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her was going on well ; and Dido being a renowned baby
doctor, and all the simples for a child's ailings being in the
possession of the young mother, she raised no objection
whatever to her brother's quitting her.

Bridget had great impatience to make this voyage, for
she longed to see the spot where her husband had passed
so many days in solitude. Everything he had mentioned,
in their many conferences on this subject, was already fa-



212 THE CRATER;

tniliar to her in imagination ; but, she wished to becom
more intimately acquainted with each and all. For Kill/
she really entertained a decided fondness, and even the
pigs, as Mark's companions, had a certain romantic value
in her eyes.

The morning was taken for the departure, and just as
the little craft got out from under the lee of the Peak, and
began to feel the true breeze, the sun rose gloriously out
of the eastern waves, lighting the whole of the blue waters
with his brilliant rays. Never did Vulcan's Peak appear
more grand or more soft for grandeur or sublimity,
blended with softness, make the principal charm of noble
tropical scenery than it did that morning; and Bridget
looked up at the dark, overhanging cliffs, with a smile, as
she said

" We may love the Reef, dear Mark, for what it did for
you in your distress, but I foresee that this Eden will
eventually become our home."

" There are many things to render this mountain prefer
able to the Reef; though, now we are seriously thinking
of a colony, it may be well to keep both. Even Rancocus
would be of great value to us, as a pasture for goats, and
a range for cattle. It may be long before the space will
be wanted by human beings, for actual cultivation ; but
each of our present possessions is now, and long will con
tinue to be, of great use to us as assistants. We shall live
principally on the Peak, I. think myself; but we must fish,
get our salt, and obtain most of our vegetables from the
Reef."

" Oh ! that Reef, that Reef how long will it be, Mark,
before we see it?"

The enamoured young husband laughed, and kissed his
charming. wife, and told her to restrain her impatience.
Several hours must elapse before they could even come in
sight of the rocks. These hours did pass, and with the
occurrence of no event worthy of being recorded. The
Trades usually blew fresh in that quarter of the ocean, but
it was seldom that they brought tempests. Occasionally
squalls did occur, it is true; but a prudent and experienced
mariner could ordinarily guard against their consequences,
while the hurricane seldom failed, like most other great



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 213

physical phenomena, to have its precursors, that were
easily seen and understood. On the present occasion, the
boat ran across the passage in very good time, making the
crater in about five hours, and the ship's masts in six
Mark made a good land-fall coming in to leeward of the
cape, or low promontory already mentioned Cape South
he called it while there still remained several hours of
day. Bridget was greatly struck with the vast difference
she could not help finding between the appearance of these
low, dark, and so often naked rocks, and that of the Eden
she had just left. Tears came into her eyes, as she pic
tured her husband a solitary wanderer over these wastes,
with no water, even, but that which fell from the clouds,
or which came from the casks of the ship. When, how
ever, she gave utterance to this feeling, one so natural to
her situation, Mark told her to have patience until they
reached the crater, when she would see that he had pos
sessed a variety of blessings, for which he had every reason
to be grateful to God.

There was no difficulty in getting into the proper chan
nel, when the boat fairly flew along the rocks that lined
the passages. So long as she was in rough water, the sails
of so small a craft were necessarily becalmed a good deal
of the time ; but, now that there was nothing to intercept
the breeze, she caught it all, and made the most of it. To
Mark's surprise, as they passed the Prairie, he saw all of
his swine on it, now, including two half-unconsumed litters
of well-grown pigs, some seventeen in number. These
animals had actually found their way along the rocks, a
distance of at least twenty miles from home, and by the
crooked path they had taken, probable one much greater.
They all appeared full, and contented. So much of the
water had already evaporated as to make it tolerable walk
ing on the sea-weed ; and Mark, stopping to examine the
progress of things, prognosticated that another year, in
that climate, would convert the whole of that wide plain
into dry land. In many places, the hogs had already found
their way down, through the sea-weed, into the mud ; and
there was one particular spot, quite near the channel,
where the water was all gone, and where the pigs had
rooted over so much of the surface, as to convert two or



214 THE CRATER;

three acres into a sort of half-tilled field, in which the sea*
we'ed was nearly turned under the mud. Nothing but
drenching rains were wanting to render such a place highly
productive, and it was certain those rains would come at
the end of the season.

