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back to his group, or to remain veiled behind the sort of
mystery that at present enshrouded them. These points
were gravely debated, and became subjects of as great
interest among the colonists, as ever banks, or abolition
ism, or antimasonry, or free-trade, or any other of the
crotchets of the day, could possibly be in America. Many
were the councils that were convened to settle this impor
tant point of policy, which, after all, like most other mat
ters of moment, was decided more by the force of circum
stances, than by any of the deductions of human reason.
The weakness of the colony and the dangers to its exist
ence, disposed of the question of an aggressive war.
Waally was too strong to be assailed by a dozen enemies,
and all the suggestions of prudence were in favour of re
maining quiet, until the Friend Abraham White could, at
least, be made available in the contest. Supported by that
vessel, indeed, matters would be changed; and Mark
thought it would be in his power to drive in Waally, and
even to depose him and place Ooroony at the head of the
natives once more. To finish and launch the schooner,
therefore, was now the first great object, and, after a week
of indecision and consultations, it was determined to set
about that duty with vigour.

It will be. easily seen, that the getting of the Abraham
into the water was an affair of a good deal of delicacy,
under the circumstances. Th strait between the Peak


and Cape South was thirty miles wide, and it was twenty
more to the crater. Thus the party at work on the vessel
would be fully fifty miles from the main abodes of the
colony, and thrown quite out of the affair should another
invasion be attempted. As for bringing the Neshamony,
the Did.;, the Bridget, and the lighter, into the combat,
everybody was of opinion it would be risking too much.
It is true, one of the swivels was mounted on the former,
and might be of service, but the natives had got to be too
familiar with fire-arms to render it prudent to rely on
the potency of a single swivel, in a conflict against a
force so numerous, and one led by a spirit aa determined
as that of Waally's was known to be. All idea of fighting
at sea, therefore, until the schooner was launched, was out
of the question, and every energy was turned to effect the
latter most important object. A separation of the forces of
the colony was inevitable, in the meanwhile ; and reliance
must be placed on the protection of Providence, for keep
ing the enemy aloof until the vessel was ready for active

The labour requiring as much physical force as could
be mustered, the arrangement was settled in council and
approved by the governor, on the following plan, viz. :
Mark was to proceed to the Reef with all the men that
could be spared, and a -portion of the females. It was not
deemed safe, however, to leave the Peak with less than
three defenders, Heaton, Peters and Unus being chosen
for that important station ; the former commanding, of
course. Mark, Betts, Bigelow, Socrates, and Jones,
formed the party for the Reef, to which were attached
Bridget, Martha, Teresa, and the blacks. Bigelow went
Across, indeed, a day or two before the main party sailed,
in order to look after Dido, and to get his work forward
as fast as possible. When all was ready, and that was
when tgn days had gone by after the retreat of Waally,
without bringing any further tidings from him, the gover
nor sailed in the Neshamony, having the Bridget and th
lighter in company, leaving the Dido for the convenience
>f Heaton and his set. Signals were agreed on, though
die distance was so great as to render them of little use,
anless a boat were mid-channel. A very simple and in-


genious expedient, nevertheless, was suggested by Mark,
in connection with this matter. A single tree grew so near
the Peak as to be a conspicuous object from the ocean ; it
was not large, though it could be seen at a great distance,
more particularly in the direction of the Reef. The go
vernor intimated an intention to send a boat daily far
enough out into the strait to ascertain whether this tree
were, or were not standing ; and Heaton was instructed to
have it felled as soon as he had thoroughly ascertained
that Waally was abroad again with hostile intentions.
Other signals were also agreed on, in order to regulate
the movements of the boats, in the event of their being
called back to the Peak to repel an invasion.

With the foregoing arrangements completed and tho
roughly understood, the governor set sail for the Reef, ac
companied by his little squadron. It was an exquisitely
beautiful day, one in which all the witchery of the climate
developed itself, soothing the nerves and animating the
spirits. Bridget had lost most of her apprehensions of the
natives, and could laugh with her husband and play with
her child almost as freely as before the late events. Every
body, indeed, was in high spirits, the launching of the
schooner being regarded as a thing that would give them
complete command of the adjacent seas.

