James Fenimore Cooper.

Works (Volume 29) online

. (page 19 of 42)
Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 19 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

made the crater of the active volcano. For the latter, he
Btood that night, actually going within a mile of it; and s


next morning, he altered his course, and beat up for the
strange island. When Mark first discovered him, he had
nearly made the circuit of Vulcan's Peak, in a vain endea
vour to land, and he would actually have gone on his way,
had it not been for the firing of the fowling-piece, the re
port of which he heard, and the smoke of which he saw.


" Compell the hawke to sit, that is unmanned,
Or make the hound, untaught, to draw the deere,
Or bring the free, against his will, in band,
Or move the sad, a pleasant tale to heere,
Your time is lost, and you no whit the neere !
So love ne learnes, of force, the heart to knit:
She serves but those, that feels sweet faneie's fit."


WE leave the reader to imagine with what feelings Mark
heard these facts. Bridget, for whom his tenderness was
unabated ; Bridget, who had been the subject of so many
of his thoughts since his shipwreck, had shown herself
worthy to be thus loved, and was now on an island that he
might easily reach in a run of a few hours ! The young
man retired further within the grove, leaving Bob and So
crates behind, and endeavoured to regain his composure
by himself. Before rejoining his companions, he knelt
and returned thanks to God for this instance of his great
kindness. It was a long time, notwithstanding, before he
could become accustomed to the idea of having associates,
at all. Time and again, within the next month or two,
did he dream that all this fancied happiness was only a
dream, and awoke under a sense of having been the subject
of an agreeable illusion. It took months perfectly to re
store the tone of his mind in this respect, and to bring it
back into the placid current of habitual happiness. The
deep sense of gratitude to God he never lost ; but the re
collection of what he had suffered, and from what he had


been relieved by the Divine mercy, remained indelibly im
pressed on his heart, and influenced his future life to a
degree that increased the favour a thousand-fold.

The mode of proceeding was next discussed, in the
course of doing which Mark communicated to Bob, some
what in detail, the circumstance of the recent convulsion,
and the changes which it had produced. After talking the
matter over, both agreed it would be every way desirable
to bring the whole party, and as much of the property as
could be easily moved, up to windward at once. Now,
that the natives knew of the existence of Rancocus Island,
their visits might be often expected, and nothing was more
uncertain than their policy and friendship. Once on Ran
cocus Island the Peak could be seen, and from the Peak
the Reef was visible. In this way, then, there was every
reason to believe that the existence of their little colony
would soon become known, and the property they possessed
the object of cupidity and violence. Against such conse
quences it would be necessary to guard with the strictest
care, and the first step should be to get everything of value
up to windward, with the least possible delay. The na
tives often went a long distance, in their canoes and on
their rafts, with the wind abeam, but it was not often they
undertook to go directly to windward. Then the activity
of the volcano might be counted on as something in favour
of the colonists, since those uninstructed children of nature
would be almost certain to set the phenomenon down to
the credit of some god, or some demon, neither of whom
would be likely to permit his special domains to be tres
passed on with impunity.

While Mark and Bob were talking these matters over,
Socrates had been shooting and cleaning a few dozen
more of the reed-birds. This provision of the delicacy
was made, because Betts affirmed no such delicious little
creature was to be met with on Rancocus, though they were
to be found on Vulcan's Peak literally in tens of thousands.
This difference could be accounted for in no other way,
than by supposing that some of the birds had originally
found their way to the latter, favoured by accidental cir
cumstances, driven by a hurricane, transported on sea
weed, or attending the drift of some plants, and that the


same, or similar circumstances, had never contributed to
carry them the additional hundred miles to leeward.

It was near sunset when the Neshamony left Snug Cove,
as Mark had named his little haven, at the foot of the ra
vine, which, by the way, he called the Stairs, and put to
sea, on her way to Rancocus Island. The bearings of the
last had been accurately taken, and our mariners were just
as able to run by night as by day. It may as well be said
here, moreover, that the black was a capital boatman, and
a good fresh-water sailor in general, a proficiency that he
had acquired in consequence of having been born and
brought up on the banks of the Delaware. But it would
have been very possible to run from one of these islands
to the other, by observing the direction of the wind alone,
since it blew very steadily in the same quarter, and changes
in the course were always to be noted by changes in the
violence or freshness of the breeze. In that quarter of the
ocean the trades blew with very little variation from the
south-east, though in general the Pacific Trades are from
the south-west.

