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could be formed of the power of the wind, in the fact that
this sloop-rigged craft, without a rag of sail set, and with
scarce any hamper aloft, no sooner caught the currents of
air abeam, than she lay down to it, as one commonly sees
such craft do under their canvas in stiff breezes.

It was a proof that the Neshamony was well modelled,
that she began to draw ahead as soon as the wind took her
fairly on her broadside, when Betts shifted the helm, and
the pinnace fell slowly off. When she had got nearly be
fore the wind, she came up and rolled to-windward like a
ship, and Mark scarce breathed as he saw her plunging
down upon the reefs, like a frantic steed that knows not
whither he is rushing in his terror. From the elevated
position he occupied, Mark could see the ocean as far as
the spray, which filled the atmosphere, would allow of any
thing being seen at all. Places which were usually white
with the foam of breakers, could not now be distinguished
from any of the raging cauldron around them, and it was
evident that Bob must run at hazard. Twenty times did
Mark expect to see the pinnace disappear in the foaming
waves, as it drove furiously onward ; but, in each instance,
the light and buoyant boat came up from cavities where
our young man fancied it must be dashed to pieces, scud
ding away to leeward like the sea-fowl that makes its flight
with wings nearly dipping. Mark now began to hope
that his friend might pass over the many reefs that lay in
his track, and gain the open water to leeward. The rise
in the ocean favoured such an expectation, and no doubt
was the reason why the Neshamony was not dashed to
pieces within the first five minutes after she was washed
off her ways. Once to leeward of the vast shoals that sur
rounded the crater, there was the probability of Bob's
finding smoother water, and the chance of his riding out
the tempest by bringing his little sloop up head to sea.
The water through which the boat was then running was
more like a cauldron, bubbling and boiling under some
intense heat produced by subterranean fires, than the regu
lar, rolling billows of the ocean when piled up by gales.
Under the lee of the shoals this cauldron would disappear,
while the mountain waves of the open ocean could not rise
until a certain distance from the shallow water enabled
11 *


them to 'get up,' as sailors express it. Mark saw the
Neshamony for about a quarter of an hour after she was
adrift, though long before the expiration of even that brief
period she was invisible for many moments at a time, in
consequence of the distance, her want of sail, her lowness
in the water, and the troubled state of the element through
which she was driving. The last look he got of her was
at an instant when the spray was filling the atmosphere
like a passing cloud ; when it had driven away, the boat
could no longer be seen !

Here was a sudden and a most unexpected change for
the worse in the situation of Mark Woolston ! Not only
had he lost the means of getting off the island, but he had
lost his friend and companion. It was true, Bob was a
rough and an uncultivated associate ; but he was honest as
human frailty could leave a human being, true as steel in
his attachments, strong in body, and of great professional
skill. So great, indeed, was the last, that our young man
was not without the hope he would be able to keep under
the lee of the shoals until the gale broke, and then beat up
through them, and still come to his rescue. There was
one point, in particular, on which Mark felt unusual con
cern. Bob knew nothing whatever of navigation. It was
impossible to teach him anything on that subject. He
knew the points of the compass, but had no notion of the
variations, of latitude or longitude, or of anything belong
ing to the purely mathematical part of the business. Twenty
times had he asked Mark to give him the latitude and
longitude of the crater; twenty times had he been told what
they were, and just as often had he forgotten them. When
questioned by his young friend, twenty-four hours after a
lesson of this sort, if he remembered the figures at all, he
was apt to give the latitude for the longitude, or the longi
tude for the latitude, the degrees for the minutes, or the
minutes for the degrees. Ordinarily, however, he forgot
all about the numbers themselves. Mark had in vain en
deavoured to impress on his mind the single fact that any
number which exceeded ninety must necessarily refer to
longitude, and not to latitude ; for Bob could not be made
to remember even this simple distinction. He was just as
likely to believe the Reef lay in the hundred and twentieth


