James Fenimore Cooper.

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Vulcans Peak: A Tale of the Pacific


James Fenimore Cooper

Dana Estes & Company











The hermit of the crater .... Frontispiece
Photogravure from Darley steel plate

Stood a solitary female figure 225

Photogravure from draicing by F. W. Hayet

The answer was a defiance . . . , . 313

Photogravure from drawing by S. H. Vedder


The reader of this book will very naturally be disposed
to ask the question, why the geographies, histories, and
other works of a similar character, have never made any
mention of the regions and events that compose its subject.
The answer is obvious enough, and ought to satisfy every
mind, however " inquiring." The fact is, that the authors
of the different works to which there is any allusion, most
probably never heard there were any such places as the
Reef, Rancocus Island, Vulcan's Peak, the Crater, and the
other islands of which so much is said in our pages. In
other words, they knew nothing about them.

We shall very freely admit that, under ordinary circum-
stances, it would be prima Jacie evidence against the exist-
ence of any spot on the face of this earth, that the geogra-
phies took no notice of it. It will be remembered, however,
that the time was, and that only three centuries and a half
since, when the geographies did not contain a syllable about
the whole of the American continent; that it is not a cen-
tury since they began to describe New Zealand, New Hol-
land, Tahiti, Oahu, and a vast number of the other places,
that are now constantly alluded to, even in the daily jour-
nals. Very little is said in the largest geographies, of
Japan, for instance; and it may be questioned if they might
not just as well be altogether silent on the subject, as for
any accurate information they do convey. In a word, much
as is now known of the globe, a great deal still remains to
be told, and we do not; see why the " inquiring mind "


should not seek for information in our pages, as well as in
some that are ushered into public notice by a flourish of
literary trumpets, that are blown by presidents, vice-presi-
dents, and secretaries of various learned bodies.

One thing we shall ever maintain, and that in the face of
all who may be disposed to underrate the value of our labors,
which is this : there is not a word in these volumes which
we now lay before the reader, as grave matter qffact^ that is
not entitled to the most implicit credit. We scorn decep-
tion. Lest, however, some cavillers may be found, we will
present a few of those reasons which occur to our mind, on
the spur of the moment, as tending to show that everything
related here might be just as true as Cook's voyages them-
selves. In the first place, this earth is large, and has suffi-
cient surface to contain, not only all the islands mentioned
in our pages, but a great many more. Something is estab-
lished when the possibility of any hypothetical point is
placed beyond dispute. Then, not one-half as much was
known of the islands of the Pacific, at the close of the last,
and at the commencement of the present century, as is known
to-day. In such a dearth of precise information, it may
very well have happened that many things occurred touching
which we have not said even one word. Again, it should
never be forgotton that generations were born, lived their
time, died, and have been forgotten, among those remote
groups, about which no civilized man ever has, or ever will
hear anything. If such be admitted to be the facts, why
may not ail that is here related have happened, and equally
escape the knowledge of the rest of the civilized world?
During the wars of the French Revolution, trifling events
attracted but little of the general attention, and we are not
to think of interests of this nature, in that day, as one would
think of them now.

Whatever may be thought of the authenticity of its inci-
dents, we hope this book will be found not to be totally with-
out a moral. Truth is not absolutely necessary to the illus-


tration of a principle, the imaginary sometimes doing that
office quite as effectually as the actual.

The reader may next wish to know why the wonderful
events related in these volumes have so long been hidden
from the world. In answer to this we would ask if any one
can tell how many thousands of years the waters have tum-
bled down the cliffs at Niagara, or why it was that civilized
men heard of the existence of this wonderful cataract so
lately as only three centuries since. The fact is, there must
be a beginning to everything; and now there is a beginning
to the world's knowing the history of Vulcan's Peak, and
the Crater. Lest the reader, however, should feel disposed
to reproach the past age with having been negligent in its
collection of historical and geological incidents, we would
again remind him of the magnitude of the events that so
naturally occupied its attention. It is scarcely possible,
for instance, for one who did not live forty years ago to
have any notion how completely the world was engaged in
wondering at Napoleon and his marvellous career, which
last contained even more extraordinary features than any-
thing related here; though certainly of a very different char-
acter. All wondering, for near a quarter of a century, was
monopolized by the French Revolution and its consequences.

