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directing the movements of the party that followed him
became apparent to Mark, who took his measures accord
ingly.

By the time the governor reached the Peak, having
ascended it on its eastern side, so as to keep his person
concealed, the hostile fleet was plainly to be seen with the
naked eye. It came on in a tolerably accurate line, or
lines, abreast ; being three deep, one distant from the other
about a cable's length. It steered directly for the centre
of the island, whereas the cove was much nearer to its
northern than to its southern end ; and the course showed
that the canoes were coming on at random, having nothing
in view but the island.

But Mark's eyes were turned with the greatest interest
to the northward, or in the direction of the Reef. As they
came up the ascent, Bridget had communicated to him the
fact that she expected Juno over that day, and that it was
understood she would come quite alone. Bridget was
much opposed to the girl's taking this risk ; but Juno had
now done it so often successfully, that nothing short of a
positive command to the contrary would be likely to stop



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 245

her. This command, most unfortunately, as Mark now felt,
had not been given ; and great was his concern when Betts
declared that he saw a white speck to the northward, which
looked like a sail. The glass was soon levelled in that
direction, and no doubt any longer remained on the sub
ject. It was the Dido, steering across from the Reef, dis
tant then about ten miles ; and she might be expected to
arrive in about two hours ! In other words, judging by the
progress of the canoes, there might be a difference of
merely half an hour ox so between the time of the arrival
of the boat and that of the canoes.

This was a very serious matter ; and never before had the
council a question before it which gave its members so much
concern, or which so urgently called for action, as this of
the course that was now to be taken to avert a danger so
imminent. Not only was Juno's safety involved ; but the
discovery of the cove and the reef, one or both, was very
likely to be involved in the issue, and the existence of the
whole colony placed in extreme jeopardy. As the canoes
were still more than a league from the island, Bob thought
there was time to go out with the Bridget, and meet the
Dido, when both boats could ply to windward until it was
dark ; after which, they might go into the reef, or come
into the cove, as circumstances permitted. The governor
was about to acquiesce in this suggestion, little as he liked
it, when a new proposition was made, that at first seemed
so strange that no one believed it could be put in execu
tion, but to which all assented in the end.

Among the party on the Peak were Unus and Peggy.
The latter understood a good deal of English, and that
which she did not comprehend, in the course of the dis
cussions on this interesting occasion, Bob, who had picked
up something of the language of her group, explained to
her, as well as he could. After a time, the girl ran down
to the battery and brought up her husband, through whom
the proposal was made that, at first, excited so much won
der. Peggy had told Unus what was going on, and had
pointed out to him the boat of Juno, now sensibly drawing
nearer to the island, and Unus volunteered to swim out
and meet the girl, so as to give her timely warning, as
well as instructions how to proceed !
21*



246 THE CRATER;

Although. Mark, and Heaton, and Bridget, and all pre
sent indeed, were fully aware that the natives of the South
Seas could, and often did pass hours in the water, this pro*
posal struck them all, at first, as so wild, that no one be
lieved it could be accepted. Reflection, however, did its
usual office, and wrought a change in these opinions. Peters
assured the governor that he had often known Unus to
swim from island to island in the group, and that on the
score of danger to him, there was not the least necessity
of feeling any uneasiness. He did not question the In
dian's power to swim the entire distance to the Reef,
should it be necessary.

Another difficulty arose, however, when the first was
overcome. Unus could speak no English, and how was he
to communicate with Juno, even after he had entered her
boat ? The girl, moreover, was both resolute and strong,
as her present expedition sufficiently proved, and would be
very apt to knock a nearly naked savage on the head, when
she saw him attempting to enter her boat. From this
last opinion, however, Bridget dissented. Juno was kind-
hearted, and would be more disposed, she thought, to piek
up a man found in the water at sea, than to injure him.
Bat Juno could read writing. Bridget herself had taught
her slaves to read and write, and Juno in particular was a
sort of ' expert,' in her way. She wrote and read half the
nigger-letters of Bristol, previously to quitting America.
She would now write a short note, which would put the
girl on her guard, and give her confidence in Unus. Juno
knew the whole history of Peters and Peggy, having taken
great interest in the fate of the latter. To own the truth,
the girl had manifested a very creditable degree of princi
ple on the subject, for Jones had tried to persuade his
friend to take Juno, a nice, tidy, light-coloured black, to
wife, and to forget Peggy, when Juno repelled the attempt
with spirit and principle. It is due to Peters, moreover,
to add that he was always true to his island bride. But the
occurrence had made Juno acquainted with the whole his
tory of Peggy ; and Bridget, in the few lines she now wrote
te the girl, took care to tell her that the Indian was the
brother of Peggy. In that capacity, he would be almost
certain of a friendly reception. The rest of the note was



