James Fenimore Cooper.

Works (Volume 29) online

. (page 32 of 42)
Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 32 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ing was a task of some gravity. The walls of the house
were got up in about six months after the work was com
menced, and the building was roofed; but, though the
gardeners were set to work as soon as the stones were out
of the cavities, they had not filled more than two acres at
the end of the period mentioned.

Determined to make an end of this great work at once,
the Abraham was sent over to young Ooroony to ask for
assistance. Glad enough was that chief to grant what was
demanded of him, and he came himself, at the head of five
hundred men, to aid his friend in finishing this task. Efen
this strong body of labourers was busy two months longer,
before the governor pronounced the great end accomplished.
Then he dismissed his neighbours with such gifts and pay
as sent away everybody contented. Many persons thought
the experiment of bringing so many savages to the Reef
somewhat hazardous ; but no harm ever came of it. On
the contrary, the intercourse had a good effect, by making
the two people better acquainted with each other. The
governor had a great faculty in the management of those
wild beings. He not only kept them in good-humour, but
what was far more difficult, he made them work. They
were converted into a sort of Irish for his colony. It is
true, one civilized man could do more than three of the
Kannakas, but the number of the last was so large that they
accomplished a great deal during their stay.

Nor would the governor have ventured to let such dan
gerous neighbours into the group, had there not been still
more imposing mysteries connected with the Peak, into



344 THE CRATER;

which they were not initiated. Even young oreony was
kept in ignorance of what was to be found on that dreaded
island. He saw vessels going and coming, knew that the
governor often went there, saw strange faces appearing oc
casionally on the Reef, that were understood to belong to
the unknown land, and probably to a people who were
much more powerful than those who were in direct com
munication with the natives.

The governor induced his Kannakas to work by interest
ing them in the explosions of the blasts, merely to enjoy
the pleasure of seeing a cart-load of rock torn from its bed.
One of these men would work at a drill all day, and then
carry off the fragments to be placed in the walls, after he
had had his sport in this operation of blasting. They
seemed never to tire of the fun, and it was greatly ques
tioned if half as much labour could have been got out of
them at any other work, as at this.

A good deal of attention was paid to rendering the soil
of the colony garden fertile, as well as deep. In its shal
lowest places it exceeded a foot in depth, and in the deepest,
spots where natural fissures had aided the drill, it required
four or five feet of materials to form the level. These deep
places were all marked, and were reserved for the support
of trees. Not only was sand freely mixed with the 'mud,
or muck, but sea-weed in large quantities was laid near the
surface, and finally covered with the soil. In this manner
was a foundation made that could not fail to sustain a gar
den luxuriant in its products, aided by the genial heat and
plentiful rains of the climate. Shrubs, flowers, grass, and
ornamental trees, however, were all the governor aimed at
in these public grounds; the plain of the crater furnishing
fruit and vegetables in an abundance, as yet far exceeding
the wants of the whole colony. The great danger, indeed,
that the governor most apprehended, was that the benefi
cent products of the region would render his people indo
lent ; an idle nation becoming, almost infallibly, vicious as
well as ignorant. It was with a view to keep the colony
on the advance, and to maintain a spirit of improvement
that so much attention was so early bestowed on wha
might otherwise be regarded as purely intellectual pursuits



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 345

which, by creating new wants, might induce their subjects
to devise the means of supplying them.

The governor judged right ; for tastes are commonly ac
quired by imitation, and when thus acquired, they take the
strongest hold of those who cultivate them. The effect
produced by the Colony Garden, or public grounds, was
such as twenty-fold to return the cost and labour bestowed
on it. The sight of such an improvement set both men
and women to work throughout the group, and not a dwell
ing was erected in the town, that the drill did not open the
rock, and mud and sand form a garden. Nor did the go
vernor himself confine his horticultural improvements to
the gardens mentioned. Before he sent away his legion of
five hundred, several hundred blasts were made in isolated
spots on the Reef; places where the natural formation fa
voured such a project ; and holes were formed that would
receive a boat-load of soil each. In these places trees were
set out, principally cocoa-nuts, and such other plants as
were natural to the situation, due care being taken to see
that each had sufficient nourishment.

