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my could get up, without resorting to ladders or artificial
assistance, had, by means of additional labour, been ren
dered as secure as all the rest of the ' outer wall,' as the
base of the crater was usually termed among them. It was
true, that civilized assailants, who had the ordinary means
at command, would soon have mastered this obstacle ; but
savages would not be likely to come prepared to meet it.
The schooner, with her cradle and ways, had required all
the loose timber, to the last stick, and the enemy was not
likely to procure any supplies from the ship-yard. Two
of the carronades were on the Summit, judiciously planted ;
two were on board the Abraham, as was one of the long
sixes, and the remainder of the guns, (three at the rock
excepted) were still on board the ship.

Mark divided his forces for the night. As Bridget ha
bitually lived in the Rancocus' cabins; he did not derange
her household at all, but merely strengthened her crew, by
placing Bigelow and Socrates on board her; each with his
family; while Betts assumed the command of the crater,
having for his companion Jones. These were small garri
sons ; but the fortresses were strong, considering all the
circumstances, and the enemy were uncivilized, knowing
but little of fire-arms. By nine o'clock everything was
arranged, and most of the women and children were on
their beds, though no one there undressed that night.

Mark and Betts met, by agreement, alongside of the
schooner, as soon as their respective duties elsewhere
would allow. As the Reef, proper, was an island, they



OR, TUSCAN'S PEAK. 267

knew no enemy could find his way on it without coming
by water, or by passing over the narrow bridge which has
already been mentioned as crossing the little strait near
the spring. This rendered them tolerably easy for the
moment, though Mark had assured his companion it was
not possible for the canoes to get to the Reef under several
hours. Neither of the men could sleep, however, and they
thought it as well to be on the look-out, and in company,
as to be tossing about in their berths, or hammocks, by
themselves. The conversation turned on their prospects,
almost as a matter of course.

" We are somewhat short-handed, sir, to go to quarters
ag'in them vagabonds," observed Betts, in reply to some
remark of the governor's. "I counted a hundred and
three of their craft when they was off the Peak the other
day, and not one on 'em all had less than four hands aboard
it, while the biggest must have had fifty. All told, I do
think, Mr. Mark, they might muster from twelve to fifteen
hundred fighting men."

"That has been about my estimate of their force, Bob;
but, if they were fifteen thousand, we must bring them to
action, for we fight for everything."

"Ay, ay, sir"' answered Betts, ejecting the tobacco juice
in the customary way, " there's reason in roasted eggs, they
say, and there's reason in firing a few broadsides afore a
body gives up. What a different place this here rock's got
to be, sir, from what it was when you and I was floating
sea-weed and rafting loam to it, to make a melon or a cu
cumber bed ! Times is changed, sir, and we're now at
war. Then it was all peace and quiet ; and now it's all
hubbub and disturbance."

" We have got our wives here now, and that I think
you'll admit is something, Bob, when you remember the
pains taken by yourself to bring so great a happiness
about."

" Why, yes, sir I'll allow the wives is something "

" Ship ahoy !" hailed a voice in good English, and in
the most approved seaman-like tones of the voice.

The hail came from the margin of the island nearest to
the Reef, or that which was connected with the latter bv



268 THE CRATER;

means of the bridge, but not from a point very near the
latter.

" In the name of heavenly marcy !" exclaimed Betts,
" what can that mean, governor ?"

" I know that voice," said Mark, hurriedly : " and the
whole matter begins to clear up to me. Who hails the
Rancocus ?"

"Is that ship the Rancocus, then?" answered the voiee
from the island.

" The Rancocus, and no other are you not Bill Brown,
her late carpenter?"

"The very same, God bless you, Mr. Woolston, for I
now know your voice, too. I'm Bill, and right down glad
am I to have things turn out so. I half suspected the truth
when I saw a ship's spars this arternoon in this place,
though little did I think, yesterday, of ever seeing anything
more of the old 'Cocus. Can you give me a cast across
this bit of a ferry, sir ?"

"Are you alone, Bill or who have you for companions?"

