James Fenimore Cooper.

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the washing of water over it; and by the certain signs that
wero to be found on most of the lower half of the plain of
the crater itself, Mark thought it apparent that the entire
reef, the crater excepted, had been often covered with the
waU-r of the ocean, and that at no very distant day. The
winler months were usually the tempestuous months in
that latitude, though hurricanes might at any time occur.
Now, the winter was yet an untried experiment with our
two ' reeters,' as Bob sometimes laughingly called himself
and Mark, and hurricanes were things that often raised
the seas in their neighbourhood several feet in an hour or
two. Should the water be actually driven upon the Reef,
so as to admit of a current to wash across it, or the waves
to roll along its surface, the pinnace would be in the great
est danger of being carried off before it could be even
launched All these things Mark bore in mind, and he
chose the spot he did, with an eye to these floods, alto
gether. It might be six or eight months before they could
be ready to get the pinnace into the water, and it now
wanted but six to the stormy season. At the western, or
leeward, extremity of the island, the little craft would be
under the lee of the crater, which would form a sort of
breakwaler, and might be the means of preventing it from
being washed away. Then the rock, just at that spot, was
three or four feet higher than at any other point, suffi
ciently near the sea to admit of launching with ease; and the
two advantages united, induced our young ' reefer' to incur
the labour of transporting the materials the distance named,
in preference to foregoing them. The raft, however, was
put in requisition, and the entire frame, with a few of the
planks necessary for a commencement, was carried round
tone oacL


Previously to laying the keel of the pinnace, Mark named
it the Neshamony, after a creek that was nearly opposite
to the Rancocus, another inlet of the Delaware, that had
given its name to the ship from the circumstance that
Friend Abraham White had been born on its low banks.
The means of averting the pains and penalties of working
in the sun, were also attended to, as indeed the great pre
liminary measure in this new enterprise. To this end, the
raft was again put in requisition ; an old main-course was
got out of the sail-room, and lowered upon the raft ; spare
spars were cut to the necessary length, and thrown into
the water, to be towed down in company ; ropes, &c., were
provided, and Bob sailed anew on this voyage. It was a
work of a good deal of labour to get the raft to windward,
towing having been resorted to as the easiest process, but
a trip to leeward was soon made. In twenty minutes after
this cargo had left the ship, it reached its point of desti

The only time when our men could work at even their
awning, were two hours early in the morning, and as many
after the sun had got very low, or had absolutely set. Eight
holes had to be drilled into the lava, to a depth of two feet
each. Gunpowder, in very small quantities, was used, or
these holes could not have been made in a twelvemonth.
But by drilling with a crowbar a foot or two into the rock,
and charging the cavity with a very small portion of pow
der, the lava was cracked, when the stones rather easily
were raised by means of the picks and crows. Some idea
may be formed of the amount of labour that was expended
on this, the first step in the new task, by the circumstance
that a month was passed in setting those eight awning-posts
alone. When up, however, they perfectly answered the
purpose, everything having been done in a thorough, sea
man-like manner. At the top of each post, itself a portion
of solid spar, a watch-tackle was lashed, by means of which
the sail was bowsed up to its place. To prevent the bag
ging unavoidable in an awning of that size, several up
rights were set in the centre, on end, answering their pur
pose sufficiently without boring into the rocks.

Bob was in raptures with the new ' ship-yard.' It was
a large as the mainsail of a ship of fou hundred tons,