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 247

merely an outline of their situation, with an injunction to
let Unis direct the movements.

No sooner was this important note written, than Unua
hastened down to the cove. He was accompanied by
Mark, Peters and Peggy ; the former to give his instruc
tions, and the two latter to act as interpreters. Nor was
the sister without feeling for the brother on the occasion.
She certainly did not regard his enterprise as it would have
been looked upon by a civilized woman, but she manifested
a proper degree of interest in its success. Her parting
words to her brother, were advice to keep well to wind
ward, in order that, as he got near the boat, he might float
down upon it with the greater facility, aided by the waves.

The young Indian was soon ready. The note was se
cured in his hair, and moving gently in the water, he swam
out of the cove with the ease, if not with the rapidity of a
fish. Peggy clapped her hands and laughed, and other
wise manifested a sort of childish delight, as if pleased
that one of her race should so early make himself useful
to the countrymen of her husband. She and Peters re
paired to the battery, which was the proper station of the
man, while Mark went nimbly up the Stairs, on his way to
the Peak. And here we might put in a passing word on
the subject of these ascents and descents. The governor
had now been accustomed to them more than a twelvemonth,
and he found that the effect they produced on the muscles
of his lower limbs was absolutely surprising. He could
now ascend the Stairs in half the time he had taken on
his first trials, and he could carry burthens up and down
them, that at first he would not have dreamed of attempt
ing even to take on his shoulders. The same was true
with all the colonists, male and female, who began to run
about the cliffs like so many goats chamois would be more
poetical and who made as light of the Stairs as the go
vernor himself.

When Mark reached the Peak again, he found matters
drawing near to a crisis. The canoes were within a league
of the island, coming on steadily in line, and paddling with
measured sweeps of their paddles. As yet, the sail of
Juno's boat had escaped them. This was doubtless owing
to their lowness in the water, and the distance that still



248 THE CRATER;

separated them. The Dido was about five miles from the
northern end of the island, while the fleet was some five
more to the southward of it. This placed the two almost
ten miles apart ; though each seemed so near, seen from
the elevation of the Peak, that one might have fancied
that he could throw a shot into either.

Unus w. as the great point of interest for the moment.
He was just coming out clear of the island, and might be
seen with the naked eye, in that pure atmosphere, a dark
speck floating on the undulating surface of the ocean. By
the aid of the glass, there was no difficulty in watching his
smallest movement. With a steady and sinewy stroke of
his arms, the young savage pursued his way, keeping to
windward, as instructed by his sister, and making a pro
gress in the midst of those rolling billows that was really
wonderful. The wind was not very fresh, nor were the
seas high ; but the restless ocean, even in its slumbers,
exhibits the repose of a giant, whose gentlest heavings are
formidable and to be looked to. In one particular, our
colonists were favoured. Owing to some accidental cir
cumstances of position, a current set round the northern
end of the island, and diffused itself on its western side
by expanding towards the south. This carried the canoes
from the boat and the cove, and insomuch increased Juno's
chance of escape.