The passage was short, a fresh breeze blowing, and four
hours after quitting the cliffs, the Neshamony was under
the lee of Cape South, and heading for the principal inlet.
As the craft glided along, in perfectly smooth water now,
Mark noted the changes that time was making on those
rocks, which had so lately emerged from the depths of the
ocean. The prairie, in particular, was every way worthy
of his attention. A mass of sea-weed, which rested on a
sort of stratum of mud immediately after the eruption, had
now been the favourite pasturage of the hogs for more than
a twelvemonth. These hogs at the present time exceeded
fifty full-grown animals, and there were twice that number
of grunters at their heels. Then the work they had done
on the Prairie was incredible. Not less than hundreds of
acres had they rooted over, mixing the sea-weed with the
mud, and fast converting the whole into soil. The rains
had washed away the salt, or converted it into manure, as


well as contributing to the more rapid decay of the vege
table substances. In that climate the changes are very
rapid, and Mark saw that another year or two would con
vert the whole of that vast range, which had been formerly
computed at a surface of a thousand acres, into very re
spectable pastures, if not into meadows. Of meadows,
however, there was very little necessity in that latitude;
the eternal summer that reigned furnishing pasturage the
year round. The necessary grasses might be wanting to
seed down so large a surface, but those which Socrates
had put in were well-rooted, and it was pretty certain they
would, sooner or later, spread themselves over the whole
field. In defiance of the hogs, and their increasing in
roads, large patches were already green and flourishing.
What is more, young trees were beginning to show them
selves along the margin of the channels. Heaton had
brought over from Betto's group several large panniers
made of green willows, and these Socrates had cut into
strips, and thrust into the mud. Almost without an excep
tion they had struck out roots, and never ceasing, day or
night, to grow, they were already mostly of the height of a
man. Four or five years would convert them into so many
beautiful, if not very useful trees.

Nor was this all. Heaton, under the influence of his
habits, had studied the natures of the different trees he had
met with on the other islands. The cocoa-nut, in particu
lar, abounded in both groups, and finding it was a tree that
much affected low land and salt water, he had taken care
to set out various samples of his roots and fruits, on cer
tain detached islets near this channel, where the soil and
situation induced him to believe they would flourish. Sea
sand he was of opinion was the most favourable for the
growth of this tree, and he had chosen the sites of his
plantations with a view to those advantages. On the Peak
cocoa-nuts were to be found, but they were neither very
fine, nor in very large quantities. So long as Mark had
that island to himself, the present supply would more than
equal the demand, but with the increase of the colony a
greater number of the trees would become very desirable.
Five or six years would be needed to produce the fruit-
bearing tree, and the governor was pleased to find that the


growth of one of those years had been already secured.
In the case of those he had himself planted, in and on the
crater, near three years had contributed to their growth,
and neither the Guano nor Loam Island having been for
gotten, many of them were now thirty feet high. As he
approached the crater, on that occasion, he looked at those
promising fruits of his early and provident care for the
future with great satisfaction, for seldom was the labour
of man better rewarded. Mark well knew the value of
this tree, which was of use in a variety of ways, in addi
tion to the delicious and healthful fruit it bears ; delicious
and healthful when eaten shortly after it is separated from
the tree. The wood of the kernel could be polished, and
converted into bowls, that were ornamental as well as use
ful. The husks made a capital cordage, and a very re
spectable sail-cloth, being a good substitute for hemp,
though hemp, itself, was a plant that might be grown on
the prairies to an almost illimitable extent. The leaves
were excellent for thatching, as well as for making brooms,
mats, hammocks, baskets and a variety of such articles,
while the trunks could be converted into canoes, gutters,
and timber generally. There was also one other expensive
use of this tree, which the governor had learned from Hea-
ton. While Bridget was still confined to the ship, after
the birth of her daughter, Mark had brought her a dish
of greens, which she pronounced the most delicious of any
thing in its way she had ever tasted. It was composed of
the young and delicate leaves of the new growth, or of the
summit of the cocoa-nut tree, somewhat resembling the
artichoke in their formation, though still more exquisite in
taste. But the tree from which this treat was obtained
died, a penalty that must ever be paid to partake of that
dish. As soon as Bridget learned this, she forbade the
cutting of any more for her use, at least. All the boats
got into port in good season, and the Reef once more be
came a scene of life and activity. The schooner was soon
completed, and it only remained to put her into the water.
This work was already commenced by Bigelow, and the
governor directed everybody to lend a hand in effecting
so desirable an object. Bigelow had all his materials
ready, and so perseveringly did our colonists work, that


