Imágenes de páginas

and, should all be tranquil and silent, warns him by a cry to continue patient. At this well-known call the male partly opens his broad wings, inclines his body a little downwards, and answers to her voice in tones not unlike the laugh of a maniac. The next moment he resumes his erect attitude, and again all around is silent. Ducks of many species, the teal, the wigeon, the mallard, and others, are seen passing with great rapidity, and following the course of the current; but the Eagle heeds them not, they are at that time beneath his attention. The next moment, however, the wild trumpetlike sound of a yet distant but approaching swan is heard. A shriek from the female Eagle comes across the stream; for, kind reader, she is fully as alert as her mate. The latter suddenly shakes the whole of his body, and with a few touches of his bill, aided by the action of his cuticular muscles, arranges his plumage in an instant. The snowwhite bird is now in sight; her long neck is stretched forward; her eye is on the watch, vigilant as that of her enemy; her large wings seem with difficulty to support the weight of her body, although they flap incessantly. So irksome do her exertions seem, that her very legs are spread beneath her tail to aid her flight. She approaches, however. The Eagle has marked her for his prey. As the swan is passing the dreaded pair, the male bird starts from his perch, in full preparation for the chase, with an awful scream that to the swan's ear brings more terror than the report of the large duck-gun. Now is the moment to witness the Eagle's powers. He glides through the air like a falling star, and like a flash of lightning comes upon the timorous quarry, which now, in agony and despair, seeks by various maneuvres to elude the grasp of his cruel talons: it mounts, doubles, and willingly would plunge into the stream, were it not prevented by the Eagle, which, long possessed of the knowledge that by such a stratagem the swan might escape him, forces it to remain in the air, by attempting to strike it with his talons from beneath. The hope of escape is soon given up by the swan. It has already become much weakened, and its strength fails at the sight of the courage and swiftness of its antagonist. Its last gasp is about to escape, when the ferocious Eagle strikes with his talons the under side of its wing, and with unresisted power forces the bird to fall in a slanting direction upon the nearest shore. It is then, reader, that you may see the cruel spirit of this dreaded enemy of the feathered race, whilst, exulting over his prey,

he for the first time breathes at ease. down his powerful feet, and drives his sharp claws deeper than ever into the heart of the dying swan. He shrieks with delight as he feels the last convulsions of his prey, which has now sunk under his unceasing efforts to render death as painfully felt as it can possibly be. The female has watched every movement of her mate, and if she did not assist him in capturing the swan, it was not from want of will, but merely because she felt full assurance that the power and courage of her lord were quite sufficient for the deed. She now sails to the spot, where he eagerly awaits her, and when she has arrived, they together turn the breast of the luckless swan upwards, and gorge themselves with gore."

He presses OUR JACK, THE SAILOR BOY. OUR Jack lost his father when he was an infant, so he never knew him, and his mother had much to do to manage him as he grew up, and so had the master at the village school. Jack was always in some scrape or other; but he was,


after all, a generous lad, and the other boys liked him; for he


and many

always took the part of the little boys against any big lad who ill-used them. One of his worst faults was, that he did not like books and schooling, and so he was called a dunce.

But our Jack's greatest fault was a love of water: as his mother used to say: 'He ought to have been born a fish, for he's always a-dabbling in it, making boats of everything he can lay his hands on the instant my back's turned. He has swum my boots, my bonnet, and my bread-pan; tried how much sugar my basin would carry, and sunk it; served my tea and coffee canisters the same. I've

many a time found my cups, and saucers, and dishes, at the bottom of the water-butt, and my mustard-pot and pepper-box sunk in the pail; while, if there was a shower of rain, he would send every morsel of firewood, every cork in the house, and indeed everything that would swim, into the gutter, and down the street, and shout and clap his hands like one out of his senses, if his little ships, as he used to call them, beat his big ones.

As for his cap and shoes, bless you! they were seldom either on his head or on his feet; if he came to a ditch, a horse-trough, or a pond, off they would come, and in they would go; and the only wonder is, that he hasn't caught his death o'cold over and over again. He ought to have been born a fish, he's so fond of the water. And, like Jack's schoolmaster, his fond old mother would finish with a mournful shake of the head.

A good-natured farmer took Our Jack, and employed him. to fetch up the cattle to water, scare away the birds from the corn, and be a little helper on the farm; and for a time he went on admirably, until one day he was sent to the


distant market-town-a small seaport—with the wagoner, and from that hour, as his dear old mother often said afterwards, with the tears in her eyes, ‘he was a changed lad.' All he had hitherto known of ships and sailors was through books and prints, but having once seen them, Our Jack could think of nothing else. From morning to night, he was making boats, and swimming them wherever water was to be found; he even cut off the skirts of his smock-frock, to make sails for his little ships, and to give what remained more the appearance of a sailor's jacket; while every piece of wood he could lay hold of, he converted into a boat; and it was marvellous how he managed, with only his pocket-knife, to cut them into such beautiful forms. Our Jack had his boyish admirers, who were ever eager to accompany him to swim his boats, and wade into ponds to fetch them back when they were becalmed in the middle, or did not blow to shore; and amongst these were one or two of rather bad character. If a stray hen had laid in the fields, they would take the eggs, and now and then go the length of robbing an orchard. One ill-starred hour they persuaded Our Jack to join in the depredation; and he consented to keep watch within the orchard gate, while they made booty of the owner's choicest golden pippins. If the proprietor came, Jack was to whistle, and keep him on the run round the trees until his vagabond companions escaped through a gap in the hedge. The owner came, and Our Jack was captured : he was promised both pardon and reward if he would give up the names of his accomplices, but Jack would not; so, with a smart box of the ear, and a threat that he should be transported, the

« AnteriorContinuar »