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Title: Glimpses of Nature, and Objects of Interest Described, During a Visit to the Isle of Wight - Designed to Assist and Encourage Young Persons in Forming - Habits of Observation
Author: Loudon, Jane W.
Language: English
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[Illustration: SOUTHAMPTON BAR IN THE OLDEN TIME.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          GLIMPSES OF NATURE,

                                  AND

                     OBJECTS OF INTEREST DESCRIBED,

                                 DURING

                     A VISIT TO THE ISLE OF WIGHT.


       DESIGNED TO ASSIST AND ENCOURAGE YOUNG PERSONS IN FORMING
                         HABITS OF OBSERVATION.


                            BY MRS. LOUDON,
                               AUTHOR OF
             “THE LADIES’ COMPANION TO THE FLOWER GARDEN,”
                 “FACTS FROM THE WORLD OF NATURE,” ETC.


                             Second Edition
              WITH ADDITIONS AND FORTY-TWO ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                LONDON:
                          GRANT AND GRIFFITH,
                             SUCCESSORS TO
             JOHN HARRIS, CORNER OF ST. PAUL’S CHURCH-YARD.

                                -------

                             M.DCCC.XLVIII.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                PREFACE.


On the 21st of August, 1843, Mr. Loudon, my little daughter Agnes, and
myself, set out, from Bayswater, to make the tour through the Isle of
Wight which is recorded in the following pages.

That tour has since acquired a melancholy importance in my eyes, from
being the last I ever took with my poor husband, whose danger I was
quite unconscious of when I wrote the book, though his death took place
in less than a month from the day of its publication. This circumstance
made the book painful to me, and I never looked at it again till now I
have been reading it over for revision; and it is impossible to
describe the vivid interest with which I recall every incident that
took place, and every word that was uttered.

In preparing this second edition, I have added a chapter on shells and
sea-weed, but in other respects I have made no alteration, save a few
verbal corrections; as the principal object I had in view, in writing
down all we saw and heard during this excursion, was to show how much
may be observed and learnt while travelling, even through a well-known
country and under ordinary circumstances. I think it of the utmost
importance to cultivate habits of observation in childhood; as a great
deal of the happiness of life depends upon having our attention excited
by what passes around us. I remember, when I was a child, reading a
tale called “Eyes and No Eyes,” which made a deep impression on my
mind; and which has been the means of procuring me many sources of
enjoyment during my passage through life. That little tale related to
two boys, both of whom had been allowed half a day’s holiday. The first
boy went out to take a walk, and he saw a variety of objects that
interested him; and from which he afterwards derived considerable
instruction, when he talked about them with his tutor. The second, a
little later, took the same walk; but, when his tutor questioned him as
to how he liked it, he said he had thought it very dull, for he had
seen nothing; though the same objects were still there that had
delighted his companion. I was so much struck with the contrast between
the two boys, that I determined to imitate the first; and I have found
so much advantage from this determination, that I can earnestly
recommend my young readers to follow my example. The use of travelling
is, that it affords us more opportunities of observation than we could
have at home; but, if we do not avail ourselves of these opportunities,
we may travel over the whole globe without reaping any advantage. I
trust the young people who may read these pages will so far profit by
them as to notice all they see, and, particularly, to look for objects
of natural history in their walks, whether at home or by the sea-side;
and, in return, I promise them that they will find a thousand sources
of amusement that before they had no idea of.

                                                              J. W. L.

  BAYSWATER,

       _March 9, 1848._



                               CONTENTS.


                                                                    PAGE


 CHAPTER I.—Terminus of the Southampton Railroad at
 Vauxhall.—Truth and Falsehood.—Reaping.—Flint in Straw.—The river
 Mole.—The Wey.—Canals and Locks.—Poppies and Opium.—Limestone and
 Chalk.—Gleaners.—Ruins at Basingstoke.—Southampton Bar.—Sir Bevis
 and the Giant Ascabart.                                               8


 CHAPTER II.—Passengers down the River.—Sea-nettles.—Netley Abbey
 and Fort.—View of the Isle of Wight.—Adventure of the
 Portmanteau.—Landing at West Cowes.—Crossing the Medina.—Salt
 Works at East Cowes.                                                 28


 CHAPTER III.—Morning Walk through West Cowes.—Ride to
 Newport.—Carisbrook Castle.—Children of Charles I.—Donkey
 Well.—Chapel of St. Nicholas.—Boy Bishop.—Archery
 Meeting.—History of the Isle of Wight.—Bows and Arrows.              53


 CHAPTER IV.—Departure from Carisbrook.—Road to
 Freshwater.—Yarmouth.—House where Charles II. was entertained by
 Admiral Sir Robert Holme.—Freshwater.—Rocks.—Roaring of the
 Sea.—Birds.—The Razor-bill and Guillemot.—Sea-weed.                  75


 CHAPTER V.—Young Londoner and Neptune.—Disobedience of the Young
 Fisherman.—Fossils.—Fine Water.—Alum Bay.—The Needles.—Old
 Couple.—Dull Road.—Fertility of the Isle of Wight.                   97


 CHAPTER VI.—Management in Household
 Affairs.—Undercliffe.—Alexandrian Pillar.—Light-house of St.
 Catherine.—Little Church of St. Lawrence.—Churchyard.—St.
 Lawrence’s Well.—Ventnor.—Wishing Well, and Godshill.—Beautiful
 Butterflies.—Pulpit Stone.—St. Boniface.—Arrival at Shanklin.       135


 CHAPTER VII.—Consequences of Carelessness.—Beach at Shanklin
 .—Lobster-pots.—Planorbis.—Marsh Snail.—Sea
 Rocket.—Starfish.—Crabs and Lobsters.—Sea-weed:—Mode of drying
 it.—Mussels.—Shanklin Chine.—The split Shoe.—Shops at Shanklin.     155


 CHAPTER VIII.—Shanklin continued.—Siphonia or Sea-
 Tulip.—Zoophytes.—Sponges.—Corals.—Shells: Anomia; Scallop-shell;
 Cockle-shell; Whelk; Solen, or Razor-shell; Mactra or Kneading
 Trough; Mya.                                                        177


 CHAPTER IX.—Sandown Bay.—Culver Cliff.—Sandown Fort.—High
 Flood.—Girl and Dog.—Poultry.—Hares.—Butterflies.—Ichneumon
 Fly.—Myrtles.—Brading.—Bembridge.—St. Helen’s.—Arrival at Ryde.     198


 CHAPTER X.—Ryde.—Handsome Shops.—Binstead.—Wootton
 Bridge.—Newport.—East Cowes.—Horse Ferry.—Steam Boat.—Arms of the
 German Empire.—Return home.                                         213



                             ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                                    PAGE
 SOUTHAMPTON BAR IN THE OLDEN TIME                                    25
 CARISBROOK CASTLE                                                    59
 ARCHED ROCK AT FRESHWATER                                            84
 GUILLEMOT                                                            92
 BLACK GANG CHINE                                                    133

                                -------

 FIG.                                                               PAGE

   1. MEDUSA, OR SEA-NETTLE                                           30

   2. SEA-JELLIES                                                     32

   3. THE PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR                                       37

   4. TORTOISE                                                        55

   5. CARISBROOK GATE                                                 59

   6. KING CHARLES’S WINDOW                                           60

   7. GROUND-IVY                                                      83

   8. THE SPOTTED MEDICK                                              83

   9. WINGED FUCUS; BLADDER FUCUS; TANGLE                             88

  10. BURROWING MOLLUSCS                                             113

  11. SECTION OF ALUM BAY                                            115

  12. GRAMPUS                                                        116

  13. THE BEE ORCHIS                                                 120

  14. PLANT OF CROSSWORT                                             124

  15. THE KITTIWAKE GULL                                             146

  16. THE AZURE BLUE BUTTERFLY                                       152

  17. THE HORNY SNAIL                                                159

  18. THE MARSH SNAIL                                                160

  19. THE STAR-FISH, OR FIVE-FINGERS                                 162

  20. IRISH MOSS, OR CARRAGEEN                                       167

  21. DUCK’S FOOT CONFERVA                                           168

  22. FRESHWATER MUSSELS                                             171

  23. MASS OF FOSSILS CONTAINING THE SIPHONIA, OR SEA-TULIP          179

  24. SPONGES                                                        183

  25. CORALS                                                         185

  26. SADDLE-SHAPED ANOMIA                                           186

  27. SCALLOP SHELL                                                  188

  28. WHELK (BUCCINUM)                                               190

  29. TRUNCATED GAPER; SOLEN, OR RAZOR-SHELL; COMMON COCKLE; THE     192
      KNEADING-TROUGH

  30. THE MARBLED-WHITE BUTTERFLY, OR MARMORESS                      203

  31. THE CLOUDED-YELLOW BUTTERFLY                                   205

  32. ICHNEUMON FLY ON A FLORET OF THE FLOWERING RUSH                206

  33. RYDE-PIER                                                      214

  34. RIBBED MUSSEL                                                  215

  35. TIGER BEETLES                                                  219

  36. HELIX VIRGATA; BULIMUS ARTICULATUS                             222

  37. ARMS OF GERMANY                                                228

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          GLIMPSES OF NATURE;

                                  OR,

                     A VISIT TO THE ISLE OF WIGHT.



                                -------



                             INTRODUCTION.


Agnes Merton was one day sitting in rather a melancholy mood on the
swing in her garden, without swinging, and apparently lost in thought.
It was a very odd place for meditation, but little girls do choose
strange places sometimes; and Agnes at this moment felt very sad and
uncomfortable on various accounts. Her papa had been in a bad state of
health for some time, and Mrs. Merton’s attention had been so entirely
occupied by him, that Agnes had been comparatively neglected by her
mother. Her papa also could not be troubled with her, although he was
very fond of her when he was well; sick people cannot bear the fatigue
of children. Agnes had no sisters, and only a daily governess, who
stayed with her but a short time, so that during the greater part of
the day the poor child was left entirely to her own resources, and
children so young as Agnes cannot always be reading. Agnes was at this
time particularly unfortunate, as even her favourite cat, Sandy, had
gone away about three weeks before, and nobody knew what had become of
him. In this state of things every amusement seemed to have lost its
zest, and after swinging a short time with the air of a person who was
performing a task, rather than one who was enjoying a pleasure, Agnes
sat, as we have before said, on her swing, apparently quite lost in
thought, and, indeed, so absorbed that she started when her mother laid
her hand upon her shoulder, and asked her if she would like to go to
the Isle of Wight?

It is impossible to describe what a change these few words produced in
the feelings of the little girl, and she replied with her countenance
beaming with delight, “Oh yes, mamma, very much indeed!”

“Your papa,” resumed Mrs. Merton, “has been ordered to try change of
air for the benefit of his health, and he has determined to go to the
Isle of Wight for a week. At first he intended leaving you at home, but
at my earnest desire he has consented to take you with us, upon
condition of your giving no trouble.”

“Oh, mamma,” interrupted Agnes, “I will not give any trouble at all.”

“Perhaps you are hardly aware of what you are promising,” said Mrs.
Merton, smiling; “your papa has determined on taking no servant with
him, so that you must dress and undress yourself, and take care of your
own clothes.”

“But, mamma,” said Agnes, “shall we not have poor little Susan?”

“No,” replied Mrs. Merton; “there will only be your papa, besides you
and me: and as my time will be principally occupied in attending on
him, you must contrive to take care of yourself.”

Agnes laughed; “I think I am quite old enough to do that,” said she.

“We shall see,” replied her mother. “You must also dine and take all
your meals with us; as it will probably not be convenient for us to
stay to take any refreshment at the time you have been used to dine.”

This, so far from being a hardship, Agnes thought the most delightful
part of the whole, as she had long considered dining at six o’clock as
one of the great desiderata of life; but Mrs. Merton continued: “You
must also never complain of being hungry or thirsty; but act as much as
possible as if you were really a woman, since we are going to treat you
like one.”

“I am afraid, mamma,” said Agnes, “that will be very hard.”

“If you do not think you can undertake to do all I wish, you must stay
at home; and I have no doubt your aunt Jane will be so kind as to take
care of you while we are away. But I think you are quite capable of all
that will be required of you. You are now ten years old, and you knew
how to pack up a trunk when you were only seven. You shall have a
pretty little black portmanteau entirely to yourself, and you shall
have a list of everything that is put into it, so that you may know
when all your things are right.”

Agnes was delighted with the idea of taking care of her own trunk;
particularly as her mamma consented, at her earnest request, to leave
the choice of what clothes she would take entirely to herself. Agnes
was very fond of managing, and of giving directions to her maid, Susan,
who was called immediately; for as this was Saturday, and they were to
set out on Monday, there was no time to be lost. Susan was almost as
much delighted as her little mistress with the task; and both felt of
extraordinary importance when they found themselves alone with the open
portmanteau before them, and close to the wardrobe from which it was to
be filled. Both Susan and her young mistress were, however, soon very
much puzzled to know what to decide on. Agnes at first had looked out
nearly all the clothes she had, but it was soon found that the pretty
little black portmanteau would not hold half the things that had been
laid out. A fresh selection was therefore necessary, and several of the
pretty frocks were put back into the drawer.

“Oh, I must have that, Susan,” said Agnes, stretching out her hands
after her favourite blue, which was being taken away.

“Very well, miss,” said Susan. “Then suppose you take that, and leave
this,” laying down the blue and taking up an equally favourite pale
pink.

“Oh no,” cried Agnes; “I must have that, it is so prettily made.”

“Suppose you take all your coloured frocks,” said Susan, “and leave
your white ones?”

“But, mamma says she always likes me best in white,” said Agnes.

“Well, then, we will take the whites,” said Susan, “and leave the
coloured ones.”

Agnes sighed deeply. “Oh dear,” cried she, after a short pause; “I wish
mamma were here to decide for me. I thought it would be so delightful
to have everything my own way, but now the time is come I do not like
it at all. I see it saves a great deal of trouble to have some one to
direct, and to tell one what to do. I am sure I wish mamma would come
and tell me, for I am quite tired of being my own mistress;” and as she
spoke Mrs. Merton entered the room; for she had been in an adjoining
apartment, and, overhearing the wishes of her little daughter, had come
to her assistance. Under Mrs. Merton’s directions the box was soon
packed, and Agnes was astonished to see how rapidly her difficulties
had vanished.

“I cannot think how it is, mamma,” said she, “that you have been able
to arrange in a moment what gave me so much trouble and vexation. You
have done everything just as I wished, and as I would have done it
myself, if I could have made up my mind; and yet my governess often
tells me that I am self-willed, and like to have my own way; now, it
appears to me that I actually did not know what my own way was, till
you came and showed me.”

“The reason you had so much difficulty in deciding,” said Mrs. Merton,
“was that your judgment required to be guided by experience, a quality
in which young people are necessarily deficient. When you are as old as
I am, and have travelled as much, you will be able to decide as rapidly
as I did in this matter; as you will know by experience what things are
likely to be most useful.”



                               CHAPTER I.

Terminus of the Southampton Railroad at Vauxhall.—Truth and
  Falsehood.—Reaping flint in straw.—The river Mole.—The
  Wey.—Canals and Locks.—Poppies and Opium.—Limestone and
  Chalk.—Gleaners.—Ruins at Basingstoke.—Southampton.—The Bar.—Sir
  Bevis and the Giant Ascabart.


On Monday morning Agnes did not fail to awake in time, and after an
early breakfast the party proceeded to the railroad. It was a very long
ride from Bayswater to the station at Nine Elms, and Agnes thought it
longer than it really was. At length, however, they arrived, and Agnes
watched with considerable anxiety her black leather portmanteau taken
off the carriage with the rest of the luggage. She was once going to
tell the porter to take particular care of it, but observing that her
mother did not speak she also remained silent, and followed Mrs. Merton
into a large room, in which a man stood behind a kind of counter,
receiving money and giving tickets. When it was Mrs. Merton’s turn, the
man fixed his eyes on Agnes, and said abruptly, “How old are you?”

“I was ten last October,” replied Agnes, very much surprised at this
question. Mrs. Merton then laid three sovereigns on the counter, which
the man took up, giving her three tickets in return, with which she
walked away in silence, and joining Mr. Merton they both walked to the
railway carriages followed by Agnes, who could not at all understand
the meaning of what had taken place. She did not like to ask any
questions, as she had promised not to be troublesome, but she could not
help thinking of the man’s strange behaviour; and when her mamma, who
saw her puzzled look, asked what she was thinking about, she ventured
to inquire what the man meant by speaking to her only, and why he took
any interest in knowing her age. “I suppose,” said she, “he must have
some little girls of his own, and that he wanted to know if I were the
same age; but I wonder whether he thought me short or tall.” Mrs.
Merton smiled, and replied that she really believed the man had never
thought about it.

“Why did he ask my age, then?” inquired Agnes, rather vexed at her
mamma’s indifference.

“To know how much you were to pay for your place,” replied Mrs. Merton.
“If you had been under ten, I should have paid only half price for you.”

“But why did he not ask you such a question as that?”

“He was probably afraid that I should not tell him the truth.”

“But surely, mamma,” cried Agnes, her face flushing, and her eyes
sparkling with indignation, “the man could never think you would demean
yourself so much as to tell a falsehood for the sake of ten shillings.”

“If he had known me,” replied Mrs. Merton quietly, “I hope he would not
have suspected me of telling a falsehood for the sake of any sum.”

An old gentleman who was their fellow-traveller, was very much amused
at Agnes’s indignation, and began to tease her by telling her that her
mamma was in the habit of telling stories every day; and when Agnes
indignantly denied his assertion, he asked her if she thought her mamma
had never written “your humble servant” at the end of a letter, without
meaning that she was ready to act as a servant to the person she
addressed; and whether she did not often say she was glad or sorry to
hear some particular piece of news, when she did not, in fact, care
much about it. Agnes began to look puzzled, and Mrs. Merton, not liking
this mocking style of conversation, as she knew the necessity of
keeping a strict line in a child’s mind between truth and falsehood,
tried to turn her daughter’s attention to the objects they were
passing. It is very strange that sensible and well-informed men should
often take as much pleasure in confusing the thoughts of a poor
innocent child, as vicious boys do in tormenting a harmless dog. This
gentleman, whose name they afterwards found was Mr. Bevan, was a
well-intentioned, good-hearted man, who would have been shocked at the
thought of hurting Agnes by treading on her foot, or pushing her down;
and yet, while he would have shrunk from wilfully inflicting on her a
trifling bodily hurt which could only have caused a temporary
suffering, he had no hesitation in doing a serious injury to her mind.
It is true he only wished to amuse himself by watching the play of her
countenance, without thinking of the consequences; and that if she had
been his child he would have been the first to correct her for telling
a falsehood: but his mocking strain roused the first doubt that had
ever crossed the mind of Agnes as to whether it was possible to tell a
falsehood without meaning any harm. Hitherto she had been truth itself,
and still nothing would have induced her to tell a falsehood wilfully:
but she was puzzled, as she was not old enough to distinguish between
positive assertions, and mere conventional phrases, to which nobody
attaches any precise meaning; and that perfect confidence in the
holiness and power of truth, which is so beautiful a feature in the
youthful mind, was shaken. Mrs. Merton wished to prevent her daughter’s
mind from dwelling on the subject, and pointing to a corn-field, she
asked Agnes, if she knew what corn it was. Before, however, the child
could answer, a young man who sat opposite told her with a patronizing
air, that it was wheat.

“You may know it,” continued he; “by its close heads. Barley and rye
have long bristles, and oats have loose heads.”

Agnes now began to be interested in the wheat-fields they were passing;
and her mamma made her observe the curious curved knife called a
sickle, which is used in reaping corn; and the manner in which the corn
was tied up in sheaves after it was cut, and the sheaves afterwards
placed together in shocks, with their heads leaning towards each other,
and a sheaf reversed over the top to keep the grain dry.

“But why do women reap?” asked Agnes; “you told me mowing was too
difficult for them, and surely it is nobler to cut corn than grass.”

“Reaping requires less strength than mowing, as the sickle is neither
so heavy nor so cumbrous as the scythe.”

“What part of the wheat produces the flour?”

“Can you not guess?”

Agnes hesitated, and then said, timidly and blushing, “I am not quite
sure, but I think it is the seed.”

“Right,” cried Mr. Merton, who, being an excellent botanist himself,
was always glad to turn his daughter’s attention to the peculiarities
of plants. “Now tell me if you know any thing particular about the
straw.”

“I believe it is hollow and jointed.”

“It is; and, what is more, it is not composed entirely of vegetable
matter, but partly of stone; for every wheat straw contains enough
flint to make a glass bead.”

“Oh, papa,” cried Agnes, “now you must be joking.”

“Indeed I am not. If a wheat straw be held in the flame of a candle, it
will first turn to white ashes; and, if these ashes be still exposed to
the flame, they will gradually melt into an imperfect sort of glass.
When hay-ricks are burnt, there is always left a mass of dark, flinty
matter, which closely resembles the dross sometimes thrown out of a
glass-house.”

“How very curious!” cried Agnes.

“Did you ever see wheat in flower, my dear,” asked Mr. Bevan.

“Never, sir,” replied Agnes; and then, turning to her father, she said:
“I suppose the gentleman wishes to make game of me; for wheat has no
flowers,—has it papa?”

“Certainly, it has flowers, for it has perfect seeds; and all plants
that have perfect seeds must have flowers. The flowers of the wheat
are, however, inconspicuous, as they have no petals.”

While this conversation was passing, the train had kept whirling on,
and Mrs. Merton had remarked two or three things that she thought
worthy of the notice of her little daughter: she now called her
attention to the windings of the river Mole, which has received its
strange name from the manner in which it creeps along, and occasionally
appears to bury itself under ground, as its waters are absorbed by the
spongy and porous soil through which it flows. Agnes was very anxious
to hear more of this curious river.

“It is remarkable,” said Mrs. Merton, “that it is not navigable in any
part of its long course of forty-two miles; and that occasionally when
the weather has been dry a long time, it disappears altogether. At the
foot of Box-Hill, near Dorking, with regard to this phenomenon, it is
supposed that there are cavities, or hollow places, under ground, which
communicate with the bed of the river, and which are filled with water
in ordinary seasons, but, in times of drought, become empty, and absorb
the water from the river to refill them. When this is the case, the bed
of the river becomes dry, and Burford bridge often presents the odd
appearance of a bridge over land dry enough to be walked on. The river,
however, always rises again about Letherhead, and suffers no further
interruption in its course.”

While Mrs. Merton was speaking, the train had continued whirling on,
and they had long passed the sluggish Mole, and had caught a glance of
the more useful Wey; a river of about the same length as the Mole, but
which has the advantage of being navigable for a great part of its
course; and Agnes had watched the inhabitants of the little cottages
which bordered the line of the railway trimming their gardens, and
spreading their seeds out to dry in the sun. She had been amused, in
one place, observing the careful manner in which a stack of faggots had
been thatched, to keep it from the rain; and, in another, by observing
the delight of a number of pigs, which had been turned into a stubble
field, from which the corn had just been carried; and which ran about,
grunting and capering, in a manner which none but pigs could ever
accomplish. The train now passed another stream; and Agnes asked what
river it was. “It is not a river,” said Mrs. Merton, “but the
Basingstoke canal.”

“How do you know it is a canal, mamma?” asked Agnes.

“Its banks are straight and regular,” said Mrs. Merton, “which shows
that they have been formed artificially; and the water is as deep close
to the bank as it is in the centre: whereas, in rivers, the banks are
generally irregular, and the water is shallower near them. Besides,
there can be no doubt about this being a canal, for there, you see, is
a lock.”

“Now, mamma,” said Agnes, “you have told me a great many things that I
do not understand. I thought a canal had been only to supply the place
of a river; and, if that is the case, I do not see why its banks should
be different; and I do not know what you mean by a lock.”

“It is true,” said Mrs. Merton, “that a canal is intended to supply the
place of a river, in as far as it is useful for carrying boats; but
most rivers are only deep enough in the centre for this purpose, and a
great deal of ground is lost on both sides: but, when a canal is dug,
it is an object to save as much ground as possible; and, therefore, the
trench that is dug is equally deep in all its parts, and perfectly
level at the bottom. Now, when a country is hilly, the only way in
which the canal can be kept level at the bottom is, by having it in two
or more parts, of different levels, each one distinct from the other;
as, otherwise, all the water from the high part would run into the low
part: and these little canals are joined together by means of what are
called locks. Each lock is a kind of oblong well, with a pair of
strong, water-tight gates at each end; the lock being just the same
depth as the difference between the higher and lower parts of the
canal. When a boat comes along the higher part of the canal, the gates
at that end of the lock are opened, and a sufficient quantity of water
flows in, to allow the boat to float in at the same level. As soon as
the boat is completely within the lock, the upper gates are closed, and
the gates which communicate with the lower level of the canal are
opened, when the water flows out, and the boat sinks gradually down to
the lower level.”

“See, mamma,” cried Agnes, “there is a boat coming close to a lock; but
it is in the lower part of the canal: what will they do now?”

“They will open the lower gates of the lock till the water has
descended to the level of that part of the canal which contains the
boat, which will then float in; and, I suppose, you can guess what will
then take place.”

“Oh yes,” said Agnes, “the lower gates will be closed as soon as the
boat is completely within the lock, and the upper ones opened.”

“You are quite right,” said her mother: “and, in this way the boat will
be raised to the higher level of the canal.”

“I do declare, they are opening the gate now,” cried Agnes, leaning out
of the window of the railway carriage as far as she possibly could.
“How I do wish the train would stop a moment, and let me see the boat
float in.”

But it was of no use: the train whirled on; and poor Agnes, instead of
watching the machinery of the lock, was obliged to sit down, and listen
to a lecture from her mamma, on the impropriety of hanging out at the
windows of any carriage, and of those belonging to rail-roads more
particularly. Some time passed almost in silence, till at last Mr.
Bevan asked Agnes if she did not admire the pretty flowers in the
corn-fields they were passing.

“Those poppies are very pretty, certainly,” said Agnes; “and I should
admire them very much in a garden; but I do not like them in a corn
field, because papa says they are a proof of bad farming.”

The old gentleman laughed at this, and asked Agnes if she knew the use
of poppies, and that opium was made from them.

“Not from that kind, I believe, sir,” said Agnes. “It is the white
poppy, is it not, mamma, that produces the opium?”

