James Fenimore Cooper.

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munities affect a great sensibility when the long-slumbering
young lion of the West rouses himself in his lair, after
twenty years of forbearance, and stretches out a paw in
resentment for outrages that no other nation, conscious of
his strength, would have endured for as many months, be
cause, forsooth, he is the young lion of the West. Never
mind : by the time New Zealand and Tahiti are brought
under the yoke, the Californians may be admitted to an
equal participation in the rights of American citizens.

The governor was fully aware of the danger he ran of
having claims, of some sort or other, set up to his islands,
if he revealed their existence ; and he took the greatest
pains to conceal the fact. The arrival of the Rancocus
was mentioned in the papers, as a matter of course ; but it
was in a way to induce the reader to suppose she had met
with her accident in the midst of a naked reef, and princi
pally through the loss of her men ; and that, when a few
of the last were regained, the voyage was successfully re
sumed and terminated. In that day, the great discovery
had not been made that men were merely incidents of
newspapers; but the world had the folly to believe that
newspapers were incidents of society, and were subject to
its rules and interests. Some respect was paid to private
rights, and the reign of gossip had not commenced.*

* We hold in our possession a curious document, the publication
of which might rebuke this spirit of gossip, and give a salutary
warning to certain managers of the press, who no sooner hear a
rumour than they think themselves justified in embalming it among
the other truths of their daily sheets. The occurrences of life
brought us in collision, legally, with an editor ; and we obtained a
rerdict against him. Dissatisfied with defeat, as is apt to be the
case, he applied for a new trial. Such an application was to be
sustained by affidavits, and he made his own, as usual. Now, in
this affidavit, our competitor swore distinctly and unequivocally to
certain alleged facts (we think to the number of six), every one
of which was untrue. Fortunately for the party implicated, tb


In the last century, however, matters were not carried!
quite so far as they are at present. No part of this com
munity, claiming any portion of respectability, was willing
to publish its own sense of inferiority so openly, as to gos
sip about its fellow-citizens, for no more direct admissions
of inferiority can be made than this wish to comment on
the subject of any one's private concerns. Consequently
Mark and his islands escaped. There was no necessity
for his telling the insurers anything about the Peak, for
instance, and on that part of the subject, therefore, he
wisely held his tongue. Nothing, in short, was said of any
colony at all. The manner in which the crew had been
driven away to leeward, and recovered, was told minutely,
and the whole process by which the ship was saved. The
property used, Mark said had been appropriated to his
wants, without going into details, and the main results
being so very satisfactory, the insurers asked no further.

As soon as off the capes, the governor set about a serious
investigation of the state of his affairs. In the way of
cargo, a great many articles had been laid in, which ex
perience told him would be useful. He took with him
such farming tools as Friend Abraham White had not .
thought of furnishing to the natives of Fejee, and a few
seeds that had been overlooked by that speculating philan
thropist. There were half a dozen more cows on board,
as well as an improved breed of hogs. Mark carried out,
also, a couple of mares, for, while many horses could never
be much needed in his islands, a few would always be ex
ceedingly useful. Oxen were much wanted, but one of
his new colonists had yoked his cows, and it was thought

natter sworn to was purely ad captandum stuff, and, in a legal
sense, not pertinent to the issue. This prevented it from being
perjury in law. Still, it was all untrue, and nothing was easier
than to show it. Now, we do not doubt that the person thu
swearing believed all that he swore to, or he would not have had
the extreme folly to expose himself as he did ; but he was so much
in the habit of publishing gossip in his journal, that, when an oc
casion arrived, he did not hesitate about swearing to what he had
read in other journals, without taking the trouble to inquire if il
were true ! One of these days we may lay all this, along with
much other similar proof of the virtue there is in gossip, so plainly
before the world, that he who runs may read.


fhey might be made useful, in a moderate degree, until
their stoutet substitutes could be reared. Carts and wa
gons were provided in sufficient numbers. A good stock
of iron in bars was laid in, in addition to that which was
wrought into nails, and other useful articles. Several
thousand dollars in coin were also provided, being princi
pally in small pieces, including copper. But all the emi
grants took more or less specie with them.