The meeting between Unus and the boat took place
when the latter was within a league of the land. As the
sailing directions were for every craft to fall in with the
island rather to windward of the Peak, on account of the
very current just mentioned, it was questionable with Mark
and Betts whether any in the canoes could now perceive
the boat, on account of the intervening heights. It was
pretty certain no one, as yet, had made this important dis
covery, for the impetuosity of savages would instantly
have let the fact be known through their shouts and their
eagerness to chase. On the contrary, all remained tran
quil in the fleet, which continued to approach the land
with a steady but regulated movement, that looked as if a
secret awe pervaded the savages as they drew nearer and
nearer to that unknown and mysterious world. To them
the approaching revelations were doubtless of vast import;



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 249

and the stoutest heart among them must have entertained
some such sensations as were impressed on the spirits of
Columbus and his companions, when they drew near to
the shores of Guanahani.

In the mean time, Juno came confidingly on, shaping
her course rather more to windward than usual even, on
account of the lightness of the breeze. This effectually
prevented tier seeing or being seen from the canoes ; the
parties diagonally drawing nearer, in utter ignorance of
each oner's existence. As for Unus, he manoeuvred quite
skilfully. After getting a couple of miles off the land, he
swam directly to windward ; and it was well he did, the
course of the boat barely permitting his getting well on her
weather-bow, when it was time to think of boarding.

Unus displayed great judgment in this critical part of
the affair. So accurately did he measure distances, that
he got alongside of the Dido, with his hand on her weather
gunwale, without Juno's having the least idea that he was
anywhere near her. At one effort he was in the boat ; and
while the girl was still uttering her scream of alarm, he
stood holding out the note, pronouncing the word " Missus"
as well as he could. The girl had acquired too much
knowledge of the habits of the South Sea islanders, while
passing through and sojourning in the different groups she
had visited, to be overwhelmed with the occurrence. What
is more, she recognised the young Indian at a glance;
some passages of gallantry having actually taken place be
tween them during the two months Heaton and his party
remained among Ooroony's people. To be frank with the
reader, the first impression of Juno was, that the note thus
tendered to her was a love-letter, though its contents in
stantly undeceived her. The exclamation and changed
manner of the girl told Unus that all was right ; and he
went quietly to work to take in the sail, as the most effectual
method of concealing the presence of the boat from the
thousand hostile and searching eyes in the canoes. The
moment Mark saw the canvas come in, he cried out ' all
is well,' and descended swiftly from the Peak, to hasten
to a point where he could give the necessary attentions to
the movements of Waally and his fleet.



250 THE CRATER;



CHAPTER XVII.

Ho ! strike the flag-staff deep, Sir Knight,

Ho ! scatter flowers, fair maids,
Ho ! gunners fire a loud salute
Ho ! gallants, draw your blades ; "

MACAULAT.

So much time had passed in the execution of the plan
of Unus, that the canoes were close under the cliffs, when
the governor and his party reached the wood that fringed
their summits, directly over the northern end of their line.
Even this extremity of their formation was a mile or two
to leeward of the cove, and all the craft, catamarans in
cluded, were drifting still further south, under the influence
of the current. So long as this state of things continued,
there was nothing for the colonists to apprehend, since they
knew landing at any other spot than the cove was out of
the question. The strictest orders had been given for
every one to keep concealed, a task that was by no means
difficult, the whole plain being environed with woods, and
its elevation more than a thousand feet above the sea. In
short, nothing but a wanton exposure of the person, could
render it possible for one on the water to get a glimpse of
another on the heights above him.

The fleet of Waally presented an imposing sight. Not
only were his canoes large, and well filled with men, but
they were garnished with the usual embellishments of
savage magnificence. Feathers and flags, and symbols of
war and power, were waving and floating over the projvs
of most of them, while the warriors they contained were
gay in their trappings. It was apparent, however, to the
members of the council, who watched every movement of
the fleet with the utmost vigilance, that their foes were
oppressed with doubts concerning the character of the
place they had ventured so far to visit. The smoke of the
Volcano was visible to them, beyond a doubt, and here