Mark was delighted with the performances of the Ne
shamony. Bob gave a good account of her qualities, and
said he should not hesitate to make sail in her for either
of the continents, in a case of necessity. Accustomed, as
he had been of late, to the little Bridget, the pinnace ap
peared a considerable craft to Mark, and he greatly exulted
in this acquisition. No seaman could hesitate about pass
ing from the Reef to the islands, at any time when it did
not absolutely blow a gale, in a boat of this size and of
such qualities; and, even in a gale, it might be possible
to make pretty good weather of it. Away she now went,
leaving the Bridget moored in Snug Cove, to await their
return. Of course, Mark and Bob had much discourse,
while running down before the wind that night, in which
each communicated to the other many things that still re
mained to be said. Mark was never tired of asking ques
tions about Bridget ; her looks, her smiles, her tears, her
hopes, her fears, her health, her spirits, and her resolution,
being themes of which he never got weary. A watch was
set, nevertheless, and each person in the pinnace had his
turn of sleep, if sleep he could.


At the rising of the sun Mark was awake. Springing
to his feet, he saw that Rancocus Island was plainly in
view. In the course of the ten hours she had been out,
the Neshamony had run about seventy miles, having a
square-sail set, in addition to her jib and mainsail. This
brought the mountain for which she was steering within
ten leagues, and directly to leeward. A little impatience
was betrayed by the young husband, but, on the whole,
he behaved reasonably well. Mark had never neglected
his person, notwithstanding his solitude. Daily baths, and
the most scrupulous attention to his attire, so far as neat
ness went, had kept him not only in health, but in spirits,
the frame of the mind depending most intimately on the
condition of the body. Among other habits, he preserved
that of shaving daily. The cutting of his hair gave him
the most trouble, and he had half a mind to get Bob to act
as barber on the present occasion. Then he remembered
having seen Bridget once cut the hair of a child, and he
could not but fancy how pleasant it would be to have her
moving about him, in the performance of the same office
on himself. He decided, consequently, to remain as he
was, as regarded his looks, until his charming bride could
act as his hair-dresser. The toilette, however, was not
neglected, and, on the whole, there was no reason to com
plain of the young man's appearance. The ship furnished
him clothes at will, and the climate rendered so few neces
sary, that even a much smaller stock than he possessed,
would probably have supplied him for life.

When about a league from the northern end of Ranco
cus Island, Bob set a little flag at his mast-head, the signal,
previously arranged, of his having been successful. Among
the stores brought by the party from America, were three
regular tents, or marquees, which Meaton purchased at a
sale of old military stores, and had prudently brought with
him, to be used as occasion might demand. These mar
quees were now pitched on a broad piece of low land, that
lay between the cliffs and the beach, and where the colony
had temporarily established itself. Mark's heart beat vio
lently as Bob pointed out these little canvas dwellings to
him. They were the abodes of his friends, including his
young wife. Next the cows appeared, quietly grazing


near by, with a pleasant home look, and the goals and colts
were not far off, cropping the grass. Altogether our young-
man was profoundly overcome^ again, and it was some time
ere he could regain his self-command. On a point that
proved to be the landing-place, stood- a solitary female
figure. As the boat drew nearer she extended her arms,
and then, as if unable to stand, she sunk on a rock which
had served her for a seat ever since the distant sail was
visible. In two more minutes Mark Woolston had his
charming young bride encircled in his arms. The delicacy
which kept the others aloof from this meeting, was imitated
by Bob, who, merely causing the boat to brush near the
rock, so as to allow of Mark's jumping ashore, passed on
to a distant landing, where he was met by most of his
party, including ' Friend Martha,' who rejoiced not a little
in the safe return of Friend Robert Betts. In half-an-hour
Mark and Bridget came up to the marquees, when the
former made the acquaintance of his brother-in-law, and
had the happiness of embracing his sister. It was a morn
ing of the purest joy, and deepest gratitude. On the one
side, the solitary man found himself restored to the delights
of social life, in the persons of those on earth whom he
most loved ; and, on the other hand, the numberless appre
hensions of those who looked for him, and his place of
retirement, had all their anxiety rewarded by complete
success. Little was done that day but to ask and answer
questions. Mark had to recount all that had happened
since Bob was taken from him, and not trifling was the
trepidation created among his female listeners, when he
related the history of the earthquake. Their fears, how
ever, were somewhat appeased by his assurances of secu
rity ; the circumstance that a volcano was in activity near
by, being almost a pledge that no very extensive convul
sions could follow.