The result of all this industry was to produce a great
change in the state of things at the Reef. In addition to
the buildings erected, and to the gardens made and planted,
within the town itself, the whole surface of the island was
more or less altered. Verdure soon made its appearance
in places where, hitherto, nothing but naked rock had been
seen, and trees began to cast their shades over the young
and delicious grasses. As for the town itself, it was cer
tainly no great matter; containing about twenty dwellings,
and otherwise being of very modest pretensions. Those
who dwelt there were principally such mechanics as found
it convenient to be at the centre of the settlement, some
half a dozen persons employed about the warehouses of
the merchants, a few officials of the government, and the
families of those who depended mainly on the sea for their
support. Each and all of these heads of families had
drawn their lots, both in the group and on the Peak,
though some had sold their rights the better to get a good
start in their particular occupations. The merchants,
however, established themselves on the Reef, as a rrfatter
of necessity, each causing a warehouse to be constructed



346 THE CRATER;

near the water, with tackles and all the usual conveniences
for taking in and delivering goods. Each also had his
dwelling near at hand. As these persons had come well
provided for the Indian trade in particular, having large
stocks of such cheap and coarse articles as took with the
natives, they were already driving a profitable business, re-
ceiving considerable quantities of sandal-wood in exchange
for their goods.

It is worthy of being mentioned, that the governor and
council early passed a sort of navigation act, the effect of
which was to secure the carrying trade to the colony. The
motive, however, was more to keep the natives within safe
limits, than to monopolize the profits of the seas. By the
provisions of this law, no canoe could pass from Betto's
group to either of the islands of the colony, without ex
press permission from the governor. In order to carry on
the trade, the parties met on specified days at Ooroony's
village, and there made their exchanges; vessels being
sent from the Reef to bring away the sandal-wood. With
a view to the final transportation of the last to a market,
Saunders had been instructed to purchase a suitable vessel,
which was to return with the Rancocus, freighted with
such heavy and cheap implements as were most wanted in
the colony, including cows and mares in particular. Phy
sical force, in the shape of domestic animals, was greatly
wanted ; and it was perhaps the most costly of all the sup
plies introduced into the settlements. Of horned cattle
there were already about five-and-twenty head in the co
lony enough to make sure of the breed; but they were
either cows, steers too young to be yet of much use, and
calves. Nothing was killed, of course ; but so much time
must pass before the increase would give the succour
wanted, that the governor went to unusual expense and
trouble to make additions to the herd from abroad.

As for the horses, but three had been brought over, two
of which were mares. The last had foaled twice; and
there were four colts, all doing well, but wanting age to
be useful. All the stock of this character was kept on the
Peak, in order to secure it from invaders ; and the old
-animals, even to the cows, were lightly worked there, doing
a vast deal that would otherwise remain undone. It was



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 347

t> obviously advantageous to increase the amount of this
sort of force, that Saunders had strict orders to purchase
the vessel mentioned, and to bring over as many beasts as
he could conveniently and safely stow. With this object
in view, he was directed to call in, on the western side of
Cape Horn, and to make his purchases in South America.
The horned cattle might not be so good, coming from such
a quarter, but the dangers of doubling the Cape would be
avoided.

While making these general and desultory statements
touching the progress of the colony, it may be well to say
a word of Rancocus Island. The establishments neces
sary there, to carry on the mills, lime and brick kilns, and
the stone-quarry, induced the governor to erect a small
work, in which the persons employed in that out-colony
might take refuge, in the event of an invasion. This was
done accordingly ; and two pieces of artillery were regu
larly mounted on it. Nor was the duty of fortifying ne
glected elsewhere. As for the Peak, it was not deemed
necessary to do more than improve a little upon nature ;
the colony being now too numerous to suppose that it
could not defend the cove against any enemy likely to land
there, should the entrance of that secret haven be detected.
On the Reef, however, it was a very different matter. That
place was as accessible as the other was secure. The con
struction of so many stout stone edifices contributed largely
to the defence of the town ; but the governor saw the ne
cessity of providing the means of commanding the ap
proaches by water. Four distinct passages, each corre
sponding to a cardinal point of the compass, led from the
crater out to sea. As the south passage terminated at the
bridge, it was sufficiently commanded by the Colony House.
But all the others were wider, more easy of approach, and
less under the control of the adjacent islands. But the
Summit had points whence each might be raked by guns
properly planted, and batteries were accordingly con
structed on these points; the twelve-pounder being used
for their armaments. Each battery had two guns; and
when all was completed, it was the opinion of the governor
that the post was sufficiently well fortified. In order, how
ever, to give additional security, the crater was tabooed to