“Yes,” returned Mrs. Merton; “and it requires a hotter and drier
climate than that of England to produce it in perfection. The best
opium,” continued Mrs. Merton, “is obtained from Turkey; and, in that
country, there are whole fields covered with poppies; and there are
people whose principal business it is to watch when the petals of the
flowers are falling, and then to wound the unripe capsule of each
flower with a double-bladed lancet, so that the milky juice may exude.
This milky juice becomes candied by the heat of the sun; and, being
scraped off the following morning, forms what is called opium.”

They now passed through a deep cutting of a grey, partially-shining
rock, which Mrs. Merton told Agnes was limestone. A little further the
rocks became chalky, with narrow rows of flints embedded in them; which
looked as though the high bank had been originally a chalk wall, with a
row of broken bottles along the top, on which other chalk walls of a
similar description had been built. Farther on, the banks of the
cutting were formed of more crumbly materials, and appeared to consist
entirely of loose sand and powdered chalk.

“What a variety of soils we are going through!” said Agnes.

“Not so great as you imagine,” returned her mother. “Chalk is but
another form of limestone, and flint but another form of sand; and
these two earths are almost always found together.”

They had now reached the Basingstoke station; and, while some of the
passengers were getting down, Agnes amused herself in counting the
number of gleaners in a field from which the corn had just been carried.

“There are eighty-two,” said she, after a short pause.

“Eighty-two what?” asked her mother.

“Gleaners,” said Agnes, directing her mother’s attention to the field,
which, indeed, was nearly filled with people. The attention of the
other passengers was now turned towards the field; and they all agreed
that the corn must have been carried in a very careless manner to have
left so many ears behind.

“It is a good thing for the poor people in the neighbourhood,” said Mr.
Bevan.

“But,” said Mr. Merton, “it is hard for the farmer, who has been at the
expense of ploughing and manuring, harrowing and sowing, and who is now
deprived of his just profits by the negligence of his servants.”

The train soon moved on a little, and Agnes’s attention being attracted
by the ruins of a church which stood on a little eminence near the
road, she eagerly asked what it was.

“Those,” said the old gentleman, “are the ruins of a chapel, dedicated
to the Holy Ghost, which is said to have been erected in the reign of
Edward IV., and to which a school was formerly attached; but the school
was shut up during the Civil Wars, and the building reduced to the
state in which you now see it.”

“It is a fine ruin,” said Mrs. Merton.

“Yes,” returned the old gentleman; “and there is some fine carving
about it, (if you were near enough to see it,) which was added in the
reign of Henry VIII.”

“Was it not at Basingstoke,” asked Mr. Merton, “that Basing-House
stood, so celebrated for its defence against Cromwell?”

“That was at Old Basing,” replied Mr. Bevan, “which was formerly a
town, and a larger place than this: the word stoke signifying a hamlet.
But things are reversed now; for Old Basing has become a hamlet, and
Basingstoke a town.”

Agnes was very much interested in this conversation; as she had seen
Mr. Charles Landseer’s beautiful painting of the taking of Basing
house; and she now found how much a little knowledge of the subject
adds to the interest you feel in a picture.

“Is the population of Basingstoke large?” asked Mr. Merton.

“There are about four thousand inhabitants, I think,” said the old
gentleman, “rather less than more.” He then added, “I believe we are
now only about thirty miles from Southampton.”

“Only thirty!” The distance is nothing on a rail-road,—an affair of
about an hour or so; but how different it would be to a feeble mother,
carrying a heavy child! How different to an exhausted wanderer,
struggling to reach his longed-for home! Then, indeed, a distance of
thirty miles would seem an undertaking almost heart-breaking, and
scarcely to be accomplished; but time and space are always relative,
and, in measuring them, we are apt to judge by our feelings, rather
than by the reality.

After leaving Basingstoke, the train proceeded with great rapidity.
Andover was the next station; and here numerous carriages were waiting
to convey passengers to Salisbury, Exeter, and all the intermediate
towns. Winchester next appeared in sight; and soon that ancient city,
with its fine cathedral and antique cross, lay below them. Then they
reached, and passed, the river Itchen, which winds backwards and
forwards, like a broad riband floating in the wind. They were now
within a few miles of Southampton; and, as they rapidly advanced, they
began to feel the fresh breeze from the water. They still hurried on,
and soon the masts of the shipping appeared in sight. The train now
stopped, that the passengers might give up their tickets. This was soon
done; and the train whirled on again to Southampton. They descended at
the terminus; and having their luggage conveyed to the pier, they had
it placed on board one of the steam-packets, which, they were told,
would sail in about an hour. Having finished this business, Mr. Merton
sat down on one of the seats on the pier, while Mrs. Merton and Agnes
walked back to take a glance at the town.

The town of Southampton consists principally of one long, broad street,
which ascends from the sea up a hill. This street is divided nearly in
the middle by a curious old gate, called the bar; and which was, in
fact, one of the gates of the ancient town. Towards this monument of
antiquity, Mrs. Merton and Agnes bent their steps; and Mrs. Merton
explained to her daughter, that bar was the Saxon name of gate.

“Oh, yes,” cried Agnes, “you know we say Temple Bar; and I remember
that the gates in York are called bars: but mamma, what are those
curious figures in front?”

“They are said to be the figures of a knight, renowned in romance,
called Sir Bevis, of Hampton, and of Ascabart, a giant whom he slew.”

               “This giant was mighty, and he was strong,
                And feet full thirty was he long;
                His lips were great, and hung aside;
                His eyes were hollow, his mouth was wide:
                Loathly he was to look upon,
                And liker a demon than a man:
                His staff was a young and torn-up oak;
                And hard and heavy was his stroke.”

“The giant Ascabart is alluded to in the first canto of Scott’s _Lady
of the Lake_; and many legends are told of his conqueror Sir Bevis, who
appears to have resided near Southampton, at a place still called Sir
Bevis’s Mount.”

“I suppose these figures below are Sir Bevis’s arms,” said Agnes; “if
there ever was such a person.”

“I do not wonder that you have not full faith in Sir Bevis,” said Mrs.
Merton, smiling; “but for my own part, I believe that all the heroes of
romance we hear about in different places are real personages, though
their deeds have been so exaggerated as to make us doubt their
existence.”

“But the arms, mamma,” repeated Agnes,—“whose do you think they are?”

“Most of them are probably those of the persons who have repaired the
gate, at different times; and I think those of Queen Elizabeth are in
the centre. The queer-looking animals that sit below, however, most
probably belonged to Sir Bevis, as they appear of the same date as his
figure.”

They now took a rapid glance at the very handsome shops which lined the
High-street on both sides, and returned to the pier, where they found
the steam-packet just ready to start.



                              CHAPTER II.

Passengers down the River.—Sea-nettles.—Netley Abbey and Fort.—View
  of the Isle of Wight.—Adventure of the Portmanteau.—Landing at West
  Cowes.—Crossing the Medina.—Salt Works at East Cowes.


The pier at Southampton has only been erected a few years, and it is
called Victoria-pier, because it was opened by her present Majesty,
shortly before her accession to the throne. Mrs. Merton and her
daughter walked rapidly along it; for the bell had already rung, and
the steam-packet was on the point of starting when they arrived. For a
few minutes after they came on deck, they were too much hurried to
observe anything particular, but Agnes had the pleasure of seeing that
her dear little portmanteau was quite safe among the rest of the
luggage. The day was fine, and the water sparkled in the sun-beams, as
the steam-boat pursued its way rapidly down the river.

The first thing that attracted Agnes’s attention, was the appearance of
some workmen who were taking up a few of the upright pieces of wood
which supported the pier. These piles were bored through in several
places; and Mrs. Merton asked her if she could tell the cause.

“The cause is the Pholas, or Stone-piercer,” said Agnes. “I remember,
mamma, you told me all about that curious shell-fish long ago; and that
the piles are now obliged to be covered with nails driven into them, to
prevent them from being bored through: but I never saw any of the piles
before.” She had not much time to look at them now; as, though the wind
was against them, the steam-packet flew on as rapidly as the
railway-train had done: and, as Mrs. Merton gave her arm to her
husband, who was walking up and down the deck, Agnes knelt on the seat
near the side of the vessel, to watch the little billows as they rose
up rapidly, and broke against it. But her attention was soon engaged by
some curious little animals which were seen in the water, and which
appeared like fairy umbrellas, opening and shutting occasionally as
they floated along. Some of these curious creatures were rather large,
with a kind of fringe round the lower part; and others had what
appeared to be a fleshy cross on their summit, which was of a bright
purple. They were so numerous that Agnes thought she should like to
catch one or two, and she leant over for that purpose; but her little
arms were not long enough to reach the water. A young man who saw her
trouble was about to assist her, when the old gentleman who had been
their fellow traveller by the rail-road stopped him. “You had better
not touch them,” said he; “they will sting you.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 1._

  MEDUSA, OR SEA-NETTLE.
]

“Sting!” cried Agnes, “can such beautiful creatures sting?”

“Yes,” replied Mr. Bevan, “if you were to take them into your hand, you
would find an unpleasant tingling, which would be followed by heat and
pain, like the smarting produced by the sting of a nettle.”

“The vulgar people here, call them Chopped Ham,” said a young man, with
a book in his hand; “and they say that the sting is the mustard that is
usually eaten with Ham. In the Legends of the Isle of Wight,” continued
he, glancing at his book, “this strange name is supposed to allude to a
chieftain of the name of Ham, who was killed and chopped in pieces near
Netley Abbey, and who has given his name, not only to Southampton, but
to Hampshire.”

“I should like to get some of these curious creatures in spite of their
stinging,” cried Agnes; “they are so beautiful. They look like fairy
parasols, continually opening and shutting, but made of the finest
gauze, and trimmed with long fringe; and see, there are some tinted
with all the colours of the rainbow.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Merton, “the poet says,

                        ——‘There’s not a gem
          Wrought by man’s art to be compared to them;
          Soft, brilliant, tender, through the wave they glow,
          And make the moonbeam brighter where they flow.’”

“How very pretty, mamma,” cried Agnes.

“These lines are very pretty,” said Mr. Merton, “and, moreover, they
have a merit not very common in poetry, for they exactly describe the
sea-nettles, as they are called, with which you are so much delighted.”

“Sea-nettles!” cried Agnes, “it seems a pity that they have not a
prettier name.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 2._

  SEA-JELLIES (_Acalepha_).
]

“They are also called Medusæ, or jelly-fish,” said Mrs. Merton.

“Are they alive, mamma?” said Agnes.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Merton, “and they belong to the humblest class of
animated nature, called Zoophytes, which form the connecting link
between animals and plants. These creatures have no head, but only a
mouth, which opens directly into the stomach, and the fringe that you
observe consists of numerous slender arms with which they seize their
prey and which are armed with small hooks, so fine as scarcely to be
seen without a microscope. It is these hooks catching the flesh which
occasion the pain that is felt when they are touched.”

“If you were to take one up in your hand,” said Mr. Bevan addressing
Agnes, “you could not keep it long, for these creatures decay, and, in
fact, melt into water as soon as they are dead. They are only seen on
fine warm days like the present; for when the weather is cold, they
sink to the bottom. They are very beautiful at night, when they become
luminous, and appear like a host of small stars, rising to the surface,
and again disappearing, as though dancing on the sea. There are a great
many different kinds, and those of the tropical regions are very large
and brilliant.”

They now came in sight of Netley Abbey, and there was a great rush to
see it. Agnes, however, was very much disappointed, as its appearance
from the water was very different from what she had expected.

“I thought it would be something beautiful like Melrose Abbey,” said
she, “and it is only like a common church.”

“What you see,” said Mrs. Merton, “is the Fort, and you cannot judge of
the beautiful effect of the ruins of the Abbey unless you were on
shore.”

“That fort, or castle,” said Mr. Bevan, “was erected by Henry VIII.,
after the spoliation of the abbey, which was built about 1238, and the
name of Netley is a corruption of its old name of Lettely, which
signified a pleasant place.”

“Are there many legends connected with the Abbey?” asked Agnes.

“Several,” returned the old gentleman. “Among other things it is said,
that a carpenter of Southampton, named Taylor, had once bought the
ruins, with a view of taking them down, and selling the materials; but
a spirit appeared to him in a dream for three nights in succession, and
warned him not to do so. He disregarded the warning, however, and had
just taken a person to the Abbey to make a bargain with him for the
frame-work of one of the old windows, when a part of the ruin fell upon
his head and killed him on the spot.”

“That is a very useful legend,” observed Mr. Merton, “as it has
probably served to protect the ruins.”

“No doubt it has,” returned Mr. Bevan, “as it is firmly believed. There
are several other stories of money being buried, and of the guardian
spirit of the abbey appearing to protect its treasures whenever they
are in any danger of being found.”

“These stories,” said Mr. Merton, “are common to most old monasteries;
and they have probably arisen from the popular belief that much greater
wealth was possessed by the abbots at the time of the dissolution of
the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII. than was found by the
commissioners, and that consequently some of it must have been hidden.”

“The most remarkable story about Netley,” said the old gentleman, “I
will relate to you if you like to hear it.”

The people all crowded round him eagerly, and he began as follows: “In
the ancient times, when Netley was inhabited by a community of monks,
there were certain underground passages, the opening to which was only
known to the abbot, the prior, and two of the oldest monks. When one of
these chanced to die, the entrance to these secret passages was
confided to another; but it was never known to more than four at a
time, and they took a solemn oath never to reveal it. What was
contained in these mysterious passages was never known. Even the rough
soldiers of Henry VIII., when they demolished the monastery, respected
its secret; till, at length, in modern times, a gentleman of the town
of Southampton was determined to explore the subterranean vaults of
Netley, and having with great pain and difficulty cleared an opening,
he entered with a lantern in his hand, and a lighted candle fixed at
the end of a long stick. He and his light soon disappeared, and those
who had followed him to the opening remained a long time watching for
his return. At length they began to grow uneasy, and they were just
debating whether they should follow him, when suddenly footsteps were
heard rattling along the subterraneous passages, and the gentleman
rushed out, crying, ‘Block up the opening, block up the opening!’ He
gazed wildly for a moment and then fell down, and instantly expired,
probably from the effects of the dangerous gas which is generally found
in places that have been long closed up.”

Mrs. Merton, who did not like the deep interest with which her little
daughter had listened to this tale, now again directed her attention to
the Medusæ.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 3._

  THE PORTUGUESE MAN-OF-WAR.
]

“_We_ call them Portuguese men-of-war,” said one of the sailors as he
passed by.

“That is curious enough,” said the old gentleman, “for there is a kind
of Zoophyte which is common in the West Indies, the proper English name
of which is the Portuguese man-of-war; but it is very different from
these. When seen floating on the water, it looks like a little weaver’s
shuttle; but it is in fact a bladder inflated with air, having a ridge
down the back like a cock’s comb, beautifully tinted with rose colour,
the bladder itself being of a purplish hue at both ends. Below hang a
number of thread-like appendages, some of which are straight, and some
twisted, and all of which are of a beautiful dark blue or purplish hue.
The animal possesses the power of contracting and dilating its bladder,
and raising up the narrowest part, so as to make it serve for the
purposes of a sail. There is also a little hole in the narrow part of
the bladder, only large enough to admit a very fine bristle; through
this the animal appears to squeeze out the air when it wishes to
descend.”

“I have often seen the Portuguese men-of-war,” said a naval officer who
stood near them. “I dare say there are fifty sorts of these creatures
in the West Indies, and there are a great many also of the Medusæ,
which are a thousand times more beautiful than those we have been
looking at here.”

“There are many different kinds of sea-jellies, or bubbles,” said Mr.
Merton, “in the British seas, and it is said that many kinds were found
formerly, which now appear to be extinct. It is even supposed that the
curious marks in the old red sandstone of Forfarshire, which are called
Kelpies’ feet, are occasioned by sea-jellies having been left by the
sea on the sandstone, and lain there till decayed.”

“The Kelpies were supposed to be water-spirits,—were they not?” said
the young man.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Bevan: “I remember, when travelling in the
Highlands, hearing many strange stories about them.”

While they were conversing in this manner, the steam-boat made rapid
progress, and they now approached Calshot Castle, a fort situated on a
small head-land jutting into the sea.

“That fort,” said the old gentleman, “was built in the time of Henry
VIII., to protect the entrance to Southampton water; and it is still
used as a garrison, though the force it contains is but small. We are
now in the Solent Sea, which divides the mainland from the Isle of
Wight; and there,” he continued, “is the Island itself.”

They all turned to look; and Agnes was very much astonished to find it
so near.

“How do you like the Isle of Wight?” asked her mamma.

“It looks a pretty mountainous country,” said Agnes; “and more like
Scotland than any thing I have before seen in England.”

“You will find it very different,” said the old gentleman, turning to
Agnes, “when you see it nearer.”

“Every thing is on a much smaller scale,” said Mrs. Merton; “but there
is certainly some resemblance.”

At this moment the steam-boat stopped, and the passengers were desired
to walk on shore at West Cowes. Agnes was deeply interested in watching
the porters, who seized the luggage, and were carrying it off without
asking where it was to go to; while several sailors surrounded the
steam-boat, crying out, “Want a boat, want a boat, sir,—East Cowes,
sir.” As Mr. Merton was very much fatigued with his journey, Mrs.
Merton’s attention was entirely devoted to him; and, telling the porter
to take their luggage to the Fountain Hotel, she gave her arm to her
husband, to assist him to leave the vessel. Agnes was preparing to
follow them, when, to her great dismay, she saw a man seize her own
dear black leather portmanteau, and toss it into a boat going to East
Cowes. She positively screamed; and, running to the edge of the vessel,
she cried out, “Oh! do not take that! That is mine.”

“Yours,” cried a good-natured-looking sailor, who was standing in the
boat taking in the luggage; “and are you not going with this party,
then?”

“No,” said Agnes, trembling and panting for breath, “I am going to West
Cowes,—to the Fountain. My papa and mamma are gone there.”

“Here,” cried the sailor; “I dare say the child is right;” calling to a
young sailor who stood on the deck of the steam-packet; “Take this
portmanteau, and go with that little girl to the Fountain.” At this
moment the mate of the steam-packet came down to see what was the
matter; and, having heard Agnes’s story, he asked what name was on the
portmanteau; and, finding all was right, he told the boy to take it to
the Fountain: Agnes following him, in a state of great agitation, but
very much pleased at having saved her property. They had scarcely
stepped on shore, when they met Mrs. Merton, who, having seen her
husband comfortably placed on a sofa, had become uneasy at Agnes’s not
following them, and had returned to the pier in search of her. When
Mrs. Merton saw her little girl pale and trembling, she was very much
alarmed; but, when she heard the story, she praised Agnes for the
courage she had displayed, instead of scolding her, as she had been
about to do, for her delay. Agnes was, however, too much agitated to
feel her usual pleasure at her mother’s praises. It was the first time
she had ever acted for herself in her life; and, though she had done
right, she felt the bad effect of the over excitement. Mrs. Merton now
offered sixpence to the boy who had carried Agnes’s portmanteau on
shore, but he refused it. “Oh! no,” said he; “the young lady is quite
welcome;” and, declaring that his father would be very angry with him
if he took anything, he hurried into the Fountain: and putting down his
burthen in the hall, he ran off, without allowing Mrs. Merton to say
another word. As the pier at West Cowes is, indeed, the yard of the
Fountain Inn, Mrs. Merton and Agnes had not far to go; but, as Mr.
Merton had wished to take some repose after his fatigue, Mrs. Merton
satisfied herself with ordering dinner at the bar, and walked out into
the little narrow streets of Cowes with her daughter.

The first object that Mrs. Merton had in view, was to order a carriage,
to take them round the Island on the morrow; and, for this purpose, she
went into a fruit-shop nearly opposite the front door of the inn, where
she saw a ticket offering carriages for hire. Mrs. Moore, for that was
the name of the greengrocer, was a very nice person; and Mrs. Merton
soon made an arrangement with her, that a little open carriage should
be ready for them at nine the following morning. Mrs. Merton then asked
Agnes, where she would like to walk; and Agnes having expressed a
strong desire to visit East Cowes, as being the place to which her
portmanteau had been so nearly conveyed, Mrs. Merton asked Mrs. Moore,
which was the best mode of going.

“Oh! there are two ways, ma’am,” said Mrs. Moore. “You can either go by
the ferry, at a penny a piece, or you can go in a boat from the pier,
and pay a shilling.”

“Oh, let us go in the ferry-boat,” cried Agnes; “I never was in a
ferry-boat in my life.”

Mrs. Merton having ascertained that the ferry-boat was perfectly safe,
and that respectable people frequently went by it, determined to
indulge her daughter, and they set off in the direction that was
pointed out to them. The walk was not a very agreeable one; it was up a
narrow street, and a rather steep hill. This appeared very
extraordinary both to Agnes and her mamma, as people generally descend
to water. At last, however, after a very disagreeable walk, and
inquiring their way several times, they began to descend the hill, and
soon reached the ferry, where the boat being just ready to go, they
took their seats. Agnes and her mamma were both very much amused at the
old man who rowed them across.

“I thought ferry-boats had generally a rope to keep them steady,” said
Mrs. Merton.

“So they have for the horse-ferries,” said the old man; “but as for
this, I can row it as well without a rope as with one. But it is not
everybody that can do that, that is true enough.”

As the old man spoke, he gave a vigorous pull, and as he did so, his
grey hair blew back from his ruddy and sun-burnt face; while his whole
figure presented a striking picture of the good effect which a life of
moderate, but regular, labour in the open air has upon the human frame.

The ferry-boat was soon across the river; and when Mrs. Merton and her
daughter had landed at East Cowes, and were walking on the terrace in
front of the Medina Hotel, Agnes could not help observing to her
mother, that she thought the old man very conceited; “and it is such a
ridiculous thing for a man to be proud of, too,” added she; “rowing a
common ferry-boat.”

“My dear Agnes,” said her mother in a serious tone, “I have several
times observed in you a tendency to look with contempt upon persons and
things that you consider beneath you. It is true that you have many
advantages which this ferryman has not. Fortunately for you, your
parents are rich enough to allow you teachers to instruct you, servants
to wait upon you, and a variety of comforts and indulgences which this
ferryman can neither enjoy himself, nor give to his children. But these
are merely accidental advantages. Circumstances might arise which would
reduce you in a moment to a greater degree of poverty than this man,
as, in fact, if we were obliged to live by the labour of our hands, he
would be far superior to us from his activity and vigour. He is, though
an old man, evidently in the enjoyment of robust health and great
strength; and I am quite sure if your papa and I were obliged to row a
ferry-boat for our support, we could neither of us do it half so well
as he does.”

“Oh! but mamma,” said Agnes, “there is no danger of our being reduced
to poverty, is there?”

“Not that I am aware of,” said Mrs. Merton; “but it is impossible to
say what may happen. As your papa is not in trade he is not liable to
those sudden and violent changes which frequently affect the commercial
part of the community; but still many things may happen that would
occasion a severe reverse. You know in the time of the French
Revolution, many persons of a much higher rank than ours were reduced
to the greatest distress, and even Louis Philippe, the present King of
the French, was obliged to teach in a school for his support.”

They had now reached a part of the beach where the pebbles were very
rough, and as Agnes was much interested in what Mrs. Merton was saying,
she did not pay proper attention to where she was going, and at this
moment she stumbled over a piece of wood. This obliged her to look more
carefully at her feet, and as the road was now become very rough, Mrs.
Merton thought it better not to proceed any farther along the beach,
but to return to the terrace, where the road was smooth. They did so,
and had not walked far, when they saw a skate that had just been
caught, lying on the beach, panting, and opening and shutting its
mouth, which was in the middle of its body on the under side. Agnes
shuddered as she looked at it. “I wish they would throw it back into
the water, mamma,” said she.

“We can hardly expect that,” returned her mother; “but I wish the
fishermen in this country would stab their fish as soon as they have
caught them, as I have heard fishermen do in the east. The skate is a
kind of ray, and belongs to the same genus as the Torpedo. The
thornback, or maid, belongs also to this genus. Do you remember the
little things, that looked like little leather purses, that we used to
find among the sea-weed at Brighton?”

“Oh yes! the fishermen called them skate barrows; but you told me they
were the eggs of the skate.”

They now walked on in silence for a short time, till Agnes’s attention
was caught by a building which some men were busily employed in pulling
down.

“What is that, mamma?” cried she: “and why are those people taking off
the roof?”

Mrs. Merton pointed to a portion of the walls that remained standing,
and on which the words “salt-works” might still be read.

“Salt-works!” repeated Agnes; “what is salt made of, mamma?”

“Salt,” said Mrs. Merton, “can hardly be said to be made, as it is a
mineral which is formed naturally in the earth, and which we procure in
three different ways. Sometimes it is dug out of the salt-mines, as at
Northwich in Cheshire, and in the Austrian dominions; but this kind of
salt is coarse and dark-coloured. Another way of procuring it is from
salt-springs; that is, from water which has become saturated with salt
in its passage through the earth, as at Nantwich and other places in
Cheshire, and at Droitwich in Worcestershire; and this salt is what we
have in common use. The last kind of salt is what is made from the
sea-water, and most of the works that have been erected for this
purpose in England are in Hampshire, particularly in the Isle of Wight.”

“And how do they get the salt out of the salt-water?” asked Agnes.

“By boiling it,” said her mother, “in large shallow pans, such as that
which you see before you.”

While they were examining the pans, Agnes asked her mother a great many
questions respecting the salt-works, and Mrs. Merton told her, that the
salt obtained from sea-water is of so much coarser kind than that
obtained from the salt-springs, that it is principally used for curing
meat, and for manuring the land.

“Ah!” said Agnes, “that reminds me of a question that I have often
wished to ask you, mamma. When I was at Shenstone, my cousin George
told me that salt would be excellent manure for my plants, and I put
some on my annuals, which were just coming up, and, would you believe
it, mamma, it killed them every one.”

“That,” said Mrs. Merton, “was because the manure was too strong for
them, and you no doubt put a great deal too much. Salt, to do good to
plants, should be given to them in very small quantities, as, though
all plants require some mineral substances to be mixed with their food
to keep them in health, it is in such small quantities that in some
plants it is only in the proportion of one to four thousand; and where
mineral substances are required in the greatest quantity for the
nourishment of a plant, it is only in the proportion of about ten to
one thousand.”

“I do not think I quite understand that, mamma,” said Agnes.