About the middle of the day, Mark ran the boat along
side of the Reef, at the usual landing, and welcomed
Bridget to his and her home, with a kiss. Everything
was in its place, and a glance sufficed to show that no
human foot had been there, during the weeks of his absence.
Kitty was browsing on the Summit, and no spaniel could
have played more antics than she did, at the sight of her
master. At first, Mark had thought of transferring this
gentle and playful young goat to the Peak, and to place
her in the little flock collected there ; but he had been
induced to change his mind, by recollecting how much she
contributed to the beauty of the Summit, by keeping down
the grass. He had therefore brought her a companion,
which had no sooner been landed on the Reef, than it
bounded off to make acquaintance with the stranger on
the elevation.

Bridget was almost overcome when she got on board the
ship. There was even a certain sublimity in the solitude
that reigned over everything, that impressed her imagina
tion, and she wondered that any human being could so
long have dwelt there alone, uncheered by the hope of de
liverance. In the cabin of that vessel she had plighted her
faith to Mark, and a flood of recollections burst upon her
as she entered it. Mark was obliged to allow her to seek
relief in tears. But, half an hour brought her round again,
and then she set about putting things in order, and making
this very important abode submit to the influence of wo
man's love of comfort and order. By the time Mark came
back from his garden, whither he had gone to ascertain its
condition, Bridget had his supper ready for him, prepared
with a neatness and method to which he had long been a
stranger. That was a very delicious meal to both. The
husband had lighted a fire in the galley, where the wife
had cooked the meal, which consisted principally of some
pan-fish, taken in the narrow channels between the rocks,
and which had been cleaned by Mark himself, as they



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 215

sailed along. It was, indeed, a great point of solicitude
with this young husband to prevent his charming wife from
performing duties for which she was unfitted by education,
while the wife herself was only too solicitous to make her
self useful. In one sense, Bridget was a very knowing
person about a household. She knew how to prepare
many savoury compounds, and had the whole culinary art
at her fingers' ends, in the way of giving directions. It
was no wonder, then, that Mark found everything she
touched, or prepared, good, as everything she said sounded
pleasant and reasonable. The last is a highly important
ingredient in matrimonial life, but the first has its merit.
And Bridget Woolston was both pleasant and reasonable.
Though a little romantic, and inclined to hazard all for
feeling, and what she conceived to be duty, at the bottom
of all ran a vein of excellent sense, which had been reason
ably attended to. Her temper was sweetness itself, and
that is one of the greatest requisites in married happiness.
To this great quality must be added affection, for she was
devoted to Mark, and nothing he wished would she hesi
tate about striving to obtain, even at painful sacrifices to
herself. One as generous-minded and manly as her hus
band, could not fail to discover and appreciate such a dis
position, which entered very largely into the composition
of their future happiness.

Our young couple did not visit the crater and the Sum
mit until the sun had lost most of its power. Then Mark
introduced his wife into his garden, and to his lawn.
Exclamations of delight escaped the last, at nearly every
step ; for, in addition to the accidental peculiarities of such
a place, the vegetation had advanced, as vegetation only
can advance within the tropics, favoured by frequent rains
and a rich soil. The radishes were half as large as Brid
get's wrists, and as tender as her heart. The lettuce was
already heading; the beans were fit to pull; the onions large
enough to boil, and the peas even too old. On the Sum
mit Mark cut a couple of melons, which were of a flavour
surpassing any he had ever before tasted. With that spot
Bridget was especially delighted. It was, just then, as
green as grass could be, and Kitty had found its plants so
very sweet, that she had scarce descended once to trespass



216 THE CRATER;

on the garden. Here and there the imprint of her little
hoof was to be traced on a bed, it is true, but she appeared
to have gone there more to look after the condition of the
garden than to gratify her appetite.

