James Fenimore Cooper.

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adopted. There were on board the ship eight carronades,
then quite a new gun, and mounted on trucks. They


were of the bore of twelve-pounders, but light and manage
able. There was also abundance of ammunition in the
vessel's magazine, no ship coming to the Fejees to trade
without a proper regard to the armament. Mark proposed
going over to the Reef with the Neshamony, the very next
day, in order to transport two of the guns, with a proper
supply of powder and shot, to the Peak. Now there was
one place on the path, or Stairs, where it would be easy
to defend the last against an army, the rocks, which were
absolutely perpendicular on each side of it, coming so close
together, as to render it practicable to close the passage
by a narrow gate. This gate Mark did not purpose to
erect now, for he thought it unnecessary. All he intended
was to plant the two guns at this pass ; one on a piece of
level rock directly over it, and a little on one side, which
would command the entrance of the cove, and the cove
itself, as well as the whole of the path beneath, and the
other on another natural platform, a short distance above,
where it could not only command the pass, but, by using
the last as a sort of embrasure, by firing through it, could
not only sweep the ravine for some distance down, but
could also rake the entrance of the cove, and quite half of
the little basin itself.

Bob greatly approved of this arrangement, though all
the seamen were too much accustomed to obey their offi
cers to raise the smallest objections to anything that Mark
proposed. Betts was the only person who had made the
circuit of the Peak; but he, and Mark, and Heaton, who
had been a good deal round the cliffs, on the side of the
water, all agreed in saying they did not believe it possible
for a human being to reach the plain, unless the ascent
was made by the Stairs. This, of course, rendered the
fortifying of the last a matter of so much the greater im
portance, since it converted the whole island into a second
Gibraltar. It was true, the Reef would remain exposed
to depredations; though Mark was of opinion that, by
leaving a portion of their force in the ship, with two or
three of the guns at command, it would not be difficult to
beat off five hundred natives. As for the crater, it might
very easily be made impregnable.

At this meeting Heaton proposed the establishment of


some sort of government and authority, which they should
all solemnly swear to support. The idea was favourably
received, and Mark was unanimously chosen governor for
life, the law being the rule of right, with such special en
actments as might, from time to time, issue from a council
of three, who were also elected for life. This council
consisted of the governor, Heaton, and Betts. Human
society has little difficulty in establishing itself on just
principles, when the wants are few and interests simple.
It is the bias given by these last that perverts it from the
true direction. In our island community, most of its citi
zens were accustomed to think that education and practice
gave a man certain claims to control, and, as yet, dema-
gogueism had no place with them. A few necessary rules,
that were connected with their particular situation, were
enacted by the council and promulgated, when the meeting
adjourned. Happily they were as yet far, very far from
that favourite sophism of the day, which would teach the
inexperienced to fancy it an advantage to a legislator to
commence his career as low as possible on the scale of
ignorance, in order that he might be what it is the fashion
to term " a self-made man."

Mark now took the command, and issued his orders
with a show of authority. His attention was first turned
to rendering the Peak impregnable. There were a plenty
of muskets and fowling-pieces already there, Heaton hav
ing come well provided with arms and ammunition. As
respects the last, Peters and Jones were set to work to
clear out a sort of cavern in the rock, that was not only
of a convenient size, but which was conveniently placed
for such a purpose, at no great distance from the head of
the Stairs, to receive the powder, &c. The cavity waa
perfectly dry, an indispensable requisite, and it was equally
well protected against the admission of water.

The next thing was to collect a large pile of dry wood
on the naked height of the Peak. This was to be lighted,
at night, in the event of the canoes appearing while he
was absent, Mark being of opinion that he could see such
a beacon-fire from the Reef, whither he was about to pro
ceed. Having made these arrangements, the governor se4
sail with Betts, Bigelow, and Socrates for his companions,


leaving Heaton, with Peters and Jones, to take care of
most of the females. We say of most, since Dido and
Juno went along, in order to cook, and to wash all the
clothes of the whole colony, a part of which were sent in
the pinnace, but most of which were on board the ship.
This was a portion of his duty, when a solitary man, to
which Mark was exceedingly averse, and having shirts al
most ad libitum, Bridget had found nearly a hundred ready
for the ' buck-basket.' There was no danger, therefore,
that the ' wash' would be too small.