A good deal of useful lumber was stowed in the lower
hold, though the mill by this time furnished a pretty good
home supply. The magazine was crammed with ammuni
tion, and the governor had purchased four light field-guns,
two three-pounders and two twelve-pound howitzers, with
their equipments. He had also brought six long iron
twelves, ship-guns, with their carriages &c. The last he
intended for his batteries, the carronades being too light
for steady work, and throwing their shot too wild for a
long range. The last could be mounted on board the dif
ferent vessels. The Rancocus, also, had an entire new
armament, having left all her old guns but two behind
her. Two hundred muskets were laid in, with fifty brace
of pistols. In a word, as many arms were provided as it
was thought could, in any emergency, become necessary.

But it was the human portion of his cargo that the
governor, rightly enough, deemed to be of the greatest
importance. Much care had been bestowed on the selec
tion, which had given all concerned in it not a little trou
ble. Morals were the first interest attended to. No one
was received but those who bore perfectly good characters.
The next thing was to make a proper division among the
various trades and pursuits of life. There were carpen
ters, masons, blacksmiths, tailors, shoemakers, &c., or, one
of each, and sometimes more. Every man was married,
the only exceptions being in the cases of younger brothers
and sisters, of whom about a dozen were admitted along
with their relatives. The whole of the ships' betwixt
decks was fitted up for the reception of these emigrants,
who were two hundred and seven in number, besides chil
dren. Of the last there were more than fifty, but they
were principally of an age to allow of their being put into
holes and corners.


Mark Woolston was much too sensible a man to fall into
any of the modern absurdities on the subject of equality,
and a community of interests. One or two individuals,
even in that day, had wished to accompany him, who were
for forming an association in which all property should be
shared in common, and ia which nothing was to be done
but that which was right. Mark had not the least objec
tion in the world to the last proposition, and would have
been glad enough to see it carried out to the letter, though
he differed essentially with the applicants, as to the mode
of achieving so desirable an end. He was of opinion that
civilization could not exist without property, or property
without a direct personal interest in both its accumulation
and its preservation. They, on the other hand, were car
ried away by the crotchet that community-labour was better
than individual labour, and that a hundred men would be
happier and better off with their individualities compressed
into one, than by leaving them in a hundred subdivisions, aa
they had been placed by nature. The theorists might have
been right, had it been in their power to compress a hun
dred individuals into one, but it was not. After all their
efforts, they would still remain a hundred individuals, merely
banded together under more restraints, and with less liberty
than are common.

Of all sophisms, that is the broadest which supposes per
sonal liberty is extended by increasing the power of the
community. Individuality is annihilated in a thousand
things, by the community-power that already exists in this
country, where persecution often follows from a man's
thinking and acting differently from his neighbours, though
the law professes to protect him. The reason why this
power becomes so very formidable, and is often so oppres
sively tyrannical in its exhibition, is very obvious. In
countries where the power is in the hands of the few, public
sympathy often sustains the man who resists its injustice ;
but no public sympathy can sustain him who is oppressed
by the public itself. This oppression does not often exhibit
itself in the form of law, but rather in its denial. He, who
has a clamour raised against him by numbers, appeals in
rain to numbers for justice, though his claim may be clear
ts the sun at noon-day. The divided responsibility of bo-


dies of men prevents anything like the control of con
science, and the most ruthless wrongs are committed,
equally without reflection and without remorse.

Mark Woolston had thought too much on the subject, to
be the dupe of any of these visionary theories. Instead of
fancying that men never knew anything previously to the
last ten years of the eighteenth century, he was of the
opinion of the wisest man who ever lived, that ' there was
nothing new under the sun.' That ' circumstances might
alter cases' he was willing enough to allow, nor did he
intend to govern the crater by precisely the same laws as
he would govern Pennsylvania, or Japan ; but he well under
stood, nevertheless, that certain great moral truths existed
as the law of the human family, and that they were not to
be set aside by visionaries; and least of all, with impunity.