degree of latitude, as he was to fancy it lay in the twen
tieth. With such a head, therefore, it was but little to be
expected Bob could give the information to others neces
sary to find the reef, even in the almost hopeless eventxjf
his ever being placed in circumstances to do so. Still,
while so completely ignorant of mathematics and arithme
tic, in all their details, few mariners could find their way
better than Bob Betts by the simple signs of the ocean.
He understood the compass perfectly, the variations ex-
cepted ; and his eye was as true as that of the most expe
rienced artist could be, when it became necessary to judge
of the colour of the water. On many occasions had Mark
known him intimate that the ship was in a current, and
had a weatherly or a lee set, when the fact had escaped not
only the officers, but the manufacturers of the charts. He
judged by ripples, and sea-weed, and the other familiar
signs of the seas, and these seldom failed him. While,
therefore, there was not a seaman living less likely to find
the Reef again, when driven off from its vicinity, by means
of observations and the charts, there was not a seaman
living more likely to find it, by resorting to the other helps
of the navigator. On this last peculiarity Mark hung all
his hopes of seeing his friend again, when the gale should

Since the moment when all the charge of the ship fell
upon his shoulders, by the loss of Captain Crutchely, Mark
had never felt so desolate, as when he lost sight of Bob and
the Neshamony. Then, indeed, did he truly feel himself
to be alone, with none between him and his God with
whom to commune. It is not surprising, therefore, that
one so much disposed to cherish his intercourse with the
Divine Spirit, knelt on the naked rock and prayed. After
this act of duty and devotion, the young man arose, and
endeavoured to turn his attention to the state of things
around him.

The gale still continued with unabated fury. Each in
stant the water rose higher and higher on the Reef, until
it began to enter within the crater, by means of the gutters
that had been worn in the lava, covering two or three
acres of the lower part of its plain. As for the R.ancocus,
though occasionally pitching more heavily than our young


man could have believed possible behind the sea-wall, her
anchor still held, and no harm had yet come to her. Find-
ing it impossible to do any more, Mark descended into the
crater, where it was a perfect lull, though the wind fairly
howled on every side, and got into one of the South Ame
rican hammocks, of which there had been two or three in
the ship, and of which he had caused one to be suspended
beneath the sort of tent he and poor Bob had erected near
the garden. Here Mark remained all the rest of that day,
and during the whole of the succeeding night. But for
what he had himself previously seen, the roar of the ocean
on the other side of his rocky shelter, and the scuffling of
the winds about the Summit, he might not have been made
conscious of the violence of the tempest that was raging
so near him. Once and awhile, however, a puff of air
would pass over him ; but, on the whole, he was little af
fected by the storm, until near morning, when it rained
violently. Fortunately, Mark had taken the precaution to
give a low ridge to all his awnings and tent-coverings,
which turned the water perfectly. When, therefore, he
heard the pattering of the drops on the canvas, he did not
rise, but remained in his hammock until the day returned.
Previously to that moment, however, he dropped into a
deep sleep, in which he lay several hours.

When consciousness returned to Mark, he lay half a
minute trying to recall the past. Then he listened for the
sounds of the tempest. All was still without, and, rising,
he found that the sun was shining, and that a perfect calm
reigned in the outer world. Water was lying in spots, in
holes on the surface of the crater, where the pigs were
drinking and the ducks bathing. Kitty stood in sight, on
the topmost knoll of the Summit, cropping the young sweet
grass that had so lately been refreshed by rain, disliking
it none the less, probably, from the circumstance that a
few particles of salt were to be found among it, the deposit
of the spray. The garden looked smiling, the plants re
freshed, and nothing as yet touched in it, by the visitors
who had necessarily been introduced.