There are a few explanations, however, which are of a very
humble nature compared with the principal events of our
history, but which may as well be given here. The Wools-
ton family still exists in Pennsylvania, and that, by the way,
is something towards corroborating the truth of our narrative.
Its most distinguished member is recently dead, and his
journal has been the authority for most of the truths here
related. He died at a good old age, having seen his three
score years and ten, leaving behind him, in addition to a
very ample estate, not only a good character — which means
neither more nor less than what "the neighbors," amid
their ignorance, envy, love of detraction, jealousy, and other
similar qualities, might thtnk proper to say of him — but the


odor of a well-spent life, in which he struggled hard to
live more in favor with God, than in favor with man. It
was remarked in him, for the last forty years of his life, or
after his return to Bucks, that he regarded all popular dem-
onstrations with distaste, and, as some of his enemies pre-
tended, with contempt. Nevertheless, he strictly acquitted
himself of all his public duties, and never neglected to
vote. It is believed that his hopes for the future, meaning
in a social and earthly sense, were not very vivid, and he
was often heard to repeat that warning text of Scripture
which tells us, " Let him that thinketh he standeth, take
heed lest he fall."

The faithful, and once lovely partner of this principal
personage of our history is also dead. It would seem that
it was not intended they should be long asunder. But their
time was come, and they might almost be said to have de-
parted in company. The same is true of Friends Robert
and Martha, who have also filled their time, and gone hence,
it is to be hoped, to a better world. Some few of the
younger persons of our drama still exist, but it has been re-
marked of them, that they avoid conversing of the events of
their younger days. Youth is the season of hope, and hope
disappointed has little to induce us to dwell on its decep-
tive pictures.

If those who now live in this republic, can see any
grounds for a timely warning in the events here recorded,
it may happen that the mercy of a divine Creator may still
preserve that which he has hitherto cherished and protected.

It remains only to say that we have endeavored to imi-
tate the simplicity of Captain Woolston's journal, in writing
this book, and should any homeliness of style be discovered,
we trust it will be imputed to that circumstance.



'Twas a commodity lay fretting by you;
'Twill bring you gain, or perish on the seas.

Taming of the Shrew.

There is nothing in which American liberty, not always as
much restrained as it might be, has manifested a more de-
cided tendency to run riot, than in the use of names. As
for Christian names, the heathen mythology, the Bible, an-
cient history, and all the classics, have long since been ex-
hausted, and the organ of invention has been at work, with
an exuberance of imagination that is really wonderful for
such a matter-of-fact people. Whence all the strange
sounds have been derived which have thus been pressed into
the service of this human nomenclature, it would puzzle the
most ingenious philologist to say. The days of the Kates,
and Dollys, and Pattys, and Bettys, have passed away, and
in their stead we hear of Lowinys, and Orchistrys, Philenys,
Alminys, Cyth^rys, Sarahlettys, Amindys, Marindys, etc.,
etc., etc. All these last appellations terminate properly with
an a, but this unfortunate vowel, when a final letter, being
popularly pronounced like y, we have adapted our spelling
to the sound, which produces a complete bathos to all these
flights in taste.

The hero of this narrative was born fully sixty years
since, and happily before the rage for modern appellations,
though he just escaped being named after another system
which we cannot say we altogether admire : that of using a