the schooner was all ready to be put into the water on the
evening of the second day. The launch was deferred only to
have the benefit of daylight. That afternoon Mark, accom
panied by his wife, had gone in the Bridget, his favourite
boat, to look for the signal tree. He went some distance
into the strait, ere he was near enough to get a sight of
it even with the glass ; when he did procure a view, there
it was precisely as he had last seen it. Putting the helm
of the boat up, the instant he was assured of his fact, the
governor wore short round, making the best of his way
back to the crater, again. The distances, it will be re
membered, were considerable, and it required time to
make the passage. The sun was setting as Mark was run
ning along the channel to the Reef, the young man point
ing out to his charming wife the growth of the trees, the
tints of the evening sky, the drove of hogs, the extent of
his new meadows, and such other objects as would be
likely to interest both, in the midst of such a scene. The
boat rounded a point where a portion of the hogs had been
sleeping, and as it came sweeping up, the animals rose in
a body, snuffed the air, and began scampering off in the
way conformable to their habits, Mark laughing and point
ing with his fingers to draw Bridget's attention to their

" There are more of the creatures," said Bridget ;
" yonder, on the further side of the prairie I dare say
the two parties will join each other, and have a famous
scamper, in company."

" More !" echoed Mark ; " that can hardly be, as we
passed some thirty of them several miles to the southward.
What is it you see, dearest, that you mistake for hogs 1"

" Why, yonder more than a mile from us ; on the oppo
site side of the prairie and near the water, in the othei

" The other is not a channel at all ; it is a mere bay that
leads to nothing ; so none of our boats or people can be
there. The savages, as I am your husband, Bridget !"

Sure enough, the objects which Bridget had mistaken
for mere hogs, were in truth the heads and shoulders of
some twenty Indians who were observing the movements of
the boat from positions taken on the other side of the plain,


BO as to conceal all but the upper halves of their bodies.
They had two canoes ; war canoes, moreover ; but these
were the whole party, at that point at least.

This was a most grave discovery. The governor had
hoped the Reef, so accessible on every side by means of
canoes, would, for years at least, continue to be a terra
incognita to the savages. On this ignorance of the natives
would much of its security depend, for the united forces
of the colonists could scarcely suffice to maintain the place
against the power of Waally. The matter as it was, called
for all his energies, and for the most prompt measures.

The first step was to apprise the people at the Reef of
the proximity of these dangerous neighbours. As the boat
was doubtless seen, its sails rising above the land, there
was no motive in changing its course, or for attempting to
conceal it. The crater, ship and schooner on the stocks,
were all in sight of the savages at that moment, though not
less than two leagues distant, where they doubtless appear
ed indistinct and confused. The ship might produce an
influence in one or two ways. It might inflame the cupi
dity of Waally, under the hope of possessing so much trea
sure, and tempt him on to- hasten his assault; or it might
intimidate him by its imagined force, vessels rarely visiting
the islands of the Pacific without being prepared to defend
themselves. The savages would not be likely to compre
hend the true condition of the vessel, but would naturally
suppose that she had a full crew, and possessed the usual
means of annoying her enemies. All this occurred to the
governor in the first five minutes after his discovery, while
his boat was gliding onwards towards her haven.

