James Fenimore Cooper.

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Bridget was all heart, and she had the sweetest temper
imaginable; two qualities that endeared her to her hus
band, far more than her beauty. Her wishes were centred
in her little family, though her kindness and benevolence
could extend themselves to all around her. Anne she loved
as a sister and as a friend ; but it would not have been
impossible for Bridget to be happy, had her fortune been



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 387

cast on the Reef, with no one else but Mark and her two
little ones.

The Peak, proper, had got to be a sort of public prome
nade for all who dwelt near it. Here the governor, in par
ticular, was much accustomed to walk, early in the day,
before the sun got to be too warm, and to look out upon
the ocean as he pondered on his several duties. The spot
had always been pleasant, on account of the beauty and
extent of the view ; but a new interest was given to it since
the commencement of the whaling operations in the neigh
bourhood. Often had Bridget and Anne gone there to see
a whale taken ; it being no uncommon thing for one of the
boys to come shouting down from the Peak, with the cry
of " a fish a fish !" It was by no means a rare occurrence
for the shore-boats to take whales immediately beneath the
cliffs, and the vessels could frequently be seen to windward,
working up to their game. All this movement gave life
and variety to the scene, and contributed largely to the
spot's becoming a favourite place of resort. The very
morning of the day that he intended to cross over to the
Reef, on his return from the " progress," the governor and
his wife ascended to the Peak just as the sun was rising.
The morning was perfectly lovely; and never had the
hearts of our married couple expanded more in love to their
fellows, or been more profoundly filled with gratitude to
God for all his goodness to them, than at that moment.
Young Mark held by his mother's hand, while the father
led his little daughter. This was the way they were accus
tomed to divide themselves in their daily excursions, it pro
bably appearing to each parent that the child thus led was
a miniature image of the other. On that morning, the
governor and Bridget were talking of the bounties that Pro
vidence had bestowed on them, and of the numberless de
lights of their situation. Abundance reigned on every side ;
in addition to the productions of the island, in themselves
so ample and generous, commerce had brought its acquisi
tions, and, as yet, trade occupied the place a wise discri
mination would give it. All such interests are excellent
as incidents in the great scheme of human happiness ; but
woe betide the people among whom they get to be princi
pals ! As the man who lives only to accumulate, is cer-



388 THE CRATER;

tain to have all his nobler and better feelings blunted by
the grasping of cupidity, and to lose sight of the great ob
jects of his existence, so do whole communities degenerate
into masses of corruption, venality, and cupidity, when
they set up the idol of commerce to worship in lieu of the
ever-living God. So far from denoting a healthful pros
perity, as is too apt to be supposed, no worse signs of the
condition of a people can be given, than when all other in
terests are made to yield to those of the mere money-get
ting sort. Among our colonists, as yet, commerce occu
pied its proper place; it was only an incident in their state
of society, and it was so regarded. Men did not search
for every means of increasing it, whether its fruits were
wanted or not, or live in a constant fever about its results.
The articles brought in were all necessary to the comfort
and civilization of the settlements, and those taken away
were obtained by means of a healthful industry.

As they ascended the height, following an easy path that
led to the Summit, the governor and his wife conversed
about the late visitation, and of what each had seen that
was striking and worthy- of comment. Mark had a coun
cil to consult, in matters of state, but most did he love to
compare opinions with the sweet matronly young creature
at his side. Bridget was so true in all her feelings, so just
in her inferences, and so kindly disposed, that a better
counsellor could not have been found at the elbow of one
intrusted with power.

" I am more uneasy on the subject of religion than on
any other," observed the governor, as he helped his little
companion up a difficult part of the ascent. " While out,
I took great pains to sound the people on the subject, and
I found a much greater variety of opinions, or rather of
feelings, among them than I could have believed possible,
%fter the quiet time we have hitherto had."

" After all, religion is, and ought to be, more a matter
0f feeling, than of reason, Mark."

" That is true, in one sense, certainly; but, it should be
feeling subject to prudence and discretion."

" Everything should be subject to those two qualities,
though so very few are. I have all along known that the min
istrations of Mr. Hornblower were only tolerated by a good



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 389

number of our people. You, as an Episcopalian, have not
been so much in the way of observing this ; for others have
been guarded before you ; but, my family is known not to
have been of that sect, and I have been treated more
frankly."

" And you have not let me know this important fact,
Bridget !" said the governor, a little reproachfully.

" Why should I have added to your other cares, by
heaping this on your shoulder, dear Mark? The thing
could not easily be prevented ; though I may as well tell
you, now, what cannot much longer be kept a secret the
Henlopen will bring a Methodist and a Presbyterian cler
gyman in her, this voyage, if any be found willing to emi
grate; and I have heard, lately, that Friends expect a
preacher."

" The law against the admission of an immigrant, with
out the consent of the governor and council, is very clear
and precise," answered the husband, looking grave.

" That may be true, my love, but it would hardly do to
tell the people they are not to worship God in the manner
that may best satisfy their own consciences."

" It is extraordinary that, as there is but one God, and
one Saviour, there should be more than one mode of wor
shipping them !"

" Not at all extraordinary, my dear Mark, wlien yov
come to consider the great diversity of opinion which exists
among men, in other matters. But, Mr. Hornblower has a
fault, which is a very great fault, in one situated as he is,
without a competitor in the field. He lays too much stress
on his particular mission ; talking too much, and preaching
too much of his apostolic authority, as a divine."

" Men should never blink the truth, Bridget ; and least
of all, in a matter as grave as religion."

" Quite right, Mark, when it is necessary to say any
thing on the subject, at all. But, after all, the apostolic
succession is but a means, and if the end be attainable
without dwelling on these means, it seems to me to be
better not to conflict with the prejudices of those we wish
to influence. Remember, that there, are not fifty real
Episcopalians in all this colony, where there is only OJM
clergyman, and he of that sect."
33*



390 THE CRATER;

" Very true ; but, Mr. Hornblower naturally wishes to
make them all churchmen."

" It really seems to me, that he ought to be content with
making them all Christians."

"Perhaps he thinks the two identical necessary to
each other," added the governor, smiling on his charming
young wife, who, in her own person, had quietly consented
to the priestly control of her husband's clergyman, though
but half converted to the peculiar distinctions of his sect,
herself.

" He should remember, more especially in his situation,
that others may