The colonists remained a week at Rancocus Island,
being actually too happy to give themselves the disturbance
of a removal. At the end of that time, however, Anne
was so far recovered that they began to talk of a voyage,
Bridget, in particular, dying to see the place where Mark
had passed so many solitary hours; and, as he had assured
her more than once, where her image had scarcely ever


been absent from his thoughts an hour at a time. As it
would be impossible to embark all the effects at once, in
the Neshamony, some method was to be observed in the
removal. The transportation of the cows and horses was
the most serious part of the undertaking, the pinnace not
being constructed to receive such animals. Room, never
theless, could be made for one at a time, and still leave
sufficient space in the stern-sheets for the accommodation
of five or six persons. It was very desirable to get the fe
males away first, lest the rumour of the mountain, hitherto
unknown, should spread among the islands, and bring them
visitors who might prove to be troublesome, if not danger
ous. Parties existed in Betto's group, as we believe they
exist everywhere else ; and Bob knew very well that no
thing but the ascendancy of his friend, the chief, Ooroony,
had been the means of his escaping as well as he did, in
the land-falJ among them that he had made. The smallest
reverse of fortune might put Betto down, and some bitter
foe up, and then there was the certainty that war canoes
might come off in quest of the mountain, at any time,
without asking the leave of the friendly chief, even while
he remained in power. On the whole, therefore, it was
determined to freight the pinnace with the most valuable
of the effects, put all the females on board, and send her
off under the care of Mark, Heaton, and Socrates, leaving
Bob and Bigelow to look after the stock and the rest of the
property. It was supposed the boat might be absent a
week. This was done accordingly, Bob, on taking leave
of Friend Martha, particularly recommending to her atten
tion the Vulcan's Peak reed-birds, throwing in a hint that
he should be glad to find a string of them in the pinnace,
on her return.

The voyage to windward was a much more serious busi
ness than the run to leeward. By Bob's advice Mark
reefed his mainsail, and took the bonnet off the jib. Fol
lowing the same instructions, he stood away to the south
ward, letting the boat go through the water freely, intend
ing to tack when he came near the volcano, and not before.
This was what Bob himself had done, and that which had
turned out so well with him, he fancied might succeed
with his friend. The Neshamony left Rancocus Island

oil, VULCAN'S PEAK. 207

just at sunset. Next morning Mark saw the smoke of the
Volcano, and stood for it After making two stretches, he
came up within a league of this spot, when he tacked and
stood to the northward and eastward, Vulcan's Peak having
been in plain view the entire day. As respects the vol
cano, it was in a comparatively quiet state, though rum
bling sounds were heard, and stones were cast into the air
in considerable quantities, while the boat was nearest in.
One thing, moreover, Mark ascertained, which greatly
increased his confidence in the permanency of the changes
that had lately occurred in the physical formation of all
that region. He found himself in comparatively shoal
>vater, when fully a league from this new crater. Shoal
in a seaman's sense, though not in shallow water; the
soundings being from fifteen to twenty fathoms, with a
rocky bottom.

