Page images
PDF
EPUB

probably would follow. The sword-fish again attacks him; the whale rises again, and is again attacked by the thresher; he again descends, but attempts in vain to elude the attack of his enemies. I saw him several times raise his head out of the water, at the moment the thresher's tail was brandishing in the air, and striking him. He seemed to attempt to catch it in his mouth.

The conflict continued in view about an hour. Sometimes they remained under water for a few minutes, but the whale must come to the surface of the water to breathe, or blow, as it is called; and besides, the attacks from the sword-fish, it is to be presumed, were incessant, and would naturally make him rise to the surface. It is probable they did not leave the whale till they had killed him. I understand, from the Canadians, that whales have been found killed by the sword-fish, who at the same time has fallen a sacrifice to his own furious attack, not having been able to draw the sword from its whale-belly scabbard.

This latter circumstance, if true (for I

have not myself seen it), is sufficient evidence to prove that the sword-fish assists the thresher in his attack on the whale, and I find that the Canadians all agree that the sword-fish has a share in the battle.

It is impossible to conceive any thing more desperate than the conflict appeared to be. To see the tremendous animals in contact, part of both raised high out of the water at the same time; the black back and immense head of the whale, contrasted with the long white and black tail of the thresher, in constant action, literally threshing the whale most unmercifully; every blow resounding like the noise of a cannon: feeling the blows, and galled on all sides by creatures he might well despise, he flounces about, blowing and making a tremendous noise; dashing the water to a prodigious height, and occasioning a sort of local storm.

One would imagine that Job alluded to such battles when he describes the Leviathan :—" out of his nostrils goeth smoke; he maketh the deep to boil like a pot; he maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary."

There was something extremely sublime in the whole scene: had a Milton beheld it, he certainly would have given it a place in his writings, clothed with all that fine imagery and lofty diction his wonderful genius could so well bestow.

I perceive my letter is of great length: how can it be otherwise, in talking of the largest river, the largest animals, and amongst the largest mountains in the world? Every thing around me is on the grand scale. Let us have a little respite, however. I dare say you think it is high time.

[ocr errors]

LETTER IV.

Biver St. Lawrence, off Cape Chat, Thirty-eight leagues from Anttcosti, May, 1806.

We have been beating up against a contrary wind since yesterday, and have, in tacking, had an opportunityof approaching both sides of this immense river. The appearance of the country is very different indeed from any thing you can see in Europe.. The whole, to the very edge of the water, is one continued forest. The trees, however, appearing scraggy and dwarfish, present a most desert and melancholy aspect, without the least appearance of the country being the residence of human beings.

Probably it looks pretty much the same now that it did to Jaques Cartier, when, in the year 1535, he sailed up the river St. Lawrence, and discovered Canada. The river had its name from his having entered it on St. Lawrence's day. The etymology of the word Canada, or why the country received this name, are equally unknown. I have heard a definition, which is more whimsical, perhaps, than true. It is said that the Spaniards had visited the country before the French did; but finding it very barren, and without gold, the grand object of their pursuit, they frequently, on the eve of their departure, mentioned in the presence of the Indians, "aca nada" signifying, here is nothing. When the French visited the country, the Indians, in hopes of getting rid of them, and supposing them Spaniards, repeated frequently aca nada, which the French, not understanding, thought, might be the name of the country; hence they called it Canada. You may take this definition till you can find a better.

To-day we have passed the isle of Bique, and we see some signs of an inhabited country. The face of the heavens appears quite darkened with smoke, arising from the burning of the woods, which is the method taken in this part of the worjd to clear and prepare the land for cultivation. We see the forest burning at a great distance, and in a variety of situ

« PreviousContinue »