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for our Yankee skipper, instead of giving up in despair, had determined to continue the fishery. We were not so unsuccessful, either. The buzeo of that year chanced to be unusually profitable, the whole placer yielding well ; and, despite our clumsiness, we came in for a fair share of the products. Several other independent divers from the mainland had enlisted in our service, until we at length formed a respectable cohort. Moreover, our skipper possessed a certain advantage over the Mexican armadors. In his purse there was some cash, and in his cabin a stock of Yankee notions,' which found favor in the eyes of the Yaquis. Into that same cabin soon made their way the surreptitious pearls, though the purchase of these was aboveboard and open; since it was the practice of every armador in the fleet.
“We remained at Cerralvo during the whole of the pearl-collecting season. Most of our men, from clumsy whalers, had become transformed to adroit divers, and could have gained a living anywhere that pearls are to be obtained, - in the Bay of Panama, at Cubagua, or Ceylon. For myself, I had grown to regard a subaqueous life as quite a natural state of existence. I could remain several minutes below the surface; could swim, and tack, and turn under the water ; could go down to any depth inside eleven fathoms, either perpendicularly or diagonally; could maintain myself at the bottom, or midway between top and bottom, without being buoyed up against my will ; could stand erect, walk, crawl, or lie still, upon the ocean's bed, – in short, perform all those feats that are the boast of the buzos. I had become as fearless as they, not only of the deep itself, but of its monsters. Armed with my two-pointed stick, — in the use of which I had been well instructed by one of the independent divers, who took great interest in me, - I would swim among the sharks with as much carelessness as though they were but minnows. Twice had I encountered these creatures in their own element, twice in deadly strife, and on each occasion had I succeeded in spitting them upon my butaca.
"As yet I had not been brought face to face with the tintorero. I had heard a great deal about these dreaded tigers of the sea,' for they, with the marrayos, were the constant theme of the pearl-diver's conversation, as the grizzly bear is that of the Rocky Mountain trapper, or the lion that of the traveller across the South African Karoo. I had seen one or two of them at a distance, or rather their luminous track as they glided by; and had witnessed the dread which even this inspired among the native divers, who have scarce any fear of the common shark. It is fortunate for them that the tintoreros are at best but scarce animals, and at most times shy, — this last characteristic being attributable to the universal hatred in which they are held, and which leads to their more energetic persecution. Were they as plenteous as the common sharks, the pearl-oyster might sleep undisturbed on his stony bed. When they do make their appearance upon the placeres in pairs, - and they usually hunt in such companionship, — the whole community of divers becomes excited, and, whatever their previous rivalries, unite to attack the tintorero. All know that, so long as these monsters remain in the proximity of the placer, the fishery must be suspended ; else any one of the divers, and at any moment, may become food for the phosphorescent fish. Against the tintorero the two-pointed stick is no protection. His jaws open wide enough to swallow both it and its holder. It is safe only to attack him from the boats, by harpoons, spears, javelins, or such other weapons as may be used at a distance. Some of the more daring of the divers will meet the tintorero in his own element, using in the combat the long-bladed Spanish knife. But these encounters are of rare occurrence, and shunned except under the stimulus of public applause.
“ I had become curious to make the acquaintance of this famed tyrant of the placeres, though with no desire to be introduced to him under water. The glances I had obtained were too slight and casual to satisfy me of anything more than his existence, and I had come to regard the general dread of him as a sort of fanciful fear, - such as is felt for many innocent animals that have obtained an evil reputation. An opportunity at length arrived in which I not only had my curiosity gratified, but my scepticism so completely removed, that from that hour I never doubted the dangerous character of the tintorero.
“ From a man residing in La Paz - its alcalde in fact — our skipper had discovered - or fancied he had discovered - a secret. At about a league's distance from where the fishery was going forward there existed a rich placer of las margaritas (the pearls). It was a sunken shoal of rock, or rather one grand rock, ten fathoms below the surface of the sea. It had formerly been famous among the divers, but of late years lost sight of, — the alcalde knew not why. He believed that it was through dread of the tintoreros and marrayos, that were said to surround the shoal in countless numbers, as if guarding its precious treasures against the invasion of human hands.