Betts was deeply impressed with the change that he
found in the rocks. There, where he had left water over
which he had often floated his raft, appeared dry land.
Nor was he much less struck with the appearance of the
crater. It was now a hill of a bright, lively verdure, Kitty
and her new friend keeping it quite as closely cropped as
was desirable. The interior, too, struck him forcibly; for
there, in addition to the garden, now flourishing, though a
little in want of the hoe, was a meadow of acres in extent,
in which the grass was fit to cut. Mark had observed this
circumstance when last at the crater, and Socrates had
brought his scythe and forks, to cut and cure the hay.

The morning after the arrival, everybody went to work.
The women set up their tubs, under an awning spread for
that purpose, near the spring, and were soon up to their
elbows in suds. The scythe was set in motion, and tha
pinnace was taken round to the ship. Three active sea
men soon hoisted out the carronades, and stowed them in
the little sloop. The ammunition followed, and half-a-
dozen barrels of the beef and pork were put in the Nesha-
mony also. Mark scarcely ever touched this food now,
the fish, eggs, chickens, and pigs, keeping his larder suffi
ciently well supplied. But some of the men pined for
ship's provisions, beef and pork that had now been packed
more than two years, and the governor thought it might
be well enough to indulge them. The empty barrels would
be convenient on the Peak, and the salt would be accept
able, after being dried and pulverized.

The day was passed in loading the Neshamony, and in
looking after various interests on the Reef. The hogs had
ail come in, and were fed. Mark shot one, and had it


dressed, putting most of its meat into the pinnace. H
also sent Bob out to his old place of resort, near Loam
Island, whence he brought back near a hundred hog-fish.
These were divided, also, some being given to Dido's mess,
and the rest put in the pinnace, after taking out enough
for a good supper. About ten at night the Neshamony
sailed, Mark carrying her out into the open water, when
he placed Bob at the helm. Bigelow had remained in the
ship, to overhaul the lumber, of which there were still large
piles both betwixt decks and in the lower hold, as did the
whole of the Socrates family, who were yet occupied with
the hay harvest and the ' wash.' Before he lay down to
catch his nap, Mark took a good look to the southward,
in quest of the beacon, but it was not burning, a sign the
savages had not appeared in the course of the day. With
this assurance he fell asleep, and slept until informed by
Bob that the pinnace was running in beneath the cliffs.
Betts called him, because the honest fellow was absolutely
at a loss to know where to find the entrance of the cove.
So closely did the rocks lap, that this mouth of the har
bour was most effectually concealed from all but those
who happened to get quite close in with the cliffs, and in
a particular position. Mark, himself, had caught a glimpse
of this narrow entrance accidentally, on his first voyage,
else might he have been obliged to abandon the hope of
getting on the heights ; for subsequent examination showed
that there was but that one spot, on the whole circuit of
Vulcan's Peak, where man could ascend to the plain, with
out having recourse to engineering and the labour of
months, if not of years.

Bob had brought along one of the two swivels of the
ship, as an armament for the Neshamony, and he fired it
under the cliffs, as a signal of her return. This brought
down all the men, who, with their united strength, dragged
the carronades up the Stairs, and placed them in position.
With a view to scale the guns, the governor now had each
loaded, with a round shot and a case of canister. The
gun just above the pass, he pointed himself, at the entrance
of the cove, and touched it off. The whole of the missiles
went into the passage, making the water fairly foam again.
The other gun was depressed so as to sweep the Stairs


