Billeder på siden

should have preferred, even for my sport, those occupations which required courage and effort, rather than those about which one must be stealthy and sly. As a mere amusement, however, that of catching whales would be as cruel as any other kind of fishing, and more objectionable than many, from the danger in which it involves the lives of those who pursue it."

"It has never occurred to me until just now," said Charles," that whalebone must be a part of these great animals-their bones, I suppose, and yet it does not look like bone."

"You are right,” replied his mother, "the whalebone, which is found in the true or Greenland whale, does not even answer the purpose of bone, as that is generally understood. The whalebone, or baleen, is suspended from the upper jaw of the whale, and consists of plates curved longitudinally, which give to the mouth the form of an arch. These plates, which are more than three hundred in number, are compactly arranged along the roof of the mouth, which is not supplied with teeth, and from their having a thick internal covering of hair, they serve to entangle and retain those small particles of food upon which this enormous animal subsists."

"Small particles ?" said Charles, "I should have thought it would have eaten sharks at least, or perhaps dined upon a sea-horse, and made a supper of some score of porpoises."

"So far from this," replied his mother, "the food of the whale constitutes not the least remark

able feature in its character. I have told you they have no teeth, and therefore they can not prey

on fishes bearing any comparison to their own size. Besides which, their throat is so narrow as not to admit anything larger than would be swallowed by an ox. Yet still they have their pasture grounds in the great deep, vast portions of those spaces where the whale is chiefly found consisting of what is called green water, while in other parts it is yellow or red; and on examination this color has been found to arise from the water being filled with myriads of animalcules, most of them invisible without the aid of a microscope; and although these extremely minute creatures are not immediately the prey of the whale, they constitute the food of the shrimps, cuttle-fish, &c., upon which the monster of the deep subsists. When the whale feeds, it swims with great velocity below the surface of the water with its jaws wide open. A stream of water thus enters its mouth, and along with it large quantities of minute animals, which the whalebone is so constructed as to detain, not allowing a particle the size of the smallest grain to escape. There is also another peculiarity in the construction of the whale, which is worthy of remark, as exemplifying the admirable adaptation of all the works of creation to the situation and the use for which they are designed. It would seem that an animal of the size already described, enclosed as they are in a blanket or wrapper of fat, which is called blubber, and which in some whales is so thick as to weigh twenty tons, would be too ponderous and unwieldy to make its way in the water, and especially to rise to the surface. Had this soft wrapper consisted of common fat, as found in other animals, such would have been the case:

but the fat of the whale is in reality only a modification of the true skin, always firm and elastic, extending to the thickness of two or three feet, yet possessing such density and elasticity, that the more it is pressed, the more it resists, and thus it buoys up the living mass in the water; while at the same time, from being a bad conductor of heat, it enables the whale, which is a warm-blooded animal, to endure the cold of those northern regions which it chiefly inhabits."

"After all," said Charles, "wonderful as this monster unquestionably is, one never can feel any interest in so huge a mass of living matter, especially when one thinks of it as being enclosed in a blanket of fat."

"It is not, I confess," replied his mother, "a pretty idea for a drawing-room, if that is what you mean by being interesting; yet I imagine there are traits of character in the whale, which might raise it to some consideration in the opinion of those who value the feeling of a mother for her offspring."

66 And pray what may they be ?" asked Charles, not yet quite a believer in the interesting character of the whale.

"Its fondness for its young;" replied his mother. "I remember hearing an anecdote of a whale, and I believe there are many of a similar nature, fully authenticated—a whale and her cub who had got into an arm of the sea, where by the falling away of the tide, they were entirely enclosed. In this situation the people on shore came down upon them in boats, with such weapons as could be collected, and the animals were soon so severely

wounded, that the water was colored with their blood. After several attempts to escape, the mother forced her way over the shallows into the depths of the ocean; but though in safety herself, she could not bear the danger to which her young one was still exposed; she therefore rushed in once more where the smaller animal was imprisoned, and as she was unable to carry it off, seemed determined to share its danger. The tide, however, flowed in before either were secured, and thus both were enabled to escape, though with a multitude of wounds."

"Thank you, mother," replied Charles, "for this long history about whales. I think I shall like them better for the future; at all events, I shall try to remember, when I object to any living thing on account of its being too large, that its affection may possibly be in proportion to its size."


OLD age and childhood, how much soever they may resemble each other in their weakness, have few feelings in common. Old age makes few allowances for the mischievous vivacity of childhood, when its own peace is disturbed and childhood is apt to show little respect for the peculiarities of old age. Both may be happy together, where dis


cipline has not to be exerted on one hand, and where submission is not required on the other; but nothing could well be less conducive to improvement than the old system of education, by which the children of our villages were generally placed under the care of some antiquated dame, whose situation in the midst of her rebellious little flock, was scarcely less pitiable than theirs beneath her rod.

The proximity of a dame's school might generally be known from the confused hum which issued from its doors and windows; while on approaching nearer, the drowsy drawl of A-B-C, each letter pronounced with hesitation and difficulty, announced that some little adventurer in the path of learning had just commenced his literary career. How these endeavors were assisted and rewarded, might better be ascertained, by a peep into the interior of that close and thickly-peopled

« ForrigeFortsæt »