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with Cossacks, the ataman of the fishery at length emerges from his tent and walks slowly to the river, on which no Cossack is allowed to go till the signal-shot has been fired. A perfect silence of death falls on the scene, all are full of expectation, and standing with bodies bent forward in readiness for the leap. It is really most interesting to see these ranks of powerful and hearty men, silent and yet in such a state of extreme excitement. It is almost impossible to describe the beauty of the scene. All faces are beaming with joy and hope, and their eyes are fixed either on a spot previously selected in the ice or on the ataman, who is about to give the signal to fire the cannon. He, however, is in no hurry; he walks quietly from one bank to the other, and makes all sorts of movements for the purpose of deceiving the Cossacks. If the chief ataman happens to be present, the fishing ataman takes off his cap and bows reverently in the direction where this supreme ruler of the Cossacks is standing on the bank. Then, after a good deal of teazing, he at last gives the private signal, which is only known to himself and the gunner.
The cannon belches forth a flame, the thick smoke has scarce issued from its mouth ere a truly demoniac noise breaks out, for the whole army of Cossacks rush with shouts and yells, and jostling each other on to the ice. Each strives at full speed to reach a previously chosen spot on the ice; or, if another get before him, he selects another spot. In a second, thousands of small holes, a couple of feet in diameter, are cut in the ice; at many spots, where a large body of fish is supposed to be collected, these holes are not more than three paces from each other, and then there rises a perfect wood of long fishing-poles, which are let down through the holes to within a couple of feet from the bottom, and held by the Cossack, so that he may at once feel when a fish passes over the hook and runs against the pole. When this is the case, the Cossack pulls the pole up with a quick jerk, the sharp hook runs into the belly of the fish, and it is captured. The hole in the ice is then enlarged, the fish secured with the small hooks and dragged on the ice by its captor, or by several Cossacks. Through the running about and shouting of the many men, the breaking of the ice-holes, and the thousands of long poles which form a regular labyrinth in the water, the fish are scared from their beds, dash restlessly backwards and forwards, and continually get among the fish-hooks. 'The whole of the ice is soon covered with blood: it is a thorough butchery, and mountains of fish are piled up on the banks, for so soon as a fish is hooked, traders make their appearance on the ice, in order to bargain with the Cossack and purchase his fish. This frequently occurs, while the fish is still under water and its size is not yet known, in which case it is bought and sold on speculation.
At times, it happens that a shad, weighing from three to six pounds, is caught, and brought up by the hook under water. As the shad, however, is not much esteemed, and yields no caviare, the experienced fisherman, who knows what he has caught without seeing it, by the feeling of the softer flesh and the movement on his hook, does his best to sell the fish on spec, and displays great eloquence in doing so. If there be a novice among the traders, he is allowed to feel the large fish quivering on the hook and shaking the pole, and the wilder the shad becomes, the greater grows the desire to purchase, and the conviction that a large beluga or a splendid sturgeon must be hooked.
Many a Cossack will stand for hours and not a single fish touch his pole. He at length pulls his hook out of the water, in order to select another spot, and perhaps has scarce gone away, ere his place is taken by another Cossack, who, favoured by fortune, pulls out a magnificent fish at the very first trial. If the Cossack has caught nothing for a long time, he cautiously gropes with his pole in the water to try and touch some passing fish, which he tries to hook by a powerful jerk. If the fish is large and makes a disturbance down below while trying to liberate itself, in which it often succeeds, especially when merely hooked by the tail, the Cossack summons his nearest neighbour to his assistance. Another hook is then let down, and the fish is landed on the ice by their united efforts.
The largest belugas, weighing from fifteen to twenty pouds, are the most cautious and difficult to capture. If such a mighty fish is startled by the uproar on the ice, it frequently comes to the surface to see what is going on up there, or swims in shallow water. If one of these big fellows runs against a pole, the hook of which is four or five fathoms below it, it requires great rapidity and skill to pull up the hook so as to drive it into the fish's belly. Such a fish will often break the pole, dash on to the next hook, break that, and attempt to escape, but rarely succeeds. As the hooks are let down into the water in all directions and close together, there is a general excitement when a large fish passes through; every one watches for a pole to shake, and the fugitive is generally captured, dragged on the ice amid shouts of delight, and sold to the traders. A large beluga, which yields from one hundred to one hundred and thirty pounds of caviare, is considered by the Cossacks excessively crafty.
