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THE INQUISITIVE BOY.
THERE is always a degree of pleasure in attending to the questions of children, when they themselves attend to the answers their inquiries draw forth. Thus it was the custom of Mrs. Dalton to encourage her son to ask questions about everything which interested or amused him, so that in time he obtained the name of the "inquisitive boy;" for though such was the love of his mother, and so great her desire for his improvement, she never thought of the trouble of answering whatever he asked; there were others who visited at her house, of a somewhat different opinion, and who occasionally put him off with answers which conveyed no information at all, sometimes because they did not want to be troubled, and sometimes, as he shrewdly supposed, because they did not exactly know what to say.
"I wonder," said Charles to his mother one day, why you do not like the sport of fishing. Is it because you think it too quiet and dull ?"
"By no means," replied his mother, " for at my age, to be what you call quiet and dull, would be a recommendation, rather than otherwise, to any sport in which I might be compelled to take a part; but, to speak more seriously, I never could see the sport of killing any animal whatever."
"No sport!" exclaimed Charles, "in a good rabbit hunt, nor in going out with a gun? What is it you call sport, then ?"
"I should call that sport," replied Mrs. Dalton, "in which both the parties concerned found entertainment. Certainly not that, in which, like hunting, shooting, and fishing, the amusement is all on one side; while terror, misery, and death, are on the other. This may seem to you a strange, and, as most boys would call it, an old-womanly notion; but the longer I live, the more I am convinced of the importance of keeping distinctly in our minds, the two ideas of killing and sport."
"But, mother," said Charles, with some impatience, "you don't mean to say that the killing of animals for our use is wrong ?""
"Certainly not," replied his mother, "yet there is a wide difference between killing them only when it is necessary, and that as quickly as we can, and killing them in a cruel manner for amusement only."
"Then you would never have us eat fish, I suppose," said Charles, "for we can certainly do without it ?"
"I do not see," replied his mother, "why we should not kill and eat the inhabitants of the water, as well as those of the air: and I should be sorry indeed to deprive the many poor fishermen who subsist by this means alone, of the honest and laborious calling by which they earn their bread.”
"Fishermen !" said Charles, contemptuously, "I never thought of those old fellows, with their slouched hats and weather-beaten faces. It is the patient angler, like good Isaac Walton, that takes
my fancy. And as to fishing being a cruel sport, you must, I think, allow that Isaac Walton was was one of the kindest and best of men ?"
"I have no wish," replied Mrs. Dalton, "to deny that your favorite was a good man, or that he was a kind one either. He himself told us that he took no delight in killing anything but fishes."
There was an arch smile upon Mrs. Dalton's countenance as she said this, which made her son suspect that she was not yet quite so fully convinced, as he wished her to be, of the desirableness of killing fishes merely for amusement; and he therefore went on with his argument, reminding her of a memorable observation of Dame Juliana Berners, prioress of a nunnery near St. Albans, a lady justly celebrated for her learning and accomplishments, who compiled a book on the art of fishing, from the only three works on that subject then known to exist. One of these had been printed in 1486, and another in 1496. The learned prioress, in recommending to her readers the precious relics she had thus been at the pains of preserving, uses the following quaint and remarkable expression: "Also ye shall not use this forsayd crafty dysporte for no covetesnes, to the encreasynge and sparynge of your money only; but principally for your solace, and to cause the helthe of your body, and specially of your soule; for when ye purpose to go on your disportes, in fyshinge, ye will not desyre greatly many persones wyth you, whyche myghte lette you of your game. And thenne ye may serve God devowtly in saying your customable prayers; and thus doinge you shall eschewe and avoyde many vices."
"There! mother," said Charles Dalton, when he had turned to this passage, and read it with an air of triumph, "you see what an excellent thing fishing is, when it leads to such consequences. Hear also what good Isaac himself says," he continued, without allowing his mother time to speak. "Doubt not angling is an art worth your learning; the question is, whether you be capable of learning it? for angling is something like poetry, men are born so: I mean with inclinations to it, though both may be heightened by discourse and practice; but he that hopes to be a good angler, must not only bring an inquiring, observing, searching wit, but he must bring a large measure of hope and patience.' Thus you see, mother," continued the exulting boy, "angling not only causes good and pious feeling in those who practise it, but requires many good qualities both of head and heart, to render the angler a proficient in his art."
"If," said Mrs. Dalton, "to be a perfect angler, is, in other words, to be a wise, good, and happy man, as your old friend Isaac seems to think, then I grant the truth of this last statement; but since an inquiring, observing, and searching wit, with a large measure of hope and patience, may be enjoyed as well by those who do not fish, as by those who do; and as these qualities may be employed to much better purpose; I am still of the same opinion with respect to the sport of fishing, that, considered simply as a sport, it is cruel and barbarous, and not worthy to be practised as an amusement by enlightened beings."
“Oh, mother! mother!" exclaimed Charles, "you should not say so much as that. Look
at hunting, for instance.
How much worse it
"The fact of hunting being worse, does not make fishing good,” replied the mother. "Yet so far as the latter is a peaceful, solitary, and meditative recreation, I grant it much less injurious in a moral point of view, than those which bring people together under feelings of strong excitement, and thus lead them too frequently into folly and vice. It is on the ground of cruelty alone, that I am opposed to the sport of fishing; and I can not help thinking that you would be so too, if you considered how much torture is often inflicted upon the bait, as well as upon the game."
"I never thought of that?" observed Charles, rather seriously.
No, you never thought," replied his mother, "when the worm was twisting on your hook, that -you were making the sufferings of one creature serve for the deception of another, to betray it to its death. But as you have quoted Isaac Walton to me, doubtless you will be glad to hear what he has to say on the subject of live bait.
"First, he advises that the fish, or the frog, which is used as bait, should be treated in such a manner as to preserve its life to the longest period; that is, to prolong its sufferings to the utmost that nature is capable of enduring. A perch,' says he, 'is the longest lived on a hook, and having cut off the fin on his back, which may be done without hurting him' (the writer does not tell us how), 'you must take your knife, which can not be too sharp, and between the head and the fin on the back, cut or make an incision, or such a scar, as