*nd, on examination, it was found that its shot had raked
the path most effectually for a distance exceeding a hun
dred yards. Small magazines were made in the rocks,
near each gust, when the most important part of the ar
rangements for defence were considered to be satisfactorily
made for the present. The remainder of the cargo was
discharged, and got up the mountain, though it took three
days to effect the last. The provisions were opened be
low and overhauled, quite one-half of the pork being con
signed to the soap-fat, though the beef proved to be still
sound and sweet. Such as was thought fit to be consumed
was carried up in baskets, and re-packed on the mountain,
the labour of rolling up the barrels satisfying everybody,
after one experiment. This difficulty set Mark to work
with his wits, and he found a shelf that overhung the land
ing, at a height of fully a hundred yards above it, where
there was a natural platform of rock, that would suffice for
the parade of a regiment of men. Here he determined to
rig a derrick, for there was an easy ascent and descent to
this ' platform,' as the place was called, and down which a
cart might go without any difficulty, if a cart was to be
had. The ' platform' might also be used for musketeers,
in an action, and on examining it, Mark determined to
bring over one of the two long sixes, and mount it there,
with a view to command the offing. From that height a
shot could be thrown in any direction, for more than a
mile, outside of the harbour.

Heaton had seen no signs of the canoes, nor could Mark,
at any time during the next four days after his return,
though he was each day on the Peak itself, to examiue the
ocean. On the fifth day, therefore, he and Bob crossed
over to the Reef again, takig Bridget along this time.
The latter delighted in the ship, the cabins of wnicn were
so much more agreeable and comfortable than the tents,
and which had so long been her husband's solitary abode.

On reaching the Reef, the governor was greatly sur
prised to find that Bigelow had the frame of a boat evet
larger than the pinnace set up, one that measured fourteen*
tons, though modelled to carry, rather than to sail. In
overhauling the ' stuff' in the ship, he had found not only
all the materials for this craft, but those necessary for a
boat a little larger than the Bridget, which, it seems, had


been sent for the ordinary service of the ship, should any
thing occur to occasion the loss of the two she commonly
used, in addition to the dingui. These were treasures,
indeed, vessels of this size being of the utmost use to the
colonists. For the next month, several hands were kept
at work on these two boats, when both were got into th
water, rigged, and turned over for duty. The largest boat
of the little fleet, which had no deck at all, not even for
ward, and which was not only lighter-built but lighter-
rigged, having one large sprit-sail that brailed, was called the
Mary, in honour of Heaton's mother ; while the jolly-boat
carried joy to the hearts of the house of Socrates, by being
named the Dido. As she was painted black as a crow,
this appellation was not altogether inappropriate, Soc de
claring, " dat 'e boat did a good deal favour his ole woman."

While these things were in progress, the Neshamony
was not idle. She made six voyages between the Reef
and the Peak in that month, carrying to the last, fish, fresh
pork, various necessaries from the ship, as well as eggs and
alt. Some of the fowls were caught and transferred to
the Peak, as well as half-a-dozen of the porkers. The
return cargo consisted of reed-birds, in large quantities,,
several other varieties of birds, bread-fruits, bananas, yams,
cocoa-nuts, and a fruit that Heaton discovered, which was of
a most delicious flavour, resembling strawberries and cream,
and which was afterwards ascertained to be the charra-
moya, the fruit that, of all others, when good, is thought
to surpass everything else of that nature. Bridget also
picked a basket of famously large wild strawberries on the
Summit, and sent them to Anne. In return, Anne sent
her sister, not only cream and milk,- by each passage, but
a little fresh butter. The calves had been weaned, and
the two cows were now giving their largest quantity of
milk, furnishing almost as much butter as was wanted.

At the crater, Socrates put everything in order. He
mowed the grass, and made a neat stack of it, in the centre
of the meadow. He cleaned the garden thoroughly, and
made some arrangements for enlarging it, though the yield,
now, was quite as great as all the colonists could consume ;
for, no sooner was one vegetable dug, or cut, than another
was put in its place. On the Peak, Peters, who was half
farmer, dug over an acre or two of rich loam, and made


a fence of brush, with a view of having a garden in Eden*
Really, it almost seemed superfluous ; though those who
had been accustomed to salads, and beans, and beets, and
onions, and cucumbers, and all the other common vegeta
bles of a civilized kitchen, soon began to weary of the
more luscious fruits of the tropics. With the wild figs,
however, Heaton, who was a capital horticulturist, fancied
he could do something. He picked out three or four
thriving young trees of that class, which bore fruit a little
better flavoured than most around them, and cut away all
their neighbours, letting in the sun and air freely. He
also trimmed their branches, and dug around the roots,
which he refreshed with guano; the use of which had been
imparted by Mark to his fellow-colonists, though Bigelow
knew all about it from having lived in Peru, and Bob had
early let the governor himself into the secret.

