Fire! Fire!! Fire!!!
Where is it? Where is it? Why, it is in the water! Isn't that funny? But
you see it isn't a real fire, but only a fire-fish. [*] Sweet creature,
isn't he? Suppose you were a little, innocent mermaid, swimming alone for
the first time; how would you feel if you were to meet this fellow darting
towards you with his great red mouth open? Why, you would scream with
fright, and swim to your mother as fast as you could, and catch hold of
her tail for protection. At least, that is what I should do if I were a
mermaid. But Mrs. Mermaid won't tell you that the fire-fish will not hurt
you unless you hurt him first, in which case he will prick you dreadfully
with his long, sharp spines.
The picture is of a fish also
known as a scorpionfish.
I never see his picture without thinking of a red Indian in his warpaint
and feathers. Perhaps—who knows?-perhaps when Indians are greedy,
and eat too much fish, they may turn into fire-fish, and have to swim
about forever under water, and never see a green forest again. If you are
an Indian I advise you to be careful, my dear.
Nobody knows why this fish has such enormous, wing-like fins. Wise men
used to think that he could raise himself out of the water with them, like
the flying-fish; but it is now proved that he cannot, and there seems to
be no reason why a set of plain, small fins would not serve him just as
well for swimming. He prefers warm water to cold; so he lives in the
tropical seas, swimming about the coasts of India, Africa, and Australia.
The natives of Ceylon call him Gini-maha, and they think he is very good
to eat. They take great care in catching him, for they are very much
afraid of him, thinking that his sharp spines are poisoned, and can
inflict a deadly wound. But in this they are too hard upon the fellow. He
can prick them deeply and painfully, and he will if they meddle with him;
but he is a perfectly respectable fish, and would not think of such a
cowardly thing as poisoning anybody.