"There's two on us, sir, only Jim Wattles and I
seven on us was saved in the launch ; Mr. Hillson and the
supercargo both dying afore we reached the land, as did
the other man, we seven still living, though only two on us
is here."

"Are there any black fellows with you? Any of the
natives ?"

" Not one, sir. We gave 'em the slip two hours ago, or
as soon as we saw the ship's masts, being bent on getting
afloat in some craft or other, in preference to stopping with
savages any longer. No, Mr. Woolston; no fear of them
to-night, for they are miles and miles to leeward, bothered
in the channels, where they'll be pretty sartain to pass the
night ; though you'll hear from 'em in the morning. Jim
and I took to our land tacks, meeting with a good oppor
tunity, and by running directly in the wind's eye, have
come out here. We hid ourselves till the canoes was out
of sight, and then we carried sail as hard as we could. So
give us a cast and take us aboard the old ship again, Mr.
Woolston, if you love a fellow-creatur', and an old ship
mate in distress."

Such was the singular dialogue which succeeded the



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 269

unexpected hail. It completely put a new face on things
at the Reef. As Brown was a valuable man, and one
whose word he had always relied on, Mark did not hesi
tate, but told him the direction to the bridge, where he and
Betts met him and Wattles, after each of the parties had
believed the others to be dead now fully three years !

The two recovered seamen of the Rancocus were alone,
having acted in perfect good faith with their former officer,
who led them to the awning, gave them some refreshment,
and heard their story. The account given by Jones, for
the first time that very day, turned out to be essentially
true. When the launch was swept away from the ship, it
drove down to leeward, passing at no great distance from
the crater, of which the men in her got a glimpse, without
being able to reach it. The attention of Hillson was mainly
given to keeping the boat from filling or capsizing; and
this furnished abundance of occupation. The launch got
into one of the channels, and by observing the direction,
which was nearly east and west, it succeeded in passing
through all the dangers, coming out to leeward of the
shoals. As everybody believed that the ship was hopelessly
lost, no effort was made to get back to the spot where she
had been left. No island appearing, Hillson determined
to run off to the westward, trusting to fall in with land
of some sort or other. The provisions and water were
soon consumed, and then came the horrors usual to such
scenes at sea. Hillson was one of the first that perished,
his previous excesses unfitting him to endure privation.
But seven survived when the launch reached an island in
Waally's part of the group, so often mentioned. There
they fell into the hands of that turbulent and warlike chief.
Waally made the seamen his slaves, treating them reasona
bly well, but exacting of them the closest attention to his
interests. Brown, as a ship-carpenter, soon became a fa
vourite, and was employed in fashioning craft that it was
thought might be useful in carrying out the ambitious pro
jects of his master. The men were kept on a small island,
and were watched like any other treasure, having no op
portunity to communicate with any of those whites who
appeared in other parts of the group. Thus, while Betts
passed two months with Ooroony. and Heaton and his
23*



270 THE CRATER;

party nearly as much more time, these sailors, who heard
of such visitors, could never get access to them. This
was partly owing to the hostilities between the two chiefs
Ooroony being then in the ascendant and partly owing
to the special projects of Waally, who, by keeping his pri
soners busily employed on his fleet, looked forward to the
success which, in fact, crowned his efforts against his
rival.

At length Waally undertook the expedition which had
appeared in such force beneath the cliffs of the Peak. By
this time, Brown had become so great a favourite, that he
was permitted to accompany the chief; and Wattles was
brought along as a companion for his shipmate. The re
maining five were left behind, to complete a craft on which
they had now been long employed, and which was intended
to be the invincible war-canoe of those regions. Brown
and Wattles had been in Waally's own canoe when the ter
rible echoes so much alarmed the uninstructed beings who
heard jt. They described them as much the most im
posing echoes they had ever heard ; nor did they, at first,
know what to make of them, themselves. It was only on
reflection, and after the retreat to Rancocus Island, that
Brown, by reasoning on the subject, came to the conclu
sion that the whites, who were supposed to be in possession
of the place, had fired a gun, which had produced the
astounding uproar that had rattled so far along the cliff.
As all Brown's sympathies were with the unknown people
of his own colour, he kept his conjectures to himself, and
managed to lead Waally in a different direction, by cer
tain conclusions of his own touching the situation of the
reef where the Rancocus had been lost.

