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and was disposed to provide a set-off, in the event of the
report's being true, by endeavouring to do something to
wards the civilizatidn of the heathen. Had he been a
Presbyterian merchant, of a religious turn, it is probable
a quantity of tracts would have been made to answer the
purpose ; but, belonging to a sect whose practice was
generally as perfect as its theory is imperfect, Friend
Abraham White's conscience was not to be satisfied with
any such shallow contrivance. It is true that he expected
to make many thousands of dollars by the voyage, .arid
doubtless would so have done, had not the accident be
fallen the ship, or had poor Captain Crutchely drank less
in honour of his wedding-day; but the investment in tools,
seeds, pigs, wheelbarrows, and other matters, honestly in
tended to better the condition of the natives of Vanua
Levu and Viti Levu, did not amount to a single cent less
'han one thousand dollars, lawful money of the republic.

In looking over the packages, Mark found white clover
seed, and Timothy seed, among other things, in sufficient
quantity to cover most of the mount of the crater. The
weather temporarily clearing off, he called to Bob, and
they went ashore together, Mark carrying some of the
grass seed in a pail, while Betts followed with a vessel to
hold guano. Providing a quantity of the last from a barrel
that had been previously filled with it, and covered to protect
it from the rain, they clambered up the side of the crater.
This was the first time either had ascended since the day
they finished planting there, and Mark approached his hills
with a good deal of freshly-revived interest in their fate.
From them he expected very little, having had no loam to
mix with the ashes ; but, by dwelling so much of late on
the subject of tillage, he was not without faint hopes of
meeting with some little reward for the pains he had taken.
The reader will judge of the rapture then, as well as of the
surprise, with which he first saw a hill of melons, already
in the fourth leaf. Here, then, was the great problem
successfully solved. Vegetation had actually commenced
on that hitherto barren mount, and the spot which had Iain


how long, Mark knew not, but probably for a thousand
years, if not for thousands of years, in its nakedness was
about to be covered with verdure, and blest with fruitful-
ness. The inert principles which, brought to act together,
had produced this sudden change from barrenness to fer
tility, had probably been near neighbours to each other all
that time, but had failed of bringing forth their fruits, for
the want of absolute contact. So Mark reasoned, for he
nothing doubted that it was Betts's guano that had stimu
lated the otherwise barren deposit of the volcano, and
caused his seed to germinate. The tillage may have aided,
as well as the admission of air, light and water ; but some
thing more than this, our young gardener fancied, was
wanting to success. That something the manure of birds,
meliorated and altered by time, had supplied, and lo ! the
glorious results were before his eyes.

It would not be easy to pourtray to the reader all the
delight which these specks of incipient verdure conveyed
to the mind of Mark Woolston. It far exceeded the joy
that would be apt to be awakened by a relief from an ap
prehension of wanting food at a distant day, for it resem
bled something of the character of a new creation. He
went from hill to hill, and everywhere did he discover
plants, some just peeping through the ashes, others already
in leaf, and all seemingly growing and thriving. Fortu
nately, Kitty had not been on the mount for the last fort
night, her acquired habits, and the total nakedness of the
hills, having kept her below with the other animals, since
her first visits. Mark saw the necessity of keeping her
off the elevation, which she would certainly climb the in
stant anything like verdure caught her eyes from below.
He determined, therefore, to confine her to the ship, until
he had taken the precautions necessary to prevent her as
cending the mount. This last was easily enough done.
On the exterior of the hills there were but three places
where even a goat could get up. This was owing to the
circumstance that the base of the ascent rose like a wall,
for some ten or twelve feet, everywhere but at the three
points mentioned. It appeared to Mark as if the sea had
formerly washed around the crater, giving this form to its
bottom, for so wall-like was the rock for these ten or twelva


feet, that it would have defied the efforts of a man for a
long time, t overcome the difficulties of the ascent. At
two of the places where the debris had made a rough foot
ing, half an hour's work would remove the material, and
leave these spots as impassable as the others. At the third
point, it might require a good deal of labor to effect the
object. At this last place, Mark told Betts it would be
necessary, for the moment, to make some sort of a fence.
Within the crater, it was equally difficult to ascend, except
at one^ or two places ; but these ascents our mariners
thought of improving, by making steps, as the animals
were effectually excluded from the plain within by means
of the sail which served for a curtain at the gateway, or
hole of entrance.

