« PreviousContinue »
out of this composition, I felt seriously uncertain. However, the fire crackled, and we cracked our jokes, and the pot
boiled over, and then they took it off, and set it down again by the hearth. They called it chocolate. As good democrats, they had a perfect right to do so, and I impeach not the propriety of the baptism. We drew ourselves around it upon our haunches, and fixed our eyes upon the smoking liquid. While I was deliberating how we should ever get the stuff to our lips, one of the boys handed us each a pine stick, about a yard long, to one end of which was fastened a shell of that capacious clam, commonly known and described as the skimmaug
For the satisfaction of the curious in the philosophy of language I will here remark, that of the orthography and etymology of this testaceous name, I must confess myself to be most lamentably unadvised. I am inclined to believe, however, that the word is aboriginal, and that skimmaugs were the shell-fish which the Marsapeag Indians used to send, in olden times,—before they were civilized out of their wigwams and hunting-grounds, and before wine and whist had usurped the dominion of water and grouse in the region of Lif Snedecor and Ronconcommer Pond, -by way of tribute to their more powerful red brethren of the continent. I am confirmed in this opinion, by one of the papers of that highly valuable and extensively accessible institution, the New-York Historical Society, in which is communicated the interesting fact, that the Delaware tribe, or Lenni Lenapes, who claimed Matowacs as a colony, were an uncommonly piscivorous nation. I spoke to Uncle Ben upon the subject once, and asked his opinion. He told me that he “ couldn't say for sarten, whether it was Ingen or Dutch, but he reckoned he'd heerd his grandfather say that the
savages was high for fish,” and the old man added, without intending to pun, “ Yes, yes, them Delawares was amazen clamorous people."*
Upon the introduction of these wands, I was at a loss to imagine to what desperate purpose they were to be applied, and apprehended a musical festival, or an Indian war-dance. But the active hands, and thirsty throats of my companions, soon enlightened my urban ignorance. These were spoons, veritable tea-spoons-spoons wherewith to sip our chocolate. And rapidly were they thrust into that steaming pot, ladling up and bringing back the dripping nectar of its contents. This was an interesting spectacle to contemplate. In sooth, it was expressly ante-diluvian. Forcibly was I reminded of that ancient and sententious maxim, “fingers was made before forks;" and of that other pleasant household phrase, “make a long arm and help yourself.” “ Can't
you make chocolate without having it so devilish hot, boys?"
“The fire was made of split wood, sir ; that's the reason."
The explanation was perfectly satisfactory. I soon became expert in the handling of my instrument, and the constantly going and returning vehicles soon exhausted the receiver. Supper was done. So is this instructive chapter.
* Vide the N. Y. Hist. Soc. Lib., Vander Donk's MS.-Heckewelder, do.-Mitchell's Conchology of Matowacs.—Silas Wood's History of Jeru. salem, S. p. 254.
A SHARK STORY.
“ Well, gentlemen,” said Locus, in reply to a unanimous call for a story—the relics of supper having been removed, all to the big stone medicine jug,——“l'll go ahead, if you say so. Here's the story. It is true, upon my honor, from beginning to end—every word of it. I once crossed over to Faulkner's island, to fish for tautaugs, as the north side people call black fish, on the reefs hard by, in the Long Island Sound. Tim Titus, —who died of the dropsy, down at Shinnecock point, last spring, ---lived there then. Tim was a right good fellow, only he drank rather too much.
"It was during the latter part of July; the sharks and the dog-fish had just begun to spoil sport. When Tim told me about the sharks, I resolved to go prepared to entertain these aquatic savages with all becoming attention and regard, if there should chance to be any interloping about our fishing ground. So we rigged out a set of extra large hooks, and shipped some rope-yarn and steel chain, an axe, a couple of clubs, and an old harpoon, in addition to our ordinary equipments, and off we started. We threw out our anchor at half ebb tide, and took some thumping large fish ;-two of them weighed thirteen pounds—so you may judge. The reef where we lay, was about half a mile from the island, and, perhaps, a mile from the Connecticut shore. We floated there, very quietly, throwing out and hauling in, until the breaking of my line, with a sudden and severe jerk, informed us that the sea attorneys were in waiting, down stairs; and we accordingly prepared
to give them a retainer. A salt pork cloak upon one of our magnum hooks, forthwith engaged one of the gentlemen in our service. We got him along side, and by dint of piercing, and thrusting, and banging, we accomplished a most exciting and merry murder. We had business enough of the kind to keep us employed until near low water. By this time, the sharks had all cleared out, and the black fish were biting again; the rock began to make its appearance above the water, and in a little while its hard bald head was entirely dry. Tim now proposed to set me out upon the rock, while he rowed ashore to get the jug, which, strange to say, we had left at the house. I assented to this proposition ; first, because I began to feel the effects of the sun upon my tongue, and needed something to take, by way of medicine ; and secondly, because the rock was a favorite spot for a rod and reel, and fainous for luck; so I took my traps, and a box of bait, and jumped upon my new station. Tim made for the island.
Not many men would willingly have been left upon a little barren reef, that was covered by every flow of the tide, in the midst of a waste of waters, at such a distance from the shore, even with an assurance from a companion more to be depended upon, than mine, to return immediately, and lie by to take him off. But some how or other, the excitement of my sport was so high, and the romance of the situation was so delightful, that I thought of nothing else but the prosecution of my fun, and the contemplation of the novelty and beauty of the scene. It was a mild pleasant afternoon in harvest time. The sky was clear and pure. The deep blue sound, heaving all around me, was studded with craft of all descriptions and dimensions, from the dipping sail boat, 10 the rolling merchantman, sinking and rising like sea-birds sporting with their white
wings in the surge. The grain and grass, on the neighboring farms, were gold and green, and gracefully they bent obei. sance to a gentle breathing southwester. Farther off, the high upland, and the distant coast gave a dim relief to the prominent features of the landscape, and seemed the rich but dusky frame of a brilliant fairy picture. Then, how still it was! not a sound could be heard, except the occasional rustling of my own motion, and the water beating against the sides, or gurgling in the fissures of the rock, or except now and then the cry of a solitary saucy gull, who would come out of his way in the firmamemt, to see what I was doing without a boat, all alone, in the middle of the sound; and who would hover, and cry, and chatter, and make two or three circling swoops and dashes at me, and then, after having satisfied his curiosity, glide away in search of some other fool to scream at. I soon became half indolent, and quite indifferent about fish
so I stretched myself out, at full length, upon the rock, and gave myself up to the luxury of looking, and thinking. The divine exercise soon put me fast asleep. I dreamed away a couple of hours, and longer might have dreamed, but for a tired fish-hawk, who chose to make my head his resting place, and who waked and started me to my feet.
“Where is 'Tim Titus ?" I muttered to myself, as I strained my eyes over the now darkened water. But none was near me, to answer that interesting question, and nothing was to be seen of either Tim or his boat. “He should have been here long ere this,” thought I, “and he promised faithfully not to stay long—could he have forgotten? or has he paid too much devotion to the jug ?”
I began to feel uneasy, for the tide was rising fast, and soon would cover the top of the rock, and high water mark was at least a foot above my head. I buttoned up my coat, for either