10 THE crater;

family, for a Christian name. This business of names is
a sort of science in itself, and we do believe that it is less
understood and less attended to in this country than in
almost all others. When a Spaniard writes his name as
Juan de Castro y * Munos, we know that his father belonged
to the family of Castro, and his mother to that of Munos.
The French, and Italian, and Russian woman, etc., writes
on her card, Madame this or that, borfi so and so; all which
tells the whole history of her individuality. Many French
women, in signing their names, prefix those of their own
family to those of their husbands, a sensible and simple
usage that we are glad to see is beginning to obtain among
ourselves. The records on tomb-stones, too, might be made
much more clear and useful than they now are, by stating
distinctly who the party was, on both sides of the house, or
by father and mother; and each married woman ought to
be commemorated in some such fashion as this: "Here lies
Jane Smith, wife of John Jones," etc., or, "Jane, daughter
of Thomas Smith and wife of John Jones." We believe
that, in some countries, a woman's name is not properly con-
sidered to be changed by marriage, but she becomes a Mrs.
only in connection with the name of her husband. Thus,
Jane Smith becomes Mrs. John Jones, but not Mrs. Jane
Jones. It is on this idea, we suppose, that our ancestors,
the English — every Englishman, as a matter of course, be-
ing every American's ancestor — thus it is, we suppose,
therefore, that our ancestors, who pay so much more atten-
tion to such matters than we do ourselves, in their table of
courtesy, call the wife of Lord John Russell, Lady John, and
not Lady — whatever her Christian name may happen to be.
We suppose, moreover, it is on this principle that Mrs. Gen-
eral This, Mrs. Doctor That, and Mrs. Senator T'other, are
as inaccurate as they are notoriously vulgar.

Mark Woolston came from a part of this great republic

♦ Some few of our readers may require to be told that, in Spanish, y, pronounced as ^,
is the simple conjunction " and " ; thus this name is de Castro and Munos.

OR, Vulcan's peak. ii

where the names are still as simple, unpretending, and as
good Saxon English, as in the county of Kent itself. He
was born in the little town of Bristol, Bucks county, Penn-
sylvania. This is a portion of the country that, Heaven be
praised! still retains some of the good old-fashioned direct-
ness and simplicity. Bucks is full of Jacks, and Bens, and
Dicks, and we question if there is such a creature, of native
growth, in all that region, as an Ithusy, or a Seneky, or a
Dianthy, or an Antonizetty, or a Deidamy. * The Wool-
stons, in particular, were a plain family, and very unpre-
tending in their external appearance, but of solid and highly
respectable habits around the domestic hearth. Knowing
perfectly how to spell, they never dreamed any one would
suspect them of ignorance. They called themselves as their
forefathers were called, that is to say, Wooster, or just as
Worcester is pronounced; though a Yankee schoolmaster
tried for a whole summer to persuade our hero, when a child,
that he ought to be styled Wool-ston. This had no effect on
Mark, who went on talking of his uncles and aunts, " Josy
Wooster," and " Tommy Wooster," and " Peggy Wooster,"
precisely as if a New England academy did not exist on
earth; or as if Webster had not actually put Johnson under
his feet!

The father of Mark Woolston (or Wooster) was a physi-
cian, and, for the country and age, was a well-educated and
skilful man. Mark was born in 1777, just seventy years
since, and only ten days before the surrender of Burgoyne.
A good deal of attention was paid to his instruction, and
fortunately for himself, his servitude under the eastern ped-
agogue was of very short duration, and Mark continued to
speak the English language as his fathers had spoken it be-
fore him. The difference on the score of language, between
Pennsylvania and New Jersey and Maryland, always keep-

* Absurd and forced as these strange appellations may appear, they are all genuine.
The writer has collected a long list of such names from real life, which he may one day
publish— Orchistra, Philena, and .^mina are among them. To all the names ending
ia a, it must be remembered that the sound of a final y is given.