The governor and his lady, as the community now began
to term Mr. and Mrs. Mark Woolston, were on the point
of embarking in the Neshamony, to visit Vulcan's Peak,
after a residence on the Reef of more than a month, when
the orders for sailing were countermanded, in consequence
of certain signs in the atmosphere, which indicated some
thing like another hurricane. The tempest came, and in
good earnest, but without any of the disastrous conse
quences which had attended that of the previous year. It
blew fearfully, and the water was driven into all the sounds,
creeks, channels and bays of the group, bringing many of
the islands, isthmuses, peninsulas, and plains of rock, what
the seamen call ' awash,' though no material portion was
actually overflowed. At the Reef itself, the water rose
a fathom, but it did not reach the surface of the island by
several feet, and all passed off without any other conse
quences than giving the new colonists a taste of the cli

Mark, on this occasion, for the first time, noted a change
that was gradually taking place on the surface of the Reef,
without the crater. Most of its cavities were collecting
deposits, that were derived from various sources. Sea
weed, offals, refuse stuff of all kinds, the remains of the
deluge of fish that occurred the past year, and all the in
describable atoma that ever contribute to form soil in the


neighbourhood of man. There were many spots on the
Reef, of acres in extent, that formed shallow basins, in
which the surface might be two or three inches lower than
the surrounding rocks, and, in these spots in particular,
the accumulations of an incipient earthy matter were
plainly visible. As these cavities collected and retained
the moisture, usually from rain to rain, Mark had some of
Friend Abraham White's grass-seed sown over them, in
order to aid nature in working out her own benevolent de
signs. In less than a month, patches of green began to
appear on the dusky rocks, and there was good reason to
hope that a few years would convert the whole Reef into
a smiling, verdant plain. It was true, the soil could not
soon obtain any useful depth, except in limited spots ; but,
in that climate, where warmth and moisture united to push
vegetation to the utmost, it was an easy thing to obtain a
bottom for grasses of almost all kinds.

Nor did Mark's provident care limit itself to this one in
stance of forethought. Socrates was sent in the dingui to
the prairie, over which the hogs had now been rooting for
fully two months, mixing together mud and sea-weed,
somewhat loosely it is true, but very extensively ; and there
he scattered Timothy-seed in tolerable profusion. Socratea
was a long-headed, as well as a long-footed fellow, and he
brought back from this expedition a report that was of
material importance to the future husbandry of the colo
nists. According to his statement, this large deposit of
mud and sea-weed lay on a peninsula, that might be barri
caded against the inroads of hogs, cattle, &c., by a fence
of some two or three rods in length. This was a very fa
vourable circumstance, where wood was to be imported
for many years to come, if not for ever; though the black
had brought the seeds of certain timbers, from the Peak,
and put them into the ground in a hundred places on the
Reef, where the depth of deposit, and other circumstances,
seemed favourable to their growth. As for the Prairie
could it be made to grow grasses, it would be a treasure
to the colony, inasmuch as its extent reached fully to a
thousand acres. The examination of Socrates was flatter
ing in other respects. The mud was already dry, and the
deposit of salt did not seem to be very great, little water
having bea left there after the eruption , or lifting of the


earth's crust. The rains had done much, and certain
coarse, natural grasses, were beginning to show themselves
in various parts of the field. As the hogs would not be
likely to root over the same spot twice, it was not proposed
to exclude them, but they were permitted to range over
the field at pleasure, in the hope that they would add to its
fertility by mixing the materials for soil. In such a cli
mate, every change of a vegetable character was extremely
rapid, and now that no one thought of abandoning the set
tlement, it was very desirable to obtain the different bene
fits of civilization as soon as possible.