"^ As soon as Mark had recovered a little from his first
surprise, he sent Bob below to bring up some buckets filled
with the earth brought from Loam Rock, or island. This
soil was laid carefully around each of the plants, the two
working alternately at the task, until a bucket-full had
been laid in each hill. Mark did not know it at the time,
but subsequent experience gave him reason to suspect, that
this forethought saved most of his favourites from prema
ture deaths. Seed might germinate, and the plants shoot
luxuriantly from out of the ashes of the volcano, under the
united influence of the sun and rains, in that low latitude ;
but it was questionable whether the nourishment to be de
rived from such a soil, if soil it could yet be called, would
prove to be sufficient to sustain the plants when they got
to be of an age and size to demand all the support they
wanted. So convinced did Mark become, as the season
advanced, of the prudence of what he then did out of a
mere impulse, that he passed hours, subsequently, in raising
loam to the summit of the mount, in order to place it in
the different hills. For this purpose, Bob rigged a little
derrick, and fitted a whip, so that the buckets were whipped
up, sailor-fashion, after two or three experiments made in
lugging them up by hand had suggested to the honest fel
low that there might be a cheaper mode of obtaining their

When Mark was temporarily satisfied with gazing at his
new-found treasures, he went to work to scatter the grass


ieed over the summit and sides of the crater. Inside, there
was not much motive for sowing anything, the rock being
so nearly perpendicular ; but on the outside of the hill, or
'mountain,' as Bob invariably called it, the first ten or
twelve feet excepted, there could be no obstacle to the
seeds taking ; though from the want of soil much of it, Mark
knew, must be lost ; but, if it only took in spots, and gave
him a few green patches for the eye to rest on, he felt he
should be amply rewarded for his trouble. Bob scattered
guano wherever he scattered grass-seed, and in this way
they walked entirely round the crater, Mark using up at
least half of Friend Abraham White's provision in behalf
of the savages of Fejee, in the way of the grasses. A
genial, soft rain soon came to moisten this seed, and to em
bed it with whatever there was of soil on the surface, giv
ing it every chance to take root that circumstances would

This preliminary step taken towards covering the face
of the mount with verdure, our mariners went to work to
lay out their garden, regularly, within the crater. Mark
manifested a good deal of ingenuity in this matter With
occasional exceptions the surface of the plain, or the bot
tom of the crater, was an even crust of no great thick
ness, composed of concrete ashes, scoriae, &c., but which
might have borne the weight of a loaded wagon. This
crust once broken, which it was not very difficult to do by
means of picks and crows, the materials beneath were found
loose enough for the purposes of agriculture, almost without
using the spade. Now, space being abundant, Mark drew
lines, in fanciful and winding paths, leaving the crust for
his walks, and only breaking into the loose materials be
neath, wherever he wished to form a bed. This variety
served to amuse him and Betts, and they worked with so
much the greater zeal, as their labours produced objects
that were agreeable to the eye, and which amused them
now, while they promised to benefit them hereafter. As
each bed, whether oval, winding or straight, was dug, the
loam and sea-weed was mixed up in it, in great abundance,
after which it was sown, or planted.

Mark was fully aware that many of Friend Abraham
White's seeds, if they grew and brought their fruits to


maturity, would necessarily change their properties in that
climate ; some for the worse, and others for the better.
From the Irish potato, the cabbage, and most of the more
northern vegetables, he did not expect much, under any
circumstances ; but, he thought he would try all, and
having several regularly assorted boxes of garden-seeds,
just as they had been purchased out of the shops of Phila
delphia, his garden scarce wanted any plant that was then
known to the kitchens of America.

