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Life of a Scotch Naturalist, Thomas Edward
Chapter XI. Begins to Publish his Observations


Shortly after Edward’s return from Aberdeen, be made the acquaintance of the Rev. James Smith, of the manse of Monquhitter, about eight miles south-east of Banff. Mr. Smith had some works on natural history, which he lent to Edward; and they enabled him to ascertain the names of some of the birds which he discovered in the neighborhood.

One day, while walking along the sea-coast, Edward shot. a bridled guillemot (Uria lachrymans), a bird not before known to frequent the district. When he informed Mr. Smith of the circumstance, the reverend gentleman thus wrote to him: “The discovery of the bridled guillemot at Gamrie is very interesting, and affords another confirmation of the remark that there are many things yet to be found out, almost at our doors, by those who have a relish for the works of nature, and who will make a good use of the faculties which the Almighty has bestowed upon them. In my own case, I have now almost no opportunity in my power for prosecuting researches in natural history out-of-doors; and, even if I had, there is so little sympathy for any proceedings of this nature, that I should to a certainty be regarded by almost all my parishioners as half-mad, or at least as childish, and neglecting my more serious duties. Still, I always feel a strong interest in the subject, and in any discovery which is made in regard to it.”

As Edward had no narrow-minded parishioners to encounter, he went on with his researches. Mr. Smith strongly encouraged him to persevere. He also advised him to note down the facts which came under his notice, and to publish the results of his observations. This surprised Edward. “Why,” said he, “I can not write for the publishers.” “You must learn to write,” said Mr. Smith; “and in order to write correctly you must study grammar.”

He importuned Edward so much, that at last he said he “had no use for grammar.” “You can not write without it,” said Mr. Smith. “But,” returned Edward, “I have no intention of writing.” “You must write,” said Mr. Smith. “You must write down all that you learn respecting the objects you are collecting. It is a duty that you owe to society, and it will be very selfish on your part if you do not publish the results of your observations.”

After about half an hour’s arguing, Edward ashed, “ How long do you think it would take me to learn grammar?” “Well,” said Mr. Smith, “I do not think you would take very long to learn it. But,” he added, “you will require to relinquish your outdoor pursuits during that time.” “ If that be the case, Mr. Smith, I am afraid that I can not become a pupil. But if I have any time left after I have done with nature, then perhaps I may begin to study grammar; but not till then.”

Mr. Smith’s advice, however, was not without its good results. Edward did begin to note down his observations about natural objects, and he published them from time to time in the local paper, the Banffshire Journal. When the present author asked for a sight of the articles, Edward replied, “I think I could supply you with scraps of a good number, although, on looking over my stock, I find that a great many have disappeared. My family and friends have dealt very freely with them. In fact, they were found good for ‘kinlin’.’ The most of what I wrote in the local papers is lost, forever lost.”

Among the articles which he was able to collect, we find descriptions of rare moths, rare birds, and rare fishes. Perhaps one of the first articles which he published was a description of a “death’s-head moth” found in the parish of Ruthven— one of the most wonderful, as it is one of the most extraordinary, of insects.

“In its caterpillar state,” says Edward, “it has the power of making a pretty loud snapping-like noise, which has been compared by some to a series of electric sparks. The chrysalis squeaks, but more particularly when about to change; and as to the perfect insect itself, it is gifted with a voice which it has the power of modulating at pleasure, being sometimes of a plaintive nature, then mournful, then like the moaning of a child, then again like the squeaking of a mouse. This, together with the fact that it carries on a portion of its back—that part called the thorax— an impression of the front view of a human skull (hence its name of death’s-head), has made it an object of the greatest terror and dislike among the ignorant and superstitious. It is looked upon, not as the handiwork of the Almighty, but as the agent of evil spirits. The very shining of its large bright eyes, which sparkle like diamonds, is believed to represent the fiery element from which it is supposed to have sprung. On one occasion these insects appeared in great abundance in various districts of Bretagne, and produced great trepidation among the inhabitants, who considered them to be the forerunners, and even the causes, of epidemic diseases and other calamities. In the Isle of France it is believed that any down or dust from their wings falling on the eyes causes immediate blindness. All this is, of course, merely the result of superstitious prejudice.

