been enclosed in the ice seventeen days. The fire went out yesterday, and our master has been trying ever since to kindle it again without success. His wife died this morning. There is no relief!'
"Captain Warrens and his seamen hurried from the spot without uttering a word. On entering the principal cabin, the first object that attracted their attention was the dead body of a female, reclining on a bed in an attitude of deep interest and attention. Her countenance retained the freshness of life: but a contraction of the limbs showed that her form was inanimate. Seated on the floor was the corpse of an apparently young man, holding a steel in one hand and a flint in the other, as if in the act of striking fire upon some tinder which lay beside him. In the fore-part of the vessel several sailors were found lying dead in their berths, and the body of a boy crouched at the bottom of the gangway stairs. Neither provisions nor fuel could be discovered anywhere; but Captain Warrens was prevented by the superstitious prejudices of his seamen from examining the vessel as minutely as he wished to have done. He, therefore, carried away the log-book, and immediately steered to the southward, impressed with the awful example he had just witnessed of the danger of navigating the Polar Seas in high northern latitudes. On returning to England, and inquiring and comparing accounts, he found that this vessel had been blocked up by the ice for upwards of thirteen years!!! Yes!—
"'There lay the vessel in a realm of frost, Not wrecked, nor stranded, yet forever lost; Her keel embedded in the solid mass; Her glistening sails appear'd expanded glass.'"
GRANDY. "A most awful situation to be placed in, surrounded on all sides by impenetrable ice, which closeth up the water as with a breast-plate."
MRS. WILTON. "Iceland is first in point of distance. It is situated south east of Greenland, in the North Atlantic Ocean, and considered an appendage to America; although it was known seven centuries before the time of Columbus. It is truly, a land of prodigies: where the subterranean fires of the abyss burst through a frozen soil; where boiling springs shoot up their fountains, amidst eternal snows; and where the powerful genius of liberty and the no less powerful genius of poetry have given brilliant proofs of the energies of the human mind at the farthest confines of animated nature."
CHARLES. "There are twelve volcanoes in Iceland; the most celebrated of which is Mount Hecla, situated in the southern part of the island: its elevation is about 4800 feet above the level of the sea."
GEORGE. "And there are hot springs, too, in this island; but they have not all the same degree of heat. Mamma, do you know anything of them?"
MRS. WILTON. "Those springs, whose tepid waters issue as gently as an ordinary spring, are called Langers, or baths; others that throw up boiling water with great noise, are denominated Caldrons, in Icelandic 'Hverer.' The most remarkable is the Geyser, which is found near Skalholdt, in the middle of a plain, where there are about forty springs of a smaller size. It rises from an aperture nineteen feet in diameter, springing at intervals to the height of fifty or even ninety feet. In these hot springs, which formerly served to baptize their Pagan ancestors, the Icelanders boil their vegetables, meat, eggs, and other articles of food; but it is necessary to cover the pot suspended in these steaming waters, in order to prevent the volcanic odor from imparting a taste to their contents. Iceland is not so barren as you might imagine from its extreme cold, for gardening is cultivated throughout the island: but there are no large trees."
MR. WILTON. "The present houses of the Icelanders differ little from those used by their ancestors, who first colonized the island, and are, no doubt, the best fitted for the climate. They are only one story high; the stone walls have all the interstices stuffed with moss, and are about six feet in thickness. In the better sort of houses, the windows are glazed, in the others, secured by a thin skin stretched over the frames. They have no chimney or grates; the smoke escapes through a hole in the roof. The beds are merely open frames filled with feathers or down, over which they throw their blankets, and cover themselves with a counterpane of divers colors. Their seats are, in general, the bones of a whale or a horse's skull. But much is said and done in these rude huts which would astonish you."
EMMA. "Are the Icelanders civilized people: I mean, at all refined?"
MRS. WILTON. "Every Icelander knows how to read, write, and calculate, which is more than we can say of the English. They are a grave, honest, benevolent people, but not remarkable for their industry. Their favorite amusements, when assembled together, consist in reading history or poetry, in singing, or playing at chess, in which game they take great delight, priding themselves on their skill. They are refined enough to admire poetry and music: I think I need say no more. We will now visit Spitzbergen."
EMMA. "Spitzbergen is a group of three large islands, and a number of lesser ones near the North Pole. The mountains crowned with perpetual snow, and flanked with glaciers, reflect to a considerable distance a light equal to that of a full moon. The Icy Sea washes its shores, and abounds with whales, who love to roll their enormous bodies among the marine forests of the sea. In the vicinity is found the polar bear, which pursues everything animated with life, devours every animal he encounters, and then, roaring with delight, seats himself enthroned on the victorious trophy of mutilated carcasses and bones."
CHARLES. "The only tree growing in Spitzbergen is the dwarf willow, which rises to the vast height of two inches! towering with great pride above the mosses, lichens, and a few other cumbent plants."
GEORGE. "What a ridiculous little shrub! We might just as well dignify mustard and cress with the title of trees. To whom does this very fertile island belong?"
MRS. WILTON. "To the Russians; and it certainly is not an enviable possession, for the climate is most wretched. From the 30th of October, until the 10th of February, the sun is invisible; it is as one long dreary night, and bitterly cold. The inhabitants sit by dull fires during this season, immersed in furs, and endeavor to doze through the tedious gloom. They are chiefly of Russian extraction, and many of them natives of Archangel."
MR. WILTON. "Other animals are found in these regions besides the bear and whale: for we read of foxes, reindeer, walruses, and seals being occasionally caught by the people; and many islands about here (for the Frozen Sea is full of islands, principally composed of turf hills,) are the dreary abodes of bears and reindeer."
EMMA. "The Ferroe Isles, belonging to Denmark, are seventeen in number; they produce agate, jasper, and beautiful zeolites, and export feathers, eider-down, caps, stockings, tallow, and salted mutton."
CHARLES. "I do not think that can be very nice: I wonder who buys it?"
EMMA. "It always finds purchasers: therefore some folks are not so fastidious as Mr. Charles Dorning."
GEORGE. "Mamma, let us go back past Norway, and see what are all these little islands on the coast."
MRS. WILTON. "As you please, George; but most of the islands are barren, uninhabited spots. Those worthy of notice are Karen, Bommel, Sartar, Hittern, at the entrance of the Gulf of Drontheim; the Victen or Victor Isles, and the Luffoden Isles: the latter are the most numerous and extensive, and noted for the whirlpool Maelstrom, which has drawn so many fine ships into its abyss, and from which even the bellowing struggles of the great whale will not suffice to redeem him if once he gets within the vortex."
GEORGE. "What causes this whirlpool?"
MR. BARRAUD. "When two currents of a more or less contrary direction and of equal force meet in a narrow passage, they both turn, as it were, upon a centre, until they unite, or one of the two escapes. This is what is termed a whirlpool or eddy. There are three celebrated whirlpools noticed in geography—the Maelstrom, the Euripus, near the island of Eubaea, and Charybdis, in the Straits of Sicily."