While on the Summit, Mark pointed out to his wife the
fowls, now increased to something like fifty. Two or three
broods of chickens had come within the last month, mak
ing their living on the reef that was separated from that of
the crater by means of the bridge of planks. As two or
three flew across the narrow pass, however, he was aware
that the state of his garden must be owing to the fact that
they still found a plenty on those rocks for their support.
In returning to the ship, he visited a half-barrel prepared
for that purpose, and, as he expected, found a nest con
taining a dozen eggs. These he took the liberty of appro
priating to his own use, telling Bridget that they could eat
some of them for their breakfast.

But food never had been an interest to give our solitary
man much uneasiness. From the hour when he found
muck, and sea-weed, and guano, he felt assured of the
means of subsistence; being in truth, though he may not
have known it himself, more in danger of falling behind
hand, in consequence of the indisposition to activity tht
almost ever accompanies the abundance of a warm climate,
than from the absolute want of the means of advancing.
That night Mark and Bridget knelt, side by side, and re
turned thanks to God for all his mercies. How sweet the
former found it to see the light form of his beautiful com
panion moving about the spacious cabin, giving it an air
of home and happiness, no one can fully appreciate who
has not been cut off from these accustomed joys, and then
been suddenly restored to them.



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 217



CHAPTER XV.

I beg, good Heaven, with just desirei,
What need, not luxury, requires ;
Give me, with sparing hands, but moderate wealth,
A little honour, and enough of health;

Free from the busy city life,
Near shady groves and purling streams confined,

A faithful friend, a pleasing wife ;
And give me all in one, give a contented mind."

ANOKTMOUB.

MARK and Bridget remained at the Reef a week, entirely
alone. To them the time seemed but a single day ; and
so completely were they engrossed with each other, and
their present happiness, that they almost dreaded the hour
of return. Everything was visited, however, even to the
abandoned anchor, and Mark made a trip to the eastward,
carrying his wife out into the open water, in that direction.
But the ship and the crater gave Bridget the greatest hap
piness. Of these she never tired, though the first gave her
the most pleasure. A ship was associated with all her
earliest impressions of Mark; on board that very ship she
had been married ; and now it formed her home, tempora
rily, if not permanently. Bridget had been living so long
beneath a tent, and in savage huts, that the accommoda
tions of the Rancocus appeared like those of a palace. They
were not inelegant even, though it was not usual, in that
period of the republic, to fit up vessels with a magnificence
little short of royal yachts, as is done at present. In the
way of convenience, however, our ship could boast of a
great deal. Her cabins were on deck, or under a poop,
and consequently enjoyed every advantage of light and air.
Beneath were store-rooms, still well supplied with many
articles of luxury, though time was beginning to make its
usual inroads on their qualities. The bread was not quite
as sound as it was once, nor did the teas retain all their
strength and flavour. But the sugar was just as sweet at
19



218 THE CRATER;

the day it was shipped, and in the coffee there was uo ap
parent change. Of the butter, we do not choose to saj
anything. Bridget, in the prettiest manner imaginable,
declared that as soon as she could set Dido at work the
store-rooms should be closely examined, and thoroughly
cleaned. Then the galley made such a convenient and
airy kitchen ! Mark had removed the house, the awning
answering every purpose, and his wife declared that it was
a pleasure to cook a meal for him, in so pleasant a place.

The first dish Bridget ever literally cooked for Mark,
with her own hands, or indeed for any one else, was a
mess of ' grass,' as it was the custom of even the most
polished people of America then to call asparagus. They
had gone together to the asparagus bed on Loam Island,
and had found the plant absolutely luxuriating in its fa
vourite soil. The want of butter was the greatest defect
in this mess, for, to say the truth, Bridget refused the ship's
butter on this occasion, but luckily, enough oil remained
to furnish a tolerable substitute. Mark declared he had
never tasted anything in his life half so good !

At the end of the week, the governor, as Heaton had
styled Mark, and as Bridget had begun playfully to term
him, gave the opinion that it was necessary for them to
tear themselves away from their paradise. Never before,
most certainly, had the Reef appeared to the young hus
band a spot as delightful as he now found it, and it did
seem to him very possible for one to pass a whole life on
it without murmuring. His wife again and again assured
him she had never before been half as happy, and that,
much as she loved Anne and the baby, she could remain
a month longer, without being in the least wearied. But
it was prudent to return to the Peak, for Mark had never
felt his former security against foreign invasion, since he
was acquainted with the proximity of peopled islands.

