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immense mass that had been so suddenly lifted out of the
sea, as well as turning his head to regard the smoke of the
more distant volcano.

" Well, this explains our 'arthquake," he answered, as
soon as Mark was done. " I must have been as good as a
hundred and fifty leagues from this very spot at the time
you mention, and we had tremblings there that would
scarce let a body stand on his feet. A ship came in two
days arterwards, that must have been a hundred leagues
further to the nor'ard when it happened, and her people
reported that they thought heaven and 'arth was a coming
together, out there in open water."

" It has been a mighty earthquake must have been, to
have wrought these vast changes ; though I had supposed
that Providence had confined a knowledge of its existence
to myself. But, you spoke of a ship, Bob surely we are
not in the neighbourhood of vessels."

" Sartain but, I may as well tell you my adventures at
once, Mr. Mark ; though I own I should like to land first,
as it is a long story, and take a look at this island that you
praise so much, and taste them reed-birds of which you
give so good an account. I'm Jarsey-born and bred, and
know what the little things be."

Mark was dying to hear Bob's story, more especially
since he understood a ship was connected with it, but he
could not refuse his friend's demand for sweet water and
a dinner. The entrance of 'the cove was quite near, and
the boats entered that harbour and were secured; after
which the three men commenced the ascent, Mark picking
up by the way the spy-glass, fowling-piece, and other arti
cles that he had dropped in the haste of his descent. While
going up this sharp acclivity, but little was said ; but, when
they reached the summit, or the plain rather, exclamations


of delight burst from the mouths of both of Mark's com
panions. To the young man's great surprise, those which
came from Bob's dark-skinned associate were in English,
as well as those which came from Bob himself. This in
duced him to take a good look at the man, when he disco
vered a face that he knew !

" How is this, Bob ?" cried Mark, almost gasping for
breath "whom have you here? Is not this Socrates?"

"Ay, ay, sir; that's Soc; and Dido, his wife, is within
a hundred miles of you."

This answer, simple as it was, nearly overcame our
young man again. Socrates and Dido had been the slaves
of Bridget, when he left home ; a part of the estate she
had received from her grandmother. They dwelt in the
house with her, and uniformly called her mistress. Mark
knew them both very well, as a matter of course ; and
Dido, with the archness of a favourite domestic, was often
in the habit of calling him her ' young master.' A flood
of expectations, conjectures and apprehensions came over
our hero, and he refrained from putting any questions im
mediately, out of pure astonishment. He was almost afraid
indeed to ask any.

Nearly unconscious of what he was about, he led the
way to the grove where he had dined two or three hours
before, and where the remainder of the reed-birds were
suspended from the branch of a tree. The embers of the
fire were ready, and in a few minutes Socrates handed
Betts his dinner.

Bob ate and drank heartily. He loved a tin-pot of rum
and-water, or grog, as it used to be called though even
the word is getting to be obsolete in these temperance
times and he liked good eating. It was not epicurism,
however, or a love of the stomach, that induced him to
defer his explanations on the present occasion. He saw
that Mark must hear what he had to relate gradually, and
was not sorry that the recognition of the negro had pre
pared him to expect something wonderful. Wonderful it
was, indeed ; and at last Betts, having finished his dinner,
and given half-a-dozen preparatory hints, in order to lessen
ihe intensity of his young friend's feelings, yielded to
an appeal from the other's eyes, and commenced his nar-


rative. Bob told his story, as a matter of course, with a
great deal of circumlocution, and in his own language.
There was a good deal of unnecessary prolixity in it, and
some irrelative digressions touching currents, and the
trades, and the weather ; but, on the whole, it was given
intelligibly, and with sufficient brevity for one who de-
roured every syllable he uttered. The reader, however,
would most probably prefer to hear an abridgement of the
tale in our own words.