Between the volcano and Vulcan's Peak it blew quite
fresh, and Mark had a good occasion to ascertain the qua
lities of the pinnace. A long, heavy swell, came rolling
through the passage, which was near sixty miles in width,
seemingly with a sweep that extended to the Southern
Ocean. Notwithstanding all this, the little craft did won
ders, struggling along in a way one would hardly have
expected from so small a vessel. She made fully two knots'
headway in the worst of it, and in general her rate of sail-
iag, close on a wind and under pretty short canvas, was
about three. The night was very dark, and there was
nothing to steer by but the wind, which gave some little
embarrassment; but finding himself in much smoother
water than he had been all the previous day, about mid
night, our young man felt satisfied that he was under the
lee of the island, and at no great distance from it. He
made short tacks until daylight, when the huge mass hove
up out of the departing darkness, within a mile of the boat.
It only remained to run along the land for two or three
miles, and to enter the haven of Snug Cove. Mark had
been telling his companions what a secret place this haven
was to conceal a vessel in, when he had a practical con
firmation of the truth of his statement that caused him to
be well laughed at. For ten minutes he could not discover
the entrance himself, having neglected to take the proper


land-marks, that he might have no difficulty in running for
his port. After a time, however, he caught sight of an
object that he remembered, and found his way into the
cove. Here lay the little namesake of his pretty wife, just
as he had left her, the true Bridget smiling and blushing
as the young husband pointed out the poor substitute he
had been compelled to receive for herself, only ten days

Mark, and Socrates, and Dido, and Teresa, Bigelow's
wife, all carried up heavy loads; while Heaton had as
much as he could do to help Anne and the child up the
sharp acclivity. Bridget, with her light active step, and
great eagerness to behold a scene that Mark had described
with so much eloquence, was the first, by a quarter of an
hour, on the plain. When the others reached the top,
they saw the charming young thing running about in the
nearest grove, that in which her husband had dined, col
lecting fruit, and apparently as enchanted as a child. Mark
paused, as he gained the height, to gaze on this sight, so
agreeable in his eyes, and which rendered the place so
very different from what it had been so recently, while he
was in possession of its glorious beauties, a solitary man.
Then, he had several times likened himself to Adam in
the garden of Eden, before woman was given to him for a
companion. Now, now he could feast his eyes on an Eve f
who would have been highly attractive in any part of the

The articles brought up on the plain, at this first trip,
comprised all that was necessary to prepare and to partake
of a breakfast in comfort. A fire was soon blazing, the
kettle on, and the bread-fruit baking. It was almost pain
ful to destroy the re'ed-birds, or becca Jichi, so numerous
were they, and so confiding. One discharge from each
barrel of the fowling-piece had enabled Heaton to bring in
enough for the whole party, and these were soon roasting.
Mark had brought with him from the Reef, a basket of
fresh eggs, and they had been Bridget's load, in ascending
the mountain. He had promised her an American break
fast, and these eggs, boiled, did serve to remind everybody
of a distant home, that was still remembered with melan
choly pleasure. A heartier, or a happier meal, notwith-


standing, was never made than was that breakfast. The
mountain air, invigorating though bland, the exercise, the
absence of care, the excellence of the food, which com
prised fresh figs, a tree or two of tolerable sweetness having
been found, the milk of the cocoa-nut, the birds, the eggs,
the bread-fruit, &c., all contributed their share to render
the meal memorable.

The men, and the three labouring women, were em
ployed two days in getting the cargo of the Neshamony
up on the plain ; or to Eden, as Bridget named the spot,
unconscious how often she herself had been likened to a
lovely Eve, in the mind of her young husband. Two of
the marquees had been brought, and were properly erected,
having board floors, arid everything comfortably arranged
within and without them. A roof, however, was scarcely
necessary in that delicious climate, where one could get
into the shade of a grove ; and a thatched shed was easily
prepared for a dwelling for the others. By the end of the
third day the whole party in Eden was comfortably esta
blished, and Mark took a short leave of his bride, to sail
for Rancocus again. Bridget shed tears at this separation,
short as it was intended to be ; and numberless were the
injunctions to be wary of the natives, should the latter have
visited Betts, in the time intervening between the departure
of the Neshamony and her return.