Our mariners were quite a fortnight preparing, manur
ing, and sowing their parterre, which, when complete, oc
cupied fully half an acre in the very centre of the crater,
Mark intending it for the nucleus of future similar works,
that might convert the whole hundred acres into a gar
den. By the time the work was done, the rains were
less frequent, though it still came in showers, and those
that were still more favourable to vegetation. In that fort
night the plants on the mount had made great advances,
showing the exuberance and growth of a tropical climate.
It sometimes, nay, it often happens, that when the sun is
the most genial for vegetation, moisture is wanting to aid
its power, and, in some respects, to counteract its influ
ence. These long and periodical droughts, however, are
not so much owing to heat as to other and local causes.
Mark now began to hope, as the spring advanced, that his
little territory was to be exempt, in a great measure, from
the curse of droughts, the trades, and some other causes
that to him were unknown, bringing clouds so often that
not only shed their rain upon his garden, but which served
in a great measure to mitigate a heat that, without shade
of some sort or other, would be really intolerable.

With a view to the approaching summer, our mariners
turned their attention to the constructing of a tent within
the crater. They got some old sails and some spars ashore,
and soon had a spacious, as well as a comfortable habita
tion of this sort erected. Not only did they spread a spa
cious tent for themselves, within the crater, but they erected
anothei, or a sort of canopy rather, on its outside, for the
use of the animals, which took refuge beneath it, during
the heats of the day, with an avidity that proved how wel
come it was. This outside shed, or canopy, required a


good deal of care in its construction, to resist the wlnrf,
while that inside scarce ever felt the breeze. This want
of wind, or of air in motion, indeed, formed the most se
rious objection to the crater, as a place of residence, in the
hot months ; and the want of breeze that was suffered in
the tent, set Mark to work to devise expedients for build
ing some sort of tent, or habitation, on the mount itself,
where it would be always cool, provided one could get a
protection from the fierce rays of the sun.

After a good deal of search, Mark selected a spot on the
' Summit,' as he began to term the place, and pitched his
tent on it. Holes were made in the soft rocks, and piece*
of spars were inserted, to answer for posts. With a com
mencement as solid as this, it was not difficult to make the
walls of the tent (or marquee would be the better word,
since both habitations had nearly upright sides) by mean*
of an old fore-course. In order to get the canvas up there,
however, it was found necessary to cut out the pieces be
low, when, by means of the purchase at the derrick, it was
all hoisted to the Summit.

These several arrangements occupied Mark and Bob
another fortnight, completing the first quarter of a year
they had passed on the Reef. By this time they had goi
accustomed to their situation, and had fallen into regulai
courses of duty, though the increasing heats admonisheo
both of the prudence of not exposing themselves too much
beneath the fiery sun at noon-day.



"Now, from the full-grown day a beamy shower
Gleams on the lake, and gilds each glossy flower,
Gay insects sparkle in the genial blaze,
Various as light, and countless as its rays
Now, from yon range of rocks, strong rays rebound,
Doubling the day on flow'ry plains around."


AFTER the tent on the Summit was erected, Mark passed
much of his leisure time there. Thither he conveyed
many of his books, of which he had a very respectable col
lection, his flute, and a portion of his writing materials.
There he could sit and watch the growth of the different
vegetables he was cultivating. As for Bob, he fished a
good deal, both in the way of supplies and for his amuse
ment. The pigs and poultry fared well, and everything
seemed to thrive but poor Kitty. She loved to follow Mark,
and cast many a longing look up at the Summit, whenever
she saw him strolling about among his plants.

The vegetables on the Summit, or those first put into
the ground, flourished surprisingly. Loam had been added
repeatedly, and they wanted for nothing that could bring
forward vegetation. The melons soon began to run, as
did the cucumbers, squashes, and pumpkins ; and by the
end of the next month, there were a dozen large patches
on the mount that were covered by a dense verdure. Nor
was this all ; Mark making a discovery about this time,
that afforded him almost as much happiness as when he
first saw his melons in leaf. He was seated one day, with
the walls of his tent brailed up, in order to allow the wind
to blow through, when something dark on the rock caught
his eye. This spot was some little distance from him, and
going to it, he found that large quantities of his grass-seed
had actually taken ! Now he might hope to convert that
barren-looking, and often glaring rock, into a beautiful
grassy hill, and render that which was sometimes painful


to the eyes, a pleasure to look upon. The young man
understood the laws of vegetation well enough to be cer
tain that could the roots of grasses once insinuate them
selves into the almost invisible crevices of the crust that
covered the place, they would of themselves let in light,
air and water enough for their own wants, and thus in
crease the very fertility on which they subsisted. He did
not fail, however, to aid nature, by scattering a fresh sup
ply of guano all over the hill.