“The death’s-head is said to be the largest moth we have, and is, in fact, the largest found inhabiting Europe, save the peacock moth. Be this as it may, it is a very large insect, measuring from five to six inches across the wings, and having a body proportionately long and thick. The caterpillar, which is smooth, and of a greenish yellow, with minute black dots all over, and with seven or eight bluish stripes on the sides, having a horn above the tail, is likewise very large, being, when full grown, about six inches long. It feeds on the potato, the deadly-nightshade, the jasmine, and the Lycium barbarum, and other plants of as dissimilar a nature.”

In another article he mentioned the herald moth (Sea-liopteryx libatrix), a specimen of which was presented to him by Mrs. G. Bannerman. lie describes this beautiful insect as occurring in great profusion in some of the Southern parts of England, but as very rare in the North. It is called the “herald” moth, because it is said to indicate the approach of winter.

The peacock butterfly (Papilio Id) was caught in Duff House garden, close to Banff. Although common in England, this butterfly is very rare in Scotland. Morris makes 110 mention of its ever having been seen in the North. A great flock of these butterflies passed over a part of Switzerland in 1828, when they were described as a swarm of locusts. This circumstance led Edward to insert some observations regarding that destructive insect, the Locusta mi-yratoe'ia, which passed over this country in the year 1846, the ever-memorable potato-famine year.

“Great numbers,” he says, “were found in the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray. Several were also got in the sea at Aberdeen, as well as near Banff. Some of those found were very large, being two and a half inches long, and nearly as thick as one’s little finger; their wings expanding to about four inches in breadth. Nine of this size were found by one individual in a turnip-field at the Stock-et, near Aberdeen. They were brought to me while I was there with iny first unfortunate collection. But, large though this may seem, it is nothing to others. We are told that in India there are locusts of a yard in length. I do not vouch for the fact; it is no story of mine. Pliny tells it; and from him we have it. Some found in the sea at Aberdeen were offered there for sale as ‘fleein’-fish,’ and no less a sum than ten shillings was sought for them. Strange sort of flying-fish this! Truly it may have been said that the entomological and ichthyological school-masters were both abroad in those days. It may, however, be remarked that something of a similar kind took place among ourselves not very long ago, so that we have little room to laugh at the Aberdonians. A person having picked up a galerite (a species of fossilized sea-urchin of •the cretaceous system), near by our harbor, was showing it to some individuals, when one of them, no doubt puzzled, said, ‘Oh! it’s just something that somebody has made? But to return to the locusts. Those of which we have been speaking arrived in the month of August and the beginning of September. Now, this year it would appear that something of the same kind had taken place, as numbers have been picked up in various parts of the country. Three have, at least, been found with us, viz., two near the Moss of Banff, and one at Cornhill; another at Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire. I have also one from Lerwick, where it is said they have been rather plentiful in the corn-fields; as also in the Zetland Islands, in Uist, and the rest of the bare and isolated Skerries. In some of the Western isles, I believe, they have actually proved a complete pest.

“As may be expected, there are many species of this creature, as there are of every thing else; but those here alluded to are perhaps the most redoubtable of them all, as being the most destructive, the best known from their migratorial flights, and being, as already hinted, the species that constituted one of the awful plagues of Egypt in the days of Moses. They were doubtless the same that wasted the land of Canaan, and caused such a terrible famine, of which we read in the book of Joel. I wind drove them into the sea; their dead bodies were again cast on shore in such heaps that the Hebrews were obliged to dig large pits in which to bury them. In this country, we have about twenty-five different kinds belonging to the same family, of which the foregoing is one; but, of course, they are all of small size, and therefore may be said to be comparatively harmless.”

In another article Edward mentions another insect almost equally destructive. A friend of Edward at Turriff found four saw-flies in a piece of a fir-tree that was being cut up for fire-wood. They are called saw-flies “from the fact that the female possesses, posteriorly, an instrument by which she perforates, or rather saws, holes in trees, into which she drops her eggs. From this it will be seen that the larvae are wood-feeders. In this country they are by no means numerous, and it is well that they arc not, or our forests would shortly disappear; for in places where they abound, such as in Norway, they destroy hundreds of thousands of trees in a season. It is only the growing, and not the dead, wood that they attack. The young grubs, as soon as they emerge from the egg, cut their way right into the very heart of the solid timber, and there they gnaw and bore in every possible direction. By this means, the tree is either killed, or so injured, that ultimately it pines and dies. The fly itself has no English name, but is known to, entomologists by the term of Sirex juvencm.”