This most peculiar fishing life possesses such a charm for the foreign observer that he cannot see enough of it, or cease admiring the bold, clever behaviour of the Cossacks. If, for instance, even during a sharp frost, a crowbar falls through the hole in the ice into the stream, it is not thought of any great consequence. The nearest Cossack strips, a rope is fastened round his waist, he dives, finds the crowbar, and is dragged on to the ice again by his comrades, where he dresses, crosses himself, takes a pull at the spirit-bottle, and returns to his own fishing.
The fishing was extremely interesting in December, 1857. It was high time to send off the present to the Imperial Court, but the Ural was not quite frozen over, and in the middle there were large patches of open water. Attempts were certainly made at fishing, but nothing was caught. At length a Cossack noticed that a great number of fish, scared by the noise, were visible in the open water, but how were they to be got at? Without any long reflection, a flake of ice was cut off from the edge, an active Cossack seated himself on it, and floated to the middle, when he cautiously groped about with his pole till he succeeded in hooking a very large fish. It was then that the scene became really interesting. The Cossack could not master the enormous creature, it pulled him backwards and forwards, and at length dragged him off the lump of ice. The Cossack, however, stuck to his pole, paddled about in the water as well as he could, and when he drew nearer to the edge of the ice, a long hook was carefully inserted in his clothes, and man and fish were dragged on to the ice amid an unparalleled rejoicing. As this experiment had been Jan.-VOL. CXXX. NO. DXVII.
so perfectly successful, a large lump of ice was cut away, and several Cossacks leaped upon it for the purpose of attacking the fish in the middle of the river. This capture was certainly laborious and unusual, but it caused the Cossacks universal delight, for the present could be sent off at the appointed time.
When the day's fishing is ended, the Cossacks proceed to the bivouac, where all are soon busied in eating and drinking, buying and selling, salting fish, and preparing caviare. The events of the day are then fully discussed, they laugh and shout, and the banks of the Ural often echo the national songs till all fall asleep wearied with the day's exertions. But day has scarce dawned ere all set out again down the river to a new station, where the fishing is opened by firing a cannon as on the first day. In this way they continue to advance till the whole allotted region has been fished, and then all the Cossacks return home. The captured fish are chiefly sent into the interior, but the caviare and isinglass go to all parts of Europe. The winter fishery is at an end, and the merry life does not recommence till spring, when new bodies of fish come up the river from the Caspian Sea, and all the waters once again swarm with life.
I REMEMBER long, long ago, when sitting with my friend Pickles (whose lucubrations I had the privilege some years since of presenting to the public), a sad story told by a fellow-visitor, a clergyman, which, though it bore the old moral that has been worn threadbare by temperance lecturers, and done to rags by well-meaning but rampant orators, had some peculiarly melancholy features of its own that made a strong impression on me at the time. Perhaps there was something in the way of telling it no doubt a great deal in the earnestness of the speaker that affected me and my good friend, for I remember that poor Pickles took off his spectacles repeatedly and wiped them during the progress of the narration-and I fear that it will appear trifling when reduced to paper, but I will venture to report it as nearly as I can remember in the words of the sincere and benevolent man, who, alas! like our worthy friend Pickles himself, is now no more. When I recal the pure domestic happiness that once reigned at Turtledove Villa, the blameless life of my good old friend, the atmosphere of love that he seemed to generate about him, it affords me a melancholy satisfaction to put to paper, for my little wards, his children, some reminiscences of those pleasant times. This is one of them; and I trust, if my readers are inclined to find fault with it for its triteness, they will excuse it for its brevity.
Travellers entering Barton for the first time were always startled
by the quiet beauty of the scene which burst upon their view in that turn in the road which wound round into the village. Embosomed in trees, the white smoke curling from the chimneys of the cottages, and lazily dispersing, seemed an emblem of the care-free life of the honest villagers. For of the carking cares of towns they knew nothing. They worked at their callings as their fathers had done before them, and as they intended that their children should work after them; no harassing ambition deprived them of their simple comforts; no fastidious tastes took away their appetites from their homely but wholesome fare; no vain and aspiring dreams disturbed their sound, labour-sweetened rest. A large old house with a verandah, hiding behind some stately poplars, looked up the turnpike-road; this was the residence of the doctor, and had the merit of affording its inmates the earliest views of travellers approaching from London; and at this point the road swept suddenly round to the left, and brought them into the centre of one of the prettiest villages in England. They were in the heart and centre of it at once, and in front of the Red Lion Inn, an old-fashioned, porched, and gabled house with corridors, in which you might lose yourself from their intricacy, and rooms in which you might do the same from their size. Barton must have been a place of importance in olden times, measured by its inn, which now bore venerable testimony to what it had been in bygone days. But now a waggon or two, or a solitary farmer's gig, was quite a bustle and a sensation at the inn, and the ostler was shouted for till the landlord was hoarse; and startled from his slumbers in the taproom if a horse or vehicle pulled up at the door. The few tradesmen of the village used to drop in at about eleven or twelve in the morning, and take their pre-prandial drops before the bar; and came again in the evening, dressed and divested of their aprons and paper caps, to smoke their pipes and sometimes talk-though, on the whole, they were not much given to conversation, but watched the smoke from their pipes, and did a great deal of thinking-in the parlour. A few village reprobates—their number was very small-spent their days in the taproom, alternately sleeping and drinking beer (how they spent their nights many a hare could have told); and a few of the labourers dropped in of an evening apparently for the purpose of drinking up a quarrel with them, in which, and their being all summarily ejected from the house, the evening's entertainment generally terminated.