was complete as to shade, with the advantage of letting the
breeze circulate, and had a reasonable chance of escaping
from the calamities of a flood. Mark, too, was satisfied
with the result, and the very next day after this task was
completed, our shipwrights set to work to lay their keel.
That day was memorable on another account. Bob had
gone to the Summit in quest of a tool left there, in fitting
up the boat of Mark, and while on the mount, he ascer
tained the important fact that the melons were beginning
to ripen. He brought down three or four of these deli
cious fruits, and Mark had the gratification of tasting some
of the bounties of Providence, which had been bestowed,
as a reward of his own industry and forethought. It was
necessary to eat of these melons in moderation, however ;
but it was a great relief to get them at all, after subsisting
for so long a time on salted meats, principally, with no
other vegetables but such as were dry, and had been long
in the ship. It was not the melons alone, however, that
were getting to be ripe; for, on examining himself, among
the vines which now covered fully an acre of the Summit,
Mark found squashes, cucumbers, onions, sweet-potatoes,
tomatoes, string-beans, and two or three other vegetables,
all equally fit to be used. From that time, some of these
plants were put into the pot daily, and certain slight ap
prehensions which Woolston had begun again to entertain
on the subject of scurvy, were soon dissipated. As for the
garden within the crater, which was much the most exten
sive and artistical, it was somewhat behind that on the
Summit, having been later tilled ; but everything, there,
looked equally promising, and Mark saw that one acre,
well worked, would produce more than he and Betts could
consume in a twelvemonth.

It was an important day on the Reef when the keel of
the pinnace was laid. On examining his materials, Mark
ascertained that the boat-builders had marked and num
bered each portion of the frame, each plank, and every
thing else that belonged to the pinnace, Holes were
bored, and everything had been done in the boat-yard that
could be useful to those who, it was expected, were to put
the work together in a distant part of the world. This
greatly facilitated our new boat-builders' labours in. the


way of skill, besides having done so much of the actual
toil to their hands. As soon as the keel was laid, Mark
set up the frame, which came together with very little
trouble. The wailes were then got out, and were fitted,
each piece being bolted in its allotted place. As the work
had already been put together, there was little or no dub
bing necessary. Aware that the parts had once been ac
curately fitted to each other, Mark was careful not to dis
turb their arrangement by an unnecessary use of the adze,
or broad-axe, experimenting and altering the positions of
the timbers and planks ; but, whenever he met with any
obstacle, in preference to cutting and changing the mate
rials themselves, he persevered until the parts came to
gether as had been contemplated. By observing this cau
tion, the whole frame was set up, the wailes were fitted and
bolted, and the garboard-streak got on and secured, without
taking off a particle of the wood, though a week was ne
cessary to eifect these desired objects.

Our mariners now measured their new frame. The
keel was just four-and-twenty feet long, the distance be
tween the knight-heads and the taffrail being six feet
greater ; the beam, from outside to outside, was nine feet,
and the hold might be computed at five feet in depth.
This gave something like a measurement of eleven tons ;
the pinnace having been intended for a craft a trifle smaller
than this. As a vessel of eleven tons might make very
good weather in a sea-way, if properly handled, the result
gave great satisfaction, Mark cheering Bob with accounts
of crafts, of much smaller dimensions, that had navigated
the more stormy seas, with entire safety, on various occa

The planking of the Neshamony was no great matter,
being completed the week it was commenced. The caulk
ing, however, gave more trouble, though Bob had done a
good deal of that sort of work in his day. It took a fort
night for the honest fellow to do the caulking to his own
mind, and before it was finished another great discovery
was made by rummaging in the ship's hold, in quest of
some of the fastenings which had not at first been found.
A quantity of old sheet-copper, that had run its time on a
vessel's bottom, was brought to light, marked " copper for


the pinnace." Friend Abraham White had bethought him
of the worms of the low latitudes, and had sent out enough
of the refuse copper of a vessel that had been broken up
to cover the bottom of this little craft fairly up to her bends
To work, then, Mark and Bob went to put on the sheath
mg-paper and copper that had thus bountifully been pro
vided for them, as soon as the seams were well payed.
This done, and it was no great job, the paint-brush was
*et to work, and the hull was completed ! In all, Mark
and Betts were eight weeks, hard at work, putting their
pinnace together. When she was painted, the summer
was more than half gone. The laying of the deck had
given more trouble than any other portion of the work on
the boat, and this because it was not a plain, full deck, or
one that covered the whole of the vessel, but left small
stern-sheets aft, which was absolutely necessary to the
comfort and safety of those she was to carry. The whole
was got together, however, leaving Mark and Bob to re
joice in their success thus far, and to puzzle their heads
about the meaus of getting their craft into the water, now
she was built. In a word, it was far easier to put together
a vessel of ten tons, that had been thus ready fitted to their
hands, than it was to launch her.