Our young man washed himself in one of the pools, and
then crossed the plain to drive out the pigs and poultry,
the necessity of husbanding his stores pressing even pain-


fully on his mind. As he approached the gate-way, he
saw that the sea had retired ; and, certain that the animals
would take care of themselves, he drove them through the
hole, and dropped the sail before it. Then he sought one
of the ascents, and was soon on the top of the hill. The
trades had returned, but scarce blew in zephyrs ; the sea
was calm ; the points in the reefs were easily to be seen ;
the ship was at rest and seemingly uninjured, and the
whole view was one of the sweetest tranquillity and secu
rity. Already had the pent and piled waters diffused
themselves, leaving the Reef as before, with the exception
that those cavities which contained rain-water, during most
of the year, now contained that which was not quite so
palatable. This was a great temporary inconvenience,
though the heavy showers of the past night had done a
good deal towards sweetening the face of the rock, and
had reduced most of the pools to a liquid that was brackish
rather than salt. A great many fish lay scattered about,
on the island, and Mark hastened down to examine their

The pigs and poultry were already at work on the game
that was so liberally thrown in their way, and Mark felt
indebted to these scavengers for aiding him in what he
perceived was now a task indispensable to his comfort.
After going to the ship, and breaking his fast, he returned
to the crater, obtained a wheelbarrow, and set to work in
earnest to collect the fish, which a very few hours' expo
sure to the sun of that climate would render so offensive
as to make the island next to intolerable. Never in his
life did our young friend work harder than he did all that
morning. Each load of fish, as it was wheeled into the
crater, was thrown into a trench already prepared for that
purpose, and the ashes were hauled over it, by means of
the hoe. Feeling the necessity of occupation to lessen his
sorrow, as well as that of getting rid of pestilence, which
he seriously apprehended from this inroad of animal sub
stances, Mark toiled two whole days at this work, until
fairly driven from it by the intolerable effluvium which
arose, notwithstanding all he had done, on every side of
the island. It is impossible to say what would have been
the consequences had not the birda come, in thousands, to


his relief. They made quick work of it, clearing cff th
fish in numbers that would be nearly incredible. As it
was, however, our young hermit was driven into the ship,
where he passed a whole week, the steadiness of the trades
driving the disagreeable odours to leeward. At the end
of that time he ventured ashore, where he found it possible
to remain, though the Reef did not get purified for more
than a month. Finding a great many fish still remaining
that neither hog nor bird would touch, Mark made a couple
of voyages to Loam Island, whence he brought two car
goes of the deposit, and landed at the usual place. This
he wheeled about the Reef, throwing two or three shovels
full on each offensive creature, thus getting rid of the efflu
vium and preparing a considerable store of excellent ma
nure for his future husbandry. It may be as well said
here, that, at odd times, he threw these little deposits into
large heaps, and subsequently wheeled them into the crater,
where they were mixed with the principal pile of compost
that had now been, for months, collecting there.

It is a proof of the waywardness of human nature that
we bear great misfortunes better than small ones. So it
proved with Mark, on this occasion ; for, much as he really
regarded Bob, and serious as was the loss of his friend to
himself, the effects of the inundation occupied his thoughts,
and disturbed him more, just at that time, than the disap
pearance of the Neshamony. Nevertheless, our young
man had not forgotten to look out for the missing boat, in
readiness to hail its return with joy. He passed much of
the week he was shut up in the ship in her topmast-cross-
trees, vainly examining the sea to leeward, in the hope of
catching a distant view of the pinnace endeavouring to
bear up through the reefs. Several times he actually fan
cied he saw her ; but it always turned out to be the wing
of some gull, or the cap of a distant breaker. It was when
Mark had come ashore again, and commenced the toil of
covering the decayed fish, and of gathering them into piles,
that these smaller matters supplanted the deep griefs of his

One of the annoyances to which our solitary man found
himself most subject, was the glare produced by a burning
sun on rocks and ashes of the drab colour of the crater


The spots of verdure that he had succeeded in producing
on the Summit, not only relieved and refreshed his eyes,
but they were truly delightful as aids to the view, as well
as grateful to Kitty, which poor creature had, by this time,
cropped them down to a pretty short herbage. This Mark
knew, however, was an advantage to the grass, making it
finer, and causing it to thicken at the roots. The success
of this experiment, the annoyance to his eyes, and a fever
ish desire to be doing, which succeeded the disappearance
of Betts, set Mark upon the project of sowing grass-seed
over as much of the plain of the crater as he thought he
should not have occasion to use for the purposes of tillage.
To work he went then, scattering the seed in as much
profusion as the quantity to be found in the ship would
justify. Friend Abraham White had provided two barrels
of the seed, and this went a good way. While thus em
ployed a heavy shower fell, and thinking the rain a most
favourable time to commit his grass-seeds to the earth,
Mark worked through the whole of it, or for several hours,
perspiring with the warmth and exercise.