The church was high up yonder, across the fields, its wooden steeple rising out of a grove of trees, in which the warm, snug, red-bricked rectory calmly nestled.
The shops were few: there was the baker's, with three loaves in the window; and the butcher's, displaying a joint which it would have puzzled the keenest anatomist to assign to any part of any beast usually devoted to purposes of food; the blacksmith's, the wheelwright's, and the "store" of the draper and grocer, who put forth in his window and before his door more brooms and clogs than anything else. Trade was certainly not brisk-the calmness of untroubled life hung about all: inn, shops, and houses.
Nay, there was one little cottage that looked somewhat disturbed and bustling-as if it were the one that kept all the rest in order, and gave them the time o' day-with the cleanest of blinds, the daintiest of
flowers, the greenest of doors, and the brightest of brass knockers. This was the residence of Miss Spiflicken, the chief of the Dorcas Society, the terrible examiner of the Sunday-school children, the lady-president of the coal and blanket club, the dispenser of soup in the winter, and of tracts at all times. She was a good-natured, meddlesome soul, who, if she did harm and caused a little mischief (as she often did), was always very sorry for it, and tried her best to repair the damage often in the way in which amateurs set to work to mend their furniture, and usually end in splitting it to pieces, converting the flaw into a crack, and the crack into a fissure. But Barton was not the place for heart-burnings or quarrels; the inhabitants very comfortably jogged on side by side till they took their places in the churchyard, as their fathers and grandfathers had done. There was little or no emigration from the village, and very little immigration. If a stranger hovered about, and at last tarried for a time, it was a matter of wonderment to the villagers, who did not seem to be aware of the beauties of the country which attracted him.
But, if the senses of the weary traveller were comforted by the repose of this little village, his idea of the fullest acquisition of worldly happiness might have been realised by the appearance of the pretty cottage that lay a little off the road at the end of the village street, with a parterre of bright-coloured flowers at its feet, and a sheltering background of chesnut and elms to screen it from the rude blast of the north wind. There was the home of unambitious, unostentatious, contented, happy competence. Everything bespoke it; the windows-one on each side of the door with their pretty flowers in fancy vases; the porch, with its clustering honeysuckle and carefully-trained rose, which climbed above it up the house front; the clean-fringed drapery of the bedroom windows; the tasty root-work in the garden-all told that a woman's hands were often busy about that pretty home in work which she loved to do.
It was Tilly Palmer's home-little Tilly Palmer, whom I remember seeing about the hedges of her father's farm when she was too little to reach the ripening blackberries or clustering nuts, shaking the flaxen ringlets from her pretty face to look at me, and give me one of her happy, merry smiles as I passed-little Tilly Palmer, the rosebud of Pryor's Farm, the idol of her parents-gentle Tilly Palmer, who, unspoiled by their fondness, grew up to be beloved by all the parish; the sweet angel that glided into many a cottage chamber, carrying help and comfort to the poor, the toiling, and the sick. Miss Spiflicken never had had a word to say of Tilly Palmer but of praise and fondness; and when she married William Worboys, and took possession of this little dovecot of a house, Miss Spiflicken, with honest tears of joy in her twinkling little eyes, was the first, and not the least sincere, in wishing her health and happiness. Health was imprinted on Tilly's cheek, and happiness was guaranteed by fortune; for William Worboys, the late rector's son, who had inherited a comfortable independence from his father, doted upon his little Tilly, and helped her in the decoration of the new home into which he had brought her.
Never had William looked so well as on his wedding-day. Discarding the sober suit of the college student, he had also cast off his mourning for his father, who had been dead a year or more, and, in the blue coat and buff waistcoat, which were fashionable in those days (at least in the