As each of our mariners had necessarily seen many ves
sels in their cradles, each had some idea of what it was
now necessary to do. Mark had laid the keel as near the
water as he could get it, and by this precaution had saved
himself a good deal of labour. It was very easy to find
materials for the ways, many heavy planks still remaining ;
but the difficulty was to lay them so that they would not
spread. Here the awning-posts were found of good ser
vice, plank being set on their edges against them, which,
in their turn, were made to sustain the props of the ways.
In order to save materials in the cradle, the ways them
selves were laid on blocks, and they were secured as well
as the skill of our self-formed shipwrights could do it.
They had some trouble in making the cradle, and had
once to undo all they had done, in consequence of a mis
take. At length Mark was of opinion they had taken all
the necessary precautions, and told Betts that he thought
they might venture to attempt launching the next day.


But Bob made a suggestion which changed this plan, and
caused a delay that was attended with very serious conse

The weather had become cloudy, and a little menacing,
for the last few days, and Bob proposed that they should
lower the awning, get up shears on the rock, and step the
mast of the pinnace before they launched her, as a means
of saving some labour. The spar was not very heavy, it
was true, and it might be stepped by crossing a couple of
the oars in the boat itself; but a couple of light spars
top-gallant studding-sail booms for instance would enable
them to do it much more readily, before the craft was put
into the water, than it could be done afterwards. Mark
listened to the suggestion, and acquiesced. The awning
was consequently lowered, and got out of the -vay. To
prevent the hogs from tearing the sail, it was placed on
two of the wheelbarrows and wheeled up into the crater,
whither those animals had never yet found their way.
Then the shears were got up, and the mast w .s stepped
and rigged; the boat's sails were found and bent. Mark
now thought enough had been done, and that, the next
day, they might undertake the launch. But another sug
gestion of Bob's delayed the proceedings.

The weather still continued clouded and menacing.
Betts was of opinion, therefore, that it might be well to
stow the provisions and water they intended to use in the
pinnace, while she was on the stocks, as they could work
round her so much the more easily then than afterwards.
Accordingly, the breakers were got out, on board the ship,
and filled with fresh water. They were then s- nick into
the raft. A barrel of beef, and one of pork followed, with
a quantity of bread. At two trips the raft carried all the
provisions and stores that were wanted, and the cargoes
were landed, rolled up to the side of the pinnate, hoisted
on board of her, by means of the throat-halliard, and pro
perly stowed. Two grapnels, or rather one grapnel, and
a small kedge, were found among the pinnace's materials,
everything belonging to her having been stowed in the
same part of the ship. These, too, were carried round to
the ship-yard, got on board, and their hawsers bent. In a
word, every preparation was made that might be necessary


to make sail on the pinnace, and to proceed to sea in her,
at once.

It was rather late in the afternoon of the third clouded
day, that Belts himself admitted no more could be done to
the Neshamony, previously to putting her into the water
When our two mariners ceased the business of the day,
therefore, it was with the understanding that they would
turn out early in the morning, wedge up, and launch. An
hour of daylight remaining, Mark went up to the Summit
to select a few melons, and to take a look at the state of
the plantations and gardens. Before ascending the hill,
the young man walked through his garden in the crater,
where everything was flourishing and doing well. Many
of the vegetables were by this time fit to eat, and there
was every prospect of there being a sufficient quantity
raised to meet the wants of two or three persons for a long
period ahead. The sight of these fruits of his toil, and
the luxuriance of the different plants, caused a momentary
feeling of regret in Mark at the thought of being about to
quit the place for ever. He even fancied he should have
a certain pleasure in returning to the Reef; and once a
faint outline of a plan came over his mind, in which he
faneied that he might bring Bridget to this place, and pass
the rest of his life with her, in the midst of its peace and
tranquillity. This was but a passing thought, however,
and was soon forgotten in the pictures that crowded on
his mind, in connection with the great anticipated event of
the next day.