“Well,” returned Mrs. Merton, “at any rate you will remember, that
though a very small quantity of salt may be useful to plants, a large
quantity will kill them, and that, consequently, it is much safer for
inexperienced gardeners not to give them any.”

“I remember once being told that all the places that produce salt end
in _wich_; but the name of this place is Cowes.”

“I have heard that the word _wich_ is derived from the Saxon, and that
it signifies a salt-spring,” said Mrs. Merton, “but of course that does
not apply to salt procured from the sea.”

Mrs. Merton and her daughter had now reached the beach, and ordering a
boat from one of the boatmen lounging about, they stepped into it to
return to West Cowes.

“But, mamma,” said Agnes, who was still thinking of the salt-works, “is
this the water they use for making salt? This is the Medina, and not
the sea, and the Medina is a river, is it not?”

“This part of the Medina,” said Mrs. Merton, “is what is called an
estuary; that is, an arm of the sea mixed with the waters of a river;
the water of this estuary is salt, and affected by the tides as far as
Newport.”

“What makes the waters of the sea salt?” asked Agnes.

“That is a very difficult question to answer,” said her mother, “but it
is supposed that rivers carry salt from the earth they run through,
into the sea; and as the water in the sea is continually being
evaporated by the heat of the sun, the quantity of salt, in proportion
to the quantity of water, soon becomes much greater in the sea than in
the river, and hence the water becomes much salter.”

“Why, mamma,” cried Agnes, “that is just what is done in the salt-pans.”

“You are right,” returned her mother. “The salt manufacturers observing
the process of nature, have imitated it as well as they could, by
applying artificial heat to evaporate the water. What is called
bay-salt, is formed by the sea-water left in the clefts of the rocks by
the tide evaporating naturally, and leaving a saline crust behind; and
this salt takes its name from the sea-water being frequently thus left
in bays. But see, here is the Fountain Inn, where I have no doubt your
papa is waiting dinner for us.”



                              CHAPTER III.

Morning Walk through West Cowes.—Ride to Newport.—Carisbrook
  Castle.—Children of Charles I.—Donkey Well.—Chapel of St.
  Nicholas.—Boy Bishop.—Archery Meeting.—History of the Isle of
  Wight.—Bows and Arrows.


The next morning Agnes and her mamma both rose early; and as Mr. Merton
felt inclined to take some repose, they went out by themselves to take
a walk before breakfast. They were advised to visit the Parade and the
Castle; and, accordingly, they bent their way down the main street of
the town, and soon found themselves on the beach. They strolled gently
along a terrace, supported by a sea-wall, till they arrived at a part
which was semicircular, and which was backed by a small battery,
pierced for eleven guns. This wall forms the boundary of the garden of
a moderate-sized house, which, they were told, was called the Castle.
This building had been formerly a fort, built by Henry VIII., at the
same time as Calshot Castle, for the purpose of defending the coast
against the attacks of pirates, which were then frequent in this sea;
but it has been so completely modernised, that it now retains nothing
of a castle but the name. They saw a great many bathing-machines, which
are very common here, as the gravelly beach permits the machines to be
used at all states of the tide. After satisfying themselves with this
walk, Mrs. Merton and her daughter turned up a beautiful lane, which
afforded them a most magnificent prospect; commanding the Solent Sea,
Calshot Castle, and the tall Tower of Eaglehurst, seated on the
neighbouring cliffs. In a small garden that they passed, they saw a
tortoise crawling slowly along; and Agnes, who disliked slow movements
exceedingly, expressed her pity at its miserable fate.

“Nothing is destined by the all-merciful Creator to a miserable fate,
Agnes,” said her mother; “and I am confident that every creature has a
particular kind of happiness allotted to it, though our ignorance may
prevent us from seeing in what it consists. The tortoise is also
curiously and wonderfully made: as it has neither force to resist its
enemies, nor swiftness to fly from them, it has been provided with a
shield of amazing strength, under which it can draw its head, and thus
remain in perfect safety from the attacks of birds of prey; yet it can,
when necessary, put forth its head again, so as to see and enjoy all
around it.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 4._

  TORTOISE.
]

Agnes was very much interested in this, and would have willingly staid
some time to watch it; but this Mrs. Merton could not permit, as they
had no time to spare: and, on their return to the inn, they found
breakfast ready, and Mr. Merton waiting for them. He was, indeed, very
impatient to set off; as it was now after eight o’clock, and the
carriage was to be at the door at nine. “We shall soon be ready,” said
Mrs. Merton; “for everything is packed up, and we shall not be long
taking our breakfast.”

“That is, if you can get anything to eat,” said Mr. Merton; “for I
never saw waiters so slow as these are.”

Not discouraged by these remarks, Mrs. Merton sat down to table; and
she and Agnes, whose appetites were sharpened by their morning walk,
soon contrived to make an excellent breakfast; though Mr. Merton, who
was rendered more fastidious by ill health, could scarcely get anything
that he could like. At nine exactly the little carriage was at the
door; and Agnes, after running up stairs into the bed-room, to make
quite sure that nothing had been left behind, placed herself beside the
driver, rejoicing that she had taken the precaution of packing up her
portmanteau before she went out. Mr. and Mrs. Merton sat behind; and
thus the whole party were enabled to have a distinct view of the
country they passed through.

The ride from West Cowes to Newport does not, however, contain anything
very striking; and, as the distance is only five miles, they were not
long in reaching the town of Newport, which is remarkable for its
neatness, though it has little else to recommend it. Our party called
at the Post-office; and Mrs. Merton and Agnes visited the church and
church-yard, while Mr. Merton was reading his letters.

The Church at Newport was built in the year 1172, in the reign of Henry
II., and was dedicated to St. Thomas à Becket. There is nothing
remarkable in the Church, excepting the stone which marks the
burial-place of Elizabeth, daughter of Charles I., who died at the age
of fifteen, while a prisoner in Carisbrook Castle; and the handsome
monument erected to the memory of Sir Edward Horsey, who was governor
of the island in the time of Queen Elizabeth. In the church-yard there
was pointed out to them a grave containing six persons of the name of
Shore, who all died on the same day; and this having attracted the
attention of Agnes, Mrs. Merton asked an explanation, when the guide
told them, that this unfortunate family were coming from the West
Indies, on board the ship Clarendon; and, as they intended remaining
some time in the Isle of Wight, a house had been taken for them at
Newport, looking into the church-yard. The Clarendon was wrecked off
Blackgang Chine, on the 11th of October, 1836; and this unfortunate
family were among the passengers. It is said all was prepared for them
in the house; and even a dinner had been cooked by order of a near
relative of theirs, who was anxiously awaiting their arrival when their
dead bodies were brought to Newport.

As soon as Mrs. Merton and Agnes re-entered the carriage, they
proceeded to the pretty little village of Carisbrook, catching several
views of the Castle on their route. Mr. Merton, who did not feel equal
to the fatigue of visiting the Castle, remained at a little
public-house, opposite the church, called the Bugle Inn, while Mrs.
Merton and Agnes walked to the Castle. The wind had been high all the
morning, but it had now increased so much, that, when Mrs. Merton and
Agnes ascended the Castle hill, it almost blew them back again. At the
gate were some old women, sitting at a fruit-stall; and, though neither
Agnes nor her mamma had any inclination to buy fruit, one old woman
followed them up the hill, and was so importunate that they could
hardly send her away. “Do ask the lady to buy this beautiful fruit for
you, Miss,” said the old woman, holding up a miserable green peach,
that looked as if it had fallen from the tree before it had attained
half its proper size.

“I don’t want such a miserable-looking thing as that,” said Agnes,
wrapping her cloak around her, though it was with great difficulty that
she did so, on account of the wind.

[Illustration: CARISBROOK CASTLE]

“It’s a peach, and not an apple, Miss,” said the woman. Agnes was quite
provoked to have it supposed that she, a botanist’s daughter, did not
know a peach from an apple; and, turning round angrily, told the woman
to get away, and not to dare to be so troublesome. Unfortunately,
however, while Agnes was scolding the old woman for teasing her, a
sudden gust of wind, operating upon the broad surface of the cloak,
actually blew her a short way down the hill before she could recover
herself. The old woman laughed; and Agnes, who was quite indignant,
declared that Carisbrook Castle was the most disagreeable place she had
ever seen in her life.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 5._

  CARISBROOK GATE.
]

“It is rather soon to say that,” said Mrs. Merton; “when you have only
yet seen its ancient gate, and a troublesome old woman on the outside
of it.”

The man whose office it was to show the castle now opened the gate, and
called their attention to its antiquity. “These towers,” said he, “are
of the age of Edward IV., and look, ladies, at this ancient wooden
door, it is of equal antiquity.” They looked at the wooden door, which
was indeed very old and very much dilapidated; but Mrs. Merton could
not help suspecting that its workmanship was of more modern date than
that which the man assigned to it, particularly as the arms of
Elizabeth were emblazoned over the gateway. She pointed these out to
the man, who replied, “The Castle was repaired and fortified in the
reign of Elizabeth, when the whole country trembled with dread at the
apprehension of the invasion of the Spanish Armada. Look at those ruins
on the left. There is the window at which the unfortunate Charles I.
attempted to escape, but his most Sacred Majesty being, as the
historians describe him, of portly presence, the window was too small
to admit of his passing through it.” They now ascended the dilapidated
steps of the keep, but Agnes was too cross and too much annoyed by the
wind, to admire the beautiful prospect that presented itself. They,
therefore, descended again, as well as the wind would permit them, the
seventy-two stone steps by which they had mounted, and repaired to the
well-house, to visit the celebrated donkey. When they first entered
Agnes was a little disappointed to see the donkey without any bridle or
other harness on, standing close to the wall, behind a great wooden
wheel.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 6._

  KING CHARLES’S WINDOW.
]

“Oh, mamma,” cried she, “I suppose the donkey will not work to-day, as
he has no harness on?”

“I beg your pardon, miss,” said the man; “this poor little fellow does
not require to be chained like your London donkeys, he does his work
voluntarily. Come, sir,” continued he, addressing the donkey; “show the
ladies what you can do.” The donkey shook his head in a very sagacious
manner, as much as to say, “you may depend upon me,” and sprang
directly into the interior of the wheel, which was broad and hollow,
and furnished in the inside with steps, formed of projecting pieces of
wood nailed on, the hollow part of the wheel being broad enough to
admit of the donkey between its two sets of spokes. The donkey then
began walking up the steps of the wheel, in the same manner as the
prisoners do on the wheel of the treadmill; and Agnes noticed that he
kept looking at them frequently, and then at the well, as he went
along. The man had no whip, and said nothing to the donkey while he
pursued his course; but as it took some time to wind up the water, the
man informed Mrs. Merton and her daughter while they were waiting, that
the well was above three hundred feet deep, and that the water could
only be drawn up by the exertion of the donkeys that had been kept
there; he added, that three of these patient labourers had been known
to have laboured at Carisbrook, the first for fifty years, the second
for forty, and the last for thirty. The present donkey, he said, was
only a novice in the business, as he had not been employed much above
thirteen years; and he pointed to some writing inside the door, in
which the date was marked down. While they were speaking the donkey
still continued his labour, and looked so anxiously towards the well,
that at last Agnes asked what he was looking at. “He is looking for the
bucket,” said the man; and in fact, as soon as the bucket made its
appearance, the donkey stopped, and very deliberately walked out of the
wheel to the place where he had been standing when they entered.

“Pretty creature,” said Agnes; “how sagacious he is!”

“He is very cunning,” said the man; “and he knows when the bucket has
come to the top as well as I do.”

The man now threw some water into the well, and Agnes, who had heard
that the water made a great noise in falling, after listening
attentively for a second or two was just going to express her
disappointment at not hearing it, when she was quite startled by a loud
report, which seemed to come up from the very bottom of the well.

“Oh! surely,” cried she, “that never can be the same water that you
threw down such a long time ago?”

“It is, indeed, miss,” said the man; “the water is five seconds in
falling.”

“Five seconds!” cried Agnes; “why, that is only the twelfth part of a
minute; surely it must have been much longer than that!”

“Time,” said Mrs. Merton, “often appears to us much longer or shorter
than it really is, according to the circumstances in which we are
placed. Thus, as we are accustomed to hear a splash of water thrown
into other water, the very moment we see it fall, the time that elapsed
between your seeing this water fall and hearing it splash, appeared to
you much longer than it really was.” The man then let down a lighted
lamp; and Agnes, who watched its descent, was astonished to see how it
dwindled away, till at last it appeared like a little star, and she saw
its reflection on the water.

They had now seen all that was interesting in the “Well House;” and
having left it, they were about to cross to the chapel on the opposite
side of the court, when they met the old gentleman who had been their
fellow-traveller in the railway carriage and in the steam-boat. He
seemed very glad to see them again, and was much amused with Agnes’s
account of all the wonders that she had seen in the “Well House.”

“And no doubt,” said he, “you have also seen the window through which
Charles attempted to escape; but are you aware that two of his children
were confined here after their father was beheaded?”

They replied that they had seen the tomb of the Princess Elizabeth at
Newport.

“Ay,” said the old gentleman; “she was said to be poisoned, but I
believe the poor thing died of grief. She was called Miss Elizabeth
Stuart, and her brother Master Harry; and it is said that the poor
things almost broke their hearts when they found nobody knelt to them,
or kissed their hands. It was said that the Parliament intended to
apprentice Elizabeth to a mantua-maker; but she died, and disappointed
them, and two years afterwards Cromwell sent the little Duke of
Gloucester to the Continent.”

“We were going to the chapel,” said Mrs. Merton; “will you walk in with
us?”

“This chapel,” said he, pointing to that to which they were bending
their steps, “is dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron Saint of
children, students, sailors, and parish clerks.”

“What an odd mixture!” said Mrs. Merton, smiling.

“St. Nicholas,” continued Mr. Bevan as they entered the chapel, “was a
child of extraordinary sanctity; so much so, indeed, that even when a
baby at the mother’s breast, it was said he refused to suck on the fast
days appointed by the Romish Church. As he grew older his devotion
became so apparent that he was called the boy bishop; and it was in his
honour that the curious festival bearing that name was instituted in
the Romish Church.”

“I have often heard of the festival of the boy bishop,” said Mrs.
Merton; “but I was not aware that it was instituted in honour of St.
Nicholas.”

“What was the ceremony of the boy bishop?” asked Agnes.

“It was one of those strange festivals in the Romish Church,” said Mrs.
Merton, “in which people were permitted, and even encouraged, to
ridicule all the things which, during the rest of the year, they were
taught to consider sacred, and to hold in the highest reverence.”

“The festival of the boy bishop,” observed Mr. Bevan, “is of remote
antiquity, and it is said to have been practised on the Continent
long before it was introduced into Britain; though we find that, in
the year 1299, Edward I., on his way to Scotland, heard mass
performed by one of the boy bishops, in the little chapel at Heton,
near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.”

“And even that is above five hundred years ago,” remarked Mrs. Merton.

“On St. Nicholas’s day,” resumed Mr. Bevan, “the 6th of December, a boy
was chosen, at each of our principal cathedrals, from amongst the
choristers, to represent a bishop; and to this boy all the respect and
homage was paid that would have been offered to a bishop, if he had
really been one. His authority lasted until St. Innocent’s day, the
28th of December; and during this time he walked about in all the state
of a bishop, attired in a bishop’s robes, with a crosier in his hand,
and a mitre on his head. If one of these boy bishops died within the
period of his office, he was buried with all the pomp and form of a
real bishop; and there is, in fact, a monument in Salisbury Cathedral,
representing a boy, about ten or twelve years old, attired in episcopal
orders.”

“What a very curious thing!” said Agnes.

“This, I suppose then,” said Mrs. Merton, “is the reason why St.
Nicholas is represented as the patron of children?”

“Yes,” said the old gentleman, “and he was considered the patron of
students, from the following story:—St. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra,
and an Asiatic gentleman, sending his two sons to be educated at
Athens, desired them to call upon St. Nicholas at Myra to receive his
benediction. They intended to do so, but unfortunately the landlord of
the Inn where they put up, perceiving that they had plenty of money,
murdered them in their sleep, and cutting their bodies into pieces,
salted them, and put them into a pickling tub, used for pickling pork.
St. Nicholas had a vision of this in a dream; and going the following
morning to the Innkeeper, he desired him to show him the tub where he
kept his pickled pork. The Innkeeper at first endeavoured to excuse
himself, but, at length, he was compelled to obey; when St. Nicholas,
uttering a prayer, the mangled pieces of the poor young men jumped out
of the tub, and re-uniting themselves, fell at the feet of the holy
bishop, thanking him for having restored them to life. It is on this
account that, in ancient pictures, Saint Nicholas is generally
represented with two naked children in a tub.”

“I think I have heard, when on the Continent,” said Mrs. Merton, “that
St. Nicholas was also the patron of young girls; and that in convents,
when the novices had behaved well, it was pretended that he had stuffed
their stockings with sugar plums during the night.”

“Yes,” returned the old gentleman, “and nearly the same fiction was
resorted to by parents; who, when they wished to make presents to their
children, used to tell them that, if they left their windows open at
night, and had been quite good, St. Nicholas would come through the
open window and leave them something pretty or nice.”

“How very strange!” cried Agnes; “I should have thought the parents
would like to give the presents themselves, and see how happy they made
their little children. Besides, was it not very wicked to tell
falsehoods?”

“I consider it so,” said Mrs. Merton; “as I think we should never do
what is bad even when we think it will produce good. We are all
naturally so prone to do evil, that it is necessary to keep the
boundary line between what is right and what is wrong as distinct as
possible. This principle was not, however, so clearly understood
formerly, as it is now; and thus children of the present day have great
advantages over those of the preceding generation.”

While Mrs. Merton was speaking, Agnes was looking at the chapel so
earnestly that her mother asked her what she thought of it.

“I was only thinking,” said Agnes, blushing, “how very odd it was that
a saint, who was supposed to be so fond of giving pretty things to
children should have such a very ugly chapel. There is not a single
ornament in it, from one end to the other.”

Mrs. Merton smiled, and said she supposed that this chapel had been
stripped of its ornaments at the time of the Reformation.

“The old chapel of Saint Nicholas was stripped in the time of
Elizabeth,” said Mr. Bevan. “When that Queen repaired, and new
fortified Carisbrook Castle, to enable it to resist the invasion of the
Spanish Armada, she stripped this chapel of its ornaments, to remove
all traces of the festival of the boy bishop, which she had previously
suppressed in every part of England. But that does not apply to the
present chapel, which was built on the site of the old one, in its
present unornamented state, in the time of George II.”

They now left the chapel, and proceeded to the outworks, where they
found a number of persons assembled in the open space, adjoining the
castle, to celebrate an archery meeting. The gay dresses of the ladies,
contrasting with the green around, and with the grey walls of the old
castle, had a most brilliant and animating effect. Mrs. Merton and
Agnes, accompanied by Mr. Bevan, walked to the open space in the
outworks of the castle, where the meeting was to be held.

“This space,” said Mr. Bevan, “was formerly the tilt-yard of the
castle, where the fêtes and tournaments were held; and here the
beautiful Isabella de Fortibus, the lady of the Island, in the time of
Edward I., used to sit, surrounded by her court, to bestow her prizes
on the victors.”

Agnes, who had never seen anything of archery before, was more
interested in the preparations for the archery meeting than in what Mr.
Bevan was saying of the ancient mistress of the Island; and her mother
perceiving how attentive she was to all she saw, pointed out to her the
target with its painted rings of black and white, and the red spot in
the centre.

“And what is this red spot for?” asked Agnes.

“That’s the bull’s eye,” said a man who was employed in setting up the
target, “and them’s the cleverest as hits it, or comes nearest it when
they shoots.”

Agnes could hardly help laughing at the man’s bad grammar: and she
looked at her mother, but, to her great surprise, instead of Mrs.
Merton seeming inclined to ridicule the man, she entered into
conversation with him, and asked him a great many questions about
shooting. The man, thus encouraged, showed them the piece of leather,
called the bracer, which is strapped on the left arm to prevent the
wrist from being hurt by the rebound of the bow-string when the arrow
is let off; and he told them that a young lady, who had attempted to
shoot without a bracer, had had her arm so much injured as to be
obliged to have it dressed by a surgeon. “But she wouldn’t listen to
nobody,” continued the man; “and she would have her own way, and that
was the end of it. She was sorry enough, I warrant her, when she saw
the blood running down, and felt the smart; but it was too late then.”

Mrs. Merton and Agnes looked at each other again, but this time it was
with a perfect community of feeling. The man then showed them a
shooting glove, to save the fingers from being hurt when the archer
pulls the string; and, reaching down the bow, he taught Agnes how it
should be held.

“I believe the best bows are made of yew,” said Mrs. Merton.

“Yes,” said the man; “though there’s nothing that is seldomer seen than
a yew bow among the gentry that comes down from London. All the bows
that they bring with them are some queer kind of fancy wood or other. I
don’t trouble my head with the names of them, for my part; but I know a
good yew bow will beat them all hollow at any time.”

He then showed them the shaft, or arrow, which was a slender piece of
wood, headed with iron and trimmed with feathers. The best arrows, he
told them, were made of ash, as that wood was light, and tough at the
same time. Agnes was very anxious to stay and see the archers begin to
shoot, but her mother was afraid that Mr. Merton would be quite tired
of waiting for them; and they therefore left the castle, without
visiting the terraces, which are usually shown to strangers, on account
both of their own beauty, and the fine views that they command.

As they walked back to the village Mrs. Merton observed to Agnes how
much they should have lost, if they had not entered into conversation
with the man who was setting up the target. “He spoke bad grammar,”
said she, “because he had not had the same advantages of education that
you have had; but you see, in all that he had an opportunity of
learning, he was very intelligent, and that he actually knew a great
many things that we did not know, and that we were very glad to learn.”

By this time they arrived at the Bugle Inn, where they found the kind
hostess had lighted a fire for Mr. Merton as he felt chilly, and had
wheeled the sofa round to it, so as to make him as comfortable as
possible. Agnes, who had felt some contempt at the humble appearance of
the little Inn, when they first entered it, was quite ashamed of having
done so; and felt that she had committed another fault of the same kind
as that which her mother had just reproved at the castle. Nothing,
however, was said on the subject, and as soon as the carriage was ready
the whole party entered it, and proceeded on their journey.



                              CHAPTER IV.

Departure from Carisbrook.—Road to Freshwater.—Yarmouth.—House
  where Charles II. was entertained by Admiral Sir Robert
  Holme.—Freshwater.—Rocks.—Roaring of the Sea.—Birds.—The
  Razor-bill and Guillemot.—Sea-weed.


Mrs. Merton’s party had not long left Carisbrook, when she began to
think that they were not on the right road, and she asked the driver.

“Oh! yes, ma’am,” said he, “it is all right; all the ladies and
gentlemen go this road.”

“That is not what I mean,” said Mrs. Merton; “it is of very little
consequence to me what other people do, but I wish to go through
Yarmouth.”

“Oh! nobody goes through Yarmouth now, ma’am,” said the man; “all the
ladies and gentlemen go this way.”

Mrs. Merton, though exceedingly provoked, could hardly help laughing at
the obstinacy of the man.

“Well,” said she, “you now understand that I wish to go to Yarmouth;
and as I know there is a road which leads to it, and that turns out of
this road, I desire you to take us there, as soon as we reach the
turning. You understand me now,” continued she.

“It will be five or six miles out of the way,” said the man muttering.

“That is of no consequence to you,” said Mrs. Merton, “as you know we
hired your carriage by the day, to go where we liked; and the distance
we have travelled is not only very short, but you have had a long rest
at Carisbrook.”

“It is of no use saying anything more,” said Mr. Merton, interposing;
“the man must do as he is bid.”

They now proceeded a long way through narrow lanes, bordered by high
hedges, which Agnes declared was the longest and most disagreeable ride
she ever had in her life.

“You may find it tedious,” said Mrs. Merton, “but it cannot be very
long. The whole island is but twenty-four miles across, from one end to
the other, and Newport is, as nearly as possible, in the centre.”

“It is only nine miles from Carisbrook to Freshwater, the best way,”
said the driver; “but it will be a matter of fourteen miles the way you
are going.”

The rest of the party looked at each other, and smiled; and Mr. Merton
asked Agnes, in French, if she did not think obstinacy made a person
very disagreeable.

“But I do not think I ever could have been so obstinate as this man,”
said the self-convicted Agnes, whose conscience reminded her that she
had often been accused of this fault.

“It is difficult to see our own faults in the same light as they appear
to other people,” said Mrs. Merton; “but I do assure you, Agnes, that
your obstinacy has often appeared as unreasonable, and, I may say, as
disagreeable to me, as this man’s does to us all. Judge, then, in what
a light you must have appeared to your governess, to the servants, and
even to your companions, when you would persist in following your own
way, in spite of all that could be said to the contrary.”

Agnes was too much ashamed to reply; and they travelled on in silence,
till they reached the little village of Calbourn. They passed through
it without noticing the turn to Yarmouth, as Mr. and Mrs. Merton
happened to be engaged in conversation, and the driver went on his own
way. He would also have passed a second turn a few miles farther on the
road, if Agnes’s quick eye had not caught sight of the finger-post. Mr.
Merton then insisted on the man taking them to Yarmouth, which he did,
muttering and grumbling to himself all the way, and looking so
disagreeable that Agnes resolved, in her own mind, that nothing should
ever tempt her to be obstinate again.

They had a very pleasant drive, with a fine view of the sea, and of the
numerous vessels in Yarmouth Roads, as they advanced. When they passed
the turnpike, a fine healthy-looking country-woman came out with a
child in her arms, to receive the toll. She no sooner saw Mr. Merton
than she cried out, “Poor dear gentleman, how very ill he do look to be
sure!—but our fine air will soon set him up again.” Agnes was
inexpressibly shocked at this, and she looked at her papa to see how he
bore it. Mr. Merton smiled at her look of anxiety, and said, “Do not
suppose, my dear Agnes, that I am hurt at the woman’s observation; for
though such a remark would have been exceedingly rude and unfeeling in
ordinary life, it was here evidently dictated by kindness of heart. We
should never forget,” continued he, “when we are judging of the conduct
of others, that we ought to estimate their conduct by their
opportunities and habits of life, rather than by our own. You, Agnes,
are but too apt to forget this, and to fancy that people who have been
brought up in the simplest and rudest manner, should be acquainted with
all the refinements and courtesies of life.”