In another article, Edward mentions the fact of a spider (Aranea domestica) having lived in one of his scaled-up cases for twelve months without food. He had before written to his reverend friend on the subject, but Mr. Smith informed him that he had no books on entomology, and could give him no information. Edward says of his spider, that, after the case had been scaled up, lie saw him walking over the birds contained there, until at last lie became stationary in one of the corners. “ Toward noon of the second day of his incarceration lie commenced operations, and by breakfast-time of the day following his web

was completed. The little artisan was then observed to walk slowly and very sedately all over the newly formed fabric, seemingly with the view of ascertaining if all was secure. This done, the aperture was next examined, and with more apparent care than was bestowed upon the rest of the structure. This wonderful mechanical contrivance— which serves at least the fourfold purpose of store-house, banqueting-hall, watch-tower, and asylum in times of danger—being found all right, the artificer then took up his station within it, no doubt to await the success of the net which he had spread, and from whence, had fortune proved kind, he would boldly have rushed out to secure his struggling prey. There was, however, no fly to be caught within the case. He was the only living thing in it; and there the patient creature remained without food for the space of more than twelve months.”

The notices on natural history, which appeared from time to time in the local journal, had the effect of directing general attention to the observation of natural objects; and numerous birds, fishes, insects, caterpillars, shells, and plants were sent to Edward for examination.

In one of his notes he mentions a cinereous shearwater (Puffinus cinereus) found on the beach near Portsoy. This led him to give a very vivid account of the stormy petrel. Another of the specimens sent to him was a Dy-phalcanthus longispinus, from the fossil diggings of Gam-rie. “How strange!” he says. “Here we have an animal, or perhaps I should rather say a stone, part of which had once been a creature enjoying life, but now how changed! How long is it since it lived, died, and became thus transformed? Years ago, nay ages, many ages, long anterior to the creation of man. How wonderful, and yet how true!”

Of another specimen he says:

“Here, again, is a black, pink, yellow, and brown creature, with crests and ornaments like a duchess—just, in fact, like a lady of the olden time dressed up and decorated for a ball, with her head stuck full of feathers, her ribbons flying, and fan in hand; in other words, a caterpillar of the vaporer moth, found in a garden at Buckie.

“And, lastly, though not least, a specimen of the mountain bladder fern (Cystopteris montana), found on Benrinnes by a gentleman from England, and sent to me as a rarity. It was only in 1836 that this fern was made known as British, having then been for the first time met with by a party of naturalists on Ben Lawers. Since that time, however, it has been found in a ravine between Glen Dochart and Glen Lochy, Perthshire. It is also found on the mountains of North "Wales, on the Alps, and on the Rocky Mountains of North America.”

Many rare birds were sent to him for examination, notices of which he recorded in the local paper. Thus, he obtained the little crake (Crexjnisilla), a bird that had not before been found in the neighborhood, from a land-surveyor at WThitehills. The mountain finch (Fringilla montifring ilia) was sent to him from Macduff, where it had been driven ashore during a recent storm. A greater shrike or butcher bird (Lanius excnbitor)—a bird that had not before been found in Scotland—was found dead at Drummuir Castle, and sent to him for preservation. The spoonbill (Platalict hucorrdict) and bee-eater (iifcrops opiaster)—very rare birds— were also found at Boyndic.

Of the latter bird, Edward says, “This is a splendid bird, as rare as the last, if not more so. If we except the breast, which is of a bright yellow, encircled by a black ring;, and some other orange and brown scattered here and there, it may be said to be of a beautiful verdigris green. The two middle tail feathers are about an inch longer than the others. The bill is longish and pointed. Though termed bee-eaters, they also feed on beetles, gnats, grasshoppers, flies, etc. The most of these they capture on the wing, somewhat after the fashion of the goat-sucker and swallow. Although a scarce bird with us, they are common in their native countries. In Asia Minor and the adjacent lands to the north, and in Northern Africa, they are said to be so abundant as to be seen flying about in thousands.”

Among: the rarer birds found in the district were the Bohemian wax-wing, or chatterer (Bombycilla garrula), whose native home is Bohemia — the black redstart (Phoenicu-ms tithys), a bird that had never before been met with in Scotland. Edward, in describing this bird, says, “It is quite possible that it may have visited the country before; but, from the neglect, or rather contempt, with which natural science is regarded in this part of the country, it may have visited us, and even bred among us, unknown and unrecorded. There is plenty of work among us for naturalists. A great deal has yet to be learned regarding the various branches of natural science. There is nothing better calculated for the purpose than attentive and accurate local observers.”

