James Fenimore Cooper.

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mill. The great difficulty to be overcome in that under
taking, was the transportation of the timber. By cutting
the trees most favourably situated first, logs were got into
the pond without much labour; but after they were in
planks, or boards, or joists, they were quite seven miles
from the head of the Stairs, in the vicinity of which it
was, on several accounts, the most desirable to dwell.
Had the Abraham been kept on the stocks, until the ne
cessary timber was brought from the mill, across the plain
of Eden, she would have been well seasoned before launch
ing; but, fortunately, that was not necessary materials
sufficient for her were got on board the ship, as mentioned,
with some small additions of inch boards that were cut to
finish her joiners' work.

Months passed, as a matter of course, while the schooner
and the mill were in the course of construction. The
work on the first was frequently intermitted, by little voy
ages in the other craft, and by labour necessary to be done
in preparing dwellings on the Peak, to meet the rainy sea
son, which was now again near at hand. Past experience
had told Mark that the winter months in his islands, if
winter a season could be termed, during which most of the
trees, all the grasses, and many of the fruits continued to


grow and ripen as in summer, were not very formidable
It is true it then rained nearly every day, but it was very
far from raining all day. Most of the rain, in fact, fell at
night, commencing a little after the turn in the day, and
terminating about midnight. Still it must be very unplea
sant to pass such a season beneath canvass, and, about six
weeks ere the wet time commenced, everybody turned to,
with a will, to erect proper framed houses. Now that the
mill was sawing, this was no great task, the pine werking
beautifully and easily into almost every article required.

Heaton laid out his house with some attention to taste,
and more to comfort It was of one story, but fully a
hundred feet in length, and of half that in depth. Being
a common American dwelling that was clap-boarded, it
was soon put up and enclosed, the climate requiring very
little attention to warmth. There were windows, and
even glass, a small quantity of that article having been
brought along by the colonists. The floors were beautiful,
and extremely well laid down ; nor were the doors, win
dow-shutters, &c., neglected. The whole, moreover, was
painted, the stores of the ship still furnishing the neces
sary materials. But there was neither chimney nor plas
tering, for Heaton had neither bricks nor lime. Bricks
he insisted he could and would make, and did, though in
no great number ; but lime, for some time, baffled his inge
nuity. At last, Socrates suggested the burning of oyster-
shells, and by dint of fishing a good deal, among the chan
nels of the reef, a noble oyster-bed was found, and the
boats brought in enough of the shells to furnish as much
lime as would put up a chimney for the kitchen ; one
apartment for that sort of work being made, as yet, to
suffice for the wants of all who dwelt in Eden.

These various occupations and interests consumed
many months, and carried the new-comers through the
first wet season which they encountered as a colony. As
everybody was busy, plenty reigned, and the climate being
so very delicious as to produce a sense of enjoyment in
the very fact of existence, everybody but Peters was happy.
He, poor fellow, mourned much for his Peggy, as he called
the pretty young heathen wife he had left behind him in
Waally's country.



u Forth with a guard at every gun

Was placed along the wall ;
The beacon blazed upon the roof

Of Edgecombe's lofty hall ;
And many a fishing bark put out,

To pry along the coast ;
And with loose rein, and bloody spur
Rode inland many a post."

The Spanish Jlrmada.

THE building of the houses, and of the schooner, waa
occupation for everybody, for a long time. The first were
completed in season to escape the rains ; but the last was
on the stocks fully six months after her keel had been laid.
The fine weather had returned, even, and she was not yet
launched. So long a period had intervened since Waally's
visit to Rancocus Island without bringing any results, that
the council began to hope the Indians had given up their
enterprises, from the consciousness of not having t,he
means to carry them out ; and almost every one ceased to
apprehend danger from that quarter. In a word, so
smoothly did the current of life flow, on the Reef and at
Vulcan's Peak, that there was probably more danger of
their inhabitants falling into the common and fatal error
of men in prosperity, than of anything else ; or, of their
oeginning to fancy that they deserved all the blessings that
were conferred on them, and forgetting the hand that be
stowed them. As if to recall them to a better sense of
things, erents now occurred which it is our business to


relate, and which aroused the whole colony from the sort
of pleasing trance into which they had fallen, by the united
influence of security, abundance, and a most seductive