They now entered the pretty little town of Yarmouth, and had a fine
view of the opposite shore of Dorsetshire, with the projecting point of
land on which Hurst Castle is erected, stretching far into the sea, and
the little town of Lymington in the distance. Mrs. Merton pointed this
out to her daughter, and also told her that it was supposed that
formerly the Isle of Wight was united to the mainland at this part.
“Indeed,” continued she, “the sea at one place is, I believe, only one
mile across; and it is said there is a lane in the Isle of Wight
leading directly down to this point, which is abruptly cut off by the
sea, and which is supposed formerly to have been carried on at the
other side.”

“I think, my dear,” said Mr. Merton, laughing, “you must not attach too
much importance to that lane, as it may have merely led down to the
beach. Besides, even if the Isle of Wight was once attached to the
mainland, it must have been a long time ago; as the Romans, who took
possession of the Isle of Wight, in the reign of the Emperor Claudius,
in the year 45, describe it as an island. However,” he continued,
“after all, it is very possible that the Isle of Wight was, at some
distant period, united to the mainland, as the soil of which it is
composed, being of a chalky nature, is easily soluble in water; and,
indeed, the very name of the strait which separates the island from the
mainland, and which is called the Solent or Solvent sea, seems to
express that it has dissolved the soil which connected it with the
mainland.”

“Is that an old name?” asked Mrs. Merton. “I thought the Solent sea had
been, comparatively, a modern appellation.”

“It was the common name of the strait before the time of the Venerable
Bede,” said Mr. Merton.

Agnes, who began to get a little tired with this conversation, was glad
when the carriage stopped at a curious old house, that looked more like
an ancient manor-house than an inn; and which in fact was the very
house in which Charles II. was entertained in the year 1671, by the
gallant admiral, Sir Robert Holme.

“I remember this house well,” said Mrs. Merton; “for I was here with my
aunt about fifteen years ago, at the time when a very melancholy
calamity had just happened. A collier’s vessel from Newcastle was lying
in the roads, when the wife of the captain, who was near her
confinement, was taken ill, and sent for a doctor from the town. The
only doctor who happened to be at home was an elderly man, very much
respected by every body, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten,
though it well deserves to be remembered. The evening was dark and
inclined to be stormy, and this worthy man was advised not to venture
out to sea in such weather. However, he was determined to do his duty,
and he went. After the little baby was born, he was about to return,
but the storm had become more serious, and he determined to remain in
the vessel till morning. Unfortunately, however, a dreadful storm
arose, and the ship was lost. My aunt and I arrived at Yarmouth the
very day after the accident, and we found the whole town in agitation
and distress. Every body knew the doctor; every body respected him; and
every body was of course distressed at his untimely death. In the
kitchen of the inn were three or four sailors, who had been saved by
clinging to the rigging. I forget how many hours they had been in this
state; but I remember well that when I saw them, their arms, which were
being rubbed to restore circulation, were quite black, and so benumbed
that they could not use them.”

“I remember your mentioning the circumstance before,” said Mr. Merton,
“and I am not surprised at the impression it made on you.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Merton, “it is one thing to read of shipwrecks, and of
sailors clinging to the rigging for hours, and another to see the poor
creatures who have undergone such dreadful sufferings.”

Having now satisfied their curiosity with all that was to be seen at
Yarmouth, they re-entered the carriage and proceeded to Freshwater.

On the road they saw so many beautiful wild flowers that Agnes begged
permission to walk a little way, that she might gather some. There was
the beautiful blue Scabious, the yellow Ragwort, and a bright pink
Lychnis. In one place there was a mass of Ground Ivy, growing so
luxuriantly as to look like a garden flower; and when Agnes brought
some of this to the carriage, her papa told her it belonged to the
order of the Labiatæ or lipped plants, and made her observe the shape
of the flower, and how completely it is double-lipped, the lower lip
being more than twice the size of the upper one. Then Agnes found a
plant with small leaves like the Trefoil, and curiously coiled-up seed
pods, which she said looked like snails, or hedge-hogs. This Mr. Merton
told her was called the Spotted Medick, and that its curious pod was,
in fact, a legume like that of the pea.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 7._

  GROUND-IVY.
  (_Glechoma hederucea._)
]

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 8._

  THE SPOTTED MEDICK.
  (_Medicago denticulata._)
]

The part of the island which contains Freshwater, the Needles, and Alum
Bay, is almost separated from the rest by the river Yar, which rises
behind the rock called Freshwater Gate, and runs into the sea at
Yarmouth. It thus wants only a few yards of going entirely across the
island. The geological construction of this part of the Isle of Wight
renders it peculiarly liable to change; since, as most of the rocks are
composed of chalk and flint, the softer parts of the chalk are
frequently washed away by the sea, or heavy rain, leaving the flints
and the harder part of the chalk remaining. In this manner the curious
isolated rocks at the Needles, and at Freshwater Gate have been formed,
and the numerous caverns and chines scooped out; and in this way,
doubtless, numerous other changes will take place, as long as the
island continues to exist.

[Illustration: THE ARCHED ROCK AT FRESHWATER]

Agnes was quite delighted with the appearance of the little inn at
Freshwater, which is, in fact, a summer pavilion, with several rooms,
all opening by folding doors, on a kind of terrace, shaded by a
verandah, and close to the beach.

“What a delightful place!” cried Agnes.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Merton, “this little inn has always been a favourite
of mine, and I am really sorry that the proprietor is erecting a more
magnificent mansion on the cliffs, as I am sure it is impossible that
his guests can be more comfortable anywhere than they are here.”

As soon as Mrs. Merton had ordered dinner, the whole party walked on
the beach, and never was more beautiful sea-weed than that which lay
spread at their feet. Agnes, who had promised to collect some sea-weed
to take home to her aunt Jane, was quite embarrassed with the profusion
around her; and she soon collected a great deal more than it was
possible for her to carry away, as she had only brought a small basket
from town with her for the purpose of holding it. At home, she had
thought this would be quite sufficient; but now, alas! she found that
one immense piece of sea-weed that she was dragging after her was alone
sufficient to fill her basket entirely.

“My dear Agnes!” cried Mrs. Merton, “you never can take that large
plant with you to town.”

“No, mamma,” said Agnes, sighing, “I am afraid I cannot; but only look
what a splendid thing it is.”

“It is certainly a very fine specimen,” said Mrs. Merton; “but it is of
the kind called tangle, which is common everywhere. The frond, or leafy
part, has been found in some places twenty feet long, and as broad as
the leaf of a plantain, to which, you see, it bears considerable
resemblance.”

“Here is a piece of the winged fucus,” said Mr. Merton, “which though
rare here, is common in Scotland, where we call it Badder-locks or
Henware. Look, Agnes,” continued he, addressing his daughter, “do you
observe the strong projecting rib that runs up the middle of the
leaf?—that part is frequently eaten in the North; and in some places
the flat part is eaten also.”

“Eaten!” cried Agnes, very much surprised.

“Yes,” returned her father, “I assure you that this mid-rib, when
stripped of its outer covering, affords a very important article of
food to the poorer inhabitants of the northern islands of Scotland.”

Agnes looked at the plant which she held in her hand. “What a curious
plant it is!” said she: “here is its root; but it seems to have only
leaves: has it any flowers?”

“No,” replied Mr. Merton; “this is one of the cryptogamous plants; that
is, one of those plants which have neither flowers nor seeds.”

“No seeds!” cried Agnes: “how, then, are the young plants produced?”

“By means of what are called sporules, which serve instead of seeds.”

“And what is the difference,” said Agnes, “between these sporules and
seeds?”

“Every seed,” said Mr. Merton, “contains an embryo,—that is, a
miniature plant,—which has one or two leaves, a root, and, generally,
an ascending shoot, quite small, and curiously folded up, but still
plainly to be distinguished, either by the naked eye, or with a
microscope. Now a sporule has no embryo, and no traces of a plant can
be discovered in it till it has begun to grow.”

“I am afraid that I do not quite understand you, papa,” said Agnes.

“It can hardly be expected that you should,” said Mrs. Merton; “but it
will be sufficient for you to remember that cryptogamous plants have no
flowers, and no regularly formed seeds.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 9._

  WINGED FUCUS. BLADDER FUCUS. TANGLE.
]

“You will observe, Agnes,” said Mr. Merton, “that this sea-weed does
not grow in the earth, like a land plant, but it is merely attached to
any stone or other object that it finds in the sea, to which it fixes
itself by means of its clasping roots.”

Agnes now dropped her long plant of tangle, which, it must be
confessed, was very troublesome to carry, and which was loaded with the
sand that adhered to it as she swept it along the beach; and, instead
of it, she picked up a smaller piece of what she found to be the common
Bladder-Fucus.

“This,” said Mr. Merton, “is one of the commonest of all the kinds of
sea-weed; and its popular name is Sea-wrack. It is very abundant in the
western isles of Scotland; where it is gathered in great quantities for
making kelp.”

“And what is kelp, papa?” Agnes asked.

“It is the ashes which remain after burning the Sea-wrack,” said Mr.
Merton; “and which were formerly constantly used in making glass, and
also in making soap. Large quantities of iodine are still obtained from
them.”

“Oh, I remember that iodine!” cried Agnes: “that was the medicine that
did you so much good when your knee was so dreadfully swollen.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Merton; “it is now given in all cases of swollen
joints; and it is said to remove even the goitres.”

Agnes did not ask any explanation of this; for she remembered that the
goitres are swellings in the throat, to which the inhabitants of
Switzerland, and other mountainous countries, are particularly liable:
and her father then informed her that kelp is now little used since the
duty has been taken off salt; as that and other forms of soda, and some
other alkalies, which now pay but little duty, have been found to be
more efficacious, in making both soap and glass, than kelp. “The
Sea-wrack, however,” he continued, “is still collected, chiefly for
manuring the land; though it is still used as a winter food for cattle,
and sometimes for human beings.”

When Agnes heard this, she put a little bit into her mouth; but she
found, though it had a salt taste, it was too tough to be eaten without
difficulty, and she therefore amused herself with clapping the
air-vessels in the fronds between her hands, as she went along, for she
liked to hear them crack. The party now returned home to their dinner,
after which Mr. Merton lay down on the sofa, and Mrs. Merton and Agnes
walked out again on the beach, to enjoy the roaring of the waves and
the delightful breezes from the sea. It was now nearly dark, and
nothing could be grander than the manner in which the waves rose up,
and foamed, and curled as they beat against the beach, looking, as
Agnes said, like Neptune’s horses.

Mrs. Merton and her daughter stood for some time watching the gradual
advance of the waves, when they were startled by a large Newfoundland
dog which brushed past them, and almost knocked Agnes into the sea.
Mrs. Merton was very much alarmed, and instantly went farther back to a
safer place; and then they saw a young man in a shooting-jacket, with a
gun in his hand, advance and take their former position. The young man
was evidently the master of the dog, which he was urging as much as
possible to go into the sea; but the dog, in spite of all his efforts,
stood still, wagging his tail and looking up in his master’s face, but
without making any effort to jump into the water; though the gentleman
threw several stones in, one after another, crying “Hoy, Neptune, fetch
it out my boy! fetch it out!”

“What can be the reason that the dog will not take the water?” said
Mrs. Merton, addressing an old fisherman who stood by her. “I thought
Newfoundland dogs had been particularly fond of the sea. Is it possible
that the dog being brought up in a town can make any difference?”

“The dog,” said the old sailor, “knows it’s no use going into the sea
when the tide is coming in, with a wind in shore. He would be dashed
all to pieces against the rocks in no time. Those dumb creatures have
more sense than a Cockney any day.”

The young man, apparently tired of his fruitless exertions, now
whistled his dog off, and climbing up the bank went off over the cliffs.

“What is he going to shoot?” said Mrs. Merton.

“Razor-bills and willocks,” said the old man. “There’s plenty of them
here; but I have a notion the birds will not mind him any more than the
dog did.”

“What queer names for birds,” cried Agnes; “I never heard those names
before. How I should like to see the birds!”

“Come here, miss,” said the old man, “and I’ll show them to you;” and
giving her his hand he helped her down some of the rocks, and lifted
her over others, till he placed her in a situation where she distinctly
saw a large guillemot or willock, as the man called it, sitting by
itself on the bare ledge of the rocks.

[Illustration: THE GUILLEMOT]

“Oh! dear,” cried Agnes, “what a curious bird that is. I never saw
anything like it in all my life.”

“And those are young ones,” said the man, pointing down to some little
creatures, looking like young ducks, dabbling in the sea beneath.

“But how can they ever get there?” cried Agnes, astonished at the
almost immeasurable height at which the old bird appeared to sit above
the young ones.

“The old ones carry them down on their backs,” said the old man.

This appeared perfectly incomprehensible to Agnes; but she had already
learnt by her travels not to laugh at things because she did not
comprehend them; and she therefore said nothing, while the man helped
her back to the place where her mother was waiting for her.

“I can’t show miss a razor-bill to-night,” said the man, “without going
a good way; for every bird keeps its rock to itself.”

Mrs. Merton now gave the man something for his trouble, and they
returned to the hotel, where they found Mr. Merton waiting tea for them.

Agnes was quite delighted to tell her papa what she had seen; “but I
suppose,” said she, “what the old man said about the old birds carrying
down the young ones on their backs, could not be true.”

“It appears very strange, certainly,” said Mr. Merton, “but my friend,
Mr. Waterton, who I believe knows more about birds than any other man
living, has often told me the same thing.”

“Can you tell me anything more about these birds?” asked Agnes.

“The bird you saw,” said Mr. Merton, “is generally called the foolish
guillemot, because it lays its egg on the bare rock, without any nest.
I say its egg, for each female bird is said to lay only one; on which
she sits, in an upright, and, in what appears to us, a most awkward
position, till the egg is hatched; which is generally about a month.
The young birds are at first covered with a sort of yellow down, mixed
with bristly hair; and, as they sit on narrow ledges of rock, only a
few inches in breadth, it seems wonderful how they can help tumbling
into the sea.”

“But, if each bird lays only one egg, I wonder there are so many young
ones,” said Agnes; “for I should think that a great many eggs must be
broken or stolen.”

“It is said that, if the female guillemot loses her egg, she lays
another; and, if that goes, another; so that she always has one egg to
sit upon; just as a spider is enabled to form several new webs, if you
destroy its old ones, though it would not have made the first any
larger or stronger if it had been left unmolested. Would you like to
see a willock’s egg, Agnes?”

“Very much indeed.”

Mr. Merton rang the bell; and, at his desire, the waiter procured an
egg of one of these birds from an old woman who lived in the
neighbourhood; and who, after boiling the eggs to make them keep, had
them for sale. This egg Mr. Merton purchased, and gave Agnes. It was
very large, and of a pear-shape; and its colour was a fine bluish
green, blotched and streaked with reddish brown and black.

“I cannot imagine how the people can get these eggs,” said Agnes;
“since they are laid on such narrow ledges of rock, and at such a
height above the sea.”

“It is indeed astonishing,” said Mr. Merton; “but the young men who are
brought up to the sea acquire early, wonderful activity of limbs and
steadiness of nerves; so that they can climb crags almost as easily as
you or I can walk on level ground. Besides, as most of them are very
poor, they are glad to get a few pence by the sale of these eggs, and
do not mind incurring some danger.”

“I am sure I never could accomplish such a feat,” said Agnes.

“Not at once,” said her mother; “but, if it were necessary for you to
learn to climb crags, you might easily do so by practising a little
every day; as there are very few things, indeed, that patience and
perseverance will not accomplish in time.”



                               CHAPTER V.

Young Londoner and Neptune.—Disobedience of the Young
  Fisherman.—Fossils.—Fine Water.—Alum Bay.—The Needles.—Old
  Couple.—Dull Road.—Fertility of the Isle of Wight.


The next morning Mrs. Merton and Agnes rose early, and, as usual,
walked out before breakfast. Almost the first thing they saw was the
young man who had attracted their attention the preceding evening; and
who, with his gun in his hand, and followed by Neptune, was sauntering
over the cliffs. Almost as soon as they saw him, the young man fired
his gun; and instantly a thousand birds rose from hidden places in the
cliffs, screaming and flapping their wings in such a fearful manner
that Agnes was quite terrified, and clung close to her mother’s side,
as if for protection. The young man was evidently pleased with the
effect he had produced; and, calling Neptune, he threw a stone for him
to fetch out of the sea. Neptune did not now refuse; for, as his
instinct told him there was no longer any danger of his being dashed
against the rocks, he gladly indulged his natural fondness for the
water, and sprang into the waves after the stone; though, of course, it
had sunk too deep for him to reach it. The young man then threw in a
piece of stick, which Neptune brought out in triumph: and his master,
sauntering away over the cliffs, again fired off his gun; at which the
sea-birds again rose, but, this time, with a wild scream which seemed
like fiendish laughter. Neptune had just plunged in again, after
something his master had thrown for him, when a young fisherman came up
to Mrs. Merton, and asked her if she would not give the young lady a
sail. Mrs. Merton, remembering that she had heard it was a beautiful
sail from Freshwater to Alum Bay, hesitated: she wished to show her
little daughter as much as possible of the beauties of the island; and
she recollected that Mr. Merton could easily go round in a carriage, if
he thought the boat would be too fatiguing.

“Oh! do go, mamma,” cried Agnes; “I should so like to see the caverns.”

Mrs. Merton was well aware that the caverns could only be seen to
advantage from the sea; and, as she was never so happy as when
gratifying the wishes of her darling, she was half inclined to engage
with the man; but she did not like to do so till she had consulted Mr.
Merton: she therefore told the man she would consider of it; and was
just turning away, when the gruff voice of the old fisherman sounded in
her ear, bidding her beware, for there would be a storm before night.
“If you had set out by day-break,” said he, “it would have been a
different thing; but now you will never be able to get near enough the
shore to see anything without running on the rocks.”

“Why, now, father!” cried the young man, “did ever any body hear the
like? there’s mother waiting for us at Black Gang Chine; and here’s a
lady that would have paid for the boat half-way, if it had not been for
you.”

“Nonsense, lad,” said the father; “mother had rather we had staid away,
than went in such weather as this: she’ll not expect us; she’s been a
fisherman’s wife too long not to know when a storm’s coming on.”

“Never mind, my lad,” cried the young Londoner, coming down the cliffs;
“I’ll go with you, and to Black Gang Chine, too; for that is just where
I want to go. Never mind the old fellow’s croaking. It is all very well
for women and children,” continued he, glancing contemptuously at Mrs.
Merton and Agnes; “but we are hearts of oak, my boy: ain’t we?”

“You had better not go, Jack,” said the father to his son. “You know
Black Gang Chine of old: and she’s a bad one with a tide setting in
shore; as I know to my cost.”

The young man paid no attention to his father’s remonstrance; but
turned aside with the Londoner to settle what was to be paid for the
boat. Agnes, who was very fond of dogs, in the meantime began to pat
the head of Neptune, who stood beside her, wagging his tail, as though
he knew her partiality, and was waiting to be caressed.

“Look, mamma,” cried Agnes, “how singularly he is marked: he has a
white throat, with a large, black, heart-shaped mark on the chest.”

Mrs. Merton turned to look at the dog, and perceived the mark of which
her daughter had spoken; which was, indeed, very singular, and very
distinct. The Londoner, having finished his bargain, now whistled off
his dog; and the young fisherman hastened to the beach to prepare his
boat. As he passed, the father repeated his ominous cry of “Jack, you’d
better not go.”

The young man, however, only replied: “Don’t be a fool, father. He’s
given all I asked; and I could have had as much more, if I had but
known.”

“Oh! that self-will,” said the old man; “it’ll be the ruin of you,
Jack.”

“Never mind, if it is,” said the young fellow; and, whistling a tune,
he hurried down to the beach.

Both Mrs. Merton and Agnes were very much shocked at the recklessness
and disobedience of the young man; and Mrs. Merton asked the father,
why he had not warned the young Londoner of his danger.

“And much good it would have done,” said the old man; “and much good it
would have done,” he repeated. “If my own son won’t listen to me, how
can I expect that a cockney would?”

“But why, then, did you warn us?” asked Agnes.

“You,” said he, looking at her; “oh! that’s quite a different thing. It
may have done you some good. Besides,” muttered he, as he stumped away,
“I’d a little girl of my own once, and she was drowned.”

The waiter from the inn now approached, to tell them that Mr. Merton
was waiting breakfast; and Mrs. Merton asked him, if he thought the
water was smooth enough for a boat.

“By no means, ma’am,” said the waiter: “there’s a young gentleman from
London, who’s gone out shooting, that ordered a boat last night; and I
called him as soon as it was light, but he would not get up then, and
now it’s too late.”

Mr. Merton, who had become tired of waiting, now joined them; and he
made Agnes observe the curious shape of the isolated rocks at
Freshwater Gate. One, that stands at some distance from the shore,
forms an arch; and another, which is nearer to the cliffs, is of a
conical form, and pointed. This last is called the Deer-bound Rock;
because a deer, pursued by the hounds, is said to have leaped on it
from the cliffs, about seventy years ago.

“And then there’s the caverns, sir,” said the waiter. “There are ten or
twelve caverns. There’s Lord Holmes’s Parlour and Kitchen, Neptune’s
Cave, the Frenchman’s Hole, the Wedge Rock, and the Lady,—there you
see her, sir, sitting as natural as if she was alive.”

“That is,” said Mr. Merton, “I suppose you see a rock that a little
imagination may make you fancy a lady in a cavern.”

The man did not seem to like this interpretation; but he could not
contradict it: and they walked back to the inn, where they found
breakfast waiting. Agnes had then a glass of the excellent water for
which the place is celebrated,—and which is so rarely good close to
the sea;—and they left Freshwater, delighted with its little inn,
civil waiters, and excellent fare, to visit the Needles and Alum Bay.

The shape of the Isle of Wight has been compared to that of a turbot;
of which the point called the Needles forms the tail. From this point,
which is the extreme west, to Foreland Farm, near Bembridge, which is
the extreme east, the whole island measures only twenty-four miles in
length; and its greatest breadth, which is from Cowes Castle to Rock
End, near Black Gang Chine, is only twelve miles. It is, therefore,
extremely creditable to this little island to have made such a noise in
the world as it has done; and its celebrity shows that, small as it is,
it contains a great many things worth looking at. One of the most
remarkable of these curiosities is the point of land towards which our
travellers were now advancing. It has a strange effect upon the natives
of an inland county to hear the sea roaring on both sides of the tract
of land they are passing over; and, when the point is reached from
which the tongue of land springs which forms the promontory called the
Needles, and the sea is seen, as well as heard, in this unusual
position, the effect is still more striking. The part of the promontory
on which the light-house is erected is seven hundred and fifteen feet
above the level of the sea; but the downs slope down towards the
cliffs. These, however, are still six hundred and fifty feet above the
sea, which roars awfully beneath them. The promontory is of chalk,
intermixed with flint; and the isolated rocks, called the Needles, show
that it formerly projected much farther into the sea than it does at
present; as they are evidently the remains of a portion from which the
softer parts of the chalk have been washed away, while the flint and
the firmer parts have been left. When Mr. Merton’s party reached the
promontory, they left the carriage; and Mr. Merton waited at the
light-house, while Mrs. Merton and Agnes walked over the downs towards
the cliffs. They had not gone far, when they met a man with a small
telescope in his hand, coming towards them; and Mrs. Merton asked him
if he would go back with them, and help Agnes to climb down part of the
cliffs. He willingly consented: and they advanced as well as the wind
would permit them; but this was so violent that Mrs. Merton, who was
light, and not very strong, was in great danger of being blown into the
sea. The man told them first to turn to the right, that they might
descend to the beach, to see the curious stratification of the Bay;
but, just as they had reached a sheltered nook, they observed a young
man coming up towards them; and, to their great surprise, they
recognised a friend of theirs residing at Godalming. After the first
hurried greeting, they asked him how he came to be there; and he told
them that he was staying with a friend at Freshwater. He no sooner said
this, than Agnes asked him how he had contrived to reach the spot from
which they saw him ascending.

“I came there in a boat,” said he.

“I thought it was quite dangerous,” said Agnes, eagerly.

“So it would have been,” returned Mr. Russell,—for that was the name
of the young gentleman,—“if we had not contrived to pass the Needles
when the tide was full.”

“And how did you manage that?” asked Mrs. Merton.

“By leaving Freshwater Gate at three o’clock in the morning,” returned
he: “and, I assure you, it was anything but agreeable. The night air
blew excessively chill; and the sea was wrapped in such a thick gloom
that it required some courage to plunge into it. However, the fishermen
pushed off the boat; and, though there was such a heavy swell, that we
were alternately mounted on the crest of the billows, and lost in the
hollows between them, after about an hour’s hard pulling, we found
ourselves under the highest point of the cliff. The face of the rock is
there nearly perpendicular, and it is six hundred and fifteen feet
high.”

“But did you see the caverns?” asked Agnes.

“Oh! yes; but I had seen them before. The best is Freshwater Cavern:
surely you saw that?”

“No, we did not. Pray tell us all about it.”

“It is an opening in the rocks about a hundred and twenty feet deep;
and the principal entrance is by a bold, rugged arch about thirty feet
high. It has a very curious effect when you look through this arch, as
it is just like a church-window; and, when the tide is in, the water
looks very beautiful, from the manner in which it seems to tremble in
the irregular gleams of light which penetrate through the projections
of the rocks. Then, there is Scratchell’s Bay, with the grand arch
three hundred feet high; and the Wedge Rock, where there is a great
mass of rock detached from the cliff, which looks as though it had
lodged between the rocks, just as it was falling down. It is the shape
of a wedge; and, when you look at it, you can’t help thinking every
moment that it will fall.”

“But the waiter at Freshwater talked of Lord Holmes’s Parlour and
Kitchen: what can they be?”

“The first is a cavern in which a certain Lord Holmes, who lived in the
island about eighty or a hundred years ago, used to bring his friends
to drink their wine in summer; and his kitchen is another cavern,
where, it is said, his wine was kept, to cool it; but I did not pay
much attention to the caverns as my object was to find Razor-bills and
Willocks; which I wanted to shoot, that I might stuff some of them for
my father’s museum.”

“I suppose you saw a good many birds near the caverns,” said Agnes.

