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THE MERMAID.-AN EASTERN TALE.

“ Did I ever tell you of my adventure with a mermaid?"

“ A mermaid !-No, never: I should like mightily to hear it, Captain Quizzle.”

“ It is the most remarkable of all my adventures : I wonder I have not told

you

of it." “ You have so many strange stories : your life must have been an eventful one. Pray let us have it, Captain."

“ Well.I traded for several years in the Eastern Archipelago. The swarms of clusters of islands thereabouts are amazing ; not a tenth part of them are ever visited by human beings, and consequently all the strange things in the animal and even the vegetable creation are to be found there : monsters, as we call them, seem to congregate amidst these delicious spots, because they are there out of the reach of man's destructive power. You have heard of the Brobdignag butterflower discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles in an island of the Archipelago, at mere sight of which one of his Hindu servants died of fright :-calyx like the dome of St. Paul's; pistils like good-sized fir-trees; pollen in such prodigious quantity that wild-beasts are often smothered in it. Sir Stamford likewise met with the Dugong, or mer-man. He could only get a dead specimen; I have often seen the animal alive; I have shaken hands with one, for they are exceedingly gentle creatures. All these things are now pretty notorious. But besides these, unicorns are so plentiful (though they can never be taken alive, as you all know), that their horns are used as walking-sticks by the respectable Malays, and as canes by the schoolmasters. The Malay boys require a vast deal of banging to get their alphabet properly, the letters are so difficult to sound (their mouths often grow awry in the attempt), and the unicorn's horn saves trouble, one stroke of it raising twenty large blisters. Then they have tooth-picks made of griffin's claws—but to the mermaid.

“ I had often heard of mermaids in different parts of the Archipelago, but I did not credit the stories told me by the native rascals, who are desperate liars. A grey-headed old man, however, one day, upon my taxing him with deceit upon this point,

to go

assured me he had seen one; and further told me, that if I was desirous of ocular proof, he could direct me to a spot where I should be pretty sure to meet with one of these water-nymphs. “ I gladly accepted the offer, and he directed me

alone to one of the little islets on the eastern side of the isle of Billiton (I was then on the island of Banca), where, he said, these ladies often disported themselves of an evening. He cautioned me to be on my guard, and to keep out of their reach, for they were apt to take liberties with gentlemen,that is, to scratch out their eyes, slice them in half with a sudden twitch of their tail, and so forth.

Accordingly, the very next day, I procured a native boat, which could be paddled by one person, armed myself with sword and pistols, and boldly but privily launched my frail bark into the blue deep, to cross the strait of Gaspar.

“ When I was equipped, I could not help laughing at the expedition I was setting out upon. However, I could but do as many have done, whom curiosity has prompted to be spectators of the washing of the lions at the Tower on the 1st of April ; -that is, keep my folly to myself.

“ I reached the island indicated by my greybeard Mentor; it was a sort of quinquangular rock, with a coat of the richest mould, absolutely

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swarming with birds, glittering with flowers and shrubs of variegated tints, and a magazine of odours. Had it been of a ciroular form, its circumference might have been about a mile and a half or two miles. It was evident that human steps were rarely imprinted upon its luxuriant turf.

Drawing up my light bark on a slope of the isle, I set it on end, and propped it with a paddle, to serve me as a temporary hut, for I was determined to wait some time the issue of the adventure, before I returned and gave the old Malay a horsewhipping, which I was resolved to do, if it appeared that he had fooled me. I remained here two or three days, till I began to be devoured with ennui at this Robinson Crusoe-like life. I was almost continually walking along the margin of the sea, picking up shells, pebbles, weeds, and other things of the kind, but saw nothing of the maids of the deep.

“ One evening, however-just at that glorious period of it when, especially in Eastern climes, a kind of preternatural and enchanted silence reigns around, and when every object appears to emit, as it were, a golden lustre, as if restoring some of the light it had absorbed in the day from the departing luminary,-on turning a sharp curve of the islet, I was startled by a shriek, and perceived, rather in

distinctly, two hands raised above the surface of the water, at a short distance from the shore, and momentarily, a woman's head popped up and down, as if the individual was drowning. In the suddenness of astonishment, I forgot that I was on an uninhabited spot, and, at the moment, felt an almost irresistible impulse to rush into the smooth water and rescue the sinking victim, thinking it a woman. Fortunately, I recovered my recollection in time, and stood still to await the result. The hands gradually sunk tremblingly beneath the surface, the circles disappeared, and all was again still.

“ Whilst I stood musing, my eyes rivetted to the spot where I had beheld what I now began to believe might be a phantom of the fancy, a loud, wild, but musical and merry burst of laughter drew my attention to another side, where I saw, as if wading in the shallow water, a tall, slender, but beautifullyproportioned female, of an olive complexion, and with exceedingly long dark hair, which she was gracefully employed in winding about her head and temples. I walked to the edge of the beach opposite to her, and taking my stand, in order to observe her the more narrowly, I was again saluted by a laugh, which, though somewhat louder than we are accustomed to hear from young ladies in drawingrooms, was quite feminine in its tones, and unac

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