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 251

was a wail of rock interposed between them and the ac
complishment of their desire to land. In this last respect,
Rancocus Island offered a shore very different from that
of Vulcan's Peak. The first, in addition to the long, low
point so often mentioned, had everywhere a beach of some
sort or other; while, on the last, the waves of the Pacific
rose and fell as against a precipice, marking their power
merely by a slight discoloration of the iron-bound coast.
Those superstitious and ignorant beings naturally would
connect all these unusual circumstances with some super
natural agencies ; and Heaton early gave it as his opinion
that Waally, of whom he had some personal knowledge,
was hesitating, and doubtful of the course he ought to
pursue, on account of this feeling of superstition. When
this opinion was expressed, the governor suggested the ex
pediency of firing one of the carronades, under the suppo
sition that the roar of the gun, and most especially the
echo, of which there was one in particular that was truly
terrific, might have the effect to frighten away the whole
party. Heaton was in doubt about the result, for Waally
and his people knew something of artillery, though of
echoes they could not know anything at all. Nothing like
an echo, or indeed a hill, was to be found in the low
coral islands of their group, and the physical agents of
producing such sounds were absolutely wanting among
them. It might be that something like an echo had been
heard at Rancocus Island, but it must have been of a very
different calibre from that which Heaton and Mark were
in the habit of making for the amusement of the females,
by firing their fowling-pieces down the Stairs. As yet
neither of the guns had been fired from the proper point,
which was the outer battery, or that on the shelf of rock,
though a very formidable roaring had been made by the
report of the gun formerly fired, as an experiment to ascer
tain how far it would command the entrance of the cove.
After a good deal of discussion, it was decided to try the
experiment, and Betts, who knew all about the means ne
cessary to produce the greatest reverberations, was des
patched to the shelf-battery with instructions to scale ita
gun, by pointing it along the cliff and making all the
uproar he could.



252 THE CRATER;

This plan was carried out just as Waally had assera*
bled his chiefs around his own canoe, whither he had called
them by an order, to consult on the manner in which the
entire coast of the island ought to be examined, that a
landing might be effected. The report of the gun came
quite unexpectedly to all parties ; the echo, which rolled
along the cliffs for miles, being absolutely terrific ! Owing
to the woods and intervening rocks, the natives could see
no smoke, which added to their surprise, ana was doubt
less one reason they did not, at first, comprehend the long,
cracking, thundering sounds that, as it might be, rolled
out towards them from the island. A cry arose that the
strange rocks were speaking, and that the Gods of the
place were angry. This was followed by a general and
confused flight; the canoes, paddling away as if their
people were apprehensive of being buried beneath the
tumbling rocks. For half an hour nothing was seen but
frantic efforts to escape, nothing heard but the dip of the
paddle and the wash of its rise.

Thus far the plan of the governor had succeeded even
beyond his expectations. Could he get rid of these savage*
without bloodshed, it would afford him sincere delight, it
being repugnant to all his feelings to sweep away rows of
such ignorant men before the murderous fire of his cannon.
While he and Heaton were congratulating each other on
the encouraging appearances, a messenger came down from
the Peak, where Bridget remained on the look-out, to re
port that the boat had drifted in, and was getting close
under the cliffs, on the northern end of the island, which
was in fact coming close under the Peak itself. A signal
to push for the cove had been named to Juno, and Bridget
desired to know whether it ought to be made, else the boat
would shortly be too near in, to see it. The governor
thought the moment favourable, for the canoes were still
paddling in a body away from the spot whence the roar
had proceeded, and their course carried them to the south
ward and westward, while Unus would approach from the
northward and eastward. Word was sent, accordingly, to
make the signal.

Bridget no sooner received this order than she showed
the flag, which was almost immediately answered by



OH, VULCAN'S PEAK. 253

setting the boat's sail. Unus now evidently took the direc
tion of matters on board the Dido. It is probable he ap
preciated the effect of the gun and its echo, the first of
which he fully comprehended, though the last was as great
and as awful a mystery to him, as to any one of his coun
trymen. Nevertheless, he imputed the strange and fearful
roar of the cliffs to some control of the whites over the
power of the hills, and regarded it as a friendly roar, even
while he trembled. Not so would it be with his country
men, did he well know ; they would retire before it ; and
the signal being given at that instant, the young Indian
had no hesitation about the course he ought to take.