When Robert Betts was driven off the Reef, by the
hurricane of the preceding year, he had no choice but to
let the Neshamony drive to leeward with him. As soon
as he could, he got the pinnace before the wind, and,
whenever he saw broken water ahead, he endeavoured to
steer clear of it. This he sometimes succeeded in effect
ing ; while at others he passed through it, or over it, at the
mercy of the tempest. Fortunately the wind had piled up
the element in such a way as to carry the craft clear of the
rocks, and in three hours after the Neshamony was lifted
out of her cradle, she was in the open ocean, to leeward
of all the dangers. It blew too hard, however, to make
sail on her, and Bob was obliged to scud until the gale
broke. Then, indeed, he passed a week in endeavouring
to beat back and rejoin his friend, but without success,
'losing all he made in the day, while asleep at night.'
Such, at least, was Bob's account of his failure to find the
Reef again ; though Mark thought it probable that he was
a little out in his reckoning, and did not look in exactly
the right place for it.

At the end of this week high land was made to leeward,
and Betts ran down for it, in the hope of finding inhabit
ants. In this last expectation, however, he did not suc
ceed. It was a volcanic mountain, of a good many re
sources, and of a character not unlike that of Vulcan's
Peak, but entirely unpeopled. He named it after his old
ship, and passed several days on it. On describing its
appearance, and its bearings from the place where they
then were, Mark had no doubt it was the island that was
visible from the peak near them, and at which he had been
gazing that very afternoon, for fully an hour with longing


eyes. On describing its form to Bob, the latter coincided
in this opinion, which was in fact the true one.

From the highest point of Rancocus Island, land was
to be seen to the northward and westward, and Bob now
determined to make the best of his way in that direction,
in the hope of falling in with some vessel after sandal-wood
or beche-le-mar. He fell in with a group of low islands,
of a coral formation, about a hundred leagues from his vol
canic mountain, and on them he found inhabitants. These
people were accustomed to see white men, and turned out
to be exceedingly mild and just. It is probable that they
connected the sudden appearance of a vessel like the Ne-
shamony, having but one man in it, with some miraculous
interposition of their gods, for they paid Bob the highest
honours, and when he landed, solemnly tabooed his sloop.
Bob was a long-headed fellow in the main, and was not
slow to perceive the advantage of such a ceremony, and
encouraged it. He also formed a great intimacy with the
chief, exchanging names and rubbing noses with him.
This chief was styled Betto, after the exchange, and Bob
was called Ooroony by the natives. Ooroony stayed a
month with Betto, when he undertook a voyage with him
in a large canoe, to another group, that was distant two or
three hundred miles, still further to the northward, and
where Bob was told he should find a ship. This account
proved to be true, the ship turning out to be a Spaniard,
from South America, engaged in the pearl fishery, and on
the eve of sailing for her port. From some misunderstand
ing with the Spanish captain, that Bob never comprehended
and of course could not explain, and which he did not at
tempt to explain, Betto left the group in haste, and without
taking leave of his new friend, though he sent him a mes
sage of apology, one-half of which was lost on Bob, in con
sequence of not understanding the language. The result
was, however, to satisfy the latter that his friend was quite
as sorry to abandon him, as he was glad to get away from
the Spanish captain.

This desertion left Belts no choice between remaining

on the pearl island, or of sailing in the brig, which went

to sea next day. He decided to do the last. In due time

he was landed at Panama, whence he made his way acrosa



the isthmus, actually reaching Philadelphia in less than
five months after he was driven off the Reef. In all this
he was much favoured by circumstances ; though an old
salt, like Bob, will usually make his way where a landsman
would be brought up.