12 THE crater;

ing in the counties that were not settled by Germans or
Irish, and the New England states, and through them. New
York, is really so obvious as to deserve a passing word. In
the states first named, taverns, for instance, are still called
the Dun Cow, the Indian Queen, or the Anchor; whereas
such a thing would be hard to find, at this day, among the
six millions of people who dwell in the latter. We question
if there be such a thing as a coffee-house in all Philadel-
phia, though, we admit it with grief, the respectable town
of Brotherly Love has, in some respects, become infected
with the spirit of innovation. Thus it is that good old
"State House Yard^^ \\z.s been changed into "Independ-
ence Square." This certainly is not as bad as the tour de
Jorce of the aldermen of Manhattan when they altered " Bear
Market " into " Washington Market ! " for it is not a prosti-
tution of the name of a great man, in the first place, and
there is a direct historical allusion in the new name that
everybody can understand. Still, it is to be regretted; and
we hope this will be the last thing of the sort that will ever
occur, though we confess our confidence in Philadelphian sta-
bility and consistency is a good deal lessened, since we have
learned, by means of a late law-suit, that there are fifty or
sixty aldermen in the place; a number of those worthies that
is quite sufficient to upset the proprieties, in Athens itself!
Doctor Woolston had a competitor in another physician,
who lived within a mile of him, and whose name was
Yardley. Doctor Yardley was a very respectable person,
had about the same degree of talents and knowledge as his
neighbor and rival, but was much the richest man of the
two. Doctor Yardley, however, had but one child, a daugh-
ter, whereas Doctor Woolston, with much less of means, had
sons and daughters. Mark was the eldest of the family,
and it was probably owing to this circumstance that he was
so well educated, since the expense was not yet to be shared
with that of keeping his brothers and sisters at schools of
the same character.


In 1777 an American college was little better than a high
school. It could not be called, in strictness, a grammar
school, inasmuch as all the sciences were glanced at, if not
studied ; but, as respects the classics, more than a grammar
school it was not, nor that of a very high order. It was a
consequence of the light nature of the studies, that mere
boys graduated in those institutions. Such was the case
with Mark Woolston, who would have taken his degree as a
Bachelor of Arts, at Nassau Hall, Princeton, had not an
event occurred, in his sixteenth year, which produced an
entire change in his plan of life, and nipped his academical
honors in the bud.

Although it is unusual for square-rigged vessels of any
size to ascend the Delaware higher than Philadelphia, the
river is, in truth, navigable for such craft almost to Trenton
bridge. In the year 1793, when Mark Woolston was just
sixteen, a full-rigged ship actually came up, and lay at the
end of the wharf in Burlington — the little town nearly op-
posite to Bristol — where she attracted a great deal of the
attention of all the youths of the vicinity. Mark was at
home, in a vacation, and he passed half his time in and
about that ship, crossing the river in a skiff, of which he
was the owner, in order to do so. From that hour young
Mark affected the sea, and all the tears of his mother and
eldest sister— the latter a pretty girl only two years his jun-
ior — and the more sober advice of his father, could not in-
duce him to change his mind. A six weeks' vacation was
passed in the discussion of this subject, when the doctor
yielded to his son's importunities, probably foreseeing he
should have his hands full to educate his other children, and
not unwilling to put this child, as early as possible, in the
way of supporting himself.

The commerce of America, in 1793, was already flourish-
ing, and Philadelphia was then much the most important
place in the country. Its East India trade, in particular,
was very large and growing, and Doctor Woolston knew that

14 THE crater;

fortunes were rapidly made by many engaged in it. After
turning the thing well over in his mind, he determined to
consult Mark's inclinations, and to make a sailor of him.
He had a cousin married to the sister of an East India, or
rather of a Canton shipmaster, and to this person the father
applied for advice and assistance. Captain Crutchely very
willingly consented to receive Mark in his own vessel, the
Rancocus, and promised " to make a man and an officer of

The very day Mark first saw the ocean he was sixteen
years old. He had got his height, five feet eleven, and was
strong for his years, and active. In fact, it would not have
been easy to find a lad every way so well adapted to his
new calling, as young Mark Woolston. The three years of
his college life, if they had not made him a Newton, or a
Bacon, had done him no harm, filling his mind with the
germs of ideas that were destined afterward to become ex-
tremely useful to him. The young man was already, in-
deed, a sort of factotum, being clever and handy at so many
things and in so many different ways, as early to attract the
attention of the officers. Long before the vessel reached
the Capes, he was at home in her, from her truck to her
keelson, and Captain Crutchely remarked to his chief mate,
the day they got to sea, that " young Mark Woolston was
likely to turn up a trump."

