DIRECTOR   Xanthippi Fuentes


The fish called the nautilus always excites great interest, and seamen call it a Portugee man-o'-war. Its little sail is composed of bony fibres, covered with a thin filmy substance of transparent blue. The body of the fish is just a round piece of blubber, with a number of long slimy roots hanging down, and floats even with the water's edge; over this rises the tiny sail. Its power of locomotion seems to be derived from the sail, for it always contrives to get out of a ship's way. Both the outward and homeward bound ships endeavour to cross the line at the same point, from long. 18° west to long. 23° west. This is also the favourite cruising-ground for pirates. The fatal instance of the ship North Star, where many of the officers and passengers were wantonly murdered by the pirates, who even extended their brutal outrage to the unoffending ladies, ought to serve as a warning to the commanders of India traders; and as the long continuance of peace is likely to increase piracy, ships cannot be too much on their guard, or too well prepared with the means of resistance. The following table of Horsburgh will show the equatorial limits of the trades between the 18° and 26° of west long. It exhibits the actual experience of about 230 of the company's ships. The observations in some of the months are rather few to obtain a correct mean; but the first column, showing the extreme limits for each, will be most useful to refer to, as it marks the situation where the trades may reasonably be expected to fail or commence. The curious ceremony observed by seamen crossing the line is thus described by Bishop Heber in his journal:— " July 25.—To-day the first or introductory part of the ceremony usual on passing the line took place. Soon after dark, Neptune's boat was supposed to approach the ship, of which notice was given in the regular form to the officer on watch. A sailor from the fore-chains, in a dismal voice, aggravated by a speaking trumpet, hailed the captain, as if from the sea; and after a short conversation, carried on with becoming gravity, Neptune was supposed to take his leave, and a barrel with a lighted candle in it was sent off from the fore-chains to represent his boat dropping astern. "July 26.—To-day we passed the line, and the greater part of it was spent in the mummeries usual on such occasions, which went off very well and in good-humour. The passengers were not liable to the usual interrogatories and shaving; but the male part of them took their share in the splashing and wetting, which made up the main fun of these naval saturnalia. I was a good deal surprised at the contrivance exhibited by the masqueraders in dressing out (with the help of a little oakum and paint, a few fish-skins and decayed finery) the various characters of Neptune, Amphitrite, Mercury, Triton, &c., with far more attention to classical costume than I expected. With the distance and usual aids of a theatre, the show would not have been contemptible ; while there was, as might be supposed, a sufficient mixture of the ludicrous to suit the purposes of fun and caricature."