As time rolled on, in the first place, the number of the
colony had begun to augment by natural means. Friend
Martha had presented Friend Robert with a little Robert ;
and Bridget made Mark the happy parent of a very charm
ing girl. This last event occurred about the commence
ment of the summer, and just a twelvemonth after the
happy reunion of the young couple. According to Mark's
prophecy, Jones had succeeded with Joan, and they were
married even before the expiration of the six months men
tioned. On the subject of a marriage ceremony there was
no difficulty, Robert and Martha holding a Friends' meet
ing especially to quiet the scruples of the bride, though
she was assured the form could do no good, since the
bridegroom did not belong to meeting. The governor read
the church service on the occasion, too, which did no
harm, if it did no good. About this time, poor Peters,
envying the happiness of all around him, and still pining
for his Petrina, or Peggy, as he called her himself, begged
of the governor the use of the Dido, in order that he might
make a voyage to Waally's group in quest of his lost com
panion. Mark knew how to feel for one in the poor fel
low's situation, and he could not think of letting him go
alone on an expedition of so much peril. After deliberat
ing on the matter, he determined to visit Rancocus Island
himself not having been in that direction, now, for
months and to go in the Neshamony, in order to take a
couple of hogs over ; it having long been decided to com
mence breeding that valuable animal, in the wild state, on
the hills of that uninhabited land.

The intelligence that a voyage was to be made to Ran
cocus Island seemed to infuse new life into the men of the
colony, every one of whom wished to be of the party. The
governor had no objection to indulging as many as it might
be prudent to permit to go ; but he saw the necessity of
putting some restraint on the movement. After canvassing
the matter in the council, it was determined that, in addi
tion to Mark and Peters, who went of course, the party


should consist of Bob, Bigelow, and Socrates. The car
penter was taken to look for trees that might serve to make
the ways of the schooner, which was yet to be launched ;
and the latter was thought necessary in his capacity of a
cook. As for Betts, he went along as the governor's coun
sellor and companion.

Bridget's little girl was born in the cabin of the ship ;
and the week preceding that set for the voyage, she and
the child were taken across to the Peak, that the former
might spend the period of ner nusoand-s aosence witft
Anne, in the Garden of Eden. These absences and occa
sional visits gave a zest to lives that might otherwise have
become too monotonous, and were rather encouraged than
avoided. It was, perhaps, a little strange that Bridget
rather preferred the Reef than the Peak for a permanent
residence ; but there was her much-beloved ship, ad there
she ever had her still more beloved husband for a com

On the appointed day, the Neshamony set sail, having
on board a family of three of the swine. The plan for the
excursion included a trip to the volcano, which had not
yet been actually visited by any of the colonists. Mark
had been within a league of it, and Bob had passed quite
near to it in his voyage to the Peak ; but no one had ever
positively landed, or made any of those close examinations
of the place, which, besides being of interest in a general
way, was doubly so to those who were such near neigh
bours to a place of the kind. This visit Mark now de
cided to make on his way to leeward, taking the volcano
in his course to Rancocus Island. The dttour would lead
the Neshamony some fifteen or eighteen leagues on one
side ; but there was abundance of time, and the volcano
ought to be no longer neglected.

The wind did not blow as fresh as in common, and the
Neshamony did not draw near to the volcano until late in
the afternoon of the day she sailed. The party approached
this place with due caution, and not without a good deal
of awe. As the lead was used, it was found that the water
shoaled gradually for several leagues, becoming less and
less deep as the boat drew near to the cone, which was
itself a circular and very regular mountain, of some six or


eight hundred feet in height, with a foundation of dry rock
and lava, that might have contained a thousand acres.
Everything seemed solid and permanent ; and our mariners
were of opinion there was very little danger of this forma
tion ever disappearing below the surface of the sea again.

