Australian Search Party - A Record Of Discovery, Geography, And Adventure By Charles Henry Eden

 -   This kind,
however, were rather rare, and the lucky finder of a large one excited some
envy.  These beautiful little - Page 3
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This Kind, However, Were Rather Rare, And The Lucky Finder Of A Large One Excited Some Envy.

These beautiful little shells are of all sizes, from half an inch to two inches in length.

When the stone is first turned over, the fish is almost out of its home, and the bright colour of the shell is hidden by a fleshy integument, but a few seconds suffice for it to withdraw within doors, and then the mottled pattern is seen in its full beauty. The best way to get the shell without injury to its gloss, is to keep the fish alive in a bucket of salt water, until you reach home, and then to dig a hole a couple of feet deep, and bury them. In a month or so, they may be taken up, and will be found quite clean, free from smell, and as bright in hue as during life. I have tried boiling them, heaping them in the sun, and various other methods, but this is undoubtedly the best.

[Illustration - SATIN BOWER-BIRDS]

Should it ever fall to the lot of any of my readers to have to cook periwinkles - and there are many worse things, when you are certain of their freshness - let them remember that they should be boiled in 'salt water'. This is to give them toughness; if fresh water is used, however expert the operator may be with his pin, he will fail to extract more than a moiety of the curly delicacy. These little facts, though extraneous to our subject, are always worth knowing.

At one end of Garden Island, and distant from it about 200 yards, stands a very singular rock, of a whitish hue, and when struck at a certain angle by the sun, so much resembling the canvas of a vessel, that it was named the "Sail Rock." At low tide this could be reached by wading, the water being little more than knee-deep. Its base was literally covered with oysters of the finest quality. The mere task of getting there was one of considerable difficulty, for the rock was as slippery as glass, and whenever you got a fall - which happened on an average every five minutes - bleeding hands and jagged knees bore testimony to a couch of growing bivalves being anything but as soft as a feather bed; also the oysters cling so fast that they might be taken for component parts of the rock, and only a cold chisel and mallet will induce them to relinquish their firm embrace. Three or four of the party had ventured out, and we had secured a large sackful, after which we all retired to the tent, except one of our number, who, having a lady-love in Cardwell with an inordinate affection for shell-fish, lingered to fill a haversack for his 'inamorata'. We were comfortably smoking our pipes and watching with satisfaction the tide rising higher and higher, when a faint "coo-eh" from the direction of the rock reached us, followed by another and another and another, each one more shrill than the last.

"By Jove, Wordsworth's in some trouble!" exclaimed one of our party, and, snatching up our carbines, we hurried to the end of the island at which stood the Sail Rock. The tide had now risen considerably, and the water between the rock and ourselves was over four feet deep, and increasing in depth each moment. We saw poor Wordsworth clinging on to the slippery wall, as high up as the smooth mass afforded hand-hold.

"Come along, old fellow!" we shouted; "it's not up to your neck yet."

"He turned his head over his shoulder - even at the distance we were, its pallor was quite visible - and slowly and cautiously releasing one hand, he pointed to the water between himself and the island.

"By Jove!" cried the pilot, "he's bailed up by a shark, look at his sprit-sail!" and following his finger we saw an enormous black fin sailing gently to and fro, as regularly and methodically as a veteran sentry paces the limits of his post.

"Stick tight, old man! we'll bring the boat," and leaving the pilot to keep up a fusillade at the monster with the carbines, we darted back. I shall never forget the efforts we made to launch the boat, but she was immovable, and every moment the tide was rising, the little ripples expending themselves in bubbly foam against the thirsty sand. We strained, we tugged, we prised with levers, but unavailingly, the boat seemed as if she had taken root there and would not budge an inch. A happy thought struck me all of a sudden, as a reminiscence of a similar case that I had seen in years gone by came back in full vigour.

"Give me a tomahawk," I said.

One was produced in a minute from under the stern-sheets. Meanwhile I had got out a couple of the oars.

"Now, Jim, you're the best axeman, off with them here!"

Half a dozen strokes to each, and the blades were severed from the looms.

"Now boys, lay aft and lift her stern."

It was done, and one of the oars placed under as a roller.

"Now, launch together."

"Heave with a will."

"She's moving!"

"Again so. Keep her going."

"Hurrah!" and a loud cheer broke forth, as, through the medium of the friendly rollers, the heavy boat trundled into the water.

The pull was long, at least it seemed to us long, for we had to round the sandy spit before we could head towards the rock, and nearly got on shore in trying to make too close a shave. We could hear the crack of the pilot's carbine every few minutes, borne down to us by the freshening breeze, and the agonising "coo-ehs" of poor Wordsworth, whose ankles were already hidden by the advancing waters; added to this, we had only two oars, and the wind, now pretty strong, was dead in our teeth.

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