On one occasion, when out shooting on the sands west of Banff, Edward brought down a very rare bird. It was a brown snipe (.Macroramphus griseus), a bird well known in North America, but not in Britain. Here is Edward’s story:

“Taking a stroll the other day to the west of the town, with my gun in hand, to get the air, I crossed the sands at the links, and, looking along them, I observed a pretty large group of my old and long-loved favorites — birds. Wishing, instinctively as it were, to know what they were, I went cautiously forward to take a nearer view. I found that they consisted for the most part of ring-dotterels and dunlins, with a few golden plovers. I was somewhat astonished at seeing the plovers, for they are by no means a shore bird with us at this season of the year—nor, in fact, at any time, except when driven by snow. But there they were, and no mistake. Not yet satisfied, however — for I thought I could distinguish one that did not exactly belong to any of those already mentioned—I wished to go a little nearer, and on doing so was glad to find my conjectures fully confirmed; but what the stranger was I could not tell. I saw enough, however, to convince me that it was a rare bird. There is no getting an easy shot at a stranger. The dotterels are constantly on the lookout for squalls ; and when any thing suspicious appears, they immediately rise and fly away. A shot, however, after a good deal of winding and twisting, was fired, and, although at rather long range, broke one of the stranger’s legs. This had the effect of parting him from his companions—they flying seaward, and he to the shingle which intervenes betwixt the sands and the links. Here he dropped, seemingly to rise no more.

“Having reloaded, in case of need, I then ran, as well as I was able, to pick him up. I gained the place, and after some difficulty, having passed and repassed him several times, I at last found my bird lying stretched out at full length among the pebbles, and to all appearance a corpse. It was now that I ascertained with satisfaction and pride that the great rarity I had met with was neither more nor less than a specimen of the brown snipe, and a splendid one it was too, being evidently an old bird. Being almost intoxicated with delight, I sat down, and, having taken some cotton wadding from my pocket to wrap round the injured leg, and stop up any other wound that he might have received, I toot him up for that purpose. But, alas! there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.

“Away flew the bird just as I was about to lay him on my knee; he actually slipped out from among my very fingers. I fired both barrels as soon as I could get hold of my gun, sitting though I was. But on the bird went, whistling as he flew, despite the dangling of his shattered limb, but whether in derision at my stupidity, or exulting in his own miraculous and fortunate escape, I can not tell. Reaching the burn mouth of Boyndie, he again alighted among the tumbling waves there. It was now gloaming, and what between one thing or other, I was rather like an aspen-leaf than any thing else. Follow, however, I did; I searched the place, and was just on the eve of giving up the pursuit as hopeless — having, as I thought, beat the ground over and over again to no purpose—when up rose the bird from among my very feet. Both barrels were again emptied, but with little apparent effect. The last one made him scream somewhat harshly, and falter a little in his flight, but that was all. On he sped. Darkness now put an end to any further operations for that day. Next day, however, and for many days after, I was out; but, although I searched the coast as far as the sands of White-hills on the one side, and the burn of Melrose on the other, I could find no traces of the bird. And thus I lost perhaps one of the greatest ornithological rarities that have ever visited the district.”

One of the most vivid descriptions which Edward inserted in the Banffshire Journal was a narrative of a day’s adventures on Gamrie Head. The editor, in introducing it to his readers, said that it reads not unlike a chapter of Audubon or Wilson. The reader will judge for himself:

“Having promised to visit some friends in Gardenstown, to partake of their hospitality during the festive season of the new year, I left home with that object on the morning of the 31st of December, 1850. I passed through Macduff, and took the path which leads along the cliffs, hoping thereby to meet with something rare or strange in the ornithological world, and worthy of my shot. In this way I had nearly reached the highest point of Gamrie Head without meeting with any thing but the common tenants of these rocky braes, when my attention was attracted by the screaming of a number of birds at the bottom of the cliff. On looking over, I observed that they consisted of several hooded and carrion crows, together with two ravens, two Iceland gulls (Laurus Icelandicus), and a number of other dark-colored gulls, apparently immature specimens of the great black-backed species, one of which, in perfect plumage, was standing and picking at an object floating in the water close to the rock, and about which all the other birds were screaming. It appeared to me, and it afterward proved to be the case, that they were making food of the object about which they were fighting; but the black-backed bird kept them all at bay, allowing none to approach, not even the ravens themselves.