The passage was prosperous, and it gave the scene an
air of civilization and life, to fall in with the Neshamony
off the cove. She was coming in from Rancocus, on her
last trip for the stores, having brought everything away
but two of the goats. These had been driven up into the
mountains, and there left. Bigelow had come away, and
the whole party of colonists were now assembled at VuJ-



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 219

can's Peak. But Betts had a communication to make that
gave the governor a good deal of concern. He reported
that after they had got the pinnace loaded, and were only
waiting for the proper time of day to quit Rancocus, they
discovered a fleet of canoes and catamarans, approaching
the island from the direction of the Group, as they fami
liarly termed the cluster of islands that was known to be
nearest to them, to the northward and westward. By
means of a glass, Betts had ascertained that a certain
Waally was on board the leading canoe, and he regarded
this as an evil omen. Waally was Ooroony's most formi
dable rival and most bitter foe ; and the circumstance that
he was leading such a flotilla, of itself, Bob thought, was
an indication that he had prevailed over honest Betto, in
some recent encounter, and was now abroad, bent on fur
ther mischief. Indeed, it seemed scarcely possible that
men like the natives should hear of the existence of such
a mountain as that of Rancocus Island, in their vicinity,
and not wish to explore, if not to possess it.

Betts had pushed off, and made sail, as soon as assured
of this fact. He knew the pinnace could outsail anything
the islanders possessed, more especially on a wind, and he
manoeuvred about the flotilla for an hour, making his ob
servations, before he left it. This was clearly a war party,
and Bob thought there were white men in it. At least,
he saw two individuals who appeared to him to be white
sailors, attired in a semi-savage way, and who were in the
same canoe with the terrible Waally. It was nothing out
of the way for seamen to get adrift on the islands scattered
about in the Pacific, there being scarcely a group in which
more or less of them are not to be found. The presence
of these men, too, Bob regarded as another evil omen, and
he felt the necessity of throwing all the dust he could into
their eyes. When the pinnace left the flotilla, therefore,
instead of passing out to windward of the island, as was
her true course, she steered in an almost contrary direc
tion, keeping off well to leeward of the land, in order not
to get becalmed under the heights, for Bob well knew the
canoes, with paddles, would soon overhaul him, should he
lose the wind.

It was the practice of our colonists to quit Rancocus



220 THE CRATER;

just before the sun set, and to stand all night on a south*
east course. This invariably brought them in sight of th6
smoke of the volcano by morning, and shortly after they
made the Peak. All of the day that succeeded, was com
monly passed in beating up to the v. >lcano, or as near to it
as it was thought prudent to go ; and tacking to the north
ward and eastward, about sunset of the second day, it was
found on the following morning, that the Neshamony was
drawing near to the cliffs of Vulcan's Peak, if she were
not already beneath them. As a matter of course, then,
Bob had not far to go, before night shut in, and left him
at liberty to steer in whatever direction he pleased. For
tunately, that night had no moon, though there was not
much danger of so small a craft as the Neshamony being
seen at any great distance on the water, even by moonlight.
Bob consequently determined to beat up off the north end
of the island, or Low Cape, as it was named by the colo
nists, from the circumstance of its having a mile or two
of low land around it, before the mountains commenced.
Once off the cape again, and reasonably well in, he might
possibly make discoveries that would be of use.

It took two or three hours to regain the lost ground, by
beating to windward. By eleven o'clock, however, the
Neshamony was not only off the cape, but quite close in
with the landing. The climate rendering fires altogether
unnecessary at that season, and indeed at nearly all sea
sons, except for cooking, Bob could not trace the encamp
ment of the savages, by that means. Still, he obtained
all the information he desired. This was not done, how
ever, without great risk, and by a most daring step on his
part. He lowered the sails of the boat and went alongside
of the rock, where the pinnace usually came to, the canoes,
&c., having made another, and a less eligible harbour.
Bob then landed in person, and stole along the shore in the
direction of the sleeping savages. Unknown to himself, he
was watched, and was just crouching under some bushes,
in order to get a little nearer, when he felt a hand on his
shoulder. There was a moment when blood was in danger
of being shed, but Betts's hand was stayed by hearing, in
good English, the words

" Where are yon bound, shipmate ?"



