Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

THE TROGLODYTES.

" Some are born with base impediments to rise,

And some are born with none."

NEAR the mouth of an eastern river in the United States, is to be found an island, nine miles long, and from one to two wide, formed almost entirely of shifting sands. Every storm changes some portion of the physiognomy of this island. Its whole vegetation consists, with the exception of a small portion of the southern end, in a few juniper bushes, and some few other scraggy, stinted shrubs of that class ;-but during some years, after a wet spring, a small bush springs from the sand and bears a grayish plumb, nearly as large as a damson, which in September is very delicious. Barren as the place is of vegetation, it is full of life. In the summer season countless millions of spiders are found on the sand, or swinging from the bushes, on their airy webs, in size from the circumference of a cent to the smallest thing that gives proof of life. About a mile from the east side of the island is a bar of sand hardly covered at low water; over which, when the wind is easterly, the sea rolls, and breaks with great force and sublimity. Gazing on these resounding billows, one is impressed with the words of inspiration, to the mighty ocean, Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther; and here shall thy proud

waves be stayed.The sea-birds, from the tiny peep, the long-legged snipe, the fine plovers, gray and blackbreasted, up to the wild goose, make this island their caravansary, as they pass from south to north, and on their return. They love to linger along these shores, and feed and rest themselves for the great journeys the God of nature has taught them to make, for continuing their species, and for the benefit of man. In spring and fall, the island is the sportsman's paradise. He chooses the smaller or the greater game at pleasure, and returns loaded with it. Often the great gray eagle is seen sailing and poising in his majesty, in order to prey upon the small bird, or watch his jackall, the fish-hawk, to bring up his prey from the ocean. The subservient hawk dives into the water for the fish for himself. The eagle, measuring his distance, darts upon the hawk with the greatest swiftness; who with a scream of fear drops his prey, and the eagle seldom fails to catch it before it reaches land or water. This amusement to the spectator is often continued for hours, until the bird of Jove is surfeited with more substantial food than nectar, such as his master feeds on.

When the eagle turns to poise himself after seizing his prey, is the time to take aim, if you are disposed to bring him down. It is a dangerous sport for boys, and of course they are fond of it. Nine times out of ten, the eagle is not shot dead, if struck by the ball, but falls with a broken wing, full of wrath at his misfortune and disgrace. Then let the young sportsman be on his guard.

On each end of the island, there are two houses, but no trace of civilization marks the intermediate waste, excepting a hut here and there, erected by some charitable societies to save shipwrecked mariners thrown in the storm upon this deceitful shore. These are filled with fuel and provisions for them in such emergencies, and it is considered as a species of sacrilege to rob these depositories, and, to the honor of human nature, things tempting have been left there for years, untouched by a thief or trespasser. On the opposite side of the river, on the main land, there have lived for ages a race of fishermen, who from their ignorance and modes of life are denominated Algerines. They supply the market of the neighboring town—a beautiful mart of commerce within a few miles—with all sorts of fish. One of these Algerines, getting into a quarrel with his neighbors, determined to forego the advantages of society, and migrate to the island the first fair opportunity. This was a bold decision-for these sea-dogs, who fear nothing else, fear departed spirits, and tradition had been busy in making this desolate island the rendezvous of the pirates, who in former days swarmed on the coast of North as well as South America. Stories of buried treasures and foul murders were still rife among them. Afar off in the country, bold men who had heard of the buried treasures of the Buccaneers, with “ all their damned rites of sepulture,” sometimes came to the island to dig for it ; but there is no well authenticated account of the success of the avaricious, with all the charms they could muster, to break the fast spell with which it was

bound. In confirmation that it was “haunted ground," hundreds had declared that they had heard the plaintive moans of ghosts upon the breeze that preceded a storm. Neddy Ball, the fisherman, who intended to migrate, did not think so much of this as many others did, for he said he never heard these sounds, only when the wind blew from the eastward, and if there were as many ghosts as he had seen alewives go up the river, he was not afraid of them ; for they would not touch him, for he had saved more than one man's life; and his mother had always * told him, that when he saved a human being's life, no ghost or witch could have any power over him to do him harm.

Fortune soon favored Neddy's enterprise. In a great freshet in the spring, large quantities of timber floated down the river, and lodged on the island, and larger quantities, perhaps, went out to sea. The owners of these broken rafts, now and then, have recovered this lodged timber, by way of their marks. In this, they are, however, often thwarted by these Algerines, and others of their grade, by a process they call mooning, that is, by taking advantage of a moon-light night, for cutting out the marks on the timber, and floating it off, when the high tide serves their purposes. Without an ear-mark, timber is only drift-wood. They have no other way to get fuel, and they have no compunctions of conscience in doing this ; for they consider this wood a god-send-and that it belongs to them, as it breaks away from the owner. Neddy and his family having been quite successful in

« AnteriorContinuar »