Bill Brown was an intelligent man for his station and
pursuits. He knew the courses steered by the launch, and
had some tolerably accurate notions of the distances run.
According to his calculations, that reef could not be very
far to the northward of the Peak, and, by ascending the
ir ounta.ns on Rancocus Island, he either saw, or fancied
he Su v, the looming of land in that part of the ocean. It
then occurred to Brown that portions of the wreck might
still be found on the reef, and become the means of effect
ing his escape from the hands of his tyrants. Waaily



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 271

listened to his statements and conjectures with the utmost
attention, and the whole fleet put to sea the very next day,
in quest of this treasure. After paddling to windward
again, until the Peak was fairly in sight, Brown steered to
the north-east, a course that brought him out, after twenty-
four hours of toil, under the lee of the group of the reef.
This discovery of itself, filled Waally with exultation and
pride. Here were no cliffs to scale, no mysterious moun
tain to appal, nor any visible obstacle to oppose his con
quests. It is true, that the newly-discovered territory did
not appear to be of much value, little beside naked rock,
or broad fields of mud and sea-weed intermingled, reward
ing their first researches. But better things were hoped for.
It was something to men whose former domains were so
much circumscribed and girded by the ocean, to find even
a foundation for a new empire. Brown was now consulted
as to every step to be taken, and his advice was implicitly
followed. Columbus was scarcely a greater man, for the
time being, at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, than
Bill Brown immediately became at the court of Waally.
His words were received as prophecies, his opinions as
oracles.

Honest Bill, who anticipated no more from his discove
ries than the acquisition of certain portions of wood, iron,
and copper, with, perhaps, the addition of a little rigging,
certain sails and an anchor or two, acted, at first, for the
best interests of his master. He led the fleet along the
margin of the group until a convenient harbour was found.
Into this all the canoes entered, and a sandy beach sup
plying fresh water in abundance having been found, an en
campment was made for the night. Several hours of day
light remaining, however, when these great preliminary
steps had been taken, Brown proposed to Waally an ex
ploring expedition in a couple of the handiest of the canoes.
The people thus employed were those who had given the
alarm to the governor. On that occasion, not only was the
boat seen, but the explorers were near enough to the reef,
to discover not only the crater, but the spars of the ship.
Here, then, was a discovery scarcely less important than
that of the group itself! After reasoning on the facts,
Waally came to the conclusion that these, after all, were



272 THE CRATER;

the territories that Heaton and his party had come to seek,
and that here he should find those cows which he had once
seen, and which he coveted more than any other riches on
earth. Ooroony had been weak enough to allow strangers
in possession of things so valuable, to pass through his
islands; but he, Waally, was not the man to imitate this
folly. Brown, too, began to think that the white men
sought were to be found here. That whites were in the
group was plain enough by the ship, and he supposed they
might be fishing for the pearl-oyster, or gathering beche-le-
mar for the Canton market. It was just possible that a
colony had established itself in this unfrequented place, and
that the party of which he had heard so much, had come
hither with their stores and herds. Not the smallest suspi
cion at first crossed his mind that he there beheld the spars
of the Rancocus ; but, it was enough for him and Wattles
that Christian men were there, and that, in all probability,
they were men of the Anglo-Saxon race. No sooner was
it ascertained that the explorers were in a false channel,
and that it would not be in their power to penetrate farther
in their canoes, than our two seamen determined to run,
and attach themselves to the strangers. They naturally
thought that they should find a vessel armed and manned,
and ready to stand out to sea as soon as her officers were
apprized of the danger that threatened them, and did not
hesitate about joining their fortune with hers, in preference
to remaining with Waally any longer. Freedom possesses
a charm for which no other advantage can compensate, and
those two old sea-dogs, who had worked like horses all their
lives, in their original calling, preferred returning to the
ancient drudgery rather than live with Waally, in the rude
abundance of savage chiefs. The escape was easily enough
made, as soon as it was dark, Brown and Wattles being on
shore most of the time, under the pretence that it was ne
cessary, in order that they might ascertain the character
of thef,e unknown colonists by signs understood best by
themselves.