Unus understood sailing a boat perfectly well. On set
ting his sail, he stood on in the Dido until he was obliged
to bear up on account of the cliffs. This brought him so
close to the rocks as greatly to diminish the chances of
being seen. There both wind and current aided his pro
gress ; the first drawing round the end of the island, the
coast of which it followed in a sort of eddy, for some time,
and the latter setting down towards the cove, which was
less than two miles from the north bluff. In twenty mi
nutes after he had made sail, Unus was entering the secret
little harbour, Waally and his fleet being quite out of sight
from one as low as the surface of the ocean, still paddling
away to the south-west, as hard as they could.

Great was the exultation of the colonists, at this escape
of Juno's. It even surpassed their happiness at the retreat
of their invaders. If the boat were actually unseen, the
governor believed the impression was sufficient to keep the
savages aloof for a long time, if not for ever ; since they
would not fail to ascribe the roar, and the smoke of the
volcano, and all the mysteries of the place, to supernatural
agencies. If the sail had been seen, however, it was pos
sible that, on reflection, their courage might revive, and
more would be seen of them. Unus was extolled by every
body, and seemed perfectly happy. Peggy communicated
his thoughts, which were every way in favour of his new
friends. Waally he detested. He denounced him as a
ruthless tyrant, and declared he would prefer death to sub
mission to his exactions. Juno highly approved of all his
sentiments, and was soon known as a sworn friend of
22



254 THE CRATER;

Peggy's. This hatred of tyranny is innate in man, but it
is necessary to distinguish between real oppression and
those restraints which are wholesome, if not indispensable
to human happiness. As for the canoes, they were soon
out of sight in the south-western board, running off, under
their sails, before the wind. Waally, himself, was too
strong-minded and resolute, to be as much overcome by
the echo, as .his companions ; but, so profound and general
was the awe excited, that he did not think it advisable to
persevere in his projects, at a moment so discouraging.
Acquiescing in the wishes of all around him, the expedi
tion drew off from the island, making the best of its way
back to the place from which it had last sailed. All these
circumstances became known to the colonists, in the end,
as well as the reasoning and the more minute incidents
that influenced the future movements. For the time be
ing, however, Woolston and his friends were left to their
own conjectures on the subject ; which, however, were not
greatly out of the way. It was an hour after Juno and
Unus were safe up on the plain, before the look-outs at the
Peak finally lost sight of the fleet, which, when last seen,
was steering a course that would carry it between the
volcano and Rancocus Island, and might involve it in se
rious difficulties in the succeeding night. There was no
land in sight from the highest points on Rancocus Island,
nor any indications of land, in a south-westerly direction ;
and, did the canoes run past the latter, the imminent dan
ger of a general catastrophe would be the consequence.
Once at sea, under an uncertainty as to the course to be
steered, the situation of those belonging to the expedition
would be painful, indeed, nor could the results be foreseen.
Waaly, nevertheless, escaped the danger. Edging off to
keep aloof from the mysterious smoke, which troubled his
followers almost as much as the mysterious echoes, the
party, most fortunately for themselves, got a distant view
of the mountains for which they were running, and altered
their course in sufficient time to reach their place of desti
nation, by the return of light the succeeding morning.

All thoughts of the expedition to Rancocus Island were
temporarily abandoned by the governor and his council.
Mark was greatly disappointed, nor did his regrets cease



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 255

with disappointment only. Should Waally leave a portion
of his people on that island, a collision must occur, sooner
or later ; there being a moral impossibility of the two colo
nies continuing friends while BO near each other. The
nature of an echo would be ascertained, before many
months, among the hills of Rancocus Island, and when that
came to be understood, there was an end of the sacred
character that the recent events had conferred on the
Peak. Any straggling vagabond, or runaway from a ship,
might purchase a present importance by explaining things,
and induce the savages to renew their efforts. In a word,
tkere was the moral certainty that hostilities must be re
newed ere many months, did Waally remain so near them,
and the question now seriously arose, whether it were bet
ter to press the advantage already obtained, and drive him



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 23 of 42)