Bridget behaved admirably. She trembled a little at
first, and pressed her child to her bosom with more than
the usual warmth, but her self-command was soon regained,
and from that instant, Mark found in her a quick, inge
nious, and useful assistant and counsellor. Her faculties
and courage seemed to increase with the danger, and so
far from proving an encumbrance, as might naturally
enough have been expected, she was not only out of the
way, as respects impediments, but she soon became of real
use, and directed the movements of the females with almost


as much skill and decision as Mark directed those of their

The boat did not reach the Reef until dusk, or for an
hour after the savages had been seen. The colonists had
just left their work, and the evening being cool and refresh
ing after a warm summer's day, they were taking their
suppers under a tent or awning, at no great distance from
the ship-yard, when the governor joined them. This tent,
or awning, had been erected for such purposes, and had
several advantages to recommend it. It stood quite near
the beach of the spring, and cool fresh water was always
at hand. It had a carpet of velvet-like grass, too, a rare
thing for the Reef, on the outside of the crater. But, there
were cavities on its surface, in which foreign substances
had collected, and this was one of them. Sea-weed, loam,
dead fish, and rain-water had made- a thin soil on about an
acre of rocks at this spot, and the rain constantly assisting
vegetation, the grass-seed had taken root there, and this
being its second season, Betts had found the sward already
sufficient for his purposes, and caused an awning to be
spread, converting the grass into a carpet. There might
now have been a dozen similar places on the reef, so many
oases in its desert, where soil had formed and grass was
growing. No one doubted that, in time and with care,
those then living might see most of those naked rocks
clothed with verdure, for the progress of vegetation in such
a climate, favoured by those accidental causes which
seemed to prevent that particular region from ever suffer
ing by droughts, is almost magical, and might convert a
wilderness into a garden in the course of a very few years.

Mark did not disturb the happy security in which he
found his people by any unnecessary announcement of
danger. On the contrary, he spoke cheerfully, compli
mented them on the advanced state of their work, and took
an occasion to get Betts aside, when he first communicated
the all-important discovery he had made. Bob was dum-
founded at first ; for, like the governor himself, he had be
lieved the Reef to be one of the secret spots of the earth,
and had never anticipated an invasion in that quarter.
Recovering himself, however, he was soon in a state of
mind to consult intelligently and freely.


"Then we're to expect the reptyles to-night?" said
Betts, as soon as he had regained his voice.
. " I think not," answered Mark. " The canoes I saw
were in the false channel, and cannot possibly reach ua
without returning to the western margin of the rocks, and
entering one of the true passages. I rather think this can
not be done before morning. Daylight, indeed, may be
absolutely necessary to them ; and as the night promises to
be dark, it is not easy to see how strangers can find their
way to us, among the maze of passages they must meet.
By land, they cannot get here from any of the islands on
the western side of the group; and even if landed on the
central island, there is only one route, and that a crooked
one, which will bring them here without the assistance of
their canoes. We are reasonably well fortified, Betts,
through natural agencies, on that side ; and I do not appre
hend seeing anything more of the fellows until morning."

" What a misfortin 'tis that they should ever have disco
vered the Reef I"

" It certainly is ; and it is one, I confess, I had not ex
pected. But we must take things as they are, Betts, and
do our duty. Providence that all-seeing Power, which
spared you and me when so many of our shipmates were
called away with short notice Providence may still be
pleased to look on us with favour."

" That puts me in mind, Mr. Mark, of telling you some
thing that I have lately 1'arn'd from Jones, who was about
a good deal among the savages, since his friend's marriage
with Peggy, and before he made his escape to join us.
Jones says that, as near as he can find out, about three
years ago, a ship's launch came into Betto's Land, as we
call it Waally's Country, however, is meant; and that is
a part of the group I never ventured into, seeing that my
partic'lar friend, Ooroony, and Waally, was always at dag
gers drawn but a ship's launch came in there, about three
years since, with seven living men in it. Jones could never
get a sight of any of the men, for Waally is said to have
kept them all hard at work for himself; but he got tole
rable accounts of them, as well as of the boat in which
they arrived."