Such is a brief outline of the explanations that the two
recovered seamen made to their former officer. In return,
the governor as briefly related to them the manner in which
the ship had been saved, and the history of the colony dowo



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 273

to that moment. When both tales had been told, a consul
tation on the subject of future proceedings took place, quite
as a matter of course. Brown, and his companion, though
delighted to meet their old ship-mates, were greatly disap
pointed in not finding a sea-going vessel ready to receive
them. They did not scruple to say that had they known
the actual state of things on the Reef, they would not have
left the savages, but trusted to being of more service even
to their natural friends, by continuing with Waally, in their
former relation, than by taking the step they had. Re
pentance, or regrets, however, came too late; and now
they were fairly in for it, neither expressed any other de
termination than to stand by the service into which they
had just entered, honestly, if not quite as gladly as they
had anticipated.

The governor and Betts both saw that Brown and Wat
tles entertained a high respect for the military prowess of
the Indian chief. They pronounced him to be not only a
bold, but an adroit warrior ; one, full of resources and in
genuity, when his means were taken into the account.
The number of -men with him, however, Brown assured
Mark, was less than nine hundred, instead of exceeding a
thousand, as had been supposed from the count made on
the cliffs. As it now was explained, a great many women
were in the canoes. Waally, moreover, was not altogether
without fire-arms. He was master of a dozen old, imper
fect muskets, and what was more, he had a four-pound
gun. Ammunition, however, was very scarce, and of shot
for his gun he had but three. Each of these shot had been
fired several times, in his wars with Ooroony, and days
had been spent in hunting them up, after they had done
their work, and of replacing them in the chief's magazine.
Brown could not say that they had done much mischief,
having, in every instance, being fired at long distances,
and with a very uncertain aim. The business of sighting
guns was not very well understood by the great mass of
Christians, half a century since ; and it is not at all sur
prising that savages should know little or nothing about it.
Waally's gunners, according to Brown's account of the
jnatter, could never be made to understand that the bore
of a gun waa not exactly parallel to its exterior surface,



274 THE CRATER;

and they invariably aimed too high, by sighting along the
upper side of the piece. This same fault is very common
with the inexperienced in using a musket ; for, anxious to
get a sight of the end of their piece, they usually stick it
up into the air and overshoot their object. It was the
opinion of Brown, on the whole, that little was to be ap
prehended from Waally's fire-arms. The spear and club
were the weapons to be dreaded ; and with these the
islanders were said to be very expert. But the disparity
in numbers was the main ground of apprehension.

When Brown was told how near the schooner was to
being launched, he earnestly begged the governor to let
him and Bigelow go to work and put her into the water,
immediately. Everything necessary to a cruise was on
board her, even to her provisions and water, the arrange
ments having been made to launch her with her sails bent ;
and, once in the water, Bill thought she would prove of
the last importance to the defence. If the worst came to
the worst, all hands could get on board her, and by stand
ing through some of the channels that were clear of canoes,
escape into the open water. Once there, Waally could do
nothing with them, and they might be governed by cir
cumstances.

Woolston viewed things a little differently. He loved
the Reef; it had become dear to him by association and
history, and he did not relish the thought of abandoning it.
There was too much property at risk, to say nothing of the
ship, which would doubtless be burned for its metals, should
the Indians get possession, even for a day. In that ship
he had sailed ; in that ship he had been married ; in that
ship his daughter had been born ; and in that ship Bridget
loved still to dwell, even more than she affected all the glo
ries of the Eden of the Peak. That ship was not to be
given up to savages without a struggle Nor did Mark
believe anything would be gained by depriving the men of
their r^st during the accustomed hours. Early in the
morning, with the light itself, he did intend to have Bigelow
under the schooner's bottom ; but he saw no occasion for
his working in the dark. Launching was a delicate busi
ness, and some accident might happen in the obscurity.
Aftei talking the matter over, therefore, all hands retired



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 375

to rest, leaving one woman at the crater, and one on board
the ship, on the look-out ; women being preferred to men,
on this occasion, in order that the latter might reserve their
strength for the coming struggle.