“Having feasted my eyes for a while on the Icelanders, the thought struck me that I would descend the cliff in order to procure one of them, if possible, and also to get a nearer view of the object which had drawn the various birds together. Accordingly, observing a narrow track near me, I commenced my descent, but I had only proceeded a short distance when I found myself on the brink of a precipice. I was about to return, when, accidentally looking over, I observed a portion of the rock jutting out a little beyond the one on which I stood, and about four feet and a half below it. I now concluded that, if I could gain this rock, I would still find the path to enable me to continue downward. With these hopes, and having laid down my gun, I swung myself down upon the rock. I had no sooner done so than I heard a low growl, as if proceeding from a rabid dog; and on looking along the rock, I was a good deal surprised at seeing two foxes standing in a rather slouching attitude at the other end of the shelf, apparently very mueh discomfited at my unwarrantable intrusion.

“Another look at the place and its surly occupants was enough to convince me of the unmistakable truth that, instead of having met with a path leading to the bottom of the cliffs, I had only found one to a fox’s lair. My first impulse was to ascend the rocks, but in this I was completely baffled. The brow of the cliff to which I wished to ascend was fully as high as my breast, and overhung the rock on which I stood. I had nothing of the nature of a step to put my foot on to aid myself up, and nothing to lay hold of with my hands but small tufts of withered grass and some small stones, all of which gave way as soon as any stress was put upon them. The last and the only remaining object within my reach was a stone about twice as large as my head, and partially imbedded among the grass. I took hold of the big stone with both hands, and succeeded in drawing myself about half way up, when it suddenly gave way. The stone came into collision with my right shoulder, and would in all likelihood have borne me along with it to the bottom of the cliff, had it not been that at that instant I got hold of a short tuft of heath with my mouth, by the aid of which, and by using my fingers as a beast would its claws, I was enabled to regain my former position.

“It was now quite evident that I would require to descend the cliff by some means or other; but how? That was a matter for deep consideration. I was standing on the brink of a precipice—had two cunning fellows to deal with—had to hold on, at least with one hand, to the rock above in order to maintain my equilibrium—and had to keep a steady eye on my companions, for fear lest they should rush at me and throw me over the cliff.

“Such being the case, was I not in a pretty fix? If there were any means of escape, it was from the point near which the foxes were. But how could I dislodge them to get at that point? The space on which we stood was only from about two feet and a half to one foot broad, and about nine feet long, projecting to some distance over the cliff beneath. To have shot them, and rid myself of their presence in that fashion, was, from my position, utterly impossible.

“At length a thought struck me, and, with the view of putting it in execution, I laid down my gun close to the back of the shelving, out of harm’s way; then crouching down with my feet toward my shaggy friends, who kept up a constant chattering of their teeth during the whole time, and pushing myself backward until I reached the nearest, I gave him a kick with my foot on the hind-quarters, which produced the desired effect; for I had no sooner done so than I felt first the feet of one, and then of the other, passing lightly along my back, and, before I had time to lift up my head, they had bolted up the precipice, and disappeared.

“I was now master of the place, though not of the situation. On looking over the cliff, I found that there was no way of getting down but by leaping into a crevice of the rocks, more than eight feet beneath me, and in a slanting direction from where I was. This was a doleful discovery, but there was no help now; so, taking off my coat, shot-belt, and powder-flask, that I might be so much the lighter, and have the free use of my arms, I threw them down to the bottom of the rock. I next bound the gun to my back, having previously emptied it of its contents. I then crawled over the edge of the rock, and hung dangling in the air for a little, like the pendulum of a clock. I would have given all that I ever possessed in the world to have been again in the foxes’ den, stinking though it was. For then, and not till then, did I discover, to my sorrow, that a rugged portion of a rock projected over the entrance to the aperture to which T wished to descend, and that, in leaping, I would require to go beyond it in order to reach the landing underneath. To accomplish such a feat seemed to me impossible.