While Mark was thus employed at home, Bob rowed out
to the r^ef, bringing in his fish in such quantities that it
occurred to Mark to convert them also into manure. A
fresh hal f-acre was accordingly broken up, within the cra
ter, the cool of the mornings and of the evenings being
taken for the toil ; and, as soon as a bed was picked over,
quantiti.-s offish were buried in it, and left there to decay.
Nor did Betts neglect the sea-weed the while. On several
occasions he floated large bodies of it in, from the outer
reefs, which were all safely landed and wheeled into the
crater, where a long pile of it was formed, mingled with
loam from Loam Island, and guano. This work, however,
gradually ceased, as the season advanced, and summer
came in earnest. That season, however, did not prove by
any means as formidable as Mark had anticipated, the sea-
breezes keeping the place cool and refreshed. Our mari
ners now missed the rain, which was by no means as fre
quent a? it had been, though it fell in larger quantities
when it did come. The stock had to be watered for several
weeks, the power of the sun causing all the water that
lodged in the cavities of the rocks to evaporate almost im

During the time it was too warm to venture out in the
dingui, f icept for half an hour of a morning, or for as long
a period of an evening, Mark turned his attention to the
ship again. Seizing suitable moments, each sail was
loosened, thoroughly dried, unbent, and got below. An
awning was got out, and spread, and the decks were wet
down, morning and evening, both for the purposes of
cleanliness, and to keep them from cheeking. The hold
was now entered, and overhauled, for the first time since
the accident. A great many useful things were found in


it, and among other articles two barrels of good sharp
vinegar, which Friend Abraham White had caused to be
put on board to be used with anything that could be pic
kled, as an anti-scorbutic. The onions and cucumbers
both promising so well, Mark rejoiced at this discovery,
determining at once to use some of the vinegar on a part
of his expected crop of those two vegetables.

One day as Bob was rummaging about in the hold, and
Mark was looking on, that being the coolest place on the
whole reef, the former got hold of a piece of wood, and
began to tug at it to draw it out from among a pile that lay
in a dark corner. After several efforts, the stick came,
when Mark, struck with a glimpse he got of its form, bade
Bob bring it under the light of the hatchway. The instant
he got a good look at it, Woolston knew that Bob's ' fool
ish, crooked stick, which was fit to stow nowhere,' as the
honest fellow had described it when it gave him so much
trouble, was neither more nor less than one of the ribs of
a boat of larger size than common.

" This is providential, truly !" exclaimed Mark. " Your
crooked stick, Bob, is a part of the frame of the pinnace
of which you spoke, and which we had given up, as a thing
not to be found on board !"

" You 're right, Mr. Mark, you 're right !" answered Bob
" and I must have been oncommon stupid not to have
thought of it, when it came so hard. And if there 's one
of the boat's bones stowed in that place, there must be
more to be found in the same latitude."

This was true enough. After working in that dark
corner of the hold for several hours, all the materials of
the intended craft were found and collected in the steerage.
Neither Mark nor Betts was a boat-builder, or a ship
wright ; but each had a certain amount of knowledge on
the subject, and each well knew where every piece was
intended to be put. What a revolution this discovery
made in the feelings of our young husband ! He had never
totally despaired of seeing Bridget again, for that would
scarce have comported with his youth and sanguine tem
perament ; but the hope had, of late, become so very dim,
as to survive only as that feeling will endure in the bosoms
of Jthe youthful and inexperienced. Mark had lived a