“A good many,” returned he; “but the most were between the highest
cliff,—which is marked by a long streak of red ochre, from a stratum
of that earth, I suppose,—and a place called Sun Corner, where the
cliff overhangs the sea. Here there were hundreds and thousands of
Guillemots and Razor-bills, which were flying about in parties of tens
or twenties; and, far above them, the great grey Sea-mews were wheeling
round and round, and uttering their loud and piercing cries; while, in
the distance, the Needle rocks were covered with hundreds of
Black-headed gulls. When we approached this place, the fisherman pulled
right in for the cliff; and, as we drew near it, I never saw such a
scene before in my life. The whole surface of the cliff was in ledges,
like shelves, one above another; and these ledges were perforated, like
honey-combs, by the Puffins and Razor-bills. Every ledge was crowded
with birds, so thickly, that the only wonder was, how they could all
find room to sit; and yet every now and then some fresh birds came
popping up through the holes in the ledges, and knocked off those that
were sitting on them.”

“How droll!” cried Agnes, laughing.

“But that was not all,” continued Mr. Russell; “the birds that had been
so unceremoniously tumbled off, soon returned and settled on the heads
of those that had taken their places; slipping down behind them till
they gained a footing on the rocks, and obliged those before them to
tumble off in their turn. You may easily imagine what a noise all this
caused, particularly among the Puffins. These little fellows as they
sat upright on the rocks, turned their heads, sharply, first on one
side, and then on the other, as if they were scolding and chattering at
their disturbers; and, as they have white cheeks with a black hood,
which looks as if it was tied under the chin, they had the appearance
of a number of old women met to gossip. A few delicately white
Kittiwakes, which looked like the young ladies of the party, were
perched on some of the projecting crags; and here and there was a
Cormorant standing, stern and upright, like a black sentinel, and quite
alone. These birds were very striking, from their black hue contrasting
with the white cliffs; but I cannot say that I much admire them. I
think the Razor-bills are the handsomest of all the Isle of Wight
birds; as they have snow-white breasts, and black heads and backs. But,
as to their cries, I really don’t know which is the worst. Such a
horrible clatter surely never can be heard any where else.’”

“I can easily conceive that,” said Mrs. Merton, “from what we heard of
these birds ourselves.”

“Oh! but that could have been nothing to what we heard,” said Mr.
Russell. “The fisherman told me to fire: I did so; and all the previous
din was quiet compared to the uproar which ensued. The sky was
positively darkened with the multitude of birds that rose from the
cliffs; and their wild screams and cries were hideous beyond
description. But the most extraordinary part of the whole was, that
though I fired so close that my shot touched the plumage of several of
the birds, not one was killed.”

“How could that be?” asked Mrs. Merton.

“The fact is,” replied Mr. Russell, “that the feathers on the necks and
breasts of these sea-birds are closely matted together, and form a
covering, so smooth and compact, that the shots glance off instead of
penetrating it. The fisherman laughed at my astonishment when I saw the
birds I had hit fly away; and told me that the only way to shoot a
sea-bird was to get behind it. I profited by this advice, and soon
contrived to shoot all the birds I wanted, except a Cormorant; and that
I have come on land to shoot.”

“But why did you not shoot one from the water?” asked Mrs. Merton.

“Because I could not manage it, my dear madam. Just under the cliff,
where the Cormorants were sitting, there was a narrow slip of beach;
and I landed there with great difficulty, as the swell of the sea was
very heavy, and the bottom there is very bad. I was now almost
perpendicularly under the birds, and I could plainly see their long
necks, and stiff, still heads poked out towards the sea; and in the
same position they continued, without turning their heads to the right
or to the left, though I wasted a great quantity of shot upon them, and
some excellent powder, which I grudged very much: and so, finding that
I could do no good, shooting at them from below, I am now come to try a
shot from above; but I must not be long, for we shall have hard work to
get through the Needles if we let the tide get too low, and we must be
back at Freshwater to dinner.”

“Did you see any of the eggs?” asked Agnes.

“Oh! yes, plenty of the Guillemots and Razor-bills, which were lying
singly on the ledges of the rocks, and shaking with every puff of wind;
for they are only just balanced on the bare rocks on which they lie:
but the Puffins lay their eggs in the long holes they hollow out of the
chalk. I have seen a man put his arm in almost up to the shoulder, to
pull a Puffin’s egg out of its hole; for the birds always contrive to
lay them at the very bottom.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Merton, “we will not detain you, since you have such
important business in hand.”

He thanked her; but before he went he took something out of his pocket,
which he gave to Agnes. “Here,” said he, “is something curious that I
picked up on the rocks where I landed. I also saw a Grampus on the
shore at the Shingles;” and, so saying, he wished them good-bye, and
ran off.

“What strange things these are that he has given me, mamma!” cried
Agnes. “Do look! what can they be?”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 10._

  BURROWING MOLLUSCS (_Gastrochæna Pholodia_).
]

“They are cases made by a kind of Molluscous animal,” said her mother,
“that lives like the Pholas enclosed in a burrow; but instead of taking
up its dwelling in rocks, it forms itself a curious covering with
broken bits of Corals and Madrepores, mixed with fragments of
limestone, sand, gravel, and in short anything it can find. These
materials it works up into the form of a flask, as you see; uniting
them by a thick glutinous liquid, which exudes from its own body; and
lining the whole with a kind of limy substance, which makes it quite
smooth. Now we will open one of the cases, and I will show you what a
curious little creature it is that makes this singular case.”

Agnes was quite surprised to see how small the shell was of the little
creature that had been working so hard; but they were not in a
situation to stand much longer, and, indeed, they could not have
remained so long had they not been in a hollow part of the rock. They
then descended to the beach; and were quite astonished when they looked
up to the cliff. The construction of Alum Bay is, indeed, very curious.
On one side, it is bounded by high cliffs of chalk, and on the other,
by horizontal strata of diluvial soil, which extend to Freshwater; but
the most remarkable feature of the place consists of the vertical
strata in the centre. At one end of these is the London clay, which is
of a bluish grey; and then follow narrow vertical stripes of red and
yellow ochre, fuller’s earth, black flints, and grey and white sand:
the colours of all the different kinds being so brilliant as to be seen
distinctly at a little distance. While Mrs. Merton and Agnes stood on
the beach, they saw hanging above them a man engaged in taking
birds’-eggs. He had driven a large stake into the top of the cliff; to
which he had fastened a strong rope, with two sticks placed crossways,
at the other end, for him to sit on. It made Agnes giddy to look at
this man; and she gladly turned her head from him, to listen to what
their guide was telling her mother about Alum Bay, and the manner in
which bottles are filled with the sands.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 11._

  SECTION OF ALUM BAY.
]

“But why is it called Alum Bay?” asked Agnes.

“Because alum is frequently picked up on the beach,” replied her
mother; “and, I believe, copperas-stones are also found here. The white
sand is used in making china and glass.”

The guide now beckoned Agnes to advance; and, turning round the
projecting rock, she saw the very Grampus Mr. Russell had spoken of
lying on the shingles, which were a mass of stones projecting through
the sea, at some distance from the shore. She was most excessively
disappointed at first, as she thought the creature so very ugly; but,
in a little time, she began to admire its glossy black skin, and the
silvery-grey of the lower part.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 12._

  GRAMPUS (_Delphinus Orca_).
]

“Is it worth any money?” said Mrs. Merton.

“Oh! yes,” said the guide; “it weighs three tons and a half; and the
fisherman that found it has sold it for twenty-three pounds.”

They now began to re-ascend the path they had taken to descend; and
soon reached the summit of the cliff: after which they proceeded along
it, till they arrived at the best point of view for seeing the Needles.

“How dreadfully the wind blows!” said Agnes, as she wrapped her cloak
more closely round her.

“The wind always blows at the Needles, miss,” observed the guide.

“And are those the Needles?” cried Agnes, as they descended the down
low enough to catch a view of these celebrated rocks. “I declare they
look more like thimbles.”

“That remark has been made before,” said Mrs. Merton; “and yet they
appear to me as little like thimbles as needles. The fact is, I think
that they are more like mile-stones than anything belonging to the
work-table; or, what bears a closer resemblance to them, they are like
the awkward stone stiles I have seen, when I was a girl, in
Gloucestershire.”

They had now reached the point beyond which Mrs. Merton did not wish to
go; and she sat down on the turf, while the guide helped Agnes
sufficiently far down the cliffs to enable her to see the birds sitting
on their ledges of rock, uttering strange sharp cries, and then
chattering, as though they were talking to each other. There were
Cormorants, and Gulls, and Puffins, and Guillemots, with several
smaller kinds, each sitting on its separate rock, and alternately
muttering and shouting, till Agnes’s head grew giddy, and she begged
the man to take her back to her mamma.

“Do not most of the birds generally leave you about this season?” said
Mrs. Merton to the guide, when they returned.

“They are later than usual this year, ma’am,” replied the man. “It was
a late summer.”

“I thought there had been five Needles, mamma,” said Agnes; “and I can
see only three.”

“There are five, miss,” said the man, “but you can very seldom see them
all at once, unless you’r on the water.”

“I wonder how these rocks ever came to be called the Needles?” observed
Agnes,—“since they are not conical.”

“There was one formerly,” replied the man “that was like a needle
exactly. It was above one hundred feet high, and quite thin and
pointed. It used to be called the pillar of Lot’s wife; but it fell
down, and some of the cliffs have fallen down since then, and more will
go soon I have no doubt of it. These cliffs are always a-falling, I
think.”

“I have heard,” said Mrs. Merton, “that the name of Needles is a
corruption of two Saxon words signifying Undercliffe; and there appears
little doubt that these rocks once formed part of the cliff, as you see
they are dotted with rows of flints.”

Agnes here stooped and gathered a flower from the down. It sprang from
a little hollow place in the turf, and was thus sheltered from the cold
by the higher part of the hollow. “Oh! do look mamma,” cried she, “I
declare I thought there was a bee in the flower.”

“It is the Bee Orchis,” said Mrs. Merton, “which is common on these
chalky downs, though it is rarely found in flower later than July.”

She then showed Agnes the curious construction of the flower, and told
her that the pollen of the Orchis tribe, instead of being like fine
dust, was in wax-like masses. “Here is another flower,” continued she,
“which is of the same species, but something different, for nothing can
equal the variety of nature.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 13._

  THE BEE ORCHIS (_Orchis apifera_).
]

Agnes compared the two, and was astonished to find how different they
were, though at first she had supposed them to be the same.

They now turned back in search of Mr. Merton; and as they ascended the
hill, Agnes began asking her mother some questions about light-houses.

“They are buildings,” said Mrs. Merton, “erected on rocks near the
sea-shore, in which lights are exhibited all night, for the direction
of mariners.”

“They are sometimes called pharos, are they not?” asked Agnes.

“That name,” said Mrs. Merton, “was given to them from the first
light-house of which we have any record having been erected on the
island of Pharos, near Alexandria, about two hundred and eighty years
before Christ. The principal light-houses in Britain, however, are that
on the Bell rock, opposite the Firth of Tay, and that on the Eddystone
rocks, opposite to Plymouth Sound.”

“Why are light-houses made so high?” asked Agnes.

“In order that the light may be seen at a greater distance,” replied
her mother; “and for the same reason the light is always placed in the
upper part of the building.”

“Of what does the light consist?”

“It is an Argand lamp,” replied Mrs. Merton, “with a reflector behind
it, made of silver strengthened with copper and highly polished.”

“I wonder,” said Agnes, “how the sailors know when it is a light-house.
I should think that when they are at sea, they must be in danger of
mistaking it for the light of a common house.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Merton, “that has been done; and to prevent the
possibility of such a mistake occurring again, as it would be a very
serious one, contrivances have been devised for making the lights turn
round, or of placing two in the light-house of different colours, so
that the light of the light-house can never be mistaken for any other.”

“I suppose that on the Bell rock is one of those that turn round,” said
Agnes, “for I remember when I was in Edinburgh and down at Leith,
seeing it appear, disappear, and then appear again, till I was tired of
looking at it.”

They now reached the light-house where they found Mr. Merton, who had
been amused during their absence, hearing the history of the old couple
who formerly lived there, and who, for nineteen years, had never,
either of them, had a single hour’s illness. They now resumed their
seats in the carriage, and returned in the way they came, till they
were within a short distance of Freshwater, when they turned to the
left, to take the road to Black Gang Chine. The road was extremely
uninteresting, consisting of a series of narrow lanes between high
hedges like those of Devonshire; but without the beautiful views, which
in that county delight the eye, whenever a field-gate makes a break in
the hedge.

“What a dull country!” cried Agnes.

“It is a very fertile one, however,” said her father, “as it has been
found, on calculation, that the Isle of Wight produces seven times as
much corn and other articles of human food as would suffice for the
wants of its inhabitants.”

To relieve the monotony of the road, Agnes now began to tell her papa
what she had seen at the Needles; and even their surly driver mingled
in the conversation. “Ah! miss,” said he, “the greatest sight that was
ever seen near the Needles was a whale that was cast on shore on the
Shingles, in the year 1814. It was before my time,” continued he, “but
I have often heard talk of it.”

Agnes yawned; and her mother advised her to get out of the carriage,
and walk a little, as she had been so much amused in gathering wild
flowers the previous day. Agnes willingly complied, and soon returned
with a piece of the weed called Crosswort, with an insect feeding on
it. “What can this be?” cried she. “It does not look like a common
caterpillar.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 14._

  PLANT OF CROSSWORT (_Galium cruciatum_), with the larva and perfect
    insect of the BLOODY-NOSED BEETLE (_Timarcha tenebricosa_).
]

“It is the larva of the bloody-nosed beetle,” said Mrs. Merton. “Its
colour is a deep green, and it has six legs near the head, with two
other legs at the extremity of the body which assist it in climbing
from leaf to leaf.”

“But why has the beetle to which it belongs such a strange name?” asked
Agnes.

“Because when attacked it ejects from its mouth some drops of a reddish
fluid which look like blood. The eggs of this insect are of a bright
orange, and its pupa case is green.”

Agnes now shook the insect off, and was about to tread on it, when her
mother stopped her. “Do not hurt it,” said she, “it only feeds on
weeds;—do you not remember what Cowper, who was pre-eminently the poet
of Nature, says:—

         ‘I would not enter on my list of friends
          (Though graced with polished manners, and fine sense,
          Yet wanting sensibility,) the man
          Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.’

Yet I would not wish you to show a morbid sensibility. As when it is
necessary that animals should be killed, even the same poet says:—

            ‘The sum is this:—If man’s convenience, health,
             Or safety interfere, his rights and claims
             Are paramount, and must extinguish theirs.
             Else they are all—the meanest things that are,—
             As free to live, and to enjoy that life,
             As God was free to form them at the first,
             Who in his sovereign wisdom made them all.’”

“Thank you, mamma,” cried Agnes, “I am glad I did not kill the
caterpillar.”

“Call it a grub,” said Mrs Merton, smiling, “if you wish to give it its
right name. The larvæ of butterflies and moths are called caterpillars;
those of beetles, grubs; and those of flies, maggots.”

They now entered the little hamlet of Mottistone; a pretty little
place, with a very picturesque church, and a curious upright stone,
supposed to be part of a temple of the Druids. Then they passed through
Brixton, a village containing nothing worth seeing but a donkey that
had lain down, with a lady on his back: after which the road made a
sharp turn to the right, and they now approached the sea; though the
scene was devoid of beauty, from the barrenness and gloomy hue of the
downs. They were, however, tired with their journey, and glad to
approach a newly-erected Gothic cottage, which, they found, was the
inn. The house was nearly full; and it was some time before they could
be accommodated with a room. They were, however, at last shown into a
tolerably large one, with two windows, one of which looked on the downs
they had passed, and the other on the gloomy rocks of Black Gang Chine.
Mrs. Merton ordered an early dinner; and, while it was preparing, Agnes
ran out under the veranda, to play with a large black dog belonging to
the people of the house, and Mrs. Merton turned over the leaves of an
album which lay on the table. When dinner was over, Mrs. Merton having
seen her husband comfortably placed on the sofa, inquired the way to
the Chine, and set out, accompanied by her daughter. They first entered
a kind of field, by a gate; and, crossing a small wooden bridge, they
arrived at a fanciful-looking cottage, filled with toys; where they
engaged a guide. While waiting for this person, Mrs. Merton bought
Agnes a curiously-shaped bottle,—filled with sand from Alum Bay,
arranged so as to represent the Needle Rocks washed by the sea, and
some hideous trees,—with some other trifles; and Agnes was amused
watching a large Kittiwake Gull, which seemed quite tame. The guide at
length arrived; and they proceeded down the steep descent which leads
to the Chine; the gull hopping before them, as though it were helping
to show the way. The descent was very steep and slippery, and the rocks
rose black and stern above them. The night was closing in more rapidly
than Mrs. Merton expected; and, in fact, she began to get alarmed. “Do
you not think it is getting dark very soon to night?” said she to the
guide.

“Why, yes, it is,” returned the man; “but I think we shall have a
storm.”

“A storm!” cried Mrs. Merton, looking at Agnes with terror.

“Oh! you’ll have plenty of time to see the Chine, and get miss back
before it begins.”

They continued to descend till they reached the bridge, where they
paused for a few moments to look around them; and a more gloomy scene
can scarcely be conceived. They were surrounded by precipitous cliffs,
which rose high on every side, and looked as black as night. Not a
single sprig, not a blade of grass, not a tuft of moss, was to be seen;
all was dark, save a few bands of a dusky yellow colour, which gleamed
on the dark sides of the rocks. But, if the scene was thus dreary when
they looked above, what was it when they cast their eyes below? There a
fathomless abyss seemed to yawn to receive them. Mrs. Merton shuddered.
“I think we had better return,” said she; “for it is getting late.”

“Oh! mamma,” cried Agnes, “don’t let us go back without seeing the
Chine.”

“We are more than half-way down,” said the man; “and the rest of the
road is not half so bad as it looks.”

Mrs. Merton suffered herself to be persuaded; as, indeed, she seldom
could refuse anything her darling wished, unless she thought it would
be injurious to her; and she recollected that she had never heard of
any accident occurring from visiting the Chine. Shipwrecks were,
indeed, common on the coast; but that was another thing. She,
therefore, gave her consent to go on; and they continued their descent.
The path now became very steep; but they advanced more rapidly, and
soon reached the point from which the best view of the Chine is
obtained. Agnes was, however, excessively disappointed when she saw the
small size of the water-fall.

“What!” cried she; “is that all?”

The man in vain assured her that the cascade was larger in winter;
Agnes would not be pacified. She had seen the falls of the Clyde; and
she could not be persuaded that the little paltry stream that she saw
trickling over the ledge of the rocks could ever be worth looking at.
Her mother, however, at last turned her attention to the rocks
themselves, which, in some places, are five hundred feet high; and to
the vast chasm, called the Chine, which has been scooped out of them,
and looks like the crater of an extinct volcano. The cliffs did,
indeed, now look awfully grand; and the wind, which blew from the sea,
howled among their recesses. The tide was coming in; and the
high-curling waves broke against the rocks with a deafening roar; and
then retired, murmuring as if they had rushed upon an enemy that they
had hoped to overpower by their might, and had been beaten back again.

“Now, let us go,” said Mrs. Merton.

“Oh! stay a moment!” cried Agnes. “There is something in the sea that
looks like a man’s head.”

Mrs. Merton and the man both looked, and saw, though it was now nearly
dark, something black and hairy that was beating about by the waves.

“Bless you! miss,” exclaimed the man: “that’s a dog.”

The next wave carried its burden nearer shore,—so near, indeed, that
they saw distinctly the large shaggy head and white throat of a
Newfoundland dog. The wave retired, carrying its prey with it; but
soon, with deafening roar and redoubled fury, it came again; and again
they saw the dog, with its black head and white breast; and,
more,—that there was a black heart-shaped mark on its breast, which
Agnes instantly recognised. “Oh! mamma,” cried she, turning pale and
trembling, “it is Neptune; but where is his master?”

“Where indeed?” exclaimed Mrs. Merton, shuddering, and turning away her
head.

They now saw distinctly that Neptune was not merely struggling to reach
the shore himself: he was dragging something with him that was
frequently torn from him by the waves, and that he dived for again and
recovered, and then seemed to lose again. They watched his progress
with the most intense anxiety; but always, when he seemed just on the
point of reaching the shore, something appeared to rise out of the sea,
and to dash him back again.

“It’s the ground swell,” said the guide; “there’s few Newfoundland dogs
strong enough to stand against it.”

At this moment a large wave carried Neptune and his burden fairly on
shore; and though its recoil swept them back again, the effect which a
full sight of them produced upon the guide was electric.

“It’s a man!” he shouted. “Help, help!” and instantly several persons
started from recesses in the cliffs, and ran upon the beach. Agnes saw
that one was an old woman, who seemed in an agony of despair; and then
she saw something black dashed against the rocks, and she heard a
crash, and a shrill and piercing scream—and then she hid her face in
her mother’s gown, for she could bear no more. Mrs. Merton bent over
her and both remained silent for a few minutes. When they looked up,
all was bustle on the beach. Lights were flashing to and fro, and
numerous voices were heard. The idea suddenly struck Mrs. Merton that
her husband would be alarmed and might come to seek them, and endanger
his life by the descent. “Oh! let us go,” she cried.

“Stay a moment,” said Agnes, softly laying her hands upon her mother’s
arm. “Let them pass first.”

[Illustration: BLACK GANG CHINE.]

Mrs. Merton shrank back, and let four men pass bearing the body of the
young fisherman. He was apparently quite dead, his long black hair hung
back from his pallid face, which was distinctly seen by the torches
carried by some of the men, and his aged mother walked beside him,
hiding her face in her apron. The young Londoner still lay on the
beach, with his faithful dog panting by his side; for it seemed that
the people had gone to seek for him some more suitable mode of
conveyance; but he was not alone, for several persons crowded round
him; and among them Mrs. Merton was glad to perceive their guide. She
beckoned him to approach, and under his guidance they began to retrace
their steps. The way was long, and in some places the ascent was
frightfully steep. It had become quite dark, and the flame of the torch
carried by their guide quivered so tremulously in the sudden gusts of
wind that howled round them, that they feared every moment it would be
extinguished. The rain now began to fall—slightly at first, but
gradually in thick small drops, that chilled them to the heart, and
made the soft clay over which they had to climb, so slippery, that they
could scarcely keep their feet. At last they reached the bridge; and
they had no sooner done so, than they saw distinctly the figure of Mr.
Merton on the cliff above, surrounded by a number of men carrying
torches; and he was waving a handkerchief to them to encourage their
exertions. Then two men descended; one bore a torch; and the other, as
soon as he reached the ascending party, took Agnes in his arms, and
Mrs. Merton had soon the happiness of seeing her darling child safe by
her father’s side. Mrs. Merton now felt new strength, and in a short
time she reached the summit of the cliff herself. The men who were
assembled round Mr. Merton waited a moment to see she was safe, and
then hurried down the rocks to bring up the body of the young
Londoner—the rapidity of their descent being marked by their torches,
which appeared to slide down the different cliffs. The Mertons did not
stay to witness the result of their labours, but hastened to the inn;
and when Mrs. Merton and Agnes offered up their evening prayers, they
did not forget to add a fervent thanksgiving for the mercy that had
saved them from a dreadful catastrophe similar to that they had beheld.



                              CHAPTER VI.

Management in Household affairs.—Undercliffe.—Alexandrian
  Pillar.—Light-house of St. Catherine.—Little Church of St.
  Lawrence.—Churchyard.—St. Lawrence’s Well.—Ventnor.—Wishing Well,
  and Godshill.—Beautiful Butterflies.—Pulpit Stone.—St.
  Boniface.—Arrival at Shanklin.


The night at Black Gang Chine was dreadful; the rain came down in
torrents; and the wind rushed by in such furious gusts that the slight
fancy building they were in shook to its foundation. The Mertons had a
double-bedded room, but none of them slept much; and once, when the
house absolutely rocked, from the violence of the wind, Mrs. Merton
rose, and throwing a dressing-gown round her, she knelt by the side of
Agnes’s little bed, and took the poor child’s cold and trembling hand
in her own, till Agnes, soothed and comforted by the pressure of her
mother’s hand, at last fell asleep.

Mrs. Merton, herself, however, could not sleep, and she lay counting
the tedious hours till the break of day, when she arose weary and
unrefreshed.

The morning was extremely beautiful; and even the dark and gloomy hills
of the Chine looked less fearful in the bright rays of the early sun.
Mrs. Merton dressed herself, and was just going down stairs, when Agnes
woke and begged her to wait for her. Mrs. Merton consented, and as soon
as the little girl was ready they went down to the room in which they
had sat the night before; one of the windows was open, but Agnes had no
longer any pleasure in running out under the veranda; and she shuddered
at the sight of the rocks, though the sea, which curled gently round
them, at a depth of above five hundred feet below the situation of the
inn, was now as smooth as glass. She could not even pat the black dog
she had been so fond of the day before, and she sat on the sofa with
her back to the window, while Mrs. Merton rang the bell to ask the
waiter what had become of the sufferers of the night before. The
account was unfavourable. The young fisherman was dead; and the
Londoner, though alive, lay in a very enfeebled state, and his complete
recovery was considered doubtful. Even the poor dog appeared to have
sustained some severe internal injury, for it had refused its food, and
seemed in great pain. A doctor had been sent for from Niton; but the
young man had not yet been able to speak to tell where they could write
to his friends. Neither Mrs. Merton nor Agnes felt inclined to walk out
before breakfast; though, previously to their unfortunate visit to the
Chine, they had intended to visit the medicinal spring, and to taste
some of its nauseous waters. Now, however, they were only anxious to
quit the place; and they were quite delighted to see Mr. Merton walk
into the room a few minutes after they had finished their inquiries.
Breakfast was immediately ordered, but not so easily obtained—first,
there was no milk, and next the butter had to be _sent for_; then the
cook had boiled only one egg, and the others had to be _waited
for_;—till, with all this waiting and sending, the coffee became cold,
and all the comfort of the breakfast was destroyed. To complete the
whole, the waiter, who was a most respectable-looking person, and had
the air of an old soldier, appeared so anxious to oblige them that it
was impossible to scold him; and even the landlady was so civil, and so
sorry for the delay, that nobody could blame her.

“What an uncomfortable breakfast!” cried Agnes, when they rose from
table.

“And yet every thing was good of its kind,” said Mrs. Merton.

“But something must have been wrong,” said Agnes; “for I never saw so
much trouble in getting a breakfast before; and yet we had nothing
different to what we have in general. What can have been wanting?”