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK.

This question was asked in a guarded, under-tone, a
circumstance that reassured Bob, quite as much as the
language. He at once perceived that the two men whom
he had, rightly enough, taken for seamen, were in these
bushes, where it would seem they had long been on the
watch, observing the movements of the pinnace. They
told Bob to have no apprehensions, as all the savages were
asleep, at some little distance, and accompanied him back
to the Neshamony. Here, to the surprise and joy of all
parties, Bigelow recognised both the sailors, who had not
only been his former shipmates, but were actually his
townsmen in America, the whole three having been born
within a mile of each other. The history of these three
wanderers from home was very much alike. They had
come to the Pacific in a whaler, with a drunken captain,
and had, in succession, left the ship. Bigelow found his
way to Panama, where he was caught by the dark eyes of
Theresa, as has been related. Peters had fallen in with
Jones, in the course of his wanderings, and they had been
for the last two years among the pearl islands, undecided
what to do with themselves, when Waally ordered both to
accompany him in the present expedition. They had ga
thered enough in hints given by different chiefs, to under
stand that a party of Christians was to be massacred, or
enslaved, and plundered of course. They had heard of
the ' canoe' that had been tabooed for twelve moons, but
were at a loss to comprehend one-half of the story, and
were left to the most anxious conjectures. They were not
permitted to pass on to the islands under the control of
Ooroony, but were jealously detained in Waally's part of
the group, and consequently had not been in a situation
to learn all the particulars of the singular party of colo
nists who had gone to the southward. Thus much did
Peters relate, in substance, when a call among the savages
notified the whole of the whites of the necessity of coming
to some conclusion concerning the future. Jones and
Peters acknowledged it would not be safe to remain any
longer, though the last gave his opinion with an obvious
reluctance. As it afterwards appeared, Peters had married
an Indian wife, to whom he was much attached, and he
did not like the idea of abandoning her. There was but



222 THE CRATER;

at moment for reflection, however, and almost without
knowing it himself, when he found the pinnace about to
make sail in order to get off the land, he followed Jones
into her, and was half a mile from the shore before he had
time to reflect much on her he had left behind him. His
companion consoled him by telling him that an opportunity
might occur of sending a message to Petrina, as they had
named the pretty young savage, who would not fail to find
her way to Rancocus, sooner or later.

With these important accessions to his forces, Bob did
not hesitate about putting to sea, leaving Waally to make
what discoveries he might. Should the natives ascend to
the higher parts of the mountain, they could hardly fail to
see both the smoke of the volcano and the Peak, though it
would luckily not be in their power to see the Reef, or any
part of that low group of rocks. It was very possible they
might attempt to cross the passage between the two moun
tains, though the circumstance that Vulcan's Peak lay so
directly to windward of Rancocus offered a very serious
obstacle to their succeeding. Had the two sailors remained
with them, they, indeed, might have taught the Indians to
overcome the winds and waves ; but these very men were
of opinion, from what they had seen of the natives and of
their enterprises, that it rather exceeded their skill and
perseverance, to work their canoes a hundred miles dead
to windward, and against the sea that was usually on in
that quarter of the Pacific.

The colonists, generally, gave the two recruits a very
welcome reception. Bridget smiled when Mark suggested
that Jones, who was a well-looking lad enough, would
make a very proper husband for Joan, and that he doubted
not his being called on, in his character of magistrate, to
unite them in the course of the next six months. The
designs of the sava'ges, however, caused the party to think
of anything but weddings, just at that moment, and a
council was held to devise a plan for their future govern
ment. As Mark was considered the head of the colony, and
had every way the most experience, his opinion swayed
those of his companions, and all his recommendations were



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 20 of 42)