At the appointed hour next morning, every one on the
Reef was astir at the first peep of day. No disturbance
had occurred in the night, and, what is perhaps a little
remarkable, the female sentinels had not given any false
alarm. As soon as a look from the Summit gave the go
vernor reason to believe that Waally was not very near
him, he ordered preparations to be made for the launch of
the Friend Abraham White. A couple of hours' work was
still required to complete this desirable task ; and every
body set about his or her assigned duty with activity and
zeal. Some of the women prepared the breakfast; others
carried ammunition to the different guns, while Betts went
round and loaded them, one and all ; and others, again,
picked up such articles of value as had been overlooked in
the haste of the previous evening, carrying them either
into the crater, or on board the ship.

On examining his fortifications by daylight, the governor
resolved to set up something more secure in the way of a
gate for the crater. He also called off two or three of the
men to get out the boarding-netting of the ship, which was
well provided in that respect ; a good provision having been
made, by way of keeping the Fejee people at arms' length.
These two extraordinary offices delayed the work on the
ways ; and when the whole colony went to breakfast, which
they did about an hour after sunrise, the schooner was nox
yet in the water, though quite ready to be put there. Mark
announced that there was no occasion to be in a hurry j
no canoes were in sight, and there was time to have every
thing done deliberately and in order.

This security came very near proving fatal to the whole
party. Most of the men breakfasted under the awning,
which was near their work ; while the women took that
meal in their respective quarters. Some of the last were
in the crater, and some in the ship. It will be remembered
that the awning was erected near the spring, and that the
spring was but a short distance from the bridge. This
bridge, it will also be recollected, connected the Reef with



276 THE CRATER;

an island fhat stretched away for miles, and which had
formed the original range for the swine, after the changes
that succeeded the eruption. It was composed of merely
two long ship's planks, the passage being only some fifty or
sixty feet in width.

The governor, now, seldom ate with his people. He
knew enough of human nature to understand that authority
was best preserved by avoiding familiarity. Besides, there
is, in truth, no association more unpleasant to those whose
manners have been cultivated, than that of the table, with
the rude and unrefined. Bridget, for instance, could
hardly be expected to eat with the wives of the seamen ;
and Mark naturally wished to eat with his own family. On
that occasion he had taken his meal in the cabin of the
Rancocus, as usual, and had come down to the awning to
see that the hands turned-to as soon as they were through
with their own breakfasts. Just as he was about to issue
the necessary order, the air was filled with frightful yells,
and a stream of savages poured out of an opening in the
'ocks, on to the plain of the " hog pasture," as the adjoin
ing field was called, rushing forward in a body towards the
crater. They had crept along under the rocks by follow
ing a channel, and now broke cover within two hundred
yards of the point they intended to assail.

The governor behaved admirably on this trying occasion.
He issued his orders clearly, calmly, and promptly. Call
ing on Bigelow and Jones by name, he ordered them to
withdraw the bridge, which could easily be done by haul
ing over the planks by means of wheels that had long been
fitted for that purpose. The bridge withdrawn, the chan
nel, or harbour, answered all the purposes of a ditch;
though the South Sea islanders would think but little of
swimming across it. Of course, Waally's men knew no
thing of this bridge, nor did they know of the existence of
the basin between them and their prey. They rushed di
rectly towards the ship-yard, and loud were their yells of
disappointment when they found a broad reach of water
still separating them from the whites. Naturally they
looked for the point of connection ; but, by this time, th
planks were wheeled in, and the communication was sev
ered. At this instant, Waally had all his muskets dis



OR, VtTLCAN*S PEAK. 277

charged, and the gun fired from the catamaran, on which
it was mounted. No one was injured by this volley, but a
famous noise was made ; and noise passed for a good deal
in the warfare of that day and region.

It was now the turn of the colonists. At the first alarm
everybody rushed to arms, and every post was manned, or
womaned, in a minute. On the poop of the ship was



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 25 of 42)