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less sort of people who are engaged in forbidden traffic with other countries. Look here !" he exclaimed, triumphantly displaying a picture which represented a scene on the coast of Shetland, "here are some of these fine bold fellows, literally stealing the rings from the fingers of a shipwrecked man."
"That very poverty of the fisherman for which you despise them," replied Mrs. Dalton, “has ever been the means of rendering them peculiarly liable to fall under the temptation afforded by contraband trading; while their ignorance has prevented their being sensible of the evils resulting from association with the daring and desperate characters by whom such trading is usually carried on.
The picture before me, however, represents not fishermen, but actual pirates, who formerly infested in great numbers these northern shores. That bold promontory in the distance is Sunburgh Head, around which the waves of the ocean roll with such tremendous fury; and here, almost shut out from the rest of the world by the natural barriers of steril rock and foaming ocean, it may well be supposed that the adventurous spirit of those times when piracy prevailed to so alarming an extent, would find a fitting refuge among the solitary caves of these rugged and inhospitable shores."
"But how," inquired Charles, "is it possible for human beings to exist in such a barren, cold, and inhuman-looking place as this?"
"How? indeed!" replied his mother, "except by having recourse to the practice of fishing; and hence the inhabitants of these northern isles have,
from time immemorial, derived a large proportion of their subsistence from this means.'
"If the seas around them," said Charles, " are as unproductive as the rocks among which they live, they must be cunning fellows to make a livelihood by what they find there."
"In the distribution of the produce both of land and water," replied his mother, we see not only the wisdom but the goodness of Providence, in leaving none of his creatures destitute. Those cold and stormy seas which extend from the Orkney and Shetland islands to Iceland on the one hand, and to Norway on the other, as well as along the eastern and western shores of Scotland to the Flemish banks on one side, and to Ireland on the other, constitute one great fishing domain, over which are plentifully dispersed different kinds of cod, as well as turbot, skate, soles, haddocks, and whitings, altogether including what is known by the name of the white fishery, and which affords to the whole of North Britain advantages of which its neighbors in the south are unable to boast."
"What kind of fish," asked Charles," among those usually caught as an article of sale, is considered the most valuable ?"
"Herrings," replied Mrs. Dalton, "are by far the most numerous, and the most extensively sold." "Yet," said Charles, "the herring fishery is only carried on at certain times of the year. If they are so plentiful, why do not people catch herrings always?"
Because," replied his mother," these fish migrate like many kinds of birds, and are only found along our shores while on their passage southward."
"Where do they come from?" asked Charles. "Where can they possibly spend their winter?” with several other questions, which he did not leave his mother time to answer.
"As the shoals of herrings invariably proceed from the northward," replied Mrs. Dalton, "making their first appearance in the neighborhood of the Shetland islands in April, it has been supposed by naturalists that their winter habitation is within the Arctic circle, under those vast fields of ice, where they feed upon the myriads of shrimps and other marine insects which abound there, and which also supply food for the gigantic whale. Here it is most probable they deposite their spawn, and hence they issue forth, silently progressing to the south in those immense shoals, the dimensions of which are measured by leagues, and miles, moving steadily along in close array, and in columns of such depth from the surface downward, as to have obtained the name among the northern nations of herring mountains.' Early in the spring these columns advance yearly from the north, in apparently undiminished numbers, though preyed upon by a multitude of enemies, as well from the shore, as the air, and in their native element; for even when unmolested by man, wherever they proceed, they have to meet the attacks of the grampus, the porpoise, shark, codfish, and even haddock; while if they approach the surface, they become the prey of innumerable seagulls, and other aquatic fowls, which hover along their moving ranks."
"And pray who eat these herrings?" asked Charles, "for we do not often see them brought to table."
They are chiefly salted, and cured for exportation," replied his mother, " and are in much greater demand in the Roman catholic countries than with us, owing to the frequency and length of their fasts, during which so savory an article of food forms a very agreeable variety to the poorer classes, who can not afford the indulgences which grace the tables of the rich."
"What fish do you think next in value ?" asked Charles. "I should suppose the cod, and that you say is caught in the northern seas."
"I should rather think," replied his mother, "that the salmon is esteemed more highly than the cod, and consequently a more profitable article of traffic."
"And where is that caught?" asked Charles.
"The salmon is chiefly caught," replied his mother, "in rivers, or estuaries, and hence has come to be considered in many cases as private property. Scotland, again, has a very decided advantage over England in this fishery. From the extremity of the Highlands, as well as from the Orkney and Shetland isles, great quantities of salmon are sent to the London market packed in ice; and when the season is so plentiful that more is caught than the demand requires, it is pickled or dried for home consumption, or for the supply of foreign countries. The Tweed is one of the rivers most celebrated for its salmon, several hundreds being sometimes taken in it at a single draught. Some of the Irish rivers also are plentifully sup→ plied with this fish, and this beautiful engraving represents a particular fall of the river Bann, at Colerain, in the county of Londonderry, which is
remarkable as a place of capture for the salmon on its progress from the river to the sea."
"But why is this place called a salmon-leap?” asked Charles.
"Because," replied his mother, "there is a remarkable peculiarity in this fish, which has often astonished those who were not acquainted with its habits. The salmon, which is accounted the king of fresh-water fish, is accustomed to seek our rivers only at certain seasons of the year, there to deposite its spawn; and such is the determination with which it pursues its way inland, sometimes for hundreds of miles against the course of the water, that even a fall, such as is here represented, is no obstacle to its progress. Such, indeed, is the strength and perseverance of this fish, that by repeated leaps, and by seeking those parts of the fall where the water is least powerful, it works its way in time up to higher waters, and so on until it finds a suitable place for the safety of its young; the same fish, it is said, choosing always the same rivers to which they are accustomed. It has also been ascertained, that in going upward, the salmon will keep to the bottom of the water, where the current is weakest; while on returning, as it does in the autumn toward the sea, it will avail itself of the strength of the current by swimming near the surface."
"Thus far," said Charles, "the fishes we have talked about are tolerably interesting animals, but those hideous whales which seem to me to be nothing but huge masses of blubber-I never could tell how anybody could be induced to spend their lives in catching them."