图书图片
PDF
ePub

Swimming a Lake with Horses.

ANY are the perils of the Forest life,

and one of the most perilous of circumstances is getting over rivers. When the traveller is proceeding through woods and morasses, into

bogs and quagmires, tormented by mosquetoes, and horrified by the approach of hissing ser pents, roaring lions, and bellowing buffaloes—he is, to a certain extent, under the conviction that his good rifle will do him essential service; but when he comes to the broad swollen waters of some mighty river, which he must cross, or die on the other side, it creates in the mind a most fearful struggle.

It was a bright morning as, mounted on fresh horses, with our rifles on our shoulders, we passed from the more open settlements and entered the depth of the forest; mile after mile did we penetrate through squash and swigger, till at last we came to the bank of a river, which was more than a mile

The river was swollen by the rains, and it was essentially necessary that we should pass it before night-fall. There was an old Indian, looking like Charon, with a single canoe; but this would not take the horses, and without the horses it would have been no use for us to go over.

across.

At last, Chico and myself determined upon sending our "effects," such as they were, by the canoe—and crossing the river on our horses, and to swim them over. Chico rode his powerful black horse, which, the day before, by her amazing strength, had saved him from a broken neck on the rocks. The noble animal was accustomed to the swamps and the forest, but not to deep water, and he sunk almost to his ears. Chico, somewhat frightened, as he found himself submerged to the armpits, began to pull sharply on the rein, which brought the horse perpendicularly in the water, with the fore feet pawing the air. The more erect the poor animal stood, the harder he was forced to pull the rein to avoid sliding off. Looking up,

I saw his danger, for, thrown backward so by the bit, the struggling animal would, in a minute more, have fallen over upon him. I shouted out, “Let go the rein instantly, and grasp the mane!” He did so, and the horse, relieved from the strain on his head, righted himself, and brought his rider safely to the shore. In swimming the lake, however, he sank to his ears, and groaned and grunted at every stroke. Another could not swim at all, but the moment he got beyond his depth, flung himself upon his side, compelling us to hold his head in the stern of the boat and tow him across. The rest took their work more kindly, especially a young mare, who swam without effort, the ridge of her back just skimming the surface, and her motion easy and steady as that of a swing. We were right glad to reach the opposite forest; and dragging our dripping beasts up the rocky banks, wended our way to the only hut we had seen since morning.

Something about Sharks.

[graphic]

HERE are land sharks and water sharks, quoth the old proverb. The land sharks are said to be the lawyers, and the water

sharks the pursuers of ships. The sharks, of which I shall speak, are regular sea-going creatures, and there is no animal regarded with a more fearful and deadly hatred by the sailor, than the shark; for it will follow his ship for miles together, watching for whatever may be thrown overboard, and seize it with greedy avidity, thus tending, by its presence, to remind the sailor of the dangers of the deep.

The shark family are, indeed, very numerous. In the ancient world, before man was an inhabitant of this planet, sharks of every size, from that of a herring to the most gigantic dimensions, abounded. The Genus Carcharias includes numerous species, but the most celebrated is the white, or common shark, which frequently attains the length of thirty feet.

The principal feature of the animal is its mouth, which is placed underneath its head, so that the creature is obliged to turn half round upon its back, in order to seize any object above itself. But this position of its mouth is of advantage when the animal's food is, as is generally the case, at the bottom of the sea. The shark scents its prey from a great distance, and it has been stated by nautical men, who have been engaged in warm seas, that the shark delights in scenes of carnage, and that, unmoved by the terrors of the battle, it adds a new terror of its own, more revolting, if possible, than the horrible strife of man. The sharks, too, follow the peaceful vessel, and pick up what is thrown overboard ; indeed, when the inhuman traffic in negro slaves was so common, shoals of this fish followed in the wake of the slave ship, waiting, impatiently, for the bodies of the miserable wretches who had died through confinement and disease.

It is not very difficult to capture the shark, for its voracity prompts it to seize, with eagerness, almost any bait that is held out. The usual mode of catching it is, to bury a long strong hook in a mass of fat, and to attach the hook to a strong chain. If not excited by hunger, the animal will approach the bait and turn it about with its nose, as if to yxamine it. It will play about it for a considerable time, ind make many sham attempts to swallow it, but if the bait e snatched up, as if it were going to be withdrawn, the hark, fearful of losing its prey, will suddenly seize it, when, inding itself caught, it will make the most violent efforts to 'scape, endeavouring to divide the chain with its teeth; it will then lash with its tail, and become furious. It even endeavours to get rid of the hook, by disgorging the contents of its stomach. The animal is allowed to enfeeble itself by these violent efforts. Its head is then raised a little above water, a rope with a running noose is thrown out over the bait and drawn tight; it is then easily raised on board the ship.

When a shark is harpooned, and is not able to escape, its companions will generally tear it to pieces. The shark seems to have no favourite food in particular; it will eat seals and mollusca indiscriminately; and provided the quantity be large, the quality is of no consequence; in fact, the shark seems to be a sea-scavenger, its office being to remove animal matter, which, especially in warm climates, would soon putrify and corrupt the waters and the air. It performs in the deep the same office as the carnivorous animals on land; but its dominion being so much more extended, it is endowed with increased powers of consumption and motion.

The shark produces its young from a sort of egg, the shell

« 上一页继续 »