" Surely, Bob, jou do not suppose that launch to have


been ours, and those men to have been a part of our old
crew !" exclaimed Mark, with a tumult of feeling he had
not experienced since he had reason to think that Bridget
was about to be restored to him.

" Indeed, but I do, sir. The savages told Jones that the
boat had a bird painted in its starn-sheets ; and that was
the case with our launch, Mr. Mark, which was ornament
ed with a spread-eagle in that very spot. Then, one of the
men was said to have a red mark on his face ; and you may
remember, sir, that Bill Brown had a nat'ral brand of that
sort. Jones only mentioned the thing this arternoon, as
we was at work together; and I detarmined to let you
know all about it, at the first occasion. Depend on it, Mr.
Woolston, some of our chaps is still living."

This unexpected intelligence momentarily drove the
recollection of the present danger from the governor's
mind. He sent for Jones, and questioned him closely
touching the particulars of his information ; the answers
he received certainly going far towards corroborating
Betts's idea of the character of the unknown men. Jones
was never able even to get on the island where these men
were said to be ; but he had received frequent descriptions
of their ages, appearances, numbers, &c. It was also
reported by those who had seen them, that several of the
party had died of hunger before the boat reached the
group ; and that only about half of those who had origi
nally taken to the boat, which belonged to a ship that had
been wrecked, lived to get ashore. The man with a mark
on his face was represented as being very expert with tools,
and was employed by Waally to build him a canoe that
would live out in the gales of the ocean. This agreed per
fectly with the trade and appearance of Brown, who had
been the Rancocus's carpenter, and had the sort of mark
so particularly described.

The time, the boat, the incidents of the wreck, meagre
as the last were, as derived through the information of
Jones, and all the other facts Mark could glean in a close
examination of the man's statements, went to confirm the
impression that a portion of those who had been carried to
leeward in the Rancocus's launch, had escaped with their
lives, and were at^that moment prisoners in the power of


the very savage chief who now threatened his colony with

But the emergency did not admit of any protracted in
quiry into, or any consultation on the means necessary to
relieve their old shipmates from a fate so miserable. Cir
cumstances required that the governor should now give his
attention to the important concerns immediately before


TV whom belongs this valley fair,
Tha< sleeps beneath the filmy air,
Even like a living thing?
Silent as infant at the breast,
Save a still sound that speaks of rest,
That streamlet's murmuring 1"


WHEN the governor had communicated to his people
that the savages were actually among the islands of their
own group, something very like a panic came over them.
A few minutes, however, sufficed to restore a proper de
gree of confidence, when the arrangements necessary to
their immediate security were entered into. As some at
tention had previously been bestowed on the fortifications
of the crater, that place was justly deemed the citadel of
the Reef. Some thought the ship would be the most
easily defended, on account of the size of the crater, and
because it had a natural ditch around it, but so much pro
perty was accumulated in and around the crater that it
could not be abandoned without a loss to which the go
vernor had no idea of submitting. The gate of the crater
was nothing in the way of defence, it is true ; but one of
the carronades had been planted so as to command it, and
this was thought sufficient for repelling all ordinary as
saults. It has been said, already, that the outer wall of
the crater was perpendicular at its base, most probably
owing to the waves of the ocean in that remote period


when the whole Reef was washed by them in every gale
of wind. This perpendicular portion of the rock, moreover,
was much harder than the ordinary surface of the Summit,
owing in all probability to the same cause. It was even
polished in appearance, and in general was some eighteen
or twenty feet in height, with the exception of the two or
three places, by one of which Mark and Betts had clam
bered up on their first visit to the Summit. These places,
always small, and barely sufficient to allow of a man's find
ing footing on them, had long been picked away, in order
to prevent the inroads of Kitty, and when the men had
turned their attention to rendering the place secure against
a sudden inroad, they being the only points where an ene

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 24 of 42)