“I hung thus, being afraid to make the leap, though up I could not get, until my hands began to give way; when, mustering all my remaining strength, and having taken the last swing with some force, I let go my hold to abide by the dreadful alternative, for I had little hope of gaining the desired haven. Most fortunately, however, I did gain it; but, in doing so, I received a severe blow on the left temple from the rock I had so much dreaded. I also lost my cap, which fell off when my head struck the rock. From this cavity or chink, which was the worst that I ever had to deal with, I managed—by leaping and swinging from one rocky shelf and cavity to another, and by crawling from crag to crag, alternately, as circumstances required it — to reach a huge stone, which evidently had once formed a part of the higher portion of the cliff, but had, at a by-gone period, by some means or other, become detached from it, and on rolling down had found a temporary resting-place there.

“Beyond this stone I found my leaping was at an end, for I had now arrived at the top of a rather rough and almost perpendicular declivity, fully fifty feet from the bottom, and bounded on both sides by steep and overhanging cliffs. Before me was the sea ; behind and above me was an insurmountable barrier of three hundred feet of cliff. Although I had descended thus far, there was no human possibility of my being able to re-ascend by the same path. In such a place — alone, and almost powerless — bruised and nearly worn out with exertion—what could I do? Throw myself down, and meet my fate at once, or wait till help should arrive? But where was help to come from? Two boats had already passed from Gardenstown, both of which I hailed, but they sailed along on their way. Perhaps they were too far out at sea to hear my cries, or to notice my signals of distress.

“Despairing of success, I sat down to consider what was next to be done. While thus resting, I observed a falcon (Falco peregrinus) sailing slowly and steadily along, bearing something large in his talons. On he came, seemingly unconscious of my presence, and alighted on a ledge only a few yards from where I sat. I now saw that the object he carried was a partridge. Having fairly settled down with his quarry on the rock, I could not help wondering at and admiring the collected ease and cool composure with which he held his struggling captive (for it was still alive) until death put an end to its sufferings. There was no lacerating with his beak at the body of the poor and unfortunate prisoner, in order, as it were, to hasten its termination; no expanding of the wing to maintain his equilibrium; although the last and dying struggle of the bird caused him to quiver a little.

“All being now over, with one foot resting upon his game and the other on the rock, silent and motionless as a statue, the noble captor stood, with an inquiring eye gazing at the now lifeless form of his reeking prey, seeming to doubt the fact that it was already dead. But there was no mistake. The blood, oozing from its mouth and wounds— its body doubtless pierced by the talons of the conqueror already began to trickle down the sides of the dark cliffs, dyeing the rocks in its course. Satisfied at last that life was fairly extinct, an incision was then made in the neck or shoulder of the victim, and into this the falcon thrust his bill several times, and each time that it was withdrawn it was covered with blood. This being done, and having wrenched off the head, which he dropped, he then began not only to pluck, but to skin his food, from the neck downward; and, having bared the breast, commenced a hearty meal by separating the flesh from the sternum into portions, with as much apparent ease as if he had been operating with the sharpest surgical instrument. I should have liked well to have seen the end of the work thus begun ; but, unfortunately, a slight movement on my part was detected by the quick eye of the falcon, and my nearness was discovered. Having gazed at me for a few, and only for a few, seconds with an angry and piercing scowl, mingled with surprise, he then rose, uttering a scream so wild and so loud as to awaken the echoes of the surrounding rocks; while he himself, with the remains of his feast, which he bore along with him, rounded a point of the cliff and disappeared; and there is no doubt that he ended his repast in unmolested security.

“I was glad — nay, proud — of this unlooked-for occurrence, as I had never before, on any occasion, had the pleasure of witnessing any of those noble birds in a state of nature, or while engaged in devouring their prey, and that, too, among the rugged fastnesses of their natural retreat. In consequence of having paid particular attention to the movements of the falcon, I was enabled to bring to maturity an opinion, the seeds of which were sown many years ago— viz., that if painters, engravers, and preservers of animals would endeavor to get lessons from nature, and work accordingly, the public would not be so often duped as they are, by having to pay for false representations and caricatured figures, instead of the genuine forms of these noble birds.