This done, a look at the garden, with a free use of the
hoe, was the next thing undertaken. That night Mark
slept in his hammock, under the crater-awning, and when
he awoke in the morning it was to experience a weight
like that of lead in his forehead, a raging thirst, and a
burning fever. Now it was that our poor solitary hermit
felt the magnitude of his imprudence and the weight of
the evils of his peculiar situation. That he was about to
be seriously ill he knew, arid it behoved him to improve
the time that remained to him, to the utmost. Everything
useful to him was in the ship, and thither it became indis
pensable for him to repair, if he wished to retain even a
chance for life. Opening an umbrella, then, and support
ing his tottering legs by a cane, Mark commenced a walk
of very near a mile, under an almost perpendicular sun,
at the hottest season of the year. Twenty times did the
young man think he should be compelled to sink on the
bare rock, where there is little question he would soon
have expired, under the united influence of the fever within
and the burning heat without. Despair urged him on,
and, after pausing often to rest, he succeeded in entering


the cabin, at the end of the most perilous Hour he had
ever yet passed.

No words of ours can describe the grateful sense of
coolness, in spite of the boiling blood in his veins, that
Mark Woolston experienced when he stepped beneath the
shade of the poop-deck of the Rancocus. The young man
knew that he was about to be seriously ill, and his life
might depend on the use he made of the next hour, or
half-hour, even. He threw himself on a settee, to get a
little rest, and while there he endeavoured to reflect on his
situation, and to remember what he ought to do. The
medicine-chest always stood in the cabin, and he had used
its contents too often among the crew, not to have some
knowledge of their general nature and uses. Potions were
kept prepared in that depository, and he staggered to the
table, opened the chest, took a ready-mixed dose of the
sort he believed best for him, poured water on it from the
filterer, and swallowed it. Our mate ever afterwards be
lieved that draught saved his life. It soon made him
deadly sick, and produced an action in his whole system
For an hour he was under its influence, when he was en
abled to get into his berth, exhausted and literally unable
any longer to stand. How long he remained in that berth,
or near it rather for he was conscious of having crawled
from it in quest of water, and for other purposes, on several
occasions but, how long he was confined to his cabin,
Mark Woolston never knew. The period was certainly
to be measured by days, and he sometimes fancied by
weeks. The first probably was the truth, though it might
have been a fortnight. Most of that time his head was
light with fever, though there were intervals when reason
was, at least partially, restored to him, and he became
painfully conscious of the horrors of his situation. Of food
and water he had a sufficiency, the filterer and a bread-bag
being quite near him, and he helped himself often from the
first, in particular ; a single mouthful of the ship's biscuit
commonly proving more than he could swallow, even after
it was softened in the water. At length he found himself
indisposed to rise at all, and he certainly remained eight-
and-forty hours in his berth, without quitting it, and almost
without sleeping, though most of the time in a sort of doze.


At length the fever abated in its violence, though it
began to assume, what for a man in Mark Woolston's situ
ation was perhaps more dangerous, a cha "eter of a low
type, lingering in his system and killing .;im by inches.
Mark was aware of his condition, and thought of the means
of relief. The ship had some good Philadelphia porter in
her, and a bottle of it stood on a shelf over his berth. This
object caught his eye, and he actually longed for a draught
of that porter. He had sufficient strength to raise him
self high enough to reach it, but it far exceeded his powers
to draw the cork, even had the ordinary means been at
hand, which they were not. There was a hammer on the
shelf, however, and with that instrument he did succeed
in making a hole in the side of the bottle, and in filling a
tumbler. This liquor he swallowed at a single draught.
It tasted deliciously to him, and he took a second tumbler
full, when he lay down, uncertain as to the consequences.
That his head was aifected by these two glasses of porter,
Mark himself was soon aware, and shortly after drowsiness
followed. After lying in an uneasy slumber for half an
hour, his whole person was covered with a gentle perspira
tion, in which condition, after drawing the sheet around
him, the sick man fell asleep.