Everything connected with the colony was strictly practi
cal. The decision of certain points had unquestionably given
the governor trouble, though he got along with them pretty
well, on the whole. A couple of young lawyers had desired
to go, but he had the prudence to reject them. Law, as a
science, is a very useful study, beyond a question; but
the governor, rightly enough, fancied that his people could
do without so much science for a few years longer. Then
another doctor volunteered his services. Mark remem
bered the quarrels between his father and his father-in-law,
and thought it better to die under one theory than under
two. As regards a clergyman, Mark had greater diffi
culty. The question of sect was not as seriously debated
half a century ago as it is to-day; still it was debated.
Bristol had a very ancient society, of the persuasion of
the Anglican church, and Mark's family belonged to it.
Bridget, however, was a Presbyterian, and no small por
tion of the new colonists were what is called Wet-Quakers ;
that is, Friends who are not very particular in their opi
nions or observances. Now, religion often caused more
feuds than anything else ; still it was impossible to have a
priest for every persuasion, and one ought to suffice for the
whole colony. The question was of what sect should that
one clergyman be ? So many prejudices were to be con-
ulted, that the governor was about to abandon the project
in despair, when accident determined the point. Among


Heaton's relatives was a young man of the name of Horn
blower, no bad appellation, by the way, for one who had
to sound so many notes of warning, who had received
priest's orders from the hands of the well-known Dr.
White, so long the presiding Bishop of America, and
whose constitution imperiously demanded a milder climate
than that in which he then lived. As respects him, it be
came a question purely of humanity, the divine being too
poor to travel on his own account, and he was received on
board the Rancocus, with his wife, his sister, and two
children, that he might have the benefit of living within
the tropics. The matter was fully explained to the other
emigrants, who could not raise objections if they would,
but who really were not disposed to do so in a case of
such obvious motives. A good portion of them, probably,
came to the conclusion that Episcopalian ministrations
were better than none, though, to own the truth, the
liturgy gave a good deal of scandal to a certain portion of
their number. Reading prayers was so profane a thing,
that these individuals could scarcely consent to be present
at such a vain ceremony ; nor was the discontent, on this
preliminary point, fully disposed of until the governor once
asked the principal objector how he got along with the
Lord's Prayer, which was not only written and printed,
but which usually was committed to memory ! Notwith
standing this difficulty, the emigrants did get along with il
without many qualms, and most of them dropped quietly
into the habit of worshipping agreeably to a liturgy, just
as if it were not the terrible profanity that some of them
had imagined. In this way, many of our most intense pre
judices get lost in new communications.

It is not our intention to accompany the Rancocus,
day by day, in her route. She touched at Rio, and
sailed again at the end of eight and forty hours. The
passage round the Horn was favourable, and having got
well to the westward, away the ship went for her port.
One of the cows got down, and died before it could be re
lieved, in a gale off the cape; but no other accident worth
mentioning occurred. A child died with convulsions, in
consequence of teething, a few days later ; but this did not
diminish the number on board, as three were born the


same week. The ship had now been at sea one hundred
and sixty days, counting the time passed at Rio, and a
general impatience to arrive pervaded the vessel. If the
truth must be said, some of the emigrants began to doubt
the governor's ability to find his islands again, though none
doubted of their existence. The Kannakas, however, de
clared that they began to smell home, and it is odd enough,
that this declaration, coming as it did from ignorant men,
who made it merely on a fanciful suggestion, obtained
more credit with most of the emigrants, than all the gover
nor's instruments and observations.