The voyage between the two islands lost something of
its gravity each time it was made. Mark learned a little
every trip, of the courses to be steered, the peculiarities
of the currents, and the height of the seas. He ran down
to Rancocus, on this occasion, in three hours' less time
than he had done it before, sailing at dusk, and reaching
port next day at noon. Nothing had occurred, and to work
the men went at once, to load the pinnace. Room was
left for one of the cows and its calf; and Bob being seri
ously impressed with the importance of improving every
moment, the little sloop put to sea again, the evening of
the very day on which it had arrived.

Bridget was standing on a rock, by the side of the limpid

water of the cove, when the Neshamony shot through its

entrance into the little haven, and her hand was in Mark's

the instant he landed. Tears gushed into the eyes of the



young man as he recalled his year of solitude, and felt how
different was such a welcome from his many melancholy
arrivals and departures, previously to the recent events.

It was rather a troublesome matter to get the cow and
calf up the mountain. The first did not see enough that
was attractive in naked rocks, to induce her to mount in
the best of humours. She drank freely, however, at the
brook, appearing to relish its waters particularly well. At
length the plan was adopted of carrying the calf up a good
distance, the cries of the little thing inducing its mother
immediately to follow. In this way both were got up into
Eden, in the course of an hour. And well did the poor
cow vindicate the name, when she got a look at the broad
glades of the sweetest grasses, that were stretched before
her. So strongly was her imagination struck with the
view for we suppose that some cows have even more ima
gination than many men that she actually kicked up her
heels, and away she went, head down and tail erect, scam
pering athwart the sward like a colt. It was not long,
however, before she began to graze, the voyage having
been made on a somewhat short allowance of both food
and water. If there ever was a happy animal, it was that
cow ! Her troubles were all over. Sea-sickness, dry food,
short allowances of water, narrow lodgings, and hard beds,
were all, doubtless, forgotten, as she roamed at pleasure
over boundless fields, on which the grass was perennial,
seeming never to be longer or shorter than was necessary
to give a good bite ; and among which numberless rills of
the purest waters were sparkling like crystal. The great
difficulty in possessing a dairy, in a warm climate, is the
want of pasture, the droughts usually being so long in the
summer months. At Vulcan's Peak, however, and indeed
in all of that fine region, it rained occasionally, through
out the year; more in winter than in summer, and that
was the sole distinction in the seasons, after allowing for a
trifling change in the temperature. These peculiarities
appear to have been owing to the direction of the prevalent
winds, which not only brought frequent showers, but which
preserved a reasonable degree of freshness in the atmo
sphere. Within the crater, Mark had often found the
heat oppressive, even in the shade ; but, without, scarcely


ever, provided his body was not directly exposed to the
sun's rays. Nor was the difference in the temperature
between the Reef and the Peak, as marked as might have
been expected from the great elevation of the last. This
was owing to the circumstance that the sea air, and that
usually in swift motion, entered so intimately into the
composition of the atmosphere down on that low range of
rocks, imparting its customary freshness to everything it
passed over.

Mark did not make the next trip to Rancocus. By this
time Anne passed half the day in the open air, and was so
fast regaining her strength that Heaton did not hesitate to
leave her. The doctor had left many things behind him,
that he much wished to see embarked in person, and he
volunteered to be the companion of Socrates, on this occa
sion, leaving the bridegroom behind, with his bride. By
this time Heaton himself was a reasonably good sailor, and
to him Mark confided the instructions as to the course to
be steered, and the distance to be run. All resulted fa
vourably, the Neshamony making the trip in very good
time, bringing into the cove, the fourth day after she had
sailed, not only the remaining cow, and her calf, but seve
ral of the goats. Convinced he might now depend on
Heaton and Socrates to sail the pinnace, and Anne ex
pressing a perfect willingness to remain on the Peak, in
company with Teresa and Dido, Mark resolved to proceed
to the crater with his two Bridgets, feeling the propriety
of no longer neglecting the property in that quarter of his
dominions. There was nothing to excite apprehension,
and the women had all acquired a certain amount of reso
lution that more properly belonged to their situation than
to their sex or nature. Anne's great object of concern
was the ' baby.' As long as that was safe, everything with

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 19 of 42)