While strolling about the little walks of his garden, the
appearance of verdure along the edge of the crater, or imme
diately beneath the cliff, caught Mark's eye. Going hastily
to the spot, he found that there was a long row of plants of
a new sort, not only appearing above the ground, but already
in leaf, and rising several inches in height. These were
the results of the seeds of the oranges, lemons, limes, shad
docks, figs, and other fruits of the tropics, that he had
planted there as an experiment, and forgotten. While his
mind was occupied with other things, these seeds had sent
forth their shoots, and the several trees were growing with
the rapidity and luxuriance that distinguish vegetation
within the tropics. As Mark's imagination pictured what


might be the effects of cultivation and care on that singular
spot, a sigh of regret mingled with his hopes for the future,
as he recollected he was so soon to abandon the place for
ever ; while on the Summit, too, this feeling of regret was
increased, rather than diminished. So much of the grass-
seed had taken, and the roots had already so far extended,
that acres were beginning to look verdant and smiling.
Two or three months had brought everything forward pro
digiously, and the frequency of the rains in showers, added
to the genial warmth of the sun, gave to vegetation a quick
ness and force that surprised, as much as it delighted our
young man.

That night Mark and Betts both slept in the ship. They
had a fancy it might be the last in which they could ever
have any chance of doing so, and attachment to the vessel
induced both to return to their old berths ; for latterly they
had slept in hammocks, swung beneath the ship-yard awn
ing, in order to be near their work. Mark was awoke at
a very early hour, by the howling of a gale among the rig
ging and spars of the Rancocus, sounds that he had not
heard for many a day, and which, at first, were actually
pleasant to his ears. Throwing on his clothes, and going
out on the quarter-deck, he found that a tempest was upon
them. The storm far exceeded anything that he had ever
before witnessed in the Pacific. The ocean was violently
agitated, and the rollers came in over the reef, to wind
ward, with a force and majesty that seemed to disregard
the presence of the rocks. It was just light, and Mark
called Bob, in alarm. The aspect of things was really
serious, and, at first, our mariners had great apprehensions
for the safety of the ship. It was true, the sea-wall resisted
every shock of the rollers that reached it, but even the
billows after they were broken by this obstacle, came down
upon the vessel with a violence that brought a powerful
strain on every rope-yarn in the sheet-cable. Fortunately,
the ground-tackle, on which the safety of the vessel de
pended, was of the very best quality, and the anchor was
known to have an excellent hold. Then, the preservation
of the ship was no longer a motive of the first considera
tion with them ; that of the pinnace being the thing now
most to be regarded. It might grieve them both to see


the Rancocus thrown upon the rocks, and broken ap; bat
of far greater account was it to their future prospects that
the N.eshamony should not be injured. Nor were the signs
of the danger that menaced the boat to be disregarded.
The water of the ocean appeared to be piling in among
these reefs, the rocks of which resisted its passage to lee
ward, and already was washing up on the surface of the
Reef, in places, threatening them with a general inunda
tion. It was necessary to look after the security of various
articles that were scattered about on the outer plain, and
our mariners went ashore to do so.

Although intending so soon to abandon the Reef alto
gether, a sense of caution induced Mark to take every
thing he could within the crater. AH the lower portions
of the outer plain were already covered with water, and
those sagacious creatures, the hogs, showed by their snuff
ing and disturbed manner of running about, that they had
internal as well as external warnings of danger. Mark
pulled aside the curtain, and let all the animals into the
crater. Poor Kitty was delighted to get on the Summit,
whither she soon found her way, by ascending the steps
commonly used by her masters. Fortunately for the plants,
the grass was in too great abundance, and too grateful to
her, not to be her choice in preference to any other food.
As for the pigs, they got at work in a pile of sea-weed, and
overlooked the garden, which was at some distance, until
fairly glutted, and ready to lie down.