One day, a little before noon it was, Mark appeared on
deck with his quadrant, and as he cleaned the glasses of
the instrument, he announced his conviction that the ship
would shortly make the group of the crater. A current
had set him further north than he intended to go, but
having hauled up to southwest, he waited only for noon to
ascertain his latitude, to be certain of his position. As
the governor maintained a proper distance from his people,
and was not in the habit of making unnecessary commu
nications to them, his present frankness told for so much
the more, and it produced a very general excitement in the
ship. All eyes were on the look-out for land, greatly in
creasing the chances of its being shortly seen. The ob
servation came at noon, as is customary, and the governor
found he was about thirty miles to the northward of the
group of islands he was seeking. By his calculation, he
was still to the eastward of it, and he hauled up, hoping to
fall in with the land well to windward. After standing on
three hours in the right direction, the look-outs from the
cross-trees declared no land was visible ahead. For one
moment the dreadful apprehension of the group's having
sunk under another convulsion of nature crossed Mark's
mind, but he entertained that notion for a minute only.
Then came the cry of " sail ho !" to cheer everybody, and
to give them something else to think of.

This was the first vessel the Rancocus had seen since
she left Rio. It was to windward, and appeared to be
standing down before the wind. In an hour's time the
two vessels were near enough to each other to enable the
glass to distinguish objects; and the quarter-deck, on board


the Rancocus, were all engaged in looking at the stran
ger. *

" 'Tis the Mermaid," said Mark to Beits, " and it's all
right. Though what that craft can be doing here to wind
ward of the islands is more than I can imagine !"

" Perhaps, sir, they's a cruising arter us," answered
Bob. " This is about the time they ought to be expectin'
on us ; and who knows but Madam Woolston and Friend
Marthy may not have taken it into their heads to come out
a bit to see arter their lawful husbands?"

The governor smiled at this conceit, but continued his
observations in silence.

" She behaves very strangely, Betts," Mark, at length,
said. " Just take a look at her. She yaws like a galliot
in a gale, and takes the whole road like a drunken man.
There can be no one at the helm."

"And how lubberly, sir, her canvas is set ! Just look at
that main-taw-sail, sir ; one of the sheets isn't home by a
fathom, while the yard is braced in, till it 's almost aback !"

The governor walked the deck for five minutes in in
tense thought, though occasionally he stopped to look at
the brig, now within a league of them. Then he suddenly
called out to Bob, to " see all clear for action, and to ge^
everything ready to go to quarters."

This order set every one in motion. The women ana
children were hurried below, and the men, who had been
constantly exercised, now, for five months, took their sta
tions with the regularity of old seamen. The guns were
cast loose ten eighteen-pound carronades and two nines,
the new armament cartridges were got ready, shot placed
at hand, and all the usual dispositions for combat were
made. While this was doing, the two vessels were fast
drawing nearer to each other, and were soon within gun
shot. But, no one on board the Rancocus knew what to
make of the evolutions of the Mermaid. Most of her or
dinary square-sails were set, though not one of them all
was sheeted home, or well hoisted. An attempt had been
made to lay the yards square, but one yard-arm was braced
in too far, another not far enough, and nothing like order
appeared to have prevailed at the sail-trimming. But, the
conning of the brig was the most remarkable. Her general


course would seem to be dead before the wind ; but she
yawed incessantly, and often so broadly, as to catch some
of her light sails aback. Most vessels take a good deai of
room in running down before the wind, and in a sw<jll ;
but the Mermaid took a great deal more than was com
mon, and could scarce be said to look any way in par
ticular. All this the governor observed, as the vessels
approached nearer and nearer, as well as the movements
of those of the crew who showed themselves in the rig

" Clear away a bow-gun," cried Mark, to Betts " some
thing dreadful must have happened ; that brig is in posses
sion of the savages, who do not know how to handle her !"

This announcement produced a stir on board the Ran-
cocus, as may well be imagined. If the savages had the
brig, they probably had the group also ; and what had be
come of the colonists? The next quarter of an hour was
one of the deepest expectation with all in the ship, and of
intense agony with Mark. Betts was greatly disturbed
also ; nor would it have been safe for one of Waally's men
to have been within reach of his arm, just then. Coufd it
be possible that Ooroony had yielded to temptation and
played them false? The governor could hardly believe it;
and, as for Betts, he protested loudly it could not be so.

" Is that bow-gun ready ?" demanded the governor.