“Management and arrangement,” said Mrs. Merton. “When I ordered
breakfast, the waiter ought to have told me that there was neither milk
nor butter in the house; and we should then have waited till all was
ready, before we sat down, and our coffee would have been kept near the
fire till it was wanted. Remember, Agnes, if ever you should have to
act as a housekeeper, that you can never make a family comfortable
unless you exercise your forethought and judgment, so as to provide
every thing that is likely to be wanted beforehand. I do not mean to
recommend you to have a profusion of anything; for it is a common fault
with young housekeepers to provide too abundantly; but I hope you will
always take care to have a sufficient quantity of the common articles
of food ready in the house; as nothing can more decidedly show bad
management than to have to send out for anything required for a meal
after that meal is served.”

The carriage being now ready, they drove along the road which led to
the Undercliffe; and soon lost sight of the horrible Black Gang Chine.
This remarkable part of the Island has been formed by a landslip,—or,
rather, a succession of landslips; from the effects of which, a
considerable portion of land has slipped or settled down from the lofty
cliffs called St. Catherine’s Down, so as to form a sort of
intermediate cliff between the down and the sea. The summit of the
Undercliffe forms a fine terrace about six or eight miles long, and
from a quarter of a mile to a mile broad, along which the road is
carried, with St. Catherine’s Cliffs frowning above, and the remains,
into which it was partly shattered by its fall, lying between it and
the sea, and assuming a thousand fantastic shapes. The terrace is
bordered with villas, shaded by trees, which grow with the greatest
luxuriance and beauty; in some cases even down to the water’s edge.
Many of the cliffs, however, which face the sea rise from sixty to a
hundred feet above it, and these are crowned by the road; but, in other
cases, the road is thrown to some distance back, and villas are erected
among the broken rocks between it and the sea. During the whole length
of the terrace, it is sheltered from the north by a bold line of rocks,
rising from two hundred to three hundred feet above it; which, in some
places, form a kind of wall composed of horizontal beds of sandstone,
and, in others, a less abrupt slope covered with green sward. Agnes was
very much interested in this singular region, and began conversing with
her papa on the causes of this remarkable convulsion of nature. “Is it
supposed to have been occasioned by an earthquake or a volcano?” asked
she.

“No,” replied Mr. Merton; “the cause is supposed to be the numerous
beautiful little springs, which you will see presently, meandering
among the fallen rocks; sometimes collecting into little pools, and
sometimes forming miniature cascades, in their progress towards the
sea. The springs, it is thought, formerly flowed under this sunken
cliff, and must have melted some of the softer under strata, which
being washed away, the upper part would gradually sink down, as we see
it has done.”

“Is it long since the fall took place?”

“All memory of the first land-slip of this cliff has passed away; but
in the year 1779 a large portion of the upper cliff, about eighty or
ninety acres, was suddenly seen sinking, and sliding towards the sea;
the surface cracking in various directions, and chasms opening here and
there as it fell. This was near the very spot we are now traversing.”

“But have there been any slips since then?” asked Agnes, looking
somewhat frightened.

“Yes,” said the driver, “there was a house swallowed up near Niton, not
many years ago.”

“There was also a land-slip, in the year 1811, at the other extremity
of the under cliff, near Bonchurch,” said Mr. Merton, “by which about
fifty acres were displaced.”

They had stopped the carriage while they were looking at the cliffs,
and now when they began to move on again, the driver pointed to what
appeared an upright black stick, at the extremity of the horizon, and
told Agnes that it was the Alexandrian Pillar. Agnes remembered that
her mother had told her that light-houses were sometimes called Pharos,
from the name of the island on which the first was erected; and she
thought, as Pharos was near Alexandria, perhaps the Alexandrian Pillar
was another name for a light-house, so she said, “Oh yes, the
light-house; I see it just below us.”

“No,” said the man, “I don’t mean the light-house, but the pillar
Squire Hoy built on the Downs.”

Mr. Merton now explained to Agnes, that Mr. Hoy, who possessed a good
deal of property in that part of the Isle of Wight, had been a Russian
merchant; and that he had erected this column, out of gratitude for the
kindness he had experienced from the Emperor Alexander, in
commemoration of that monarch’s visit to Great Britain, in 1814.

“St. Catherine’s Down,” continued Mr. Merton, “is about nine hundred
feet above the level of the sea, and is the highest part of the island.”

“Yes, but it is lower now than it used to be,” said the driver. “They
say it is not above eight hundred feet high now in most parts, and that
it is gradually sinking.”

“I wonder they did not put the light-house on the top of the Down, as
it is so high,” said Agnes.

“There was anciently a chapel,” replied Mr. Merton, “which was built in
the year 1323, by the lord of the neighbouring manor; and a certain
yearly sum was assigned to it to maintain a monk there, whose duty it
was to sing mass, and keep a constant light burning to guide mariners.
But at the Reformation the poor monk’s revenues were swept away, and
his chapel has become a ruin. There was, however, a light-house erected
near it about fifty or sixty years ago, but I believe it soon fell into
disuse.”

“The sailors could not see the light on account of the fogs,” said the
driver.

“What! are there fogs on the summit of that down?” cried Mrs. Merton.

“So thick that you could not see your hand before you. It is not very
long since the landlord of that very house you stopped at walked over
the cliff one foggy night, when he thought he was going home to his own
house. So they had no light-house at all here till the loss of the
‘Clarendon’ made such a talk; and then they built the light-house of
St. Catherine’s, that you see down yonder.”

They had now just passed a pretty romantic-looking Gothic cottage
called the Sand-rock Hotel; on the fine lawn before which were several
persons sitting, enjoying the cold morning breeze. It was, in fact, a
delightful scene: the air was fresh and pleasant, though the sun shone
brightly; and the sea, instead of the boisterous force which it had
shown the preceding night, curled gently round the cliffs, with a
snow-white crest mantling on its edge, and seemed as if it were smiling
at the mischief it had done. They had now a good view of the
light-house which the driver had mentioned. It was an octagon building
about one hundred and twenty feet high, standing upon a cliff about
fifty feet above the level of the sea. Advancing rapidly, they soon
reached the pretty little church of St. Lawrence; which is said to be
the smallest parochial church in Great Britain; as it is only twenty
feet long, twelve feet wide, and six feet high, in the lowest part;
though, from the roof being of a steep slope, it is much higher in the
middle of the church. Mrs. Merton and Agnes got out of the carriage,
and walked round this curious little building, which appeared to have
been constructed for Lilliputians, rather than for human beings of the
ordinary size. They walked round the church-yard, and found one of the
tomb-stones erected to the memory of a gentleman, upwards of ninety
years of age, who had lost his life by falling from the downs just
above the church, while travelling through the island. After satisfying
their curiosity by inspecting the church, Mrs. Merton and Agnes
returned to the carriage; and they drove on to St. Lawrence’s Well,
where the water of a delightfully clear and pure spring is received in
a stone-basin, protected by a kind of alcove, which forms an elegant
little stone building surrounded by trees. Fortunately the party had a
travelling case with them containing a glass; and they were all, except
the driver, very glad to refresh themselves with some of this delicious
water, which tasted as cool as if it had flowed through ice. They now
approached Steephill, a modern castle, which has been erected on a spot
formerly called the Queen of the Undercliffe; and the grounds of which
certainly appeared as pretty as wood and smooth turf could make them.
On the road-side, sitting by a little stream of water which gushed out
of the broken rocks, sat a large Kittiwake Gull. “Look, mamma,” cried
Agnes, pointing to the bird, “there is the very gull we saw at Black
Gang Chine.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 15._

  THE KITTIWAKE GULL (_Larus rissa_).
]

“Not the same, I think,” said Mrs. Merton. “There are a great many of
these gulls in the neighbourhood; and there was one, some years ago,
kept by some cottagers at Bonchurch, which they had had twenty-seven
years. Every spring, when the wild gulls arrived, it used to fly away
with them, and amuse itself with them all the summer; but, about
August, when they desert the island, it used to return to its old
quarters, and would remain there all the winter.”

They now passed rapidly on, and soon reached Ventnor, where Mr. Merton
had intended to stay for some time. He changed his mind, however, as
soon as he saw its hilly situation; as, though Ventnor is now a
fashionable place for consumptive patients, it is impossible to find
anywhere a hundred yards of level ground; and every body knows how
difficult it is for a person with weak lungs to climb a hill. Besides,
new houses were building in every direction, and the smell of lime and
mortar, and the jarring of stone-cutting, have an unpleasant effect on
the senses and nerves of an invalid. He, therefore, determined to go
on; and, after a short stay, they proceeded to Bonchurch.

“I have heard,” said Agnes, “of two things near Ventnor that I should
like to see; and these are the Wishing Well and the church at Godshill.”

“And why should you like to see these things?” asked Mr. Merton.

“Because,” replied Agnes, blushing, “they say that if you go up the
hill to the well without once looking back, and drink of the water
without turning round, you will have three wishes.”

“How can you believe such nonsense?” said Mr. Merton.

“I don’t believe it, papa; but I should only like to see the well.”

“And, supposing you could have three wishes granted, what would they
be?” asked Mrs. Merton.

“First,” said Agnes, “I would wish papa quite well; then I would wish
you plenty of money, mamma; and then I think I should like to be very
clever.”

“Your papa and I ought to be very much obliged by your first wishes;
but I think I could put you in the way of getting the last wish
fulfilled without a wishing-well.”

“Ah! I know what you mean, mamma. You mean that if I study hard I may
make myself as clever as I like.”

“You are quite right, and, if you confess the truth, I think you will
allow that I am right also.”

“But, mamma, I want to be clever without—without—”

“Taking any trouble at all;—but that, my dear Agnes, surpasses the lot
of humanity. It is true that some persons are more highly gifted than
others; but there is generally some serious drawback that reduces their
lot to the level of that of other people; and, generally speaking, no
talents are so useful as those which are in a great measure the result
of our own industry.”

“But why did you wish to see the church, Agnes?” said her father.

“Because, papa, they say the stones of which it is built would not lie
still in the valley where the people first wished to build the church;
but ran rolling and tumbling along up hill as though they had been mad.”

“And the people must be mad who could believe so absurd a story.”

“Look, Agnes,” said Mrs. Merton, “at that butterfly! Is it not
beautiful?”

“Oh, yes!” cried Agnes; “and there is another more beautiful still. How
I should like to catch them.”

“We can admire them without catching them,” said her mother; “for I
don’t like to torment poor innocent creatures merely because they are
beautiful. Besides, that is a butterfly, called the Purple Emperor,
which it is very difficult to catch, from the great height to which it
flies.”

“Even if it were not, mamma,” said Agnes, laughing, “I do not think the
Undercliffe would be a good place for a butterfly chase! But see, there
is another butterfly of the same kind.—No, I see it is not, for it has
red upon its wings.”

“That butterfly,” said Mrs. Merton, “is called the Alderman, I suppose
partly from his gravity, and partly from his scarlet cloak, which you
see he wears with great dignity. The caterpillar of this butterfly
feeds on the nettle; and, generally, about July the female butterfly
lays a single egg upon each leaf of the plant. The egg to the naked eye
is scarcely bigger than the point of a pin; but when examined in a
microscope, it is found to be curiously ribbed, almost like a melon
cactus. As soon as the caterpillar is hatched, which it is by the heat
of the sun, it begins to spin a kind of web, by means of which it draws
the leaf together into a roundish hollow shape, so as to form a kind of
boat, open at both ends. In this boat, or tent, the caterpillar lives;
and it feeds on the lower part of the leaf, till, in a little time, it
becomes perforated with holes.”

“How very much I should like to see some of these caterpillars, mamma!”
said Agnes, “but no doubt I may some day, as I suppose if ever I find a
caterpillar upon a nettle that this will be it.”

“You must not be too sure,” said Mrs. Merton, “for there is another
caterpillar that feeds upon the nettle, which produces the peacock
butterfly; but that caterpillar is black, with small white spots, and
red hind legs. The caterpillars of the peacock butterfly, also, are
found several together, while those of aldermen, are always
solitary;—and there,” continued Mrs. Merton, interrupting herself as a
butterfly flew past, “is another, whose caterpillar lives on the
nettle. It is called the small Tortoise-shell, and it is extremely
beautiful from the rich reddish-orange of its wings. This butterfly
when it sits on a branch with its wings closed is not beautiful at all,
as the inside of the wings is of a dusky brown; the caterpillar also is
brown.”

“You should tell Agnes,” said Mr. Merton, “that it was from the golden
hue of the pupa case of the small tortoise-shell butterfly, that the
words chrysalis and aurelia have been applied to pupa cases generally.
Both words signify golden, though the first is derived from the Greek,
and the second from the Latin. Observe, also,” continued he, addressing
Agnes, “that all the three nettle butterflies your mamma has just been
telling you about, belong to the genus Vanessa.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 16._

  THE AZURE BLUE BUTTERFLY (_Polyommatus Argiolus_).
]

“But there is a butterfly of another genus,” said Mrs. Merton, “that
is, the lovely little azure blue. Look, my dear,” continued she,
addressing her husband, “it is just settled on that holly.”

Mr. Merton looked, and expressed his surprise as these butterflies are
rarely seen so late in the season.

They now passed a very pretty villa, called St. Boniface, and very soon
after they arrived at Bonchurch, which Agnes said she supposed was an
abbreviation of St. Boniface. Just before they reached Bonchurch,
however, they passed a curious stone called the Pulpit-rock, and the
driver stopped, in order that some of the party might get out of the
carriage, and climb up it. Mrs. Merton declined as she did not feel
well; but Agnes was delighted to do so, as she was particularly fond of
climbing; just as she got out of the carriage, however, her mother
observed that a pretty little pink silk handkerchief, that she wore
round her neck, was neither tied nor fastened by a pin.

“You had better tie your handkerchief, Agnes,” said Mrs. Merton, “or
give it me to take care of till you come back.”

“Oh! no, thank you, mamma,” cried Agnes, “I will fasten it with a pin,”
and she did, indeed, put a pin into it, but so carelessly that it fell
out immediately, without her being aware of it. In fact, Agnes’s head
was so full of the Pulpit-stone, that she could not stay to think about
her handkerchief, and she ran away as fast as she could, passing
through the narrow entrance, and climbing up behind the stone with the
greatest agility. The pulpit-rock commanded a fine view, which Agnes
stayed to look at; and, indeed, the rock itself took rather more time
for Agnes to climb up and return than her papa had expected; so that,
as soon as she re-entered the carriage, he desired the driver to go on.
They passed through Bonchurch, and by Luccombe Chine, without stopping,
and soon arrived at a very pretty little inn, called Williams’ Hotel,
at Shanklin.



                              CHAPTER VII.

Consequences of carelessness.—Beach at Shanklin.—Lobster-
  pots.—Planorbis.—Marsh-snail.—Sea-rocket.—Starfish.—Crabs and
  Lobsters.—Seaweed—Mode of drying it.—Mussels.—Shanklin
  Chine.—The split shoe.—Shops at Shanklin.


When the carriage stopped at Williams’ Hotel at Shanklin, Mrs. Merton
asked Agnes what had become of her little pink silk handkerchief. Agnes
mechanically put her hand to her neck; but, alas! no handkerchief was
there. It was gone; and, though Agnes knew nothing about it, the
probability was, that, at that very moment, it was dangling from one of
the rough corners of the pulpit-stone. Agnes was quite in despair when
this thought struck her; and she was most anxious to go back to seek
it; but this Mrs. Merton would not hear of.

“No,” said she; “I could forgive any loss that happened accidentally;
but this was from downright carelessness.”

Agnes was excessively vexed, and could not help crying; as the
handkerchief had been given to her by her aunt Jane, and was a great
favourite: Mrs. Merton, however, paid no attention to her tears, but
walked into the inn with her husband, leaving poor Agnes to follow by
herself. The little girl felt this neglect bitterly, and she wept so
much before she could summon courage to appear again before her mother,
that the mistress of the house, who was a very good-natured person, on
her return from showing Mr. and Mrs. Merton to a room, began to pity
the poor child, and advised her to go into the garden for a few minutes
to recover herself. Agnes complied, and sat down, very sorrowfully,
under a tree within sight of the window of the room in which her
parents were. What appeared to Agnes a tremendously long time passed
before they appeared to notice her; but at last Mrs. Merton, having
placed her husband comfortably on the sofa, opened the glass door of
their room, and walked across the lawn to where Agnes sat. The little
girl started up immediately, and, meeting her mother, begged to be
forgiven.

“I will not promise never to lose anything again,” said she; “but, if
you will but forgive me, mamma, I will never again be inattentive to
your advice.”

Mrs. Merton kissed her; and, telling her that was all that could be
expected of a child of her age, proposed a walk to the beach. Agnes
gladly complied; and the good-natured landlady seemed quite pleased
when Mrs. Merton inquired what road they were to take, to see that the
poor little culprit had been forgiven. In compliance with the
directions they had received, they walked first up a short lane, till
they came to an open shop dignified by the name of a bazaar, opposite
to which was another lane which led down a steep hill to the beach.

“What a dreadful hill!” cried Agnes; “how shall we ever get up it
again? Do look, mamma, at those horses, how they are striving to drag
that cart up the hill; and yet it cannot be very heavy, for it is full
of nothing but sea-weed. What can they be going to do with so much
sea-weed?”

“Have you forgotten that I told you sea-weed is often used as manure?”

“I had forgotten it, I declare. It seems such a strange thing to use as
manure. But look, mamma, what a fine view we have of the sea here? and
yet how high we still are above it.”

The descent now became more rapid; and Agnes ran down the remainder of
the road, which, after various windings, at last conducted them to the
beach. When they reached it, and looked back at the cliffs, they found
the scene very striking. A long, almost perpendicular line of rocks
spread along, as far as they could see, occasionally jutting out almost
to the sea, and then falling back in deep bays. The face of the cliff
was of a pale brown, or yellow ochre colour, streaked with a deeper or
red shade. After looking around for a few minutes, Agnes cried, “mamma,
do you remember that scene in the Antiquary, where Isabella and her
father are surprised by the coming in of the tide, and in great danger
of being drowned? I think it must have been in such a place as this.”

Mrs. Merton was about to reply, when Agnes’s attention was attracted by
some curious-looking wicker-work cages which lay in a heap at the end
of the terrace on which they had been walking. “What can these be?”
cried she. A boy who was lying beside them, and tying them together
with pieces of string, looked up in her face, without disturbing
himself, and answered, “they are lobster-pots.”

“Pots!” repeated Agnes: “I think they are more like baskets than pots.
And why are these snails put in them?”

“They are the bait,” said the boy, without even looking at her this
time.

“Do look, mamma,” said Agnes, “what enormous snails! And here is a
large flat snail like that Susan found for me in the kitchen, only it
is such a great deal larger.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 17._

  THE HORNY SNAIL
  (_Planorbis corneus_).
]

“That shell was placed among the snails by Linnæus,” said Mrs. Merton;
“but it is now called Planorbis, or the coil-shell. Look what a horny,
almost transparent, substance it has; indeed, I believe it is sometimes
called the Horny Snail. It does not live in the sea; but it is found in
ditches, or any stagnant water that is nearly dry in summer. When
attacked, it emits a dark reddish liquid, to hide itself from its
enemies, by rendering the water so dark that it cannot be seen.”

“How clever!”

“Instinct teaches many molluscous animals to do the same. The violet
snail emits a beautiful lilac fluid; and the cuttle-fish a liquid as
black as ink. But this is not all that I have to tell you about the
Planorbis: it lays its eggs upon a leaf, where they look like those of
the spider, or of some kind of insect.”

“Look mamma! Here is another shell, quite different from the Planorbis.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 18._

  THE MARSH-SNAIL
  (_Lymnea communis_).
]

“It is different in shape, but it is nearly allied in other respects,
for that is the Marsh-snail, or Lymnea. Some of the species of this
genus crawl with their backs downwards along the under surface of the
water, if I may so describe it, just as you have seen a snail crawl on
a glass; and the species of the genus Physa, which is another little
black fresh-water-snail, not only creep in the manner I have described,
but let themselves down by a thread in the water, just as you may have
seen some kinds of caterpillars do on land.”

As they strolled along the beach they noticed several immense plants of
Sea-rocket, which grew close to the cliffs, and some of the fleshy
leaves of which Agnes gathered and ate. “I know I am safe in eating
this,” said she; “because I see by the four opposite petals of the
flower that it is one of the Cruciferæ, or cabbage-tribe, and I know
the plants of that tribe are wholesome.”

“Take care, however, lest you should some day find that though the
Cruciferous plants are eatable they are not always agreeable; for,
remember, Horseradish, and some other pungent plants, belong to that
tribe: but I am glad to find that you have remembered what I told you
about the shape of the flowers, which are called cruciferous, or
cross-bearing, from their four petals being arranged in the form of a
Greek cross.”

Agnes now found a specimen of the Star-fish, or five-fingers, a species
of which she had often seen in Scotland; but she did not attempt to
pick it up, as she remembered that one she found at Dunbar began to
decay before she could reach the inn. She stood, however, looking at
it, and her mother, who told her these Star-fishes were usually only
caught in the Northern seas, made her remark its mouth, or rather the
opening to its short bag-like stomach, which is placed in the very
centre of the rays; and the numerous holes through which the creature
could project its feet, having the power of shortening or extending
them at pleasure, and also of adhering, by the flat disk at their base,
to any substance it might be near; the part which may be called the
sole of the foot, acting like a sucker.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 19._

  THE STAR-FISH, OR FIVE-FINGERS (_Asterias glacialis_).
]

“What poor helpless creatures these Star-fish seem to be!” said Agnes;
“I wonder how they contrive to live, for they seem to have no means of
catching anything.”

“You will be surprised, then, to hear that they are accused of catching
oysters; and that it is asserted in many books on natural history, that
there was formerly a penalty inflicted by the Admiralty Court on every
dredger who caught a Star-fish and did not kill it.”

“But how could the poor Star-fish, with its soft body, attack an
oyster, protected as it is by two strong shells?”

“It was said to wait till the oyster gaped, and then to thrust one of
its rays in between the valves to suck out the oyster.”

“Oh, mamma!” cried Agnes, laughing; “how very stupid the oyster must
have been not to shut its shell and crush the ray, instead of letting
itself be sucked out!”

“The story is as old as Aristotle; and, like many other stories told by
the ancients, it has been handed down to our times, without any one,
till lately, taking the trouble to examine whether it was true or
false. I believe the fact is, that when oysters or any other molluscous
animals become sickly, they are attacked by Star-fish and other similar
creatures, just as a dying snail is attacked and devoured by slugs; but
I think with you, that if a Star-fish were bold enough to attack a
healthy oyster, it would soon have reason to repent it.”

“I have often thought, mamma,” said Agnes; “what miserable lives
oysters and other similar creatures must lead in the sea; fixed as they
are to rocks, and incapable of hearing or seeing anything around them.”

“You forget,” replied her mother, “how often I have told you that our
Beneficent Creator has provided not only for the nourishment, but for
the enjoyments of all his creatures. I think it is Paley who remarks,
that when we recollect the happiness we feel when in perfect health and
high spirits, without any particular cause, we may easily comprehend
the enjoyments of the inferior animals.”

“I can understand that, mamma; and so I suppose that these poor oysters
enjoy the warmth of the sun and the flowing of the tide, as much as I
do the fresh breeze when it blows against me as I run.”

“Exactly so. Every creature has a capability of happiness adapted to
the situation in which it is placed; and when we do not perceive how
this is effected, we may rest assured that the fault is in ourselves,
and not in the system of Nature.”

While they were conversing in this manner, they had strolled to a
considerable distance along the beach, and were beginning to think of
turning back, as they were going from the Chine, which they intended to
visit before they returned to the inn, when Agnes’s attention was
attracted by a splendid mass of tangle, that had been thrown on the
beach by the sea; and catching hold of it, she picked up at the same
time a little crab not bigger than the end of her finger. The little
crab was of a pale yellow, and as soon as it was caught, it began to
run sideways as fast as possible. Agnes had often heard of crabs
running sideways, but she had never seen one do so before; and the
motions of this little creature struck her as so very odd that she
burst into a violent fit of laughter. Mrs. Merton came up to know what
was the matter; and when she saw the little crab running sideways as
fast as possible with only half of its legs, and then back with the
other half, she could not forbear smiling also. The next moment,
however, she checked herself.

“We ought not to laugh at this little creature,” said she, “since there
is nothing really ridiculous that is natural; but it only strikes us as
absurd because we are not used to it.”

“What curious creatures crabs are!” cried Agnes.

“They are called Crustaceous animals,” returned her mother, “because
they are covered with a crust or shell; and they are said to be
articulated, because their limbs are jointed so that they can throw one
off without suffering much inconvenience.”

“Lobsters can do the same thing, can they not?”

“Yes, they also belong to the Crustacea, and so do shrimps, and prawns,
and cray-fish, besides many other creatures you are not acquainted
with. All the Crustacea have also the power of throwing off their
shells when they have grown too large for them, and forming new ones,
as I think I explained to you some years ago when we were speaking of
cray-fish.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 20._

  IRISH MOSS, OR CARRAGEEN.
  (_Fucus crispus._)
]

“They must suffer a great deal of pain when they change their shells.”

“They do; and some are said even to die under the operation; but I
suppose they must also suffer a good deal from the old shell being too
tight for them, before they throw it off.”

Agnes now picked up some sea-weed which struck her as being like what
her mother had once taken, boiled with milk, for a troublesome cough.

“It is the same,” said Mrs. Merton; “the popular name is Carrageen, or
Irish moss, but it is a kind of Fucus.”

“And what is this pale brown?” asked Agnes.

“That is called Duck’s Foot Conferva,” said Mrs. Merton, “and when
burnt it smells like lemons; but it is not a true Conferva.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 21._

  DUCK’S FOOT CONFERVA (_Flustra foliacea_).
]

“Do look at this beautiful pink sea-weed, mamma,” said Agnes.

“That is called Delesseria by botanists,” said Mrs. Merton, “but I do
not know its English name. It is very beautiful from its delicate
texture, and its brilliant colour. Its seeds are produced on the back
of the leaves, or fronds, as in ferns.”

“I should like to take some of it,” said Agnes,—“may I?”

“Certainly,” said Mrs. Merton, “but take great care in drying it, as it
is very apt to adhere to the paper. I think you know how to dry
sea-weed.”