“The honest alcalde acknowledged himself unacquainted with the exact situation of this priceless placer. He could only say that, from what he had heard, it was about a league due northward from the island of Espiritu Santo; and surely a skilled hydrographer like the Capitan Americano could soon discover it by his soundings ?
“It was not the flattering speech that induced us to make the trial. There was some probability that the alcalde's statements were true. One of the buzos had already told our skipper a similar tale. In consequence of this evidence, the schooner's anchors were taken up. We steered towards the spot where it was supposed the placer existed, and there commenced taking soundings. We were not doomed to disappointment. Sure enough a sunken shoal was discovered, corresponding to that described by the alcalde, and confirmed by the statement of the diver. The lead proclaimed it ten fathoms under water, and covering about an acre of the sea's bottom. A rock, or a shoal, it mattered not which ; in either case a likely spot for the pearl-oyster to repose upon. The schooner ceased to take soundings. Her anchor was dropped, her boats lowered, and we proceeded to inspect — more minutely than had been done by the lead — the position of the placer.
“The divers were ordered down, myself among the rest, - not all in one place, but from different boats, at different points around the sunken rock. Armed in the usual manner I went below, - I confess with some slight feeling of fear, — to cause which both the alcalde and buzo had contributed by their tales of tintoreros and marrayos. To neutralize it, I had the stimulus of cu. pidity; for, although I have not said it, I, as also my whaler comrades, were diving upon shares. Who could tell how many "widows' were below, -rich widows, who in the pearl markets of Mexico or Guadalaxara would command a fabulous price? Excited by the prospect of achieving great riches, I plunged in head foremost, cleaving my downward way through the jelly-like liquid, like an arrow projected from its bow.
“I was soon at the bottom, and commenced reconnoitring around me. I saw it was no shoal, but a sunken rock, spreading over a vast superficies, and rising some three or four fathoms above the bottom of the sea. I had made my descent close to its edge, and could see the black mass towering above me. I was soon gratified by the sight of shell-fish. Having made these observations, I determined on returning to the surface; but not without taking along with me a specimen of the pearl-oyster. Grasping that which was nearest, I wrenched it from the rock, and was ready to make the ascent.
" Chancing to look up, I saw something that caused me to change my intention. Right over me was the form of a fish, but such a one as I had never seen before. It was shark-shaped, but I saw it was not the common shark. Its body appeared silvered, or coated, with a slimy phosphorescence. Its eyes were shining like balls of burnished brass. Though I had never seen it at close view before, I could have no doubt as to what it was, — a tintorero. It was midway between me and the surface, resting horizontally along the water; but I could tell by the vibratory movement of its pectoral fins, that it was ready to change position at the shortest notice. I saw that it was soaring above me, like a falcon over the form of a hare.
“My first thought was to fling the shell-fish away, and feel for my butaca. My next, that the stick would not be of the slightest service. Those frightful jaws, opening and closing, as if the monster in imagination already tasted me between them, could not be gagged by a butaca. My third thought was to drop the useless implement, and use all my alertness in attempting to escape by sheer speed. I was admonished to this course by the consciousness that I could not remain much longer under water. Already had I begun to pant for breath, and yearn for a free inhalation of air.
“There was no time to be expended on thoughts of strategy. Where I stood clinging to the rock, there was the certainty of being suffocated. If I ascended vertically, there was an equal certainty of being swallowed by the shark! By instinct I chose the diagonal line, and commenced ascending towards the surface. I had not got two fathoms above the bottom, when I saw it was of no use. The water became darker around me. The tintorero had changed place. I was still under the shadow of the shark, that hovered directly above me!
"I checked my ascent, and returned to the base of the rock. Along this I crawled, until I had accomplished a score of paces; and then once more attempted the ascent. Once more was my retreat intercepted by the tintorero! As before, he was above me. I lost patience, – temper. I felt as if I could grapple with the slippery monster, and fight it out in sheer desperation. At that moment I should have given all the pearls I had procured for the possession of a knife. I was altogether unarmed, - without weapon of any kind. Even the butaca I had abandoned.