time for his years ; had seen more and performed far mora
than usually falls to persons of his age, and he was, by
character, prudent and practical ; but it would have been
impossible for one who had lived as long and as well as
himself, to give up every expectation of being restored to
his bride, even in circumstances more discouraging than
those in which he was actually placed. Still, he had been
slowly accustoming himself to the idea of a protracted
separation, and had never lost sight of the expediency of
making his preparations for passing his entire life in the
solitary place where he and Betts had been cast by a mys
terious and unexpected dispensation of a Divine Provi
dence. When Bob, from time to time, insisted on his
account of the materials for the pinnace being in the ship,
Mark had listened incredulously, unconscious himself how
much his mind had been occupied by Bridget when this
part of the cargo had been taken in, and unwilling to be
lieve such an acquisition could have been made without
his knowledge. Now that he saw it, however, a tumultu
ous rushing of all the blood in his body towards his heart,
almost overpowered him, and the future entirely changed
its aspects. He did not doubt an instant, of the ability of
Bob and himself to put these blessed materials together, or
of their success in navigating the mild sea around them,
for any necessary distance, in a craft of the size this must
turn out to be. A bright vista, with Bridget's brighter
countenance at its termination, glowed before his imagina
tion, and a great deal of wholesome philosophy and Chris
tian submission were unsettled, as it might be, in the
twinkling of an eye, by this all-important discovery. Mark
had never abandoned the thought of constructing a little
vessel with materials torn from the ship ; but that would
nave been a most laborious, as well as a doubtful experiment,
while here was the problem solved, with a certainty and
precision almost equal to one in mathematics !

The agitation and revulsion of feeling produced in Mark
by the discovery of the materials of the pinnace, were so
great as to prevent him from maturing any plan for several
days. During that time he could perceive in himself an
alteration that amounted almost to an entire change of
character. The vines on the Summit were now in full


leaf, and they covered broad patches of the rock with their
luxuriant vegetation, while the grass could actually be seen
from the ship, converting the drab-coloured concretions
of the mount into slopes and acclivities of verdure. But,
all this delighted him no longer. Home and Bridget met
him even in the fanciful and now thriving beds within the
crater, where everything appeared to push forward with a
luxuriance and promise of return, far exceeding what had
once been his fondest expectations. He could see nothing,
anticipate nothing, talk of nothing, think of nothing, but
these new-found means of quitting the Reef, and of return
ing to the abodes of men, and to the arms of his young

Belts took things more philosophically. He had made
up his mind to ' Robinson Crusoe it' a few years, and,
though he had often expressed a wish that the dingui was
of twice its actual size, he would have been quite as well
content with this new boat could it be cut down to one-
fourth of its real dimensions. He submitted to Mark's
superior information, however ; and when the latter told
him that he could wait no longer for the return of cooler
weather, or for the heat of the sun to become less intense
before he began to set up the frame of his craft, as had
been the first intention, Bob acquiesced in the change of
plan, without remonstrance, bent on taking things as they
came, in humility and cheerfulness.

Nevertheless, it was far easier bravely to determine in
this matter, than to execute. The heat was now so intense
for the greater part of the day, that it would have far ex
ceeded the power of our two mariners to support it, on a
naked rock, and without shade of any sort. The frame
of the pinnace must be set up somewhere near the water,
regular ways being necessary to launch her ; and nowhere,
on the shore, was the smallest shade to be found, without
recourse to artificial means of procuring it. As Mark's
impatience would no longer brook delay, this artificial
shade, therefore, was the first thing to be attended to.

The leeward end of the reef was chosen fo the new

ship-yard. Although this choice imposed a good deal of

additional labour on the two workmen, by compelling them

to transport all the materials rather more than a mile, refleo



tion and examination induced Mark to select the spot he
did. The formation of the rock was more favourable there,
he funcieJ, than in any other place he could find ; offering
greater facilities for launching. This was one motive;
but the principal inducement was connected with an ap
prehension of floods. By the wall-like appearance of the
exterior I ase of the mount, by the smoothness of the sur
face of the Reef in general, which, while it had many in
equalities, wore the appearance of being semi-polished by

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 10 of 42)