348 THE CRATER;

all the Kannakas; not one of whom was permitted eve? t&
enter it, or even to go near it.

But defence, and building, and making soil, did not al
together occupy the attention of the colonists during these
important twelve months. Both the brothers of the go
vernor got married ; the oldest, or the attorney-general, to
the oldest sister of John Pennock, and the youngest to a sis
ter of the Rev. Mr. Hornblower. It was in this simple colo
ny, as it ever has been, and ever will be in civilized society,
that, in forming matrimonial connections, like looks for
like. There was no person, or family at the Reef which
could be said to belong to the highest social class of Ame
rica, if, indeed, any one could rank as high as a class
immediately next to the highest ; yet, distinctions existed
which were maintained usefully, 'and without a thought of
doing them away. The notion that money alone makes
those divisions into castes which are everywhere to be
found, and which will probably continue to be found as
long as society itself exists, is a very vulgar and fallacious
notion. It comes from the difficulty of appreciating those
tastes and qualities which, not possessing ourselves, are so
many unknown and mysterious influences. In marrying
Sarah Pennock, John Woolston was slightly conscious of
making a little sacrifice in these particulars, but she was a
very pretty, modest girl, of a suitable age, and the circle to
choose from, it will be remembered, was very limited. In
America that connection might not have taken place ; but,
at the crater, it was all well enough, and it turned out to
be a very happy union. Had the sacrifice of habits and
tastes been greater, this might not have been the fact, for
it is certain that our happiness depends more on the sub
ordinate qualities and our cherished usages, than on prin
ciples themselves. It is difficult to suppose that any refined
woman, for instance, can ever thoroughly overcome her dis
gust for a man who habitually blows his nose with his fingers,
or that one bred a gentleman can absolutely overlook, even
in a wife, the want of the thousand and one little lady-like
habits, which render the sex perhaps more attractive than
do their personal charms.

Several other marriages took place, the scarcity of sub
jects making it somewhat hazardous to delay : when Hob-



OR, VVLCAir's PEAK. 349

son's choice is placed before one, deliberation is of no
great use. It was generally understood that the Rancocus
was to bring out very few immigrants, though permission
had been granted to Capt. Saunders to take letters to cer
tain friends of some already settled in the colony, with the
understanding that those friends were to be received,
should they determine to come. That point, however, was
soon to be decided, for just a year and one week after the
Rancocus had sailed from Betto's group, the news reached
the Reef that the good ship was coming into the northern
roads, and preparing to anchor. The governor imme
diately went on board the Anne, taking Betts with him,
and made sail for the point in question, with a view to
bring the vessel through the passage to the Reef. The go
vernor and Betts were the only two who, as it was believed,
could carry so large a vessel through; though later sound
ings showed it was only necessary to keep clear of the
points and the shores, in order to bring in a craft of any
draught of water.

When the Anne ran out into the roads, there she found
the Rancocus at anchor, sure enough. On nearing her,
Capt. Saunders appeared on- her poop, and in answer to a
hail, gave the welcome answer of " all well." Those com
prehensive words removed a great deal of anxiety from the
mind of the governor ; absence being, in one sense, the
parent of uncertainty, and uncertainty of uneasiness.
Everything about the ship, however, looked well, and to
the surprise of those in the Anne, many heads belonging
to others beside the crew were to be seen above the rail.
A sail was in sight, moreover, standing in, and this vessel
Capt. Saunders stated was the brig Henlopen, purchased
on government account, and loaded with stock, and other
property for the colony.