In the meanwhile the tempest increased in violence, the
sea continued to pile among the rocks, and the water ac
tually covered the whole of the outer plain of the Reef
Now it was that Mark comprehended how the base of the
crater had been worn by water, the waves washing past it
with tremendous violence. There was actually a strong
current running over the whole of the reef, without the
crater ; the water rushing to leeward, as if glad to get past
the obstacle of the island on any terms, in order to hasten
away before the tempest. Mark was fully half an hour
engaged in looking to his marquee and its contents, all of
which were exposed, more or less, to the power of the
gale. After securing his books, furniture, &c., and seeing
that the stays of the marquee itself were likely to hold out,


he cast an eye to the ship, which was on that side of the
island, also. The staunch old 'Cocus, as Bob called her,
was rising and falling with the waves that now disturbed
her usually placid basin; but, as yet, her cable and anchor
held her, and no harm was done. Fortunately, our mari
ners, when they unbent the sails, had sent down all the
upper and lighter spars, and had lowered the fore and
main yards on the gunwale, measures of precaution that
greatly lessened the strain on her ground-tackle. The
top-gallant-masts had also been lowered, and the vessel
was what seamen usually term ' snug.' Mark would have
been very, very sorry to see her lost, even though he did
expect to have very little more use out of her ; for he loved
the craft from habit.

After taking this look at the ship, our mate passed round
the Summit, having two or three tumbles on his way in
consequence of puffs of wind, until he reached the point
over the gate-way, which was that nearest to the ship-yard.
It now occurred to him that possibly it might become ne
cessary to look a little to the security of the Neshamony,
for by this time the water on the reef was two or three feet
deep. To his surprise, on looking round for Bob, whom
he thought to be at work securing property near the gate
way, he ascertained that the honest fellow had waded down
to the ship-yard, and clambered on board the pinnace, with
a view to take care of her. The distance between the
point where Mark now stood and the Neshamony exceeded
half a mile, and communication with the voice would have
been next to impossible, had the wind not blown as it did.
With the roaring of the seas, and the howling of the gale,
it was of course entirely out of the question. Mark, how
ever, could see his friend, and see that he was gesticulating,
in the most earnest manner, for himself to join him. Then
it was he first perceived that the pinnace was in motion,
seeming to move on her ways. Presently the blockings
were washed from under her, and the boat went astern
half her length at a single surge. Mark made a bo:ind
down the hill, intending to throw himself into the raging
surf, and to swim off to the aid of Betts ; but, pausing an
instant to choose a spot at which to get down the steep,
he looked towards the ship-yard, and saw the pinnaee
lifted on a sea, and washed fairly clear of the land !



"Man 's rich with little, wera his judgments tru;
Nature is frugal, and her wants are few ;
These few wants answered bring sincere delights,
But fools create themselves new appetites."


IT would have been madness in Mark to pursue his in
tention. A boat, or craft of any sort, once adrift in such
a gale, could not have been overtaken by even one of those
islanders who are known to pass half their lives in the
water ; and the young man sunk down on the rock, almost
gasping for breath in the intensity of his distress. He felt
more for Bob than he did for himself, for escape with life
appeared to him to be a forlorn hope for his friend. Never
theless, the sturdy old sea-dog who was cast adrift, amid
the raging of the elements, comported himself in a way to
do credit to his training. There was nothing like despair
in his manner of proceeding ; but so coolly and intelli
gently did he set about taking care of his craft, that Mark
soon found himself a curious and interested observer of all
he did, feeling quite as much of admiration for Bob's stea
diness and skill, as concern for his danger.

Betts knew too well the uselessness of throwing over his
kedge to attempt anchoring. Nor was it safe to keep the
boat in the trough of the sea, his wisest course being to
run before the gale until he was clear of the rocks, when
he might endeavour to lie-to, if his craft would bear it. In
driving off the Reef the Neshamony had gone stern fore
most, almost as a matter of course, vessels usually being
laid down with their bows towards the land. No sooner
did the honest old salt find he was fairly adrift, therefore,
than he jumped into the stern-sheets and put the helm
down. With stern-way on her, this caused the bows of
the craft to fall off; and, as she came broadside to the
gale, Mark thought she would fall over, also. Some idea


Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 11 of 42)