The volcano being in activity, some care was necessary
in landing. Mark took the Neshamony to windward, and
found a curvature in the rocks where it was possible to get
ashore without having the boat knocked to pieces. He
and Bob then went as near the cone as the falling stones
would allow, and took as good a survey of the place as
could be done under the circumstances. That there would
be soil, and plenty of it, sooner or later, was plain enough;
and that the island might become a scene of fertility and
loveliness, in the course of ages, like so many others of
volcanic origin in that quarter of the world, was probable.
But that day was distant; and Mark was soon satisfied
that the great use of the spot was its being a vent to what
would otherwise be the pent and dangerous forces that
were in the course of a constant accumulation beneath.

The party had been about an hour on the island, and
was about to quit it, when a most startling discovery was
made. Bob saw a canoe drawn close in among the rocks
to leeward, and, on a further examination, a man was seen
near it. At first, this was taken as an indication of hosti
lities, but, on getting a second look, our mariners were
satisfied that nothing of that sort was to be seriously ap
prehended. It was determined to go nearer to the stranger,
at once, and learn the whole truth.

A cry from Peters, followed by his immediately spring
ing forward to meet a second person, who had left the
canoe, and who was bounding like a young antelope to
meet him, rendered everything clear sooner even than had
been anticipated. All supposed that this eager visiter was
a woman, and no one doubted that it was Peggy, the poor
fellow's Indian wife. Peggy it proved to be ; and after the
weeping, and laughing, and caressing of the meeting were
a little abated, the following explanation was made by
Peters, who spoke the language of his wife with a good
deal of facility, and who acted as interpreter.

According to the accounts now given by Peggy, tha


warfare between Ooroony and Waally had been kept up
with renewed vigour, subsequently to the escape of Jones
and her own husband. Fortune had proved fickle, as so
often happens, and Waally got to be in the ascendant. His
enemy was reduced to great straits, and had been com
pelled to confine himself to one of the smallest islands of
the group, where he was barely able to maintain his party,
by means of the most vigilant watchfulness. This left
Waally at liberty to pursue his intention of following the
party of whites, which was known to have gone to the south
ward, with so much valuable property, as well as to extend
his conquests, by taking possession of the mountain visited
by him the year previously. A grand expedition was ac
cordingly planned, and a hundred canoes had actually
sailed from the group, with more than a thousand warriors
on board, bent on achieving a great exploit. In this expe
dition, Unus, the brother of Peggy, had been compelled to
join, being a warrior of some note, and the sister had come
along, in common with some fifty other women; the rank
of Unus and Peggy not being sufficient to attract attention
to their proceedings. Waally had postponed this, which he
intended for the great enterprise of a very turbulent life, to
the most favourable season of the year. There was a
period of a few weeks every summer, when the trades
blew much less violently than was usually the case, and
when, indeed, it was no unusual thing to have shifts of
wind, as well as light breezes. All this the Indians per
fectly well understood, for they were bold navigators, when
the sizes and qualities of their vessels were considered.
As it appeared, the voyage from the group to Rancocus
Island, a distance of fully a hundred leagues, was effected
without any accident, and the whole of that formidable
force was safely landed at the very spot where Betts had
encamped on his arrival out with the colonists. Nearly a
month had been passed in exploring the mountain, the first
considerable eminence most of the Indians had ever beheld;
and in making their preparations for further proceedings.
During that time, hundreds had seen Vulcan's Peak, as
well as the smoke of the volcano, though the reef, with all
its islands, lay too low to be discerned from such a dis
tance. The Peak was now the great object to be attained,


for there it was universally believed that Betto (meaning
Betts) and his companions had concealed themselves and
their much-coveted treasures. Rancocus Island was well
enough, and Waally made all his plans for colonizing it at
once, but the other, and distant mountain, no doubt was
the most desirable territory to possess, or white men would
not have brought their women so far in order to occupy it.