Our patient never knew how long he slept, on this all-
important occasion. The period certainly included part
ef two days and one entire night ; but, afterwards, when
Mark endeavoured to correct his calendar, and to regain
something like a record of the time, he was inclined to
think he must have lain there two nights with the inter
vening day. -When he awoke, Mark was immediately
sensible that he was free from disease. He was not im
mediately sensible, nevertheless, how extremely feeble dis
ease had left him. At first, he fancied he had only to rise,
take nourishment, and go about his ordinary pursuits.
But the sight of his emaciated limbs, and the first effort
he made to get up, convinced him that he had a long state
of probation to go through, before he became the man he
had been a week or two before. It was well, perhaps,
that his head was so clear, and his judgment so unob-
scured at this, his first return to consciousness.

Mark deemed it a good symptom that he felt disposed


to eat. How many days he had been altogether without
nourishment he could not say, but they must have been
several ; nor had he received more than could be obtained
from a single ship's biscuit since his attack. All thia
came to his mind, with a distinct recollection that he must
be his own physician and nurse. For a few minutes he
lay still, during which he addressed himself to God, with
thanks for having spared his life until reason was restored.
Then he bethought him, well as his feeble state would
allow, of the course he ought to pursue. On a table in
the cabin, and in sight of his berth, through the state-room
door, was a liquor-case, containing wines, brandy, and gin.
Our sick man thought all might yet go well, could he get
a few spoonsfull of an excellent port wine which that case
contained, and which had been provided expressly for cases
of sickness. To do this, however, it was necessary to ob
tain the key, to open the case, and to pour out the liquor ;
three things, of which he distrusted his powers to perform
that which was the least difficult.

The key of the liquor-case was in the draw of an open
secretary, which, fortunately, stood between him and the
table. Another effort was made to rise, which so far suc
ceeded as to enable the invalid to sit up in his bed. The
cool breeze which aired the cabin revived him a little, and
he was able to stretch out a hand and turn the cock of the
filterer, which he had himself drawn near his berth, while
under the excitement of fever, in order to obtain easy ac
cess to water. Accidentally this filterer stood in a draught,
and the quart or two of water that had not yet evaporated
was cool and palatable ; that is, cool for a ship and such
a climate. One swallow of the water was all Mark ven
tured on, but it revived him more than he could believe
possible. Near the glass into which he had drawn the
water, lay a small piece of pilot bread, and this he dropped
into the tumbler. Then he ventured to try his feet, when
he found a dizziness come over him, that compelled him
to fall back on his berth. Recovering from this in a minute
or two, a second attempt succeeded better, and the poor
fellow, by supporting himself against the bulkheads, and
by leaning on chairs, was enabled to reach the desk. The
key was easily obtained, and the table was next reached.


Here Mark sunk into a chair, as much exhausted as he
would have been, previously to his illness, by a desperate
effort to defend life.

The invalid was in his shirt, and the cool sea-breeze had
the effect of an air-bath on him. It revived him in a little
while, when he applied the key, opened the case, got out
the bottle by using both hands, though it was nearly empty,
and poured out a wine-glass of the liquor. With these
little exertions he was so much exhausted as almost to
faint. Nothing saved him, probably, but a sip of the wine
which he took from the glass as it stood on the table. It
has been much the fashion, of late years, to decry wine,
and this because it is a gift of Providence that has been
greatly abused. In Mark Woolston's instance it proved,
what it was designed to be, a blessing instead of a curse.
That single sip of wine produced an effect on him like
that of magic. It enabled him soon to obtain his tumbler
of water, into which he poured the remainder of the liquor.
With the tumbler in his hand, the invalid next essayed to
cross the cabin, and to reach the berth in the other state
room. He was two or three minutes in making this pas
sage, sustained by a chair, into which he sunk not less
than three times, and revived by a few more sips of the
wine and water. In this state-room was a bed with clean

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 12 of 42)