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"Indeed," said I. Now, "Indeed," must have been pronounced in some very expressive manner, and conveyed the extraordinary delusion thatl wished to see it done, for our friend instantly made some sort of freemason sign, and away went the diabolical brute, up and down hill, in a sort of shambling, shuffling pace, at a rate which nearly took the breath out of my body. As soon as I could speak, I begged to assure his owner that I had not the least doubt of his powers, and implored of him to pull up. By the time I was informed that it was quite impossible, the animal stopped of his own accord at the inn at Portugal Cove.
This establishment is a small wooden building, prettily situated on the banks of a turbulent little stream, which gets up a waterfall in view of the windows. It is a favourite spot for passing the first part of the honeymoon; and is, perhaps, judiciously chosen, for there is nothing whatever of luxury, convenience, or amusement, to divert the thoughts of the happy couple from each other.
A straggling village of log houses lies along the shore, with a boat pier of the same material; a fleet of fishing-boats lay moored to it. We embarked in one, a rough, clumsy concern; and, with a wild unshaven fellow to guide us, put to sea. The bay is about the size of that of Tenby; a large, flat island, with steep sides, protects the opening, looking as if it had been snapped off the mainland, and floated out to where it now stands; like all the rest of the sea-board, it is covered with scrubby, stunted forest. At the eastern end of the island is a very curious rock, standing about two hundred yards clear of it, and of about the same height, looking, in the distance, like one of the round towers of Ireland. Our boatman, speaking in a Cork brogue, slightly overlaid with a Yankee twang, said that, "No one, barring the birds, had ever got to the top of it." The Captain gravely observed that, "unless the inducements to get there were very much increased, probably none ever would."
We soon arrived at our fishery, and cast our lines of strong cord, with a heavy leaden sink, and three or four hooks baited with slices of fish. In a minute or two there was a chorus of "I've got him;" and, as we pulled, the prizes plunged, dived, and twisted, filling the dark green water with pale, distorted ghosts of sea monsters, which, as they neared the surface and became exhausted, condensed into the sober realities of resigned and unresisting codfish. Our myrmidon immediately Vol. I. c
put an end to their sufferings, by striking them on the head with a short bludgeon he called " the priest." He then cut off a piece of the tail of one of them, to furnish fresh bait. By thus encouraging their cannibal propensities, we soon caught so many that we were heartily tired of the sport. To give us an idea of the innumerable multitudes of fish, the boatman cast a line, with a heavy weight at the end and half a dozen hooks attached, full length into the water, till it had nearly reached the bottom, and then jerked it along, pulling it towards him; it seldom came up without a victim writhing on one of the barbs. Fully contented with this specimen of the truly national sport of Newfoundland, I reluctantly trusted myself to the mercy of the high trotting horse again, and he soon whirled us home.
The road was not without beauty, but of a sad and desolate character, which the few miserable patches of cultivation and the wretched log huts by the road side, did not tend to enliven. Windsor Lake, or, "Twenty-mile pond," as the people prefer calling it, is a large, picturesque sheet of water, with some pretty, lonely-looking islands; but its shores are shapeless hills, and its forests stunted brushwood.
From the top of the last eminence before descending to St. John's, the view is very striking. The finely-situated town spread along the shore, the massive government-house in the foreground, relieved by cheerful ornamental villas round it, the roadstead filled with shipping and small boats, the bold, barren coast beyond, softening down, to the right, into green fields and gardens; while opposite, on the left, grim-looking Signal hill, with the union jack floating over the fog on the top, protects the entrance of the harbour. And far away, filling up the background of the picture, with its hard, dark line against the summer's sky, lies calm, deep, and treacherous—the great Atlantic.
In the spring of the year 1497, a small squadron of ships sailed from Bristol, in search of a passage to India by the north-west. Two men of Venetian origin, John Cabot and his son Sebastian, a youth of twenty years of age, undertook their guidance. After a toilsome voyage of many weeks, they entered a region of vast banks, fogs, and mists, but continued on with unshaken hardihood. About three o'clock on the morning of the 24th of June, they reached a land hitherto unnoted in any map or record; sterile, and uncultivated, abounding in great white bears and elks. The discoverers called this country by a name signifying 'rich in fish,' from the numbers which swarmed in the rivers and along the sea coast. The inhabitants were wild and unfriendly, clothed with the skins of beasts, and painted with a reddish clay.
The Cabots returned to England that year, and it does not appear that any further notice was taken of this country, which the English called Newfoundland, till 1534; when the brave Jacques Cartier, with only sixty men, sailed from St. Malo in two small vessels, under the French flag, and nearly circumnavigated the island. He found it to be a great triangle, of irregular shape, and about nine hundred miles round, with deep indentures and numerous harbours, but with a soil everywhere unfruitful.
Two Englishmen, named Elliott and Thorn, traded there for some years under the protection of Henry VIII., obtaining rich furs from the natives. At length these unhappy men, with a body of their dependents, made a settlement, and determined to remain there the winter. They knew not what they had to meet; their provisions failed, none of them survived, and tradition says they ate each other.
The most remarkable among the adventurers