On going on board the Rancocus it was ascertained
that, in all, one hundred and eleven new immigrants had
been brought out ! The circle of the affections had been
set at work, and one friend had induced another to enter
into the adventure, until it was found that less than the
number mentioned could not be gotten rid of. That which
could not be cured was to be endured, and the governor's
dissatisfaction was a good deal appeased when he learned
30



350 THE CRATER;

that the new-comers were of excellent materials ; being,
without exception, young, healthful, moral, and all pos
sessed of more or less substance, in the way of worldly
goods. This accession to the colony brought its popula
tion up to rather more than five hundred souls, of which
number, however, near a hundred and fifty were children,
or, under the age of fourteen years.

Glad enough were the new-comers to land at a little set
tlement which had been made on the island which lay
abreast of the roads, and where, indeed, there was a very
convenient harbour, did vessels choose to use it. The
roads, however, had excellent anchorage, and were per
fectly protected against the prevailing winds of that region.
Only once, indeed, since the place was inhabited, had the
wind been known to blow on shore at that point ; and then
only during a brief squall. In general, the place was
every way favourable for the arrival and departure of ship
ping, the trades making a leading breeze both in going
and coming as, indeed, they did all the way to and from
the Reef. A long-headed emigrant, of the name of
Dunks, had foreseen the probable, future, importance of
this outer harbour, and had- made such an arrangement
with the council, as to obtain leave for himself and three
or four of his connections to exchange the land they had
drawn, against an equal quantity in this part of the group.
The arrangement was made, and this little, out-lying colo
ny had now been established an entire season. As the
spot was a good deal exposed to an invasion, a stone dwell
ing had been erected, that was capable of accommodating
the whole party, and pickets were placed around it in
such a way as to prove an ample defence against any at
tempt to carry the work by assault. The governor had
lent them a field-piece, and it was thought the whole dis
position was favourable to the security of the colony,
since no less than eleven combatants could be mustered
here to repel invasion.

The immigrants, as usual, found everything charming,
when their feet touched terra firma. The crops did look well,
and the island being covered with mud, the sand had done
wonders for the vegetation. It is true that trees were
wanting, though the pickets, or palisades, being of willow,



OR, YULCAN'S PEAK.

had all sprouted, and promised soon to enclose the dwell
ing in a grove. Some fifty acres had been tilled, more or
less thoroughly, and timothy was already growing that was
breast-high. Clover looked well, too, as did everything
else ; the guano having lost none of its virtue since the
late arrivals.

The governor sent back the Anne, with instructions to
prepare room for the immigrants in the government dwell
ing, which, luckily, was large enough to receive them all.
He waited with the Rancocus, however, for the Henlopen
o come in and anchor. He then went on board this brig,
and took a look at the stock. Saunders, a discreet, sen
sible man, so well understood the importance of adding to
the physical force of the colony, in the way of brutes, that
he had even strained the point to bring as many mares and
cows as he could stow. He had put on board twenty-five
of the last, and twenty of the first; all purchased at Valpa
raiso. The weather had been so mild, that no injury had
happened to the beasts, but the length of the passage had
so far exhausted the supplies that not a mouthful of food
had the poor animals tasted for the twenty-four hours before
they got in. The water, too, was scarce, and anything but
sweet. For a month everything had been on short allow
ance, and the suffering creatures must have been enchanted
to smell the land. Smell it they certainly did ; for such a
lowing, and neighing, and fretting did they keep up, when
the governor got alongside of the brig, that he could not
endure the sight of their misery, but determined at once to
relieve it.