As a matter of course, Unus and Peggy learned the
nature of the intended proceedings. The last might have
been content to wait for the slower movements of the ex
pedition, had she not ascertained that threats of severely
punishing the two deserters, one of whom was her own
husband, had been heard to fall from the lips of the dread
Waally himself. No sooner, therefore, did this faithful In
dian girl become mistress of the intended plan, than she
gave her brother no peace until he consented to put off
into the ocean with her, in a canoe she had brought from
home, and which was her own property. Had not Unug
been disaffected to his new chief, this might not so easily
have been done, but the young Indian was deadly hostile
to Waally, and was a secret friend of Ooroony ; a state
of feeling which disposed him to desert the former, at the
first good opportunity.

The two adventurers put off from Rancocus Island just
at dark, and paddled in the direction that they believed
would carry them to the Peak. It will be remembered
that the last could not be seen from the ocean, until about
half the passage between the islands was made, though it
was plainly apparent from the heights of Rancocus, as al
ready mentioned. Next morning, when day returned, the
smoke of the volcano was in sight, but no Peak. There
is little question that the canoe had been set too much to
the southward, and was diagonally receding from its de
sired point of debarkation, instead of approaching it. To
wards the smoke, Unus and his sister continued to paddle,
and, after thirty-six hours of nearly unremitted labour, they
succeeded in landing at the volcano, ignorant of its na
ture, awe-struck and trembling, but compelled to seek a
refuge there, as the land-bird rests its tired wing on the
ship's spars, when driven from the coast by the unexpected
gale. When discovered, Peggy and her brother were


about to take a fresh start from their resting-place, the
Peak being visible from the volcano.

Mark questioned these two friends concerning the con
templated movement of Waally, with great minuteness,
Unsus was intelligent for a savage, and appeared to under
stand himself perfectly. He was of opinion that his coun
trymen would endeavour to cross, the first calm day, or the
first day when the breeze should be light; and that was just
the time when our colonists did not desire to meet the
savages out at sea. He described the party as formidable
by numbers and resolution, though possessing few arms
besides those of savages. There were half a dozen old
muskets in the canoes, with a small supply of ammunition;
but, since the desertion of Jones and Peters, no one re
mained who knew how to turn these weapons to much
account. Nevertheless, the natives were so numerous,
possessed so many weapons that were formidable in their
own modes of fighting, and were so bent on success, that
Unus did not hesitate to give it as his opinion, the colo
nists would act wisely in standing off for some other isl
and, if they knew where another lay, even at the cost of
abandoning most of their effects.

But, our governor had no idea of following any such
advice. He was fully aware of the strength of his position
on the Peak, and felt no disposition to abandon it. His
great apprehension was for the Reef, where his territories
were much more assailable. It was not easy to see how
the crater, and ship, and the schooner on the stocks, and
all the other property that, in the shape of hogs, poultry,
&c., was scattered far and wide in that group, could be
protected against a hundred canoes, by any force at his
command. Even with the addition of Unus, who took
service at once, with all his heart, among his new friends,
Mark could muster but eight men ; viz., himself, Heaton,
Betts, Bigelow, Socrates, Peters, Jones and Unus. To
these might possibly be added two or three of the women,
who might be serviceable in carrying ammunition, and as
sentinels, while the remainder would be required to look
after the children, to care for the stock, &.c. All these
facts passed through Mark's mind, as Peters translated the
communication of Unus, sentence by sentence.


It was indispensable to come to some speejy decision.
Peters was now happy and contented with his nice littfo
Peggy, and there was no longer any necessity for pursuing
the voyage on his account. As for the project of placing
the hogs on Rancocus, this was certainly not the time to do
it, even if it were now to be done at all ; we say ' now/
since the visits of the savages would make any species of
property on that island, from this time henceforth, very in
secure. It was therefore determined to abandon the voyage,
and to shape their course back to the Peak, with as little
delay as possible. As there were indications of shell-fish,,
sea-weed, &,c., being thrown ashore at the Volcano, two
of the hogs were put ashore there to seek their fortunes.
According to the new plan, the Neshamony made sail on-
her return passage, about an hour before the sun set. As
was usual in that strait, the trades blew pretty fresh, and
the boat, although it had the canoe of Unus in tow, came
under the frowning cliffs some time before the day reap
peared. By the time the sun rose, the Neshamony was off
the cove, into which she hastened with the least possible
delay. It was the governor's apprehension that his sails
might be seen from the canoes of Waally, long before the
canoes could be seen from his boat, and he was glad to get
within the cover of his little haven. Once there, the dif
ferent crafts were quite concealed from the view of per
sons outside, and it now remained to be proved whether
their cover was not so complete as effectually to baffle a
hostile attempt to find it.

