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fled-up traveller, hurrying along, as if anxious to get to a place of shelter.
The St. Lawrence was so full of shelving masses of ice, which the frost had fixed in that position, that a road could not be made upon it; we continued therefore in the summer road, till we came to the river du Loup, which gave us for several leagues a pleasant road, free from cahots. From the river du Loup to the river Maskinongé, the distance is short, and we followed the course of the Maskinongé for several leagues, till we came to the St. Lawrence, on which we found a good road as far as Berthier.
Berthier is one of the best cultivated and most beautiful settlements in Canada. summer it bears some resemblance topart of Gloucestershire, on the banks of the Severn. -In the St. Lawrence, opposite to Berthier, are several islands of considerable size, abounding with very fine timber, and yielding rich pasture for cattle. In summer, they have a charming effect; but, in winter, all is dreary and deathlike-nothing is left but the mere skeleton of a wood.
Which way soever you direct your at
tention, nothing presents itself to your observation, but ice and snow; so that you may suppose there can be very little variety in a winter journey. After the first day, your curiosity is perfectly satisfied.
The country people, pass their time in winter, very idly. Their only care seems to be to keep themselves warm; and their principal occupation is cutting and bringing home firewood. They make a journey to Quebec or Montreal occasionally, to dispose of any surplus provisions they may have, and procure some of the comforts of life; such as replenishing their rum bottle, and renewing their stock of snuff, pipes, and tobacco.
Those who live on the banks of the St. Lawrence, where the tide ebbs and flows, occupy themselves occasionally in fishing, or catching a species of fish, which come up the river in the winter time, in great abundance, and form a seasonable supply for those who will take the trouble to attend to it.
They are from four to nine inches long, and resemble a cod in every respect, except
size. The Canadians call them petite Morue; the English call them Tommy cod. Some people think that it is a different fish from the cod; for my own part, I cannot see why. The principal reason for their being supposed a different fish from the cod is, that they are found full of spawn, which, it is alleged, could not be the case with cod at so early an age, and so small a size. This does not appear to me enough to warrant this conclusion. It is not, I believe, ascertained at what age or size the codfish begins to propagate; and I have yet to learn why this may not take place when the fish is six inches long, as well as when it is a foot, or two or three feet, long. If size were the criterion, it appears as extraordinary that a fish, which grows to the length of three or four feet, should propagate when at the length of one foot, as that it should do so at the length of six inches.
The manner of catching these fish is to cut holes in the ice, and put down either nets or lines. Between Quebec and Three Rivers immense quantities are taken. They are easily preserved without salt; the frost
answers the purpose; and you may see them piled upon the ice in large quantities, all frozen. It is a remarkable thing, that the Canadian horses eat them. One can scarcely help smiling at the idea of a horse eating fish, but, you may rest assured, it is a fact.
Great quantities of these fish are caught at Quebec, with lines. The manner of doing so is odd enough: A hole is dug in the ice, and a temporary house is built over it, large enough to hold half a dozen people, and a stove to keep them warm. Those who cannot afford to purchase deals to make a house, substitute large pieces of ice, with which they form a kind of defence from the weather. The middle of the night is the best time for fishing. They place a strong light near the hole, which attracts the attention of the fish, and brings them round the hole, in large quantities; so that they are caught as fast as they can be pulled in. These houses are erected on the liver St. Charles, in great numbers; and have a singular appearance in a dark night, particularly those made of ice, the transparency of which, gives them the effect of sq many lanterns.
It is a singular fact, that these fish, if not bruised, will, when put into cold water several days after they are caught, return to life, and swim about as well as ever. At the time they are caught, they are thrown into a basket, and in the course of a minute or two, they become frozen stiff. When carried home, and put into cold water, they become thawed, and begin to swim. How long they would continue out of the water in the frozen state, and afterwards shew signs of life, I cannot determine; but I can speak to the fact, for several days. I have tried some that had been taken, and been in a frozen state for eight days, but they did not recover, or shew any signs of life.
It is a curious circumstance: certainly the vital principle had not been destroyed. Perhaps the ice, or sudden freezing, had not penetrated much below the surface; and, by forming a kind of covering, having the properties of a non-conductor, may have preserved the vital heat from escaping into the cold air. Perhaps, a kind of torpor came on, like that of the bear and other winter sleepers. Probably the cause is beyond our reach, for nature generally