The brig was anchored within two hundred yards of a
fine sandy beach, on which there were several runs of deli
cious water, and which communicated directly with a
meadow of grass, as high as a man's breast. A bargain
was soon made with Dunks ; and the two crews, that of the
Rancocus, as well as that of the brig, were set to work
without delay to hoist out every creature having a hoof,
that was on board the Henlopen. As slings were all ready,
little delay was necessary, but a mare soon rose through
the hatchway, was swung over the vessel's side, and was
lowered into the water. A very simple contrivance re
leased the creature from the slings, and off it swam, making
the beat of its way towards the land. In three minutes the



352 THE CRATER;

poor thing was on the beach, though actually staggering
from weakness, and from long use to the motion of the
vessel. The water was its first aim. Dunks was there,
however, to prevent it from drinking too much, when it
made its way up to the grass, which it began to eat rave
nously. All the rest went through the same process, and
in a couple of hours the poor things were relieved from
their misery, and the brig, which smelled like a stable,, was
well quit of them. Brooms and water were set to work
immediately, but it was a month before the Henlopen los*
the peculiar odour of the cattle.

Nor were the human beings much less rejoiced to ge
ashore than the brutes. Dunks gave them all a hearty
welcome, and though he had little fruit to offer, he had
plenty of vegetables, for which they were quite as thankful.
Melons, however, he could and did give them, and the
human part of the cargo had an ample feast on a sort of
food to which they had now so long been strangers. The
horses and cows were left on Dunks's Island, where they
stayed until word was sent to the governor that they had
eaten down all his grass, and would soon be on allowance
again, unless taken away. Means, however, were soon
found to relieve him of the stock, though his meadows, or
pastures rather, having been seldom cut in that climate,
were much improved by the visit paid them. As for the
animals, they were parcelled out among the different farms,
thus giving a little milk, and a little additional force to
each neighbourhood. Fowls and pigs had been distributed
some time previously, so that not a man in the group was
without his breeding sow, and his brood of young chickens.
These were species of stock that increased so rapidly, that
a little care alone was wanting to make eggs and pork
plenty. Corn, or maize, grew just for the planting j though
it was all the better, certainly, for a little care.

After sufficient time had been allowed to make the ne
cessary preparations, the vessels sailed with the immigrants
for the Reef. There was many a glad meeting between
friends and relatives. Those who had just arrived had a
great deal to tell those who had preceded then by eighteen
months, and those who now considered themselves old set
tlers, entertained the new ones with the wonders of their
oovel situations.



OB, VULCAN'S PEAK. 353



CHAPTER XXIV.

Welter upon the waters, mighty one
And stretch thee in the ocean's trough of brine ;
Turn thy wet scales up to the wind and sun,
And toss the billow from thy flashing fin ;
Heave thy deep breathing to the ocean's din,
And bound upon its ridges in thy pride,
Or dive down to its lowest depths, and in
The caverns where its unknown monsters hide
Measure thy length beneath the gulf-stream's tide."

BRAUTARD'S Sea-Serpent.

THE colony had now reached a point when its policy
must have an eye to its future destinies. If it were in
tended to push it, like a new settlement, a very different
course ought to be pursued from the one hitherto adopted.
But the governor and council entertained more moderate
?iews. They understood their real position better. It was
true that the Peak, in one sense, or in that which related
to soil and products, was now in a condition to receive
immigrants as fast as they could come ; but the Peak had its
limits, and it could hold but a very circumscribed number.
As to the group, land had to be formed for the reception
of the husbandman, little more than the elements of soil
existing over so much of its surface. Then, in the way of
trade, there could not be any very great inducement for
adventurers to come, since the sandal-wood was the only
article possessed which would command a price in a fo
reign market. This sandal-wood, moreover, did not be
long to the colony, but to a people who might, at any
moment, become hostile, and who already began to com
plain that the article was getting to be very scarce. Un
der all the circumstance? therefore, it was not deemed
desirable to add to the population of the place faster than
would now be done by natural means.

The cargoes of the two vessels just arrived were divided
between the state and the governor, by a very just process.
30*



354 THE CRATER;

The governor had one-half the proceeds for his own pri
vate use, as owner of the Rancocus, without which vessel
nothing could have been done; while the state received
the other moiety, in virtue of the labour of its citizens as
well as in that of its right to impose duties on imports and



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 32 of 42)