All the blacks remained at the Reef, where Mark him
self passed a good deal of his time. In their next visit to
the Peak, they found things flourishing, and the garden
looking particularly well. The Vulcanists had their melons
in any quantity, as well as most vegetables without limits.
It was determined to divide the cows, leaving one on the
Peak, and sending the other to the crater, where there was
now sufficient grass to keep two or three such animals.
With a view to this arrangement, Bob had been directed
to fence in the garden and stack, by means of ropes and
stanchions let into the ground. When the Anne returned
to the Reef, therefore, from her first voyage to the. Peak,
a cow was sent over in her. This change was made solely
for the convenience of the milk, all the rest of the large
stock being retained on the plain, where there was suffi
cient grass to sustain thousands of hoofs.

But the return cargo of the Anne, on this her first voy
age, was composed mainly of ship-timber. Heaton had
found a variety of the teak in the forests that skirted the
plain, and Bigelow had got out of the trees the frame of a
schooner that was intended to measure about eighty tons.
A craft of that size would be of the greatest service to
them, as it would enable the colonists to visit any part of
the Pacific they pleased, and obtain such supplies as they
might find necessary. Nor was this all ; by mounting on
her two of the carronades, she would effectually give them
the command of their own seas, so far as the natives were
concerned at least. Mark had some books on the draught
ing of vessels, and Bigelow had once before laid down a
brig of more than a hundred tons in dimensions. Then
the stores, rigging, copper, &e., of the ship, could never


be turned to better account than in the construction of
another vessel, and it was believed she could furnish mate
rials enough for two or three such craft. Out of compli
ment to his old owner, Mark named this schooner in em
bryo, the ' Friend Abraham White,' though she was com
monly known afterwards as the 'Abraham.'

The cutting of the frame of the intended schooner was
a thing easy enough, with expert American axemen, and
with that glorious implement of civilization, the American
axe. But it was not quite so easy to get the timber down
to the cove. The keel, in particular, gave a good deal of
trouble. Heaton had brought along with him both cart
and wagon wheels, and without that it is questionable if
the stick could have been moved by any force then at the
command of the colony. By suspending it in chains be
neath the axles, however, it was found possible to draw it,
though several of the women had to lend their aid in mov
ing the mass. When at the head of the Stairs, the timber
was lowered on the rock, and was slid downwards, with
occasional lifts by the crowbar and handspike. When it
reached the water it was found to be much too heavy to
float, and it was by no means an easy matter to buoy it
up in such a way that it might be towed. The Anne was
three times as long making her passage with this keel in
tow, as she was without it. It was done, however, and
the laying of the keel was effected with some little cere
mony, in the presence of nearly every soul belonging to
the colony.

The getting out and raising of the frame of the ' Friend
Abraham White' took six weeks. Great importance was
attached to success in this matter, and everybody assisted
in the work with right good will. At one time it was
doubted if stuff enough could be found in the ship to plank
her up with, and it was thought it might become necessary
to break up the Rancocus, in order to complete the job.
To Bridget's great joy, however, the good old Rancocus
so they called her, though she was even then only eight
years old the good old Rancocus' time had not yet come,
and she was able to live in her cabin for some months
longer. Enough planks were found by using those of the
'twixt decks, a part of which were not bolted down at all
to accomplish all that was wanted.


Heaton was a man of singular tastes, which led him to
as remarkable acquirements. Among other accomplish
ments, he was a very good general mechanician, having an
idea of the manner in which most of the ordinary ma
chinery ought to be, not only used, but fabricated. At
the point where the rivulet descended the cliff into the
sea, he discovered as noble a mill-seat as the heart of man
could desire to possess. To have such a mill-seat at com
mand, and not to use it, would, of itself, have made him
unhappy, and he could not be easy until he and Peters,
who had also a great taste and some skill in that sort of
thing, were hard at work building a saw-mill. The saw
had been brought from America, as a thing very likely to
be wanted, and three months after these two ingenious
men had commenced their work, the saw was going, cut
ting teak, as well as a species of excellent yellow pine that
was found in considerable quantities, and of very respect
able size, along the cliffs in the immediate vicinity of the

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 21 of 42)