“Oh! yes,” said Agnes, “Miss Green taught me. You first put the
sea-weed in water, and then put a piece of writing paper under it, so
as to let the plant lie upon the paper as it did in the water; and then
you take it up carefully, so as to let the water run off without
disturbing the plant.”

“You are quite right,” said Mrs. Merton; “but you must observe that
some sea-weeds are spoiled by putting them into fresh water, and will
change their colour, while others will crackle, when taken out, like
salt when thrown on a fire. Some kinds, when laid on a plate in fresh
water, will start and curl up as if they were alive; and nearly all sea
animals, such as the Star-fish we saw just now, are killed instantly by
putting them into fresh water. However, to return to the sea-weed, I am
so well pleased at your remembering what was told you, that I will give
you some more paper to dry your sea-weed on, if you should not have
enough; and you may gather as much as you like.”

Agnes did not suffer this permission to lie dormant; and she gathered
sea-weed of a great variety of shades of pink, brown, green, black, and
even white; as, however, she could not carry half the quantity she had
collected, her mother promised to bring her back to the beach the
following morning, if the weather should be fine, when she might
provide herself with a basket.

They now found the tide coming in so rapidly that they judged it most
prudent to return; though Agnes, who was fond of excitement, would
willingly have gone on a little farther, in spite of the danger; which,
indeed, was not very great, as the tide seldom rises very high on the
back of the Isle of Wight, and there was a considerable space between
the cliffs and the shore. The billows, however, came in with
considerable force, and they brought with them a piece of board that
looked as if it had belonged to a ship. Agnes picked it up, and found
some Mussels sticking to it; one of which was attached by what looked
like a tuft of coarse brown thread; but, when she asked what it was,
her mother smiled, and told her it was the Byssus.

“The Byssus!” cried Agnes: “I thought that was produced by the Pinna,
or Sea-wing. Don’t you remember, mamma, showing me a pair of gloves
made of the Byssus of the Pinna at the British Museum? I am sure you
said the Pinna.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 22._

  FRESHWATER MUSSELS (_Dreissena polymorpha_).
]

“I remember it perfectly; but other shell-fish produce Byssus besides
the Pinna.”

“Indeed! and are gloves made of it?”

“I believe not; because it is not produced in other shell-fish in
sufficient quantities.”

“Do not some Mussels produce pearls?” asked Agnes.

“Those are the River Mussels,” said Mrs. Merton. “Remember that there
are several kinds of Mussels: as, for example, the River Mussel, or
Unio, which produces what are called British pearls, and which is
common in many British rivers, particularly in the Conway, in Wales,
and in the Tay, in Scotland; the Sea Mussel, or Mytilus, the animal of
which is eaten, and which produces the Byssus; and the Horse Mussel, or
Modiola. The kind you have found, however, belongs to none of these, as
it is a freshwater species generally found in docks; and it must have
adhered to some vessel that has been shipwrecked here soon after it
left the dock in which it had been repaired.”

“Oh! mamma, don’t talk of shipwrecks,” cried Agnes, shuddering.

They had now reached a little terrace, raised to a considerable height
above the beach, where there was a little shop, the proprietor of which
sold fruit, and also engravings of various kinds, in the manner which
seems fashionable at Shanklin; as the shops there generally contain
articles of the most heterogeneous kinds. Here Mrs. Merton inquired the
way to the Chine, and they were directed to apply at a little cottage a
good way farther up the beach. They did so; and a most uncivil person
came out, who, unlocking a gate, told them to go through there, and
then left them to find their way how they could. They went straight on
along a narrow path, which was exceedingly slippery and disagreeable
from the recent rains, and they soon came to a place where the road
divided into two, and they did not know which way to take. As Mrs.
Merton was very much fatigued by the want of sleep the previous night,
Agnes ran forward along one of the paths, while Mrs. Merton waited her
return. She soon came back, saying that the path merely led to a seat;
but, as she descended the hill, Mrs. Merton noticed that her shoe had
burst open behind, and that she had great difficulty in keeping it on
her foot.

“My dear Agnes,” said her mother, “these shoes were never intended for
walking along such roads as these. Why did you not put on your
walking-shoes?”

Agnes looked at her feet in dismay; for, alas! the walking-shoes had
been left at Black Gang Chine. They had been very wet the preceding
evening; and when they were brought up after being cleaned, they felt
so damp that Agnes begged to have them dried, intending to put them on
just before she came away; but this she had forgotten to do; and her
present shoes, being totally unfit for walking on wet clayey soil, had
burst open in the manner described.

“What shall I do, mamma?” said Agnes: “I think I must try to fasten my
shoe together with a pin.”

Mrs. Merton smiled and shook her head; but, as no better means
presented themselves, the pin was obliged to be used.

They now walked on very uncomfortably; the pin pricked Agnes every step
she took; and her shoe was so loose that she had the greatest
difficulty to prevent it from falling off. She was, besides, encumbered
with her sea-weed, and some engravings they had purchased at the little
shop on the beach for aunt Jane, though of these last her mamma soon
relieved her. Mrs. Merton, on her part, did not feel much more inclined
to enjoy the beauties of the Chine than her poor little daughter, for
the path was very narrow, and was not only wet and slippery from the
recent rains, but in some places had given way altogether, and been
rudely propped up with the branch of a tree, apparently just cut down
for the purpose. Several other paths also branched off from that which
appeared the principal one, and thus the constant fear of having to
retrace their steps was mingled with their other troubles. What is
called a Chine in the Isle of Wight, means a cleft in the rocks, which
has been produced by the action of a stream running through them, and
thus, wherever there is a Chine, there is always a stream of water
running into the sea. At Shanklin Chine the cleft has penetrated to a
considerable depth into the rocks; and thus a deep ravine is formed, on
one side of which the rock is almost perpendicular, while on the other
it shelves gently downward, and is covered with trees and bushes, among
which are a few cottages very picturesquely placed. The cascade is
somewhat larger than that at Black Gang Chine; but still it possessed
very little grandeur, and Mrs. Merton and Agnes were both very glad
when they reached it to see a girl approaching with a key in her hand
to let them out, as it was a proof that they had nearly reached the end
of the Chine. They had still, however, a flight of broken, slippery
steps to ascend, after which they found themselves once more on solid
ground. Mrs. Merton’s object was now to get her little daughter a pair
of shoes, or boots; as, though she generally wished Agnes to suffer a
little when she left anything behind from want of care, she considered
the melancholy scene they had witnessed at Black Gang Chine was
sufficient to excuse a little forgetfulness. They therefore walked into
the village to find a shoe-shop; but this was a very difficult task.
They were first directed to a shop where the people sold eggs and
bacon, cheese and butter, intermixed with articles of haberdashery, and
boots and shoes; but, unfortunately, there were none there that fitted
Agnes; and they had to walk a long way on the dusty road, and even to
pass through a turnpike, before Agnes could obtain a pair of boots to
suit her; but she could not help sighing as they retraced their steps
back to the inn, and frequently exclaiming, “How glad I am, mamma, that
we do not live at Shanklin!”



                             CHAPTER VIII.

Shanklin continued.—Siphonia, or Sea-Tulip.—Zoophytes.—Sponges.
  —Corals.—Shells—Anomia—Scallop-shell—Cockle-shell—Whelk—Solen,
  or Razor-shell—Mactra, or Kneading Trough—Mya.


The first thing Agnes thought of the following morning was her mamma’s
promise to take her again to the beach to pick up the shells and
sea-weed which she had been compelled to leave behind her the preceding
day. Mrs. Merton thought it prudent to stay till the tide was in and
had begun to turn, in order that they might explore the cliffs as far
as they felt inclined without danger; and it may be easily guessed that
Agnes grew rather impatient at the length of time she had to wait.
Fortunately, however, there was a beautiful little garden attached to
the inn, in which, with the aid of two or three dogs, a kitten, and,
what was better than all, a little girl of about her own age, who was
also travelling with her parents through the island, Agnes contrived to
amuse herself till her mamma was ready. Before proceeding to the beach
it was necessary to purchase a basket, and for this purpose they
entered the bazaar which they had seen the day before. Agnes had some
difficulty in finding a basket to suit her, as the pretty ones were all
far too small to hold the quantity of sea-weed and other things she
intended to bring from the beach; and it was with the greatest
difficulty that her mamma could persuade her to be satisfied with a
basket of moderate size, though even that Mrs. Merton feared when full
would be much too heavy for the little girl to carry. Just as they were
leaving the bazaar the woman showed them a curious specimen of the
Siphonia, or Sea-Tulip, which she said had been picked up on the beach.
The siphonia was intermixed with various fossil remains, and the whole
presented so singular an appearance that Agnes, who had never seen any
thing of the kind before, could talk of nothing else while they were
descending to the beach.

“What a curious thing the sea-tulip is,” said she. “Is it a plant, and
are there any like it growing now?”

“It is not a plant,” said Mrs. Merton, “but a zoophyte, and I believe
it has only been found in a fossil state.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 23._

  MASS OF FOSSILS CONTAINING THE SIPHONIA, or SEA-TULIP.
]

“Zoophyte!” said Agnes; “that is half a plant, and half an animal, is
it not, mamma?”

“The word zoophyte,” returned Mrs. Merton, “signifies literally an
animal plant; and it was formerly applied only to those singular
creatures which grew in the ground like plants, and were yet furnished
with tentacula or arms which they could extend or contract so as to
provide themselves with food. But it is now used in a more enlarged
sense, and it includes various kinds of polypes, animalcules and other
animals of the lowest class. Some of these creatures seem to consist
merely of semitransparent jelly, and when disturbed they contract
themselves into almost shapeless lumps.”

“Have I ever seen any of these animalcules?” asked Agnes.

“You probably have without being aware of it,” returned her mother:
“for in summer when the sun is warm they may generally be seen in ponds
and slowly running waters, looking like little lumps of transparent
jelly, and hanging to plants or any other object that may be in the
water.”

“I think I have seen them, then,” said Agnes; “but I had no idea that
they were living creatures.”

“And yet,” returned her mother, “if you were to take one of these
jelly-like lumps, not larger than a small pea, and examine it in a
powerful microscope, you would find that it possessed six or more arms,
which it has the power of stretching out in an extraordinary manner, so
as to seize any insect that may come in their way, and which they
convey to an opening in the centre of the polypus, which serves as its
mouth, and which leads directly to the stomach.”

“Ah, mamma!” said Agnes, “then these creatures are polypes. I have been
frequently going to ask you what kind of creatures they were, ever
since papa was reading to us that curious account of the manner in
which they form islands in the Australian Seas. But surely,” continued
she, after thinking for a moment, “these soft jelly-like looking
animals cannot possibly form any thing so hard as coral!”

“It is, indeed,” replied Mrs. Merton, “extremely difficult for us to
conceive that animals so simple and jelly-like can form solid stone;
but the way in which it is effected is, that the creature has the power
of depositing, in a solid form, the earthy matter which is continually
floating in the waters of the ocean, and which it swallows with its
daily food.”

While Agnes and her mamma were thus speaking they continued descending
the cliffs till they came to the part where the road turns, and leaves
a little level space before it again descends. Just at this place they
found an old woman sitting at a kind of stall covered with shells and
various kinds of fossils; and Agnes, whose curiosity was always easily
excited, stopped to look at them.

“I wish we could find any polypes here,” said she to her mamma.

“It is impossible,” said Mrs. Merton, “to find any here in a living
state; but you may see some of their labours in these curious specimens
of sponge.”

“Sponge, mamma?” cried Agnes. “Surely you do not mean to say that the
polypes form sponge as well as coral!”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 24._

  SPONGES.
]

“Indeed I do,” said Mrs. Merton, “for though sponge was once supposed
to be a marine plant, it has long since been discovered to be an
animal. About the year 1752 a gentleman, named Ellis, was at Brighton
forming a collection of marine plants for the instruction of some part
of the Royal Family in botany, and amongst other things he collected
some curious specimens of sponges, which he examined through a powerful
microscope with a view to obtain a knowledge of some peculiarities
which he considered necessary to be ascertained before they could be
properly classified. By this examination he discovered that the sponges
possessed a system of vessels through which the sea-water circulated,
and which opened by means of innumerable pores. Subsequent examinations
proved that what we call sponge may be compared to the shell of the
snail or the oyster, and that it acts as a covering to the jelly-like
animal or animals which reside in it, being as necessary to them as
shells are to the molluscous animals. Mr. Ellis, after making these
discoveries, examined different kinds of coral, and found that they
were also furnished with pores containing animals, the tentacula or
feelers of which were continually expanding and contracting as if
seeking and seizing prey.”

“How very curious!” cried Agnes; “and what do these creatures live
upon?”

“Probably,” returned her mamma, “on some animalcules contained in the
water, the forms of which are too minute to be visible to human eyes
even though aided by powerful microscopes.”

“I can easily imagine they must be very small,” said Agnes, “as the
creatures which feed upon them are so little themselves. But I think I
have seen the pores in the coral.”

“I have no doubt you have,” said Mrs. Merton; “the pores in some of the
kinds of sponge are also quite large enough to be visible to the naked
eye.”

“But where is sponge found, mamma?” asked Agnes.

“It is generally collected from rocks in the sea,” replied Mrs. Merton,
“about twenty or thirty feet deep, by divers, who in time become very
expert in obtaining it. It grows so rapidly, that it is said rocks have
been found covered with it that were completely cleared only two years
before.”

“What kinds of coral are these mamma?” said Agnes, picking up two or
three pieces which lay upon the stall.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 25._

  CORALS.
]

“I do not know the names of all of them,” said Mrs. Merton; “but I
believe that kind which looks as though it were formed of small beads
is called the chain coral, or Catenipora; and that other kind which
appears covered with star-like flowers is called Aulopora.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 26._

  SADDLE-SHAPED ANOMIA.
]

Agnes’s attention was now caught by some shells, and she begged her
mamma to purchase for her a beautiful little Scallop-shell which was
streaked with reddish bands, delicately shaded off into white; and also
one of those shells which are called Anomia. They then proceeded on
their walk, and as they descended the remaining cliffs Agnes asked her
mamma what the use was of the hole in the upper valve of the anomia.

“It is that,” said Mrs. Merton, “which has given rise to the popular
English name of the Antique Lamp, by which the shell is generally
known, as it resembles the opening through which the flame of the
ancient lamps used to ascend; but its real use is to admit the passing
through it of a strong muscle, at the end of which is a calcareous
mass, by means of which the animal contained in the shell attaches
itself to the rocks. Where the creature has fixed itself, it cannot be
pulled off without killing it; but when it wishes, it possesses the
power of drawing its muscle into the shell so as to close the hole in
the upper valve with the calcareous mass, which exactly fits it.”

Agnes did not reply to this, and after a short silence her mamma asked
her if she did not wish to know any particulars respecting the other
shell they had purchased.

“Oh no!” said Agnes, carelessly, “as it is only a common scallop, I
suppose I know all that you can tell me about that.”

“Indeed!” said Mrs. Merton, “and pray may I ask how much you do know
about it?”

Agnes was about to speak, but after considering a moment, she
hesitated, stammered, and at last said, “it is such a common shell.”

“But what particulars do you know about it?” persisted Mrs. Merton.

“Everybody knows a scallop-shell,” said Agnes.

“Everybody may easily know it as well as you do apparently,” said Mrs.
Merton; “for the fact is that you appear to know nothing of it but its
name; and yet there are some particulars respecting the animal of the
pecten or scallop which are extremely interesting. For instance, you
are probably not aware that it possesses the power of leaping; and that
a basket full of scallops just caught, which was set down on the beach,
was found speedily emptied of its contents by the pectens springing out
of it and returning to the water. The animal of the scallop has also
the power of making such frequent and sudden contractions of its
muscles as to force itself rapidly forward through the water; and,
indeed, a recent writer on the subject tells us, that it requires
considerable agility to catch it as it flutters among the corals where
it dwells. The name of pecten, which signifies a comb, was given to the
scallop-shell from a supposed resemblance in the fluting of the shell
to the teeth of a comb. The scallop-shell was formerly the badge of
pilgrims who had been to the Holy Land, and was worn on their caps and
cloaks.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 27._

  SCALLOP SHELL.
]

They had now reached the beach, and Agnes was in such high spirits,
that, though she was encumbered with her large basket, she could not
refrain from running backwards and forwards several times, just as we
often see little dogs do, who never seem thoroughly to enjoy a walk
unless they are permitted to make it twice or three times as long as it
ought to be.

Agnes ran round a projecting cliff so that her mother lost sight of
her. She soon, however, came running back with two or three
Cockle-shells in her hand. “Look mamma!” cried she, “what I have found!”

“Nothing very remarkable, certainly,” said Mrs. Merton, smiling; “for I
believe the cockle-shell is common on the sea-beach in every part of
the world. Yet something interesting may be told even of this common
shell. In the first place it is what is called a bivalve, that is, the
shell is in two parts, or valves, like those of the oyster and the
scallop, the two parts being united by a hinge, formed by two
projecting teeth in the centre, and two side teeth.”

“But what do you call teeth, mamma!”

“Look, here are two projecting parts with a hollow part between. The
projecting parts are called the teeth, and you see they are so placed
that the teeth of one valve fit into the hollow part of the other. The
creature, which is something like an oyster, and is eaten, can open and
shut these valves at pleasure, and it can push out a long elbow-like
part of its body and spring forward to a considerable distance when it
wishes to leave the sand and return to the sea. Look, too, how
delicately this valve that you have found, is ribbed, and observe the
form of the shell. You see it bears some resemblance to a heart, and
hence the scientific name of the genus is Cardium, which signifies a
heart.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 28._

  WHELK (_Buccinum undatum_).
]

Agnes now picked up another shell, and her mother smiled when she
discovered that it was a Whelk, or Buckie. “My dear Agnes,” said she,
“you certainly cannot boast of finding any very rare shells in your
travels; for the whelk is nearly as common as the cockle. However,
there is a material difference between them, for the whelk, or
buccinum, is a univalve, that is, its shell is only in one part, like
that of the snail. Look at this shell, and you will perceive a curious
little notch at the lower end; and when there is this mark we know that
the animal inhabiting the shell is carnivorous, that is, it lives on
other creatures of its own kind. The common garden snail, which, you
know, lives on vegetables, has no notch.”

Agnes now saw several shells lying scattered about, but she scarcely
condescended to look at them, till at last, one appeared so curious
that she could not help calling her mamma’s attention to it. It was a
long narrow shell, something resembling the handle of a pocket knife.
What she picked up, however, was only the half of what was evidently a
bivalve-shell, and to Agnes’s great annoyance, it was by no means
perfect. Mrs. Merton, however, told her that it was what was called a
Solen, or Razor-shell, or, sometimes, a Sheath-shell, from its
resemblance to the handle, or sheath of a razor. She also showed her
the hinge that united the two valves together, and which, though very
slight, was curiously formed.

While Mrs. Merton was speaking, Agnes saw another shell nearly similar
to the first, but smaller and prettier, and the little girl ran with
great delight to pick it up. Just before she reached it, however, she
saw it raise itself on one end, and then instantly disappear in the
sand.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 29._

  TRUNCATED GAPER.

  SOLEN, OR RAZOR-SHELL.

  COMMON COCKLE.

  THE KNEADING TROUGH.
]

It is scarcely possible to express the astonishment and almost terror
which seized Agnes at this sight; and she ran back to her mamma almost
too frightened to ask the cause of what she had seen. Her mamma,
however, explained to her that it was the nature of the animals
belonging to these shells to bury themselves in the sand when they were
alarmed; and she added, that the disappearance of the shell was a
certain proof that it was inhabited.

“Oh mamma!” cried Agnes, “how I should like to see the animal. Can’t we
get it up out of the sand without hurting it?”

“I am afraid not,” said Mrs. Merton; “for these animals have been known
sometimes to descend to the depth of two feet, and I believe they
generally go at least a foot beneath the surface, which is a greater
depth than I could possibly dig to, with the point of my parasol, and I
have no other instrument at hand.”

“But then,” cried Agnes, “how will the poor solen return itself, for I
suppose it will not always remain buried in the sand?”

“If you will look attentively,” said Mrs. Merton, “you will see that
the solen has left a little hole, by which he can return to the surface
whenever he thinks proper, which no doubt will be as soon as we have
disappeared;” and, in fact, when Agnes looked at the little narrow tube
which the solen had left in the sand, she fancied she could see some
slight appearance of its shining pinkish shell in the hole. Her mamma,
however, would not suffer her to attempt to get the shell out, lest she
should destroy the tube, and thus convert the poor solen’s retreat into
its tomb. She, therefore, stood for some time looking at the hole in
silence; and at last asked her mamma if there was not any way of
bringing the creature out without injuring it.

“It is said,” returned Mrs. Merton, “that when a fisherman wishes to
catch one of these creatures alive, he can bring it to the surface by
throwing a little salt down the tube; but, strange to say, this plan is
only successful once, and the fisherman must be on the watch to seize
the shell the moment it makes its appearance, as if the animal becomes
alarmed and descends a second time, the salt has no longer any effect
upon it, and no efforts on the part of the fisherman can induce it to
rise again.”

“How very curious!” said Agnes; “but I do hope we shall find another of
these creatures in time to seize it. Are they common on this coast,
mamma?”

“Not very, I believe,” said Mrs. Merton; “and I think the kind of which
you have the half valve is not a British shell at all, but has been
washed here from some other country.”

They now walked on, and Agnes picked up the half of another bivalve
shell, which her mother told her was called Mactra, or the Kneading
Trough, from some fancied resemblance in the shape of the shell to that
utensil. As this shell was not very beautiful, Agnes soon threw it
away, but not before her mamma had made her observe that one of the
teeth was shaped like the letter V.

“There are many shells,” continued Mrs. Merton, “which are of nearly
the same outward shape as this, and which can only be distinguished
from each other by some peculiarities in the teeth or hinge.”

Agnes now picked up another half of a bivalve shell, which she at first
thought was another mactra, as the two shells bore considerable
resemblance to each other; but when Mrs. Merton told her to look at the
hinge she found that instead of being in the shape of a V there was a
curious projection resembling a small spoon, which her mother told her
fitted into a corresponding hollow in the other valve.

“This shell,” continued Mrs. Merton, “is one of the kind called Gapers,
because the two valves, instead of closing, are always open or gaping
at one end: they are so far apart, indeed, as to admit of a large tube,
containing two smaller ones, to pass through the opening. This tube the
animal can draw into the shell at pleasure; but generally when the
creature buries itself in the sand it allows its tube just to reach the
surface in order that it may take its food by means of the small tubes
within the large one. In some cases the animal buries itself so deeply
in the sand that it is obliged to elongate its tube to an extraordinary
length, in order to make it reach the surface; but in other cases the
tube is very short. The scientific name of this shell is Mya; and the
animal belonging to it is eaten in some parts of the world as an
article of food.”

Agnes now began to gather sea-weed and pebbles, and she had soon
collected a large quantity of both to put in her basket, which she had
placed on the beach while she filled it; this she did most effectively,
for several times when it appeared full she contrived by dint of
shaking and pressing to make it hold a little more. At last, however,
she seemed satisfied that her basket was full, and she attempted to
lift it up and carry it after her mamma, who had now turned, and was
walking slowly back towards the village. Mrs. Merton was absorbed in
thought, and as her back was turned towards Agnes, she was quite
unconscious of the trouble of the little girl, who was trying in vain
with all the strength she could muster to raise the basket. But all her
efforts were in vain, the basket was far too heavy for her; and after a
powerful but useless struggle, fearing that her mamma would leave her
behind, as she had already lost sight of her behind one of the
projecting cliffs, poor Agnes uttered a cry so full of trouble and
almost despair that her mamma came running back, terrified lest some
dreadful accident had happened to her darling. When she found what was
really the matter, she could scarcely help laughing at poor Agnes’s
dilemma, and she put an end to it by emptying the contents of the
basket on the beach, and helping Agnes to refill it with only a few of
the stones and shells, and the lightest and prettiest of the sea-weed,
with which they returned to the inn.



                              CHAPTER IX.

Sandown Bay.—Culver Cliff.—Sandown Fort.—High Flood.—Girl and Dog.
  —Poultry.—Hares.—Butterflies.—Ichneumon Fly.—Myrtles.—Brading.
  —Bembridge.—St. Helen’s.—Arrival at Ryde.


The next morning was rather cooler than any day since the Mertons had
been in the Isle of Wight; and Agnes felt the want of her little pink
handkerchief round her neck. She did not like to complain, however, as
she was aware it was entirely her own fault that the handkerchief had
been lost; and so she bore the cold as well as she could, without
saying a word about it. The road they were travelling commanded a
beautiful view of Sandown Bay and Culver Cliff, on which last, Mr.
Merton told Agnes, was formerly erected a beacon to warn the
inhabitants when any danger was apprehended of an invasion from France,
as this was the part of the Island that approached nearest to that
country.

“The Isle of Wight was once invaded by the French,” said Mrs. Merton,
“but I believe it was in the reign of Henry V.”

“It was invaded several times previously to that period,” said Mr.
Merton, “and also, I believe, once or twice in the reign of Henry VI.;
and it was to repel these invasions,” continued he, pointing to Sandown
Fort, “that the fort we see before us was erected in the time of
Charles I.; but we now trust to our shipping as our best protection.
The only bed of coal that is worth working in the Isle of Wight, is in
Culver Cliff.”

They now approached the river, which flows inland from Brading Haven,
and which had greatly overflowed its banks; but Agnes was very much
amused to see a little robin redbreast sitting on a stone in the middle
of the water, looking as saucy and unconcerned as possible. A little
farther on they approached the deep part of the water; and here the
driver told Mrs. Merton and Agnes to sit as steadily as possible, for
the current was flowing with great violence, and the horse might be
carried off his feet. They did as he desired, and soon reached the
opposite bank in safety. They had scarcely done so, when Agnes’
attention was attracted by a little girl who was standing on the high
bank just beyond the water, weeping bitterly. It was easy to guess the
cause of her grief, for in the water lay the body of a little dog,
which appeared to have been dashed by the current against some large
stones near which it lay. They were all sorry for the poor little girl,
and Mrs. Merton, telling the driver to stop, asked the little girl if
it was her dog that she was crying over.

“No, it was not mine,” said the child, “it was master’s; but it loved
me, and I have nothing to love me now.”