The owners of the Rancocus gave up their ship, as soon
as Betts had told his story, manifesting no disposition to
send good money after bad. They looked to the under
writers, and get Bob to make oath to the loss of the vessel ;
which said oath, by the way, was the ground-work of a
law-suit that lasted Friend Abraham White as long as he
lived. Bob next sought Bridget with his tale. The young
wife received the poor fellow with floods of tears, and the
most eager attention to his story, as indeed did our hero's
sister Anne. It would seem that Betts's arrival was most
opportune. In consequence of the non-arrival of the ship,
which was then past due two or three months, Doctor
Yardley had endeavoured to persuade his daughter that
she was a widow, if indeed, as he had of late been some
what disposed to maintain, she had ever been legally mar
ried at all. The truth was, that the medical war in Bristo 1
had broken out afresh, in consequence of certain cases
that had been transferred to that village, during one of the
fever-seasons in Philadelphia. Greater cleanliness, and
the free use of fresh water, appear to have now arrested
the course of this formidable disease, in the northern cities
of America ; but, in that day, it was of very frequent oc
currence. Theories prevailed among the doctors concern
ing it, which were bitterly antagonistical to each other ;
and Doctor Woolston headed one party in Bucks, while
Doctor Yardley headed another. Which was right, or
whether either was right, is more than we shall pretend to
say, though we think it probable that both were wrong.
Anne Woolston had been married to a young physician
but a short time, when this new outbreak concerning yel
low fever occurred. Her husband, whose name was Hea-
ton, unfortunately took the side of this grave question that
was opposed to his father-in-law, for a reason no better
than that he believed in the truth of the opposing theory,
and this occasioned another breach. Doctor Yardley could
not, and did not wholly agree with Doctor Heaton, because


the latter was Doctor Woolston's son-in-law, and he altered
his theory a little to create a respectable point of disagree
ment ; while Doctor Woolston could not pardon a disaffec
tion that took place, as it might be, in the height of a war.
About this time too, Mrs. Yardley died.

All these occurrences, united to the protracted absence
of Mark, made Bridget and Anne extremely unhappy. To
increase this unhappiness, Doctor Yardley took it into his
head to dispute the legality of a marriage that had been
solemnized on board a ship. This was an entirely new
legal crotchet, but the federal government was then young,
and jurisdictions had not been determined as clearly as has
since been the case. Had it been the fortune of Doctor
Yardley to live in these later times, he would not have given
himself the trouble to put violent constructions on any
thing ; but, getting a few female friends to go before the
necessary judge, with tears in their eyes, anything would
be granted to their requests, very much as a matter of
course. Failing of this, moreover, there is always the re
source of the legislature, which will usually pass a law
taking away a man's wife, or his children, and sometimes
his estate, if a pretty pathetic appeal^ can be made to it, in
the way of gossip. We have certainly made great progress
in this country, within the last twenty years ; but whether
it has been in a direction towards the summit of human
perfection, or one downward towards the destruction of all
principles, the next generation will probably be better able
to say than this. Even the government is getting to be

In the case of Bridget, however, public sympathy was
with her, as it always will be with a pretty woman. Never
theless, her father had great influence in Bucks county,
more especially with the federalists and the anti-depletion-
ists, and it was in his power to give his daughter great
uneasiness, if not absolutely to divorce her. So violent
did he become, that he actually caused proceedings to be
commenced in Bridget's name, to effect a legal separation,
taking the grounds that the marriage had never been con
summated, that the ceremony had occurred on board a
ship, that the wife was of tender years, and lastly, that she
was an heiress. Some persons thought the Doctor's pro-


ceedings were instigated by the circumstance that another
relative had just died, and left Bridget five thousand dol
lars, which were to be paid to her the day she was eighteen,
the period of a female's reaching her majority, according
to popular notions. The possession of this money, which
Bridget received and placed in the hands of a friend in
town, almost made her father frantic for the divorce, or a
decree against the marriage, he contending there was no
marriage, and that a divorce was unnecessary. The young
wife had not abandoned the hope of seeing her husband
return, all this time, although uneasiness concerning the
fate of the ship, was extending from her owners into the
families of those who had sailed in her. She wished to
meet Mark with a sum of money that would enable him,
at once, to commence life respectably, and place him above
the necessity of following the seas.

Belts reached Bristol the very day that a decision was
made, on a preliminary point, in the case of Yardley versus
Woolston, that greatly encouraged the father in his hopes
of final success, and as greatly terrified his daughter. It
was, in fact, a mere question of practice, and had no real
connection with the merits of the matter at issue ; but it
frightened Bridget and her friend Anna enormously. In
point of fact, there was not the smallest danger of the mar
riage being declared void, should any one oppose the deci
sion ; but this was more than any one of the parties then
knew, and Doctor Yardley seemed so much in earnest,
that Bridget and Anne got into the most serious state of
alarm on the subject. To increase their distress, a suitor
for the hand of the former appeared in the person of a stu
dent of medicine, of very fair expectations, and who sup
ported every one of Doctor Yardley's theories, in all their
niceties and distinctions ; and what is more, would have
supported them, had they been ten times as untenable as
they actually were, in reason.