"Ay, ay, sir ; all ready."

" Fire, but elevate well we will only frighten them, at
first. Wo betide them, if they resist."

Betts did fire, and to the astonishment of everybody, the
brig returned a broadside ! But resistance ceased with this
one act of energy, if it could be so termed. Although five
guns were actually fired, and nearly simultaneously, no
aim was even attempted. The shot all flew off at a tan
gent from the position of the ship ; and no harm was done
to any but the savages themselves, of whom three or four
were injured by the recoils. From the moment the noise
and smoke were produced, everything like order ceased
on board the brig, which was filled with savages. The
vessel broached to, and the sails caught aback. All this
time, the Rancocus was steadily drawing nearer, with an
intent to board ; but, unwilling to expose his people, most


of whom were unpractised in strife, in a hand-to-hand eon
flict with ferocious savages, the governor ordered a gun
loaded with grape to be discharged into the brig. This
decided the affair at once. Half a dozen were killed or
wounded ; some ran below ; a few took refuge in the top ;
but most, without the slightest hesitation, jumped over
board. To the surprise of all who saw them, the men in
the water began to swim directly to windward ; a circum
stance which indicated that either land or canoes were to
be found in that quarter of the ocean. Seeing the state
of things on board the brig, Mark luffed up under her
counter, and laid her aboard. In a minute, he and twenty
chosen men were on her decks; in another, the vessels
were again clear of each other, and the Mermaid under

No sooner did the governor discharge his duties as a
seaman, than he passed below. In the cabin he found Mr.
Saunders, (or Captain Saunders, as he was called by the
colonists,) bound hand and foot. His steward was in the
same situation, and Bigelow was found, also a prisoner, in
the steerage. These were all the colonists on board, and
all but two who had been on board, when the vessel was

Captain Saunders could tell the governor very little more
than he saw with his own eyes. One fact of importance,
however, he could and did communicate, which was this :
Instead of being to windward of the crater, as Mark sup
posed, he was to leeward of it; the currents no doubt
having set the ship to the westward faster than had been
thought. Rancocus Island would have been made by sun
set, had the ship stood on in the course she was steering
when she made the Mermaid.

But the most important fact was the safety of the fe
males. They were all at the Peak, where they had lived
for the last six months, or ever since the death of the good
Ooroony had again placed Waally in the ascendant.
Ooroony's son was overturned immediately on the decease
of the father, who died a natural death, and Waally disre
garded the taboo, which he persuaded his people could
have no sanctity as applied to the whites. The plunder of
these last, with the possession of the treasure of iron and


copper that was to be found in their vessels, had indeed
been the principal bribe with which the turbulent and
ambitious chief regained his power. The war did not
break out, however, as soon as Waally had effected the
revolution in his own group. On the contrary, that wily
politician had made so many protestations of friendship
after that event, which he declared to be necessary to the
peace of his island ; had collected so much sandal-wood,
and permitted it to be transferred to the crater, where a
cargo was already stored ; and had otherwise made so
many amicable demonstrations, as completely to deceive
the colonists. No one had anticipated an invasion ; but,
on the contrary, preparations were making at the Peak for
the reception of Mark, whose return had now been ex
pected daily for a fortnight.

The Mermaid had brought over a light freight of wood
from Betto's group, and had discharged at the crater. This
done, she had sailed with the intention of going out to
cruise for the Rancocus, to carry the news of the colony,
all of which was favourable, with the exception of the
death of Ooroony and the recent events ; but was lying in
the roads, outside of everything the Western Roads, as
they were called, or those nearest to the other group
waiting for the appointed hour of sailing, which was to be
the very morning of the day in which she was fallen in
with by the governor. Her crew consisted only of Cap
tain Saunders, Bigelow, the cook and steward, and two
of the people engaged at Canton one of whom was a
very good-for-nothing Chinaman. The two last had the
look-out, got drunk, and permitted a fleet of hostile canoes
to get alongside in the dark, being knocked on the head

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 28 of 42)