The quick and unexpected return of the Neshamony
produced a great deal of surprise on the Plain. She had
not been seen to enter the cove, and the first intimation
any one in the settlement had of such an occurrence, was
the appearance of Mark before the door of the dwelling.
Bigelow was immediately sent to the Peak with a glass, to
look out for canoes, while Heaton was called in from the
woods by means of a conch. In twenty minutes the council
was regularly in session, while the men began to collect
and to look to their arms. Peters and Jones were ordered
to go down to the magazine, procure cartridges, and then
proceed to the batteries and load the carronades. In a


word, orders were given to make all the arrangements ne
cessary for the occasion.

It was not long ere a report came down from Bigelow.
It was brought by his Spanish wife, who had accompanied
her husband to the Peak, and who came running in, half
breathless, to say that the ocean was covered with canoes
and catamarans ; a fleet of which was paddling directly for
the island, being already within three leagues of it.
Although this intelligence was expected, it certainly caused
long faces and a deep gloom to pervade that little com
munity. Mark's fears were always for the Reef, where
there happened to be no one just at that moment but the
black women, who were altogether insufficient to defend
it, under the most favourable circumstances, but who were
now without a head. There was the hope, however, of the
Indians not seeing those low islands, which they certainly
could not do as long as they remained in their canoes. On
the other hand, there was the danger that some one might
cross from the Reef in one of the boats, a thing that was
done as often as once a week, in which case a chase might
ensue, and the canoes be led directly towards the spot that
it was so desirable to conceal. Juno could sail a boat as
well as any man among them, and, as is usually the case,
that which she knew she could do so well, she was fond of
doing ; and she had not now been across for nearly a week.
The cow kept at the crater gave a large mess of milk, ane!
the butter produced by her means was delicious when eaters
fresh, but did not keep quite as well in so warm a climate
as it might have done in one that was colder, and Dido wai
ever anxious to send it to Miss Bridget, as she still callec
her mistress, by every available opportunity. The boat usee
by the negresses on such occasions, was the Dido, a perfect
ly safe craft in moderate weather, but she was just the dull
est sailer of all those owned by the colony. This created
the additional danger of a capture, in the event of a chase.
Taking all things into consideration therefore, Mark ad
journed the council to the Peak, a feverish desire to look
out upon the sea, causing him to be too uneasy where he
was, to remain there in consultation with any comfort tc
himself. To the Peak, then, everybody repaired, with the
exception of Bigelow, Peters, and Jones, who were now


regularly stationed at the carronades to watch the entrance
of the cove. In saying everybody, we include not only
all the women, but even their children.

So long as the colonists remained on the plain, tnere was
not the smallest danger of any one of them being seen from
the surrounding ocean. This the woods, and their great
elevation, prevented. Nor was there much danger of the
party in the batteries being seen, though so much lower,
and necessarily on the side of the cliff, since a strict order
had been given to keep out of sight, among the trees, where
they could see everything that was going on, without being
seen themselves. But on the naked Peak it was different.
High as it was, a man might be seen from the ocean, if
moving about, and the observer was tolerably near by.
Bob had seen Mark, when his attention was drawn to the
spot by the report of the latter's fowling-piece; and the
governor had often seen Bridget, on the look-out for him,
as he left the island, though her fluttering dress probably
made her a more conspicuous object than most persons
would have been. From all this, then, the importance of

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 22 of 42)