Had the situation of Doctor Heaton been more pleasant
than it was, it is probable that the step taken by himself,
his wife, and Bridget, would never have been thought of.
But it was highly unpleasant. He was poor, and dependent
altogether on his practice for a support. Now, it was in
Doctor Woolston's power to be of great service to the


young couple, by introducing the son-in-law to his own
patients, but this he could not think of doing with a deple-
tionist; and John, as Anne affectionately styled her hus
band, was left to starve on his system of depletion. Such
was the state of things when Bob appeared in Bristol, to
announce to the young wife not only the existence but the
deserted and lone condition of her husband. The honest
fellow knew there was something clandestine about the
marriage, and he used proper precautions not to betray his
presence to the wrong persons. By means of a little ma
nagement he saw Bridget privately, and told his story.
As Bob had been present at the wedding, and was known
to stand high in Mark's favour, he was believed, quite as a
matter of course, and questioned in a thousand ways, until
the poor fellow had not really another syllable to commu

The sisters shed floods of tears at the thought of poor
Mark's situation. For several days they did little besides
weep and pray. Then Bridget suddenly dried her tears,
and announced an intention to go in person to the rescue
of her husband. Not only was she determined on this,
but, as a means of giving a death-blow to all expectations
of a separation and to the hopes of her new suitor, she was
resolved to go in a way that should enable her to remain
on the Reef with Mark, and, if necessary, to pass the re
mainder of her days there. Bob had given a very glowing
description of the charms of the residence, as well as of the
climate, the latter quite justly, and declared his readiness
to accompany this faithful wife in the pursuit of her lost
partner. The whole affair was communicated to Doctor
and Mrs. Heaton, who not only came into the scheme, but
enlisted in its execution in person. The idea pleased the
former in particular, who had a love of adventure, and a
desire to see other lands, while Anne was as ready to fol
low her husband to the ends of the earth, as Bridget was
to go to the same place in quest of Mark. In a word, the
whole project was deliberately framed, and ingeniously
carried out.

Doctor Heaton had a brother, a resident of New York,
and often visited him. Bridget was permitted to accom
pany Anne to that place, whither her money was trans-


ferred to her. A vessel was found that was about to sail for
the North-west Coast, and passages were privately engaged.
A great many useful necessaries were laid in, and, at the
proper time, letters of leave-taking were sent to Bristol,
and the whole party sailed. Previously to the embarka
tion, Bob appeared to accompany the adventurers. He
was attended by Socrates, and Dido, and Juno, who had
stolen away by order of their young mistress, as well as by
a certain Friend Martha Waters, who had stood up in
'meeting' with Friend Robert Betts, and had become
" bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh ;" and her maiden
sister, Joan Waters, who was to share their fortunes. In
a word, Bob had brought an early attachment to the test
of matrimony.

So well had the necessary combinations been made, that
the ship sailed with our adventurers, nine in number, with
out meeting with the slightest obstacle. Once at sea, of
course nothing but that caused by the elements was tc
be anticipated. Cape Horn was doubled in due time, and
Doctor Heaton, with all under his care, was landed at Pa-
nama, just five months, to a day, after leaving New York.
Here passages were taken in the same brig that Bob had
returned in, which was again bound out, on a pearl-fishing
voyage. Previously to quitting Panama, however, a recruit
was engaged in the person of a young American shipwright,
of the name of Bigelow, who had run from his ship a twelve
month before, to marry a Spanish girl, and who had be
come heartily tired of his life in Panama. He and his
wife and child joined the party, engaging to serve the
Heatons, for a stipulated sum, for the term of two years.