* What was to be done? There appeared only two alternatives. To stay where I was and be drowned, or ascend toward the surface and be devoured! I was actually contemplating which would be the easier mode of departing this life,' when a thought flashed across my brain that promised a chance of escape from both horns of the dilemma. While crawling along the edge of the rock, I had noticed that, instead of a pebbly bed, my feet moved amidst mud. There was a sediment of some kind quite different from stone or sand. I afterwards discovered it to be the guano wash from a neighboring islet, the resort of thousands, ay, millions of birds. I knew nothing of this at the time. I only knew that, as my footsteps disturbed the sediment, it rose towards the surface, so clouding the water that for a time I was spared the spectacle of the hideous tintorero. The circumstance was suggestive. If I could not see the shark, surely the shark could not see me? More mud, and I might get to the surface unobserved ?
"Adopting the idea thus accidentally suggested, I commenced upheaving the guano. No sugar-refiner ever stirred his pan with so much alacrity as did I the sediment around that sunken rock. I worked with hands and feet, until I could no longer go on without getting a mouthful of air. I had just enough strength left for a last effort to make a diagonal line for the surface, - just strength enough to reach it.
“ In ten seconds more I should have succumbed — if not to the tintorero - to drowning. In ten seconds more I was aboard the boat from which I had taken the plunge, with the Yankee skipper bending affectionately over me, pouring kind words into my ear, and some drops of cordial down my unconscious throat!"
THE portrait which is sent with this number of “Our Young Folks” is
1 that of one of its best friends and most prized contributors, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. The picture shows her as she sits at home in her library, close by the conservatory, where bloom the flowers and sparkle the waters of which she has so often spoken delightfully to the readers of this Magazine, and where time and again have come the visitors that she has described with such lifelike touches.
Mrs. Stowe has always been in sympathy with Nature, and with Nature's most beautiful handiwork, – little children. Born (as she writes in a note to the editors) in Litchfield, Connecticut, “a beautiful mountain town, with the loveliest lakes and hills, and the biggest snow-drifts and coldest winters on this side of Labrador,” she “lived a hardy, mountaineer life, - in the woods, climbing rocks, wading rivers, in holiday times, and made to over-sew sheets and patch her brothers' knees and elbows, rub tables, scour knives, and clean silver for duty.” Her education was begun in Litchfield Academy, where she learned most from hearing Mr. Brace, an energetic, earnest teacher, talk to his classes about botany, philosophy, rhetoric, and other branches of science and learning which had small place in the education of forty years ago. By this same good instructor she was “trained to write as soon as she could hold a pen, and constantly stimulated by his influence to find things which she was interested to say," and to say them worthily.
When thirteen years of age, she was sent to Miss Catharine Beecher's school in Hartford. At sixteen she became a teacher herself, and taught in Hartford Female Seminary until she was twenty, when her father, the Rev. Dr. Lyman Beecher, removed to Cincinnati. There she resumed her occupation, and taught for four years more; when she married, in January, 1836, the Rev. C. E. Stowe, then Professor of Biblical Literature in Lane Theological Seminary, near Cincinnati.
Since that time her life has been passed mainly in New England, many years having been spent in Andover, Massachusetts, and her present residence being a charming cottage in Hartford, Connecticut. Although the head of a household and the mother of a family, she has yet always found time to follow the pursuits of literature, which she loved so well from girlhood. From her pen have come such homelike sketches of New England as she collected under the title of “The Mayflower," domestic stories like “ The Pearl of Orr's Island,” strong tales of bygone years, like “ The Minister's Wooing,” pictures of foreign lands and people, and that wonderful miniature of slavery, “Uncle Tom's Cabin," whereupon she painted every feature of the deceitful and barbarous spirit that blighted the fame and prosperity of our dear America, and held them up to the indignation of all Christian people, of every clime and tongue. It was no vain desire to “write a book” which led her to write “Uncle Tom's Cabin," but the sense of outrage and oppression which smote upon her woman's tender heart and her high sentiment of justice, and urged her on to write those words whose simple truth compelled the world to listen, and made wicked men denounce her because they could find no honest answer to her story.
But the stormy times are past; the fury which swelled into rebellion and murder has been quelled and punished; slavery is no more, and the soldiers have come home to tread with their marching step in the paths of peace. There is no need to-day of an “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” and so Mrs. Stowe busies her pen with gentler topics, — with reflections and suggestions for grown people about their ways of living and their duties to each other, while for her warm friends, the children all over the country, she tells in these pages (and delights to tell) the stories which readers and editors alike hope she may long be spared to write in the cosey comfort of her happy home.