Mrs. Merton entered into conversation with the girl, and learnt from
her that she was an orphan, and had been bound an apprentice by the
parish to a neighbouring farmer. The dog that lay dead before them had
been her playfellow and companion, and the poor girl’s sorrow at its
loss was the greater as she had nothing to supply its place in her
affections. As, however, it was impossible to restore it to life, Mrs.
Merton thought the best thing that could be done was to change the
current of the child’s ideas, and accordingly gave her a shilling,
which effectually answered the purpose intended; for the little girl,
who had never been mistress of so much money before, instantly dried
her tears, and ran off, leaving Agnes very indignant at her, for
suffering herself to be so easily consoled.

They now passed a farm-house, which both Mrs. Merton and Agnes thought
might possibly belong to the master of the little girl; and they
noticed some remarkably fine poultry feeding at the door of the barn.

“I have noticed in passing through the Island,” said Mrs. Merton, “that
the poultry is remarkably fine everywhere, and that it is apparently
very abundant.”

“One reason,” said Mr. Merton, “is no doubt the fact, that there are
neither badgers nor pole-cats in the Island, and till lately there were
no foxes; but these have been now introduced for the sake of hunting
them.”

“The inhabitants of the Isle of Wight,” said Mrs. Merton smiling,
“appear to have been very badly off with regard to the rural sports,
for at one time, I believe, no hares were to be found here. At least I
remember reading somewhere, that the same Sir Edward Horsley, whose
tomb we saw at Newport, was so anxious to introduce hares here, that he
gave a fat lamb for every hare that was brought over from the mainland
alive.”

“Oh! look mamma,” cried Agnes, interrupting her mother, “what a
beautiful butterfly! Surely that is quite different from those we saw
the other day.”

“You are quite right,” said her mother, “it is different; and it is
very extraordinary that it should be here at all, as it is generally
found only in low marshy places.”

“I have heard, however,” said Mr. Merton, “of its being found in the
neighbourhood of Dover on the chalk cliffs, and, therefore, it is not
very surprising that we should meet with it here.”

“But what is the name of this butterfly, mamma?” said Agnes.

“It is called the Marbled-white, or Marmoress,” said Mrs. Merton, “but
I think it is a variety a little different from the common kind.”

“Look, mamma!” said Agnes, “there it is again, sitting on that bough
with its wings closed. How very odd it is that butterflies should
always sit in that queer position!”

“It is their attitude of repose,” said Mrs. Merton. “They sit in that
position when they are asleep, and they are even found in it when they
are dead.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 30._

  THE MARBLED-WHITE BUTTERFLY, or MARMORESS
  (_Hipparchia Galathea_).
]

“It is very curious,” said Agnes, “that they should be so very fond of
displaying the under side of their wings; and it is still more curious
that the under side should be so very different from the upper side.
How is it, mamma? I should have thought in wings so thin as those of
the butterfly, that the colours would shine through.”

“The marks on the butterfly’s wing,” said Mrs. Merton, “are composed of
a number of delicate little scales, laid over each other like the
feathers of birds; and there are two different sets of scales for every
wing, one covering the upper, and the other the under side. If you lay
hold of a butterfly by its wings, you will find that some of these
delicate little scales will adhere to your fingers, on which they will
look like fine dust, and that the membrane of the wing from which they
were brushed will be laid bare; just as the skin of a bird would be if
you were to pluck off its feathers.”

“Ah, mamma,” cried Agnes, “there is another butterfly, which appears to
me quite different from the other.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Merton, “that is the Clouded-Yellow, a very common
butterfly in every part of England, and, I believe, in almost every
part of the world. It is, however, rather capricious in its visits, as
every three or four years a season occurs when not one of these
butterflies is to be seen; while, perhaps, the next season they are so
abundant as to lie dead under every hedge.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 31._

  THE CLOUDED-YELLOW BUTTERFLY (_Colias Edusa_).
]

“Several other kinds of insects,” said Mr. Merton, “have the same
peculiarity. Some years cockchafers are so abundant as to be quite a
pest, though, perhaps, the next season they are rarely to be met with.
Entomologists have been puzzled to account for these changes; but with
regard to the butterflies, their abundance or scarcity is said to
depend chiefly on the number of ichneumons.”

“Ichneumons!” cried Agnes, “I thought they were only found in Egypt.”

“I do not mean the animal that destroys the eggs of the Crocodile on
the banks of the Nile,” said Mr. Merton, “but a kind of fly which lays
its eggs in the living bodies of caterpillars.”

“Ah!” said Agnes, “I think you have told me of this fly before, mamma.
I remember it now.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 32._

  ICHNEUMON FLY ON A FLORET OF THE FLOWERING RUSH.
]

“Yes,” said Mrs. Merton, “I remember describing to you the Ichneumon
that lays its eggs in the caterpillar of the Cabbage Butterfly; but
there are several kinds, and there, I think, is one quite distinct
hovering round the florets of that Flowering Rush.”

She told the driver to stop; and Agnes distinctly saw the Ichneumon her
mother had alluded to.

They now passed a pretty little cottage with a large myrtle trained
against it; and Mrs. Merton remarked how very few similar specimens
they had seen of the mildness of the climate. “I remember, when I was a
girl,” said she, “having heard so much of the myrtles of the Isle of
Wight, that I expected to find the whole island a complete green-house;
but, the fact is, we have seen much fewer myrtles here than we did last
year in Devonshire.”

Soon after they arrived at the little town of Brading; and Mrs. Merton
and Agnes went to visit the Church, while Mr. Merton rested for an hour
or two at the inn. As they entered the church-yard, they saw, to their
great joy, their old acquaintance Mr. Bevan, whom they had not seen
before since they left Carisbrook Castle. He told them he had been
staying at Newport; but that he had now come to Brading to see the
Church, which was the oldest in the island, part of it being said to
have been built in the year 704. “It is also large for the Isle of
Wight, which is remarkable for the smallness of its churches,”
continued he; “and it contains some curious old tombs of the Oglanders,
the founder of whose family came over with William the Conqueror; also
the original of the epitaph which has been so often quoted, beginning:
‘Forgive, blest shade! the tributary tear’—I do not remember the rest,
but the words are doubtless familiar to you.”

As he was speaking, a woman came up, and asked if the party wished to
see the church. The old gentleman replied that they did. “Because,”
said she, dropping a curtsy, “my husband, as keeps the key, is gone out
with the key in his pocket, and won’t be home ’till night.”

Mrs. Merton and Agnes could not help laughing at the woman, who gave
this intelligence with the air of one who is communicating something
peculiarly agreeable, and which she means to be remarkably civil; but
the old gentleman did not take it so quietly: on the contrary, he went
into a passion, and ordered the woman to send for her husband
immediately. She said she did not know where to find him, and curtsying
again, walked off. The rage of the old gentleman was now excessive: his
face became quite red; he stamped, and shook his fist at the woman;
till, happening accidentally to cast his eyes on Agnes, he was
evidently struck at the expression of her countenance, and felt ashamed
of having exposed himself so much before a lady and a child. He
stopped, pushed his wig back into its place,—as it had been disordered
by his vehemence,—and began to apologise; but, as he saw Mrs. Merton
looked grave, he stopped suddenly. He then endeavoured to turn their
attention to another subject, and began speaking of Brading Haven.

“The sea here,” said he, “spreads over a piece of land eight or nine
hundred acres in extent, which, tradition tells us, was formerly partly
covered with an extensive oak forest, in which the Druids performed
their rites. In the centre of the forest was a stone-cased well, in
which Merlin, who was a powerful magician, had confined a troublesome
water-spirit; and the exact situation of this well was kept a secret,
as it was said, that if ever the lid was raised, ruin to the whole
country round would follow. The time of the Druids passed away, and all
memory of the well was lost, till the time of William the Conqueror,
when the Norman knight, Fitz Osborne, who subdued the island and
reigned over it as an independent sovereign, gave this tract of land to
one of his followers, Robert Okelandro. This knight, being fond of
hunting, determined to clear away the underwood in the forest, and in
doing so he discovered the enchanted well, and ordered its cover to be
removed that it might be filled up; some of the oldest inhabitants of
the place remonstrated; but he would be obeyed; the cover was taken
off, and the waters rushed up with such force as to overwhelm the whole
district, and to drown the adventurous knight and several of his
attendants.”

Mrs. Merton thanked the old gentleman for relating this legend, and
asked him if the harbour was not useful for shipping.

“No,” returned he; “it is too shallow to bear anything but a small
boat, even when the tide is in; and when it is out it is only a mass of
mud. In the reign of James I. Sir Hugh Middleton, the same who first
supplied London with water, contracted with some Dutchmen to embank
this spot, and redeem it from the sea; but after upwards of seven
thousand pounds had been expended, a furious tide made a breach in
their bank, and the land being again overflowed, they were at length
compelled to give up the project in despair.”

The old gentleman now bowed and took his leave, and Mrs. Merton
returned his salutation very coldly, as she had been disgusted with the
violent rage he had displayed, and which was so unbefitting his age and
general intelligence. Agnes was also quite hurt to find him so very
different from what she had expected. “I never could have believed he
would have behaved so; his appearance was so respectable,” said she.

“My dear Agnes,” returned her mother; “this is your first experience in
that important lesson in life—that it is always dangerous to place
much reliance on appearances.”

They now returned to the inn, where they found the carriage waiting; on
the road they stayed a moment to look again at Brading Haven, with the
little town of Bembridge, forming the southern point of the harbour,
and approaching nearly to the pretty village of St. Helen’s at its
northern point. Mrs. Merton was anxious to pass through St. Helen’s, as
she wanted to show Agnes the old church-tower which is now washed by
the sea, though it is said to have been once a mile from it, and the
green, round which the houses of the village are built; but as Mr.
Merton was far from well, she thought it advisable to proceed to Ryde
as speedily as possible, and after a very dull ride, only varied by the
beautiful view from St. John’s of the town of Ryde, they arrived at
that place, and drove to the Pier Hotel.



                               CHAPTER X.

Ryde.—Handsome Shops.—Binstead.—Wootton Bridge.—Newport.—East
  Cowes.—Horse Ferry.—Steam Boat.—Arms of the German Empire.—Return
  home.


[Illustration:

  _Fig. 33._

  RYDE PIER.
]

RYDE, the Guide-books tell us, was only a few years ago a small fishing
village; but if this really was the case, it seems almost to have
rivalled Aladdin’s palace in rapidity of growth, for it is now a large
and flourishing town. The streets are wide, and the shops are splendid.
The pier is also long and large; and the view of Portsmouth, with its
harbour full of shipping, and Spithead with its numerous men-of-war, is
very striking. Agnes was, however, most pleased with the shops full of
shells, which she found near the hotel; the shells being marked at
prices so low as to be quite astonishing. Some very nice specimens of
Haliotis, or Sea-ear, were marked only a penny each, and others were
equally cheap. Above all things, there were numerous specimens of
articles from the Royal George, a very large ship, which everybody
knows sunk while lying at anchor at Spithead, about sixty years ago,
and the remains of the wreck of which have been lately brought up by
the exertions of Major-General Pasley. The Bazaar at Ryde reminded
Agnes of the Burlington Arcade; and everything in the town appeared so
comfortable, and in such a superior style to any other place they had
seen in the island, that Agnes at last said she thought she should like
to live at Ryde almost as well as in London. She was also very much
delighted with a stroll on the beach, where she picked up some shells,
though she found nothing very valuable. At last she found a
mussel-shell that she was sure was not common, as it was quite
different from anything she had ever seen before; and, on showing it to
her mother, she was delighted to find that it was indeed very rare.

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 34._

  RIBBED MUSSEL (_Myrtilus crenulatus_).
]

“It is a native of the West Indies,” said Mrs. Merton; “and must have
adhered to some ship from that country, which has chanced to come into
Portsmouth Harbour.”

Agnes now admired her treasure more than ever, for, like many persons
much older than herself, she valued things by their rarity rather than
their beauty.

The party did not leave Ryde till rather a later hour than usual, and
when they did they took the road to Newport as Mr. Merton thought it
necessary to return to that town for his letters. The first place that
attracted their attention on their road was Binstead, where they
bestowed a passing glance on a lovely little thatched cottage which
stood embosomed in a wood, and nestling in the hollow formed by an old
stone quarry, from which, it is said, the stone used in building
Winchester Cathedral was taken. The church at Binstead is very pretty,
but they did not stop to visit it; and they passed also, without
stopping, the turn which led to the ruins of Quarr Abbey, once the
richest and largest monastery in the Island, its walls having enclosed
a space of thirty acres in extent. They now saw at a distance what
appeared to be a very large lake, or rather inland sea, which, when
they approached, they found was crossed by a bridge along which lay
their road. The lower part of this noble sheet of water forms a broad
estuary, called Fishbourne Creek, which spreads out from the bridge,
gradually widening till it reaches the sea: but the part above the
bridge, which is known by the name of the Wootton river, looked like a
vast mirror set in a verdant frame. Nothing could be more calm and
still than this broad expanse of water, reflecting in its glassy bosom
the sloping banks which rose on each side; here covered with a carpet
of smooth turf, and there sprinkled with trees with spreading branches,
hanging down to the water’s edge. The rich verdure of this part of the
Isle of Wight affords a striking contrast to the naked and barren rocks
at the back of the island; and Agnes gazed at the present scene with
the more pleasure, as she liked naturally the luxuriant and beautiful,
better than the wild and grand.

They had scarcely crossed the bridge when one of the traces broke which
fastened the horse to the carriage. The accident was of no great
consequence, as the driver had some string with him, with which he told
them he could easily contrive to tie the broken parts together; but as
they found the operation would take some time, Mrs. Merton and Agnes
agreed to walk on. The country they were now passing through looked
somewhat barren, as, in fact, it formed part of Wootton Common; but
Agnes did not dislike this, notwithstanding her love for verdant
scenery, as it reminded her of the moors of Scotland and their fragrant
heather; and though she was an English girl (having been born at
Bayswater) she loved everything Scotch, as she had many dear friends in
that country. She therefore ran gaily to and fro, gathering wild
flowers and bringing them to her mother, who walked more steadily and
slowly along the regular path. In one place Agnes had made rather a
longer excursion than usual, and she returned slowly, holding something
carefully between her two hands.

“What have you there?” asked her mother, when she approached near
enough to be heard.

“Oh! mamma,” cried Agnes, “I have found some of the most beautiful
beetles I ever saw in my life. Do look how brilliantly they are marked
with scarlet and white! They must be something very rare and curious, I
should think.”

“No, they are by no means uncommon; and they are called Tiger beetles,
from their savage nature; for they are carnivorous, and devour all the
weaker insects that fall in their way.”

“How sorry I am to hear that! Who could have thought that such
beautiful creatures could be cruel? But may I put them in a piece of
paper, mamma, and take them home?”

“I am afraid you would then be as cruel as the beetles, and with less
excuse; as they devour other insects for food, and you would torture
them for no purpose, but to gratify a passing wish.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 35._

  TIGER BEETLES (_Cicindela_).
]

“But, mamma, Aunt Jane and Aunt Mary both have collections of insects;
and I am sure they are not cruel; and you know I have some moths and
butterflies at home that Aunt Mary gave me.”

“Your aunts are both entomologists, and have made collections of
insects for scientific purposes; besides, they know how to kill the
insects they take without giving them much pain; but you would only
torture these poor beetles by keeping them alive a day or two without
food, or, at any rate, in a miserable place of confinement.”

“Very well, mamma,” cried Agnes; “then I will set them free, and take
them back to where I found them;” and she ran off as fast as possible.
When she returned, almost out of breath, her mamma laughed at her for
taking so much trouble. “If you had put the beetles down here,” said
she, “they would soon have found their way back, if they had wished to
do so; for they are remarkably active, and their legs are so long, in
proportion to their bodies, that, I think, they can even run faster
than you can. So you have given yourself quite unnecessary trouble.”

“Oh! I don’t mind that,” cried Agnes; “I like running.”

“So I perceive,” said Mrs. Merton, smiling; “for you are like a little
spaniel, you run two or three times over the same ground.”

Mrs. Merton had scarcely finished speaking when Agnes darted off again,
like lightning, and soon came back, bringing with her some shells.
“Now, mamma,” said she, “I think I have really found something that is
rare: you always say the things I find are so common; but I am sure
these snails are very different from any I ever saw before.”

“I am sorry to say, however, that they are found, in great abundance,
in many places; and sometimes they appear so suddenly, and in such
immense quantities, as to give rise to the idea that they must have
fallen from the clouds. I do not know their popular name, but
naturalists call them _Helix virgata_. They are remarkable for the
thinness of their shells, and they are so small that two or three have
been found adhering to a single blade of grass.”

“Ah! mamma,” cried Agnes, laughing, “one might almost fancy you saw me
pick up these very shells; for I found them both sticking to one blade
of grass, and I was quite delighted with their thin, delicate shells. I
am only sorry they are so common.”

“To console you, I must add that they are only common in the South of
England, in warm, open situations; and they are generally found in
company with the other little shell you have in your hand. That is
called _Bulimus articulatus_: and both kinds are found in such
quantities on the downs in the South of England, that they are said to
give the sheep that feed on the downs their peculiar flavour; as the
sheep eat them with every blade of grass they take.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 36._

  _a, b. Helix virgata._      _c, d. Bulimus articulatus._
]

“I remember the name of _Bulimus_,” said Agnes. “I think we saw some
shells called by that name in the splendid collection of Mr. Cuming,
that you told me laid eggs as large as a pigeon’s; and, indeed, we saw
some of the eggs.”

“That was a species of _Bulimus_ only found in the torrid zone; but the
genus is a very extensive one, and, I believe, contains nearly a
hundred and fifty species.”

They now heard the wheels of the carriage, and stood still till it
overtook them. They were soon seated, and advanced rapidly over a very
fertile country, till they came in sight of the Medina; which looked
like a silver riband, winding through the country in a broad line of
shining light. Agnes was delighted to see this river again, as it
appeared to her like an old friend. “I am quite satisfied, now,” said
she, “that we have been all round the island; for here, I find, we have
arrived at the same point from which we set out.”

“The Medina,” said Mr. Merton, “rises at the foot of St. Catherine’s
Down, near Black Gang Chine; and it divides the island so nearly into
two equal parts that it is said to derive its name from the Latin word
_media_, which signifies the middle.”

“And it is very singular,” observed Mrs. Merton, “that, as the Medina
forms a central line of division across the island from north to south,
so there is a central chain of hills which stretches across it from
east to west, and cuts off what is called the back of the island from
the northern part. Newport is the capital of the whole, and is now the
only place in the island which returns members to Parliament; though
formerly Newtown, which is a hamlet, and Yarmouth, which, you know, is
only a very small town, returned also two members each.”

They now arrived at Newport, and while Mr. Merton was enquiring for his
letters, Mrs. Merton informed Agnes that in the school-room of the Free
Grammar School of this town, the conferences were held between Charles
I. and the Commissioners appointed by Parliament, which lasted forty
days, and ended in the determination of the Commissioners to bring that
unhappy King to the scaffold.

“Did the Isle of Wight suffer much during the civil war?” asked Agnes.

“No,” replied Mrs. Merton, “but it was remarkable at this period for
the heroism displayed by the Countess of Portland, whose husband had
been Governor of the Island, and who defended the Castle at Carisbrook
against the militia of Newport, who were directed by the Parliament to
assail it.”

As soon as Mr. Merton had finished his business at Newport, they took
the road to East Cowes, following the course of the Medina, and passing
by East Cowes Castle on their route. As soon as they arrived at the
ferry at East Cowes, the driver hailed the horseferry boat, and Agnes
had an opportunity of seeing the manner in which it was worked by a
rope across the river. They drove into the boat without getting out of
the carriage, and drove out again in the same manner, when they reached
the landing-place at West Cowes, and proceeded immediately to the pier,
where they found a steam-boat just ready to start. While Mr. Merton was
paying the driver, and Mrs. Merton was superintending the removal of
the luggage, Agnes’s attention was attracted by the appearance of the
young Londoner whom they had first met with at Freshwater, and
afterwards seen shipwrecked at Black Gang Chine; but he was wonderfully
changed since they saw him last. He was now pale and exhausted, and
sitting on a chair, in which he was carried on board by two men, and
immediately taken down into the cabin, where he remained during the
voyage. He was followed by his Newfoundland dog, who also looked sadly
changed since the day Agnes patted his head on the beach at Freshwater,
where she had seen him first. Agnes was so deeply interested in
watching this young man and his dog, that she did not perceive that her
mamma had gone into the packet-boat, and Mrs. Merton, who was afraid
lest Mr. Merton would over-fatigue himself, did not perceive that she
was standing on the shore; and thus Agnes was in imminent danger of
being left behind, for the men had actually began to remove the board,
when she saw her danger and cried out to them to stay. The men laid
down the board again, and Agnes ran hastily down it, but the steam-boat
was already in motion; and Agnes would have been precipitated into the
sea, if one of the seamen had not caught her in his arms and lifted her
on board. The wind and tide were both in their favour, and the
steam-boat proceeded so rapidly, that when Agnes had sufficiently
recovered herself to think of looking for the sea-nettles, she found
that the packet was going too fast for her to see one of them. They
soon arrived at Calshot Castle and passed it close by; and, as they now
proceeded a little more leisurely up the river, Agnes began to look
round at her fellow-passengers. Immediately in front of her, sat an old
gentleman with a small book in his hand; and when he opened it, several
engravings flew out. Agnes instantly ran to pick them up; and when she
returned them to the old gentleman, he thanked her, and asked her if
she knew what one of the engravings represented.

Agnes answered that she saw it was a coat of arms, but she did not know
to whom it belonged.

“It represents the arms of Austria,” said the old man, “and it is now
just a thousand years since the present family ascended the throne.”

“Indeed!” exclaimed Agnes.

“Yes,” said the old gentleman. “The German monarchy dates from the
treaty of Verdun, signed in 843, by which the dominions of Charlemagne
were divided amongst his three sons; but these arms were not assumed
all at once; on the contrary they contain an epitome of the history of
the German Empire if understood rightly. Shall I explain them to you?”

Agnes gladly assented, and he continued. “The eagle has been, from the
earliest ages, the emblem of the German monarchy; and there is an old
tradition which states that at the battle of Teutoburg, two Roman
eagles were taken, one black and the other white. The Germans retained
the black eagle in memory of their victory, and gave the white one to
their allies the Poles; and hence the arms of Poland bear the white
eagle to this day.”

“But why has the eagle two heads?” asked Agnes.

“That is an emblem that Italy was added to Germany, and thus the eagle
is represented with two heads and with two crowns. The eagle also bears
in one claw a globe, signifying that it wields imperial power,
surmounted by a cross, the emblem of Christianity; and in the other a
sceptre headed by a lance-head, the emblem of power and might.”

[Illustration:

  _Fig. 37._

  ARMS OF GERMANY.
]

“But why are there so many coats of arms on the eagle?”

“The German empire was elective, and the arms borne on the eagle are
those of the seven electorates out of whom the emperor was to be
chosen. Three of them are archbishops who possess regal power in their
separate dominions, and their arms are contained in one shield; and the
other four are counts of the empire, or kings, and their arms are in
the other shield. The archbishops are those of Mentz, Treves, and
Cologne; and the temporal lords are the Count of Brandenburg, the King
of Saxony, the Elector Palatine, and the King of Bavaria.”

“And what is the meaning of their arms?”

“The first Archbishop of Mentz, whose name was Willige, was the son of
a wheelwright; and one day a person thinking to mortify him, drew a
rude picture of a wheel on the door of his palace and wrote under it:—

                        ‘Forget not Willige,
                         What thine origin is!’

“‘Forget it,’ cried the worthy prelate, ‘No, I don’t wish to forget it,
and what’s more no one else shall;’ and he ordered a white wheel on a
black ground to be adopted for his arms; and this wheel has been borne
in the arms of the Archbishops of Mentz ever since.”

At this moment Mr. and Mrs. Merton approached, and thanked the
gentleman for his kindness to their little daughter.

“But I have not explained all the coat of arms to her yet,” said he;
“and when I have done I will give her one of the engravings to keep
that she may remember what I have told her.”

Agnes thanked him, and he continued. “The arms of the Archbishop of
Treves exhibit a red cross on a white field, in remembrance of the
fiery cross which is said to have fallen from Heaven into the middle of
the city of Treves, a representation of which, in stone, still adorns
the market-place; and the arms of Cologne are a black cross on a white
field, in commemoration of the first Archbishop of Cologne having come
from the East, a black cross being borne by the Eastern priesthood.
This finishes the arms of the spiritual lords.”

“That is, the archbishops,” said Agnes.

“Right; but I am sorry I cannot explain the others so fully: the arms
of Brandenburg have a red eagle on a white field; those of Saxony two
crossed swords on a black and white ground; those of the Palatinate a
red lion on a golden field; and those of Bavaria chequers of blue and
white.”

“What do the two flags mean?”

“They are the banners of Germany, and they are black, red, and golden
yellow. The red was first adopted by the immediate successors of
Charlemagne, whose body-guards were clad in that colour; the black was
added by the House of Saxony, when it attained imperial honours, the
family colours of Saxony being black and white; and the golden yellow
alludes to the Swabian emperors, whose dynasty has been called the
golden age of the German empire.”

The old gentleman here concluded, and Mr. Merton complimented him on
the knowledge he possessed of the subject.

“I am interested in it,” said he, “because I am a native of Germany,
though I have now lived a long time in England. It is more than thirty
years since I saw my native land; but still my heart warms whenever I
hear anything relating to the scenes of my youth.”

“We can sympathize with you,” said Mr. Merton, “for Agnes has an uncle
and two aunts in Poland, who no doubt feel the same when they hear
anything of Great Britain.”

They were now interrupted by the arrival of the steam-boat at
Southampton, or “Souton,” as the sailors called it, and getting a
porter to carry their luggage they proceeded directly to the terminus
of the railway. A train was just going off; so they took their places
and in about three hours reached London. Another half hour carried them
to Bayswater, where they found Aunt Jane waiting for them; and when she
heard Agnes recount the various things she had seen, she felt, like her
little niece, that it was difficult to believe so much could possibly
have happened in so short a space of time.



                                THE END.



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------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:


  Silently corrected obvious typographical errors.

  Resolved the following inconsistent spelling and hyphenation usage
  within text:

     • Pg 43 ferry boat changed to ferry-boat
     • Pg 140 sand-stone changed to sandstone
     • Pg 171 Fresh-water changed to Freshwater





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