The voyage from Panama to the pearl islands was a long
one, but far from unpleasant. Sixty days after leaving
port the adventurers were safely landed, with all their ef
fects. These included two cows, with a young bull, two
yearling colts, several goats obtained in South America,
and various implements of husbandry that it had not entered
into the views of Friend Abraham White to send to even
the people of Fejee. With the natives of the pearl island,
Bob, already known to them and a favourite, had no diffi
culty in negotiating. He had brought them suitable and
ample presents, and soon effected an arrangement, by which


they agreed to transport him and all his stores, the animals
included, to Betto's Islands, a distance of fully three hun
dred miles. The horses and cows were taken on a species
of catamaran, or large raft, that is much used in those mild
seas, "and which sail reasonably well a little off the wind,
and not very badly on. At Betto's Islands a new bargain
was struck, and the whole party proceeded to Rancocus
Island, Bob making his land-fall without any difficulty,
from having observed the course steered in coming from it.

At Betto's group, however, Bob found the Neshamony,
covered with mats, and tabooed, precisely as he had left
her to a rope-yarn. Not a human hand had touched any
thing belonging to the boat, or a human foot approached it,
during the whole time of his absence. Ooroony, or Betto,
was rewarded for his fidelity by the present of a musket
and some ammunition, articles that were really of the last
importance to his dignity and power. They were as good
as a standing army to him, actually deciding summarily a
point of disputed authority, that had long been in contro
versy between himself and another chief, in his favour.
The voyage between Betto's group and Rancocus Island
was made in the Neshamony, so far as the human portion
of the freight was concerned. The catamarans and ca
noes, however, came on with the other animals, and all
the utensils and stores.

The appearance of Rancocus Island created quite a3
much astonishment among the native mariners, as had that
of the horses, cows, &,c. Until they saw it, not one of
them had any notion of its existence, or of a mountain at
all. They dwelt themselves on low coral islands, and quite
beyond the volcanic formation, and a hill was a thing scarce
ly known to them. At this island Heaton and Betts deemed
it prudent to dismiss their attendants, not wishing them to
know anything of the Reef, as they were not sure what
sort of neighbours they might prove, on a longer acquaint
ance. The mountain, however, possessed so many advan
tages over the Reef, as the latter was when Bob left it,
that the honest fellow frankly admitted its general superi
ority, and suggested the possibility of its becoming their
permanent residence. In some respects it was not equal
to the Reef, as a residence, however, the fishing in parti-


cular turning out to be infinitely inferior. But it had trees
and fruits, being very much of the same character as Vul
can's Peak, in this respect. Nevertheless, there was no
comparison between the two islands as places of residence,
the last having infinitely the most advantages. It was
larger, had more and better fruits, better water, and richer
grasses. It had also a more even surface, and a more ac
cessible plain. Rancocus Island was higher and more
broken, and, while it might be a pleasanter place of resi
dence than the Reef during the warm months, it never
could be a place as pleasant as the plain of the Peak.

Bob found it necessary to leave his friends, and most
of his stores, at Rancocus Island ; Mrs. Heaton becoming
a mother two days after their arrival at it, and the cows
both increasing their families in the course of the same
week. It was, moreover, impossible to transport everybody
and everything in the Neshamony, at the same time. As
Doctor Heaton would not leave Anne at such a moment, and
Bridget was of the same way of thinking, it was thought
best to improve the time by sending out Betts to explore.
It will be remembered that he was uncertain where the
Reef was to be found exactly, though convinced it was to
windward, and within a hundred miles of him. While
roaming over the rocks of Rancocus, however, Vulcan's
Peak had been seen, as much to Bob's surprise as to his
delight. To his surprise, inasmuch as he had no notion
of the great physical change that had recently been wrought
by the earthquake, yet could scarce believe he had over
looked such an object in his former examinations ; and to
his delight, because he was now satisfied that the Reef
must lie to the northward of that strange mountain, and a
long distance from it, because no such peak had been visi
ble from the former when he left it. It was a good place
to steer for, nevertheless, on this new voyage, since it car
ried him a hundred miles to windward ; and when Bob,
with Socrates for a companion, left Rancocus to look for
the Reef, he steered as near the course for the Peak as the
wind would permit. He had made the island from the
boat, after a run of ten hours ; and, at the same time, he

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 18 of 42)