“The falcon had no sooner fled than the reality of my own situation again burst upon my mind. I had as little prospect of relief from passers-by as ever; and, becoming a prey to evil forebodings, I felt cold and sick at heart. It was now afternoon, and daylight would soon be on the wane. I had no time to lose, for it was necessary that something should be done to extricate myself, if possible, before dark. The only way of doing so was by sliding down the declivity, be the consequences what they might. Accordingly, I unloosed the gun from its place on my back, and having taken my garters, which were very long, from my legs, I tied them together, then attached one end of them to the gun, and holding the other end in my hand, I dropped it as far as the string would allow, and then, letting go, I heard the gun clash to the bottom. I next took the two napkins which had bound the gun to my back, and wound them round my head, in order to save it as much as possible from the edges of the rocks. I then stretched myself upon the rocky slope, with my feet downward, and was ready for the descent, when, repenting, I would again have drawn myself up. But the scanty herbage which I held by gave way, and I was hurled down, whether I would or no, and with such violence that, on landing among the rocks, I became quite unconscious.

“On recovering, I found myself lying at the foot of the cliff, sick and very sore. I found that I had bled profusely from the nose and one of my ears. My first impulse, on recovering, was to move my limbs to ascertain if any of them were broken, when, to my inexpressible joy and thankfulness, I found them whole, though somewhat benumbed. Becoming thirsty, and observing a pool of water at a short distance, I attempted to rise, but my spine pained me so much that I was obliged to lie down again without being able to reach the desired spot. The thirst increasing, I dragged myself to the water. I thrust my mouth into it, and had partaken of a draught before I discovered that, instead of fresh, I had swallowed salt, water!

“If I was ill before, I was worse now. Having sickened and vomited again, I revived a little; and after I had washed the blood from my face and head, I was enabled to sit up with my back against a rock. While thus seated, I observed all the articles which had been dropped, except my. cap, which, however, I afterward found. After sitting for about half an hour, I made another attempt to rise, and succeeded, though 1 reeled about like a drunken fellow, and could scarcely stand steady without the aid of my gun, which I found was not so much bruised as [ had expected. Having again assumed my coat and other appendages, I then endeavored to load my gun, with the view uf procuring one of the Icelanders which I had seen from the top of the cliff. This, however, proved a very difficult matter; and when I had loaded the gun, I found, to my disappointment, that I could not bring it to bear upon the object. I made the attempt several times, but was at last obliged to abandon the hope I had entertained of obtaining either of the birds.

“I was vexed at this, for both came several times within easy shot. All my hopes of procuring the birds being at an end, I then proceeded to view the object in the water round which the birds were hovering, and I was surprised to find it to be the carcass of an animal of a very singular appearance. It was not until I had looked at it for some time that I could bring my memory to bear upon it. I then thought, and I have since been fully confirmed in the opinion, that I discovered in it a specimen, or rather the putrid remains, of the spinous shark. It wanted the -head, which had been broken off by the fish having been dashed against the rocks by the waves. The tail was also broken off, but still hung by a filament to the body. In shape it somewhat resembled the tail of the common dog-fish; but there evidently had been two fins on the back, nearer to the posterior than the anterior portion of the animal, though these had been broken or rubbed off. The skin, which was of a dark-blue color, and had a leathery appearance, was thickly beset with curved thorns or spines (whence the animal’s name), nearly all of which were more or less damaged. I know of nothing that I could liken these thorns or spikes to but the thorns or spikes which may be seen on the stem of an old rose-bush—with this exception, that the spikes of the fish are larger. From its position in the water, though close to the rocks, I could not make out its girth in any part whatever; but from where the head had joined the body to the tip of the tail it was about two yards in length. Having fully satisfied myself that the present specimen, from its decomposed state and the holes perforated in it by the gulls, was beyond the state for preservation, I again left it, that the impatient birds might once more descend and recommence their banquet.

“I now wished to get to a sandy beach at some distance to my left, known as Greenside, from which I knew that a path led to the top of the cliff. On my way thither I met with a very serious obstacle in the form of a huge rock, whose base extended into the sea; and, as a matter of course, as I could not get round it, I required to get over it. I was then far from being in a condition to climb a rock. However, I had no alternative. The tide, then about to come in, would have shown me no mercy. Accordingly, my gun was once more on my back, and on hands and knees, for feet here were of no use, and with the aid of my mouth, I succeeded in crawling over, and, with some further difficulty, I contrived to reach Greenside. Instead of holding on to Gardenstown, I turned my face toward home, where I arrived betwixt five and six in the evening, with the impression of the last day of 1850 so deeply stamped upon my body and mind, that it will not easily, if ever, be obliterated from either.”


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