As for Mark himself, he did not lose sight of the land,
for the first time in his life, altogether without regrets. He
had a good deal of feeling in connection with his parents,
and his brothers and sisters; but, as it is our aim to con-
ceal nothing which ought to be revealed, we must add there
was still another who filled his thoughts more than all the
rest united. This person was Bridget Yardley, the only
child of his father's most formidable professional competi-

The two physicians were obliged to keep up a sickly in-
tercourse — not intending a pun. They were too often called


in to consult together, to maintain an open war. While
the heads of their respective families occasionally met,
therefore, at the bedside of their patients, the families them-
selves had no direct communications. It is true, that Mrs.
Woolston and Mrs. Yardley were occasionally to be seen
seated at the same tea-table, taking their hyson in company,
for the recent trade with China had expelled the bohea from
most of the better parlors of the country; nevertheless,
these good ladies could not get to be cordial with each
other. They themselves had a difference on religious points,
that was almost as bitter as the differences of opinions be-
tween their husbands on the subject of alteratives. In that
distant day, homoeopathy, and allopathy, and hydropathy,
and all the opathies, were nearly unknown; but men could
wrangle and abuse each other on medical points, just as
well, and as bitterly, then, as they do now. Religion, too,
quite as often failed to bear its proper fruits, in 1793, as it
proves barren in these, our own times. On this subject of
religion, we have one word to say, and that is, simply, that
it never was a meet matter for self-gratulation and boasting.
Here we have the Americo-Anglican church, just as it has
finished a blast of trumpets, through the medium of number-
less periodicals and a thousand letters from its confiding, if
not confident clergy, in honor of its quiet, and harmony,
and superior polity, suspended on the very brink of the
precipice of separation, if not schism, and all because it
has pleased certain ultra-sublimated divines in the other
hemisphere, to write a parcel of tracts that nobody under-
stands, themselves included. How many even of the min-
isters of the altar fall, at the very moment they are begin-
ning to fancy themselves saints, and are ready to thank God
they are "not like the publicans "?

Both Mrs. Woolston and Mrs. Yardley were what is called
" pious " ; that is, each said her prayers, each went to her
particular church, and very particular churches they were ;
each fancied she had a sufficiency of saving faith, but

I 6 THE crater;

neither was charitable enough to think, in a very friendly
temper, of the other. This difference of religious opinion,
added to the rival reputations of their husbands, made these
ladies anything but good neighbors, and, as has been inti-
mated, years had passed since either had entered the door
of the other.

Very different was the feeling of the children. Anne
Woolston, the eldest sister of Mark, and Bridget Yardley,
were nearly of an age, and they were not only schoolmates,
but fast friends. To give their mothers their due, they did
not lessen this intimacy by hints, or intimations of any sort,
but let the girls obey their own tastes, as if satisfied it was
quite sufficient for " professors of religion " to hate in their
own persons, without entailing the feeling on posterity.
Anne and Bridget consequently became warm friends; the
two sweet, pretty young things both believing, in the sim-
plicity of their hearts, that the very circumstance which in
truth caused the alienation, not to say the hostility of the
elder members of their respective families, viz., professional
identity, was an additional reason why they should love
each other so much the more. The girls were about two and
three years the juniors of Mark, but well grown for their
time of life, and frank and affectionate as innocence and
warm hearts could make them. Each was more than pretty,
though it was in styles so very different, as scarcely to pro-
duce any of that other sort of rivalry, which is so apt to
occur even in the gentler sex. Anne had bloom, and fea-
tures, and fine teeth, and, a charm that is so very common
in America, a good mouth ; but Bridget had all these added
to expression. Nothing could be more soft, gentle, and
feminine, than Bridget Yardley's countenance, in its ordi-
nary state of rest; or more spirited, laughing, buoyant, or
pitying than it became, as the different passions or feelings
were excited in her young bosom. As Mark was often sent
to see his sister home, in her frequent visits to the madam's
house, where the two girls held most of their intercourse, he


was naturally enough admitted into their association. The
connection commenced by Mark's agreeing to be Bridget's
brother, as well as Anne's. This was generous, at least;

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe crater; or, Vulcan's peak: a tale of the Pacific → online text (page 1 of 42)