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no less than five, and these he buried entire, in deep places
in his garden, having heard that earth which had imbibed
animal substances, in this way, was converted into excel
lent manure.

Mark now made a voyage to Loam Island, in quest of a
cargo, using the raft, and towing the dingui. It was on
this occasion that our young man was made to feel how
much he had lost, in the way of labour, in being deprived
of the assistance of Bob. He succeeded in loading his
raft, however, and was just about to sail for home again,
when it occurred to him that possibly the seeds and roots
of the asparagus he had put into a corner of the deposit
might have come to something. Sure enough, on going
to the spot, Mark found that the seed had taken well, and
hundreds of young plants were growing flourishingly, while
plants fit to eat had pushed their tops through the loam,
from the roots. This was an important discovery, aspara
gus being a vegetable of which Mark was exceedingly fond,
and one easily cultivated. In that climate, and in a soil
sufficiently rich, it might be made to send up new shoots
the entire year ; and there was little fear of scurvy so long
as he could obtain plenty of this plant to eat. The melons
and other vegetables, however, had removed all Mark's
dread of that formidable disease; more especially as he



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 147

had now eggs, chickens, and fresh fish, the latter in quan
tities that were almost oppressive. In a word, the means
of subsistence now gave the young man no concern what
ever. When he first found himself on a barren rock, in
deed, the idea had almost struck terror into his mind ; but,
now that he had ascertained that his crater could be culti
vated, and promised, like most other extinct volcanoes,
unbounded fertility, he could no longer apprehend a disease
which is commonly owing to salted provisions.

When Mark found his health completely re-established,
he sat down and drew up a regular plan of dividing his
time between work, contemplation, and amusement. For
tunately, perhaps, for one who lived in a climate where
vegetation was so luxuriant when it could be produced at
all, work was pressed into his service as an amusement.
Of the last, there was certainly very little, in the common
acceptation of the word ; but our hermit was not without
it altogether. He studied the habits of the sea-birds that
congregated in thousands around so many of the rocks of
the Reef, though so few scarce ever ventured on the crater
island. He made voyages to and fro, usually connecting
business with pleasure. Taking favourable times for such
purposes, he floated several cargoes of loam to the Reef,
as well as two enormous rafts of sea-weed. Mark was
quite a month in getting these materials into his compost
heap, which he intended should lie in a pile during the
winter, in order that it might be ready for spading in the
spring. We use these terms by way of distinguishing the
seasons, though of winter, strictly speaking, there was none.
Of the two, the grass grew better at mid-winter than at
mid-summer, the absence of the burning heat of the last
being favourable to its growth. As the season advanced,
Mark saw nis grass very sensibly increase, not only in sur
face, but in thickness. There were now spots of some
size, where a turf was forming, nature performing all her
tasks in that genial climate, in about a fourth of the time
it would take to effect the same object in the temperate
zone. On examining these places, Mark came to the con
clusion that the roots of his grasses acted as cultivators,
by working their way into the almost insensible crevices
of the crust, letting in air and water to places whence they



148 THE CRATER;

had hitherto been excluded. This seemed, in particu.ar,
to be the case with the grass that grew within the crater,
which had increased so much in the course of what may
be termed the winter, that it was really fast converting a
plain of a light drab colour, that was often painful to the
eyes, into a plot of as lovely verdure as ever adorned the
meadows of a Swiss cottage. It became desirable to keep
this grass down, and Kitty being unable to crop a meadow
of so many acres, Mark was compelled to admit his pigs
and poultry again. This he did at stated times only, how
ever ; or when he was at work himself in the garden, and
could prevent their depredations on his beds. The rooting
gave him the most trouble ; but this he contrived in a great
measure to prevent, by admitting his hogs only when they
were eager for grass, and turning them out as soon as they
began to generalize, like an epicure picking his nuts after
dinner.

It was somewhere near mid-winter, by Mark's calcula
tions, when the young man commenced a new task that
was of great importance to his comfort, and which might
affect his future life. He had long determined to lay down
a boat, one of sufficient size to explore the whole reef in,
if not large enough to carry him out to sea. The dingui
was altogether too small for labour ; though exceedingly
useful in its way, and capable of being managed even in
pretty rough water by a skilful hand, it wanted both weight
and room. It was difficult to float in, even a raft of sea
weed, with so light a boat; and as for towing the raft, it
was next to impossible. But the raft was unwieldy, and
when loaded down, besides carrying very little for its great
weight, it was very much at the mercy of the currents and
waves. Then the construction of a boat was having an
important purpose in view, and, in that sense, was a desi
rable undertaking.

Mark had learned so much in putting the pinnace toge
ther, that he believed himself equal to this new undertaking.
Materials enough remained in the ship to make half-a-dozen
boats, and in tumbling over the lumber he had found a
quantity of stuff that had evidently been taken in with a
view to repair boats, if not absolutely to construct them.
A ship's hold is such an omnium gatherum, stowage being



OB, VULCAN'S PEAK. 149

necessarily so close, that it usually requires time for one
who does not know where to put his hand on everything,
to ascertain how much or how little is to be found in it.
Such was the fact with Mark, whose courtship and mar
riage had made a considerable inroad on his duties as a
mate. As he overhauled the hold, he daily found fresh
reasons for believing that Friend Abraham White had
made provisions, of one sort and another, of which he was
profoundly ignorant, but which, as the voyage had termi
nated, proved to be of the greatest utility. Thus it was,
that just as he was about to commence getting out those
great requisites from new planks, he came across a stem,
stern-frame, and keel of a boat, that was intended to be
eighteen feet long. Of course our young man profited by
this discovery, getting the materials of all sorts, including
these, round to the ship-yard by means of the raft.

For the next two months, or until he had reason to be
lieve spring had fairly set in, Mark toiled faithfully at
his boat. Portions of his work gave him a great deal of
trouble ; some of it on account of ignorance of the craft,
and some on account of his being alone. Getting the
awning up anew cost poor Mark the toil of several days,
and this because his single strength was not sufficient to
hoist the corners of that heavy course, even when aided
by watch-tackles. He was compelled to rig a crab, with
which he effected his purpose, reserving the machine to
aid him on other occasions. Then the model of the boat
cost him a great deal of time and labour. Mark knew a
good bottom when he saw it, but that was a very different
thing from knowing how to make one. Of the rules of
draughting he was altogether ignorant, and his eye was
his only guide. He adopted a plan that was sufficiently
ingenious, though it would never do to build a navy on the
same principle.

Having a great plenty of deal, Mark got out in the rough
about twice as many timbers for one side of his boat as
would be required, in this thin stuff, when he set them up
in their places. Aided by this beginning, the young man
began to dub and cut away, until he got each piece into
something very near the shape his eye told him it ought to
be. Even after he had got as far as this, our boat-builder
13



150 . E THE CRATER;

passed a week in shaving, and planing, and squinting, and
in otherwise reducing his lines to fair proportions. Satis
fied, at length, with the bottom he had thus fashioned,
Mark took out just one half of his pieces, leaving the other
half standing. After these moulds did he saw and cut his
boat's timbers, making, in each instance, duplicates. When
the ribs and floors of his craft were ready, he set them up
in the vacancies, and secured them, after making an accu
rate fit with the pieces left standing. On knocking away
the deal portions of his work, Mark had the frame of his
boat complete. This was much the most troublesome part
of the whole job; nor was it finished, when the young man
was obliged, by the progress of the seasons, to quit the
ship-yard for the garden.

Mark had adopted a system of diet and a care of his
person, that kept him in perfect health, illness being the
evil that he most dreaded. His food was more than half
vegetable, several plants having come forward even in the
winter; and the asparagus, in particular, yielding at a rate
that would have made the fortune of a London gardener.
The size of the plants he cut was really astounding, a
dozen stems actually making a meal. The hens laid all
winter, and eggs were never wanting. The corned pork
gave substance, as well as a relish, to all the dishes the
young man cooked ; and the tea, sugar and coffee, promis
ing to hold out years longer, the table still gave him little
concern. Once in a month, or so, he treated himself to a
bean-soup, or a pea-soup, using the stores of the Rancocus
for that purpose, foreseeing that the salted meats would
spoil after a time, and the dried vegetables get to be worth
less, by means of insects and worms. By this time, how
ever, there were fresh crops of both those vegetables, which
grew better in the winter than they could in the summer,
in that hot climate. Fish, too, were used as a change,
whenever the young man had an inclination for that sort
of food, which was as often as three or four times a week ;
the little pan-fish already mentioned, being of a sort of
which one would scarcely ever tire.

It being a matter of some moment to save unnecessary
labour, Mark seldom cooked more than once in twenty-
four hours, and then barely enough to last for that day.



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 151

In consequence of this rule, he soon learned how little was
really necessary for the wants of one person, it being his
opinion that a quarter of an acre of such soil as that which
now composed his garden, would more than furnish all the
vegetables he could consume. The soil, it is true, was of
a very superior quality. Although it had lain so long un
productive and seemingly barren, now that it had been
stirred, and air and water were admitted, and guano, and
sea-weed, and loam, and dead fish had been applied, and
all in quantities that would have been deemed very ample
in the best wrought gardens of Christendom, the acre he
had under tillage might be said to have been brought to
the highest stage of fertility. It wanted a little in consis
tency, perhaps ; but the compost heap was very large,
containing enough of all the materials just mentioned to
give the garden another good dressing. As for the grass,
Mark was convinced the guano was all-sufficient for that,
and this he took care to apply as often as once in two or
three months.

Our young man was never tired, indeed, with feasting
his eyes with the manner in which the grass had spread
over the mount. It is true, that he had scattered seed, at
odd and favourable moments, over most of it, by this time ;
out he was persuaded the roots of those first sown would
lave extended themselves, in the course of a year or two,
jver the whole Summit. Nor were these grasses thin and
sickly, threatening as early an extinction as they had been
quick in coming to maturity. On the contrary, after
oreaking what might be called the crust of the rock with
their vigorous though nearly invisible roots, they made a
bed for themselves, on which they promised to repose for
ages. The great frequency of the rains favoured their
growth, and Mark was of opinion after the experience of
Dne summer, that his little mountain might be green the
year round.

We have called the mount of the crater little, but the
term ought not to be used in reference to such a hill, when
the extent of the island itself was considered. By actual
measurement, Mark had ascertained that there was one
knoll on the Summit which was just seventy-two feet above
the level of the rock. The average height, however, might



152 THE CRATER;

be given as somewhat less than fifty. Of surface, the rocky
barrier of the crater had almost as much as the plain within
it, though it was so broken and uneven as not to appear
near as large. Kitty had long since determined that the
hill was more than large enough for all her wants; and
glad enough did she seem when Mark succeeded, after a
great deal of difficulty, in driving the hogs up a flight of
steps he had made within the crater, to help her crop the
herbage. As for the rooting of the last, so long as they
were on the Summit, it was so much the better ; since, in
that climate, it was next to impossible to kill grass that
was once fairly in growth, and the more the crust of the
ashes was broken, the more rapid and abundant would be
the vegetation.

Mark had, of course, abandoned the idea of continuing
to cultivate his melons, or any other vegetables, on the
Summit, or he never would have driven his hogs there.
He was unwilling, notwithstanding, to lose the benefit of
the deposits of soil and manure which he and Bob had
made there with so much labour to themselves. After,
reflecting what he could do with them, he came to the
conclusion that he would make small enclosures around
some fifteen or twenty of the places, and transplant some
of the fig-trees, orange-trees, limes, lemons, &c., which
still stood rather too thick within the crater to ripen their
fruits to advantage. In order to make these little enclo
sures, Mark merely drove into the earth short posts, pass
ing around them old rope, of which there was a super
abundance on board the ship. This arrangement suggested
the idea of fencing in the garden, by the same means, in
order to admit the pigs to eat the grass, when he was not
watching them. By the time these dispositions were made,
it was necessary to begin again to put in the seeds.

On this occasion Mark determined to have a succession
of crops, and not to bring on everything at once, as he had
done the first year of his tillage. Accordingly, he would
manure and break up a bed, and plant or sow it, waiting
a few days before he began another. Experience had told
him that there was never an end to vegetation in that cli
mate, and he saw no use in pushing his labours faster than
he might require their fruits. It was true, certain plantar



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 153

did better if permitted to come to maturity in particular
periods, but the season was so long as very well to allow
of the arrangement just mentioned. As this distribution
of his time gave the young man a good deal of leisure, he
employed it in the ship-yard. Thus the boat and the gar
den were made to advance together, and when the last was
sown and planted, the first was planked. When the last
bed was got in, moreover, those first set in order were
already giving forth their increase. Mark had abundance
of delicious salad, young onions, radishes that seemed to
grow like mushrooms, young peas, beans, &c., in quanti
ties that enabled him to turn the hogs out on the Reef,
and keep them well on the refuse of his garden, assisted a
little by what was always to be picked up on the rocks.

By this time Mark had settled on a system which he
thought to pursue. There was no use in his raising more
pigs than he could use. Taking care to preserve the
breed, therefore, he killed off the pigs, of which he had
fresh litters, from time to time ; and when he found the
old hogs getting to be troublesome, as swine will become
with years, he just shot them, and buried their bodies in
his compost heap, or in his garden, where one common-
sized hog would render highly fertile several yards square
of earth, or ashes. This practice he continued ever after,
extending it to his fowls and ducks, the latter of which
produced a great many eggs. By rigidly observing this
rule, Mark avoided an evil which is very common even in
inhabited countries, that of keeping more stock than is
good for their owner. Six or eight hens laid more eggs
than he could consume, and there was always a sufficient
supply of chickens for his wants. In short, our hermit
had everything he actually required, and most things that
could contribute to his living in great abundance. The
necessity of cooking for himself, and the want of pure, cold
spring water, were the two greatest physical hardships he
endured. There were moments, indeed, when Mark would
have gladly yielded one-half of the advantages he actually
possessed, to have a good spring of living water. Then
he quelled the repinings of his spirit at this privation, by
endeavouring to recall how many blessings were left at his
command, compared to the wants and sullerings of many



154 THE CRATER;

another shipwrecked mariner of whom he had read or
heard.

The spring passed as pleasantly as theughts of home and
Bridget would allow, and his beds and plantations flou
rished to a degree that surprised him. As for the grass,
as soon as it once got root, it became a most beneficial
assistant to his plans of husbandry. Nor was it grass alone
that rewarded Mark's labours and forethought in his mea
dows and pastures. Various flowers appeared in the herb
age ; and he was delighted at finding a little patch of the
common wild strawberry, the seed of which had doubtless
got mixed with those of the grasses. Instead of indulging
his palate with a taste of this delicious and most salubrious
fruit, Mark carefully collected it all, made a bed in his
garden, and included the cultivation of this among his
other plants. He would not disturb a single root of the
twenty or thirty different shoots that he found, all being
together, and coming from the same cast of his hand while
sowing, lest it might die ; but, with the seed of the fruit,
he was less chary. One thing struck Mark as singular.
Thus far his garden was absolutely free from weeds of
every sort. The seed that he put into the ground came
up, and nothing else. This greatly simplified his toil,
though he had no doubt that, in the course of time, he
should meet with intruders in his beds. He could only
account for this circumstance by the facts, that the ashes
of the volcano contained of themselves no combination of
the elements necessary to produce plants, and that the
manures he used, in their nature, were free from weeds.






OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 155



CHAPTER XI

*The globe around earth's hollow surface shakes,
And is the ceiling of her sleeping sons:
O'er devastation we blind revels keep ;
While buried towns support the dancei's heel."

YOUK.

IT was again mid-summer ere Mark Woolston had his
boat ready for launching. He had taken things leisurely,
and completed his work in all its parts, before he thought
of putting the craft into the water. Afraid of worms, he
used some of the old copper on this boat, too; and he
painted her, inside and out, not only with fidelity, but with
taste. Although there was no one but Kitty to talk to, he
did not forget to paint the name which he had given to his
new vessel, in her stern-sheets, where he could always see
it. She was called the " Bridget Yardley ;" and, notwith
standing the unfavourable circumstances in which she had
been put together, Mark thought she did no discredit to
her beautiful namesake, when completed. When he had
everything finished, even to mast and sails, of the last of
which he fitted her with mainsail and jib, the ypung man
set about his preparations for getting his vessel afloat.

There was no process by which one man could move a
boat of the size of the Bridget, while out of its proper ele
ment, but to launch it by means of regular ways. With a
view to this contingency, the keel had been laid between
the ways of the Neshamony, which were now all ready to
be used. Of course it was no great job to make a cradle
for a boat, and our boat-builder had ' wedged up,' and got
the keel of his craft off the ' blocks,' within eight-and-forty
hours after he had begun upon that part of his task. It
only remained to knock away the spur-shores and start
the boat. Until that instant, Mark had pursued his work
on the Bridget as mechanically and steadily as if hired by
the day When, however, he perceived that he was so



156 THE CRATER;

near his goal, a flood of sensations came over the young
man, and his limbs trembled to a degree that compelled
him to be seated. Who could tell the consequences to
which that boat might lead ? Who knew but the ' Bridget'
might prove the means of carrying him to his own Bridget,
and restoring him to civilized life? At that instant, it
appeared to Mark as if his existence depended on the
launching of his boat, and he was fearful some unforeseen
accident might prevent it. He was obliged to wait several
minutes in order to recover bis self-possession.

At length Mark succeeded in subduing this feeling, and
he resumed his work with most of his former self-command.
Everything being ready, he knocked away the spur-shores,
and, finding the boat did not start, he gave it a blow with
a mawl. This set the mass in motion, and the little craft
slid down the ways without any interruption, until it be
came water-born, when it shot out from the Reef like a
duck. Mark was delighted with his new vessel, now that
it was fairly afloat, and saw that it sat on an even keel,
according to his best hopes. Of course he had not neg
lected to secure it with a line, by which he hauled it in
towards the rock, securing it in a natural basin which was
just large enough for such a purpose. So great, indeed,
were his apprehensions of losing his boat, which now
seemed so precious to him, that he had worked some ring
bolts out of the ship and let them into the rock, where he
had secured them by means of melted lead, in order to
make fast to.

The Bridget was not more than a fourth of the size of
the Neshamony, though rather more than half as long.
Nevertheless, she was a good boat; and Mark, knowing
that he must depend on sails principally to move her, had
built a short deck forward to prevent the seas from break
ing aboard her, as well as to give him a place in which he
might stow away various articles, under cover from the
rain. Her ballast was breakers, filled with fresh water, of
which there still remained several in the ship. AH these,
as well as her masts, sails, oars, &.c., were in her when she
was launched ; and that important event having taken
place early in the morning, Mark could not restrain hia
impatience for a cruise, but determined to go out on the



OB, VULCAN'S PEAK 157

reef at once, further than he had ever yet ventured in the
dingui, in order to explore the seas around him. Accord
ingly, he put some food on board, loosened his fasts, and
made sail.

The instant the boat moved ahead, and began to obey
her helm, Mark felt as if he had found a new companion.
Hitherto Kitty had, in a measure, filled this place ; but a
boat had been the young man's delight on the Delaware,
in his boyhood, and he had not tacked his present craft
more than two or three times, before he caught himself
talking to it, and commending it, as he would a human
being. As the wind usually blew in the same direction,
and generally a good stiff breeze, Mark beat up between
the Reef and Guano Island, working round the weather end
of the former, until he came out at the anchorage of the
Rancocus. After beating about in that basin a little while,
as if merely to show off the Bridget to the ship, Mark put
the former close by the wind, and stood off in the channel
by which he and Bob had brought the latter into her pre-
sent berth.

It was easy enough to avoid all such breakers as would
be dangerous to a boat, by simply keeping out of white
water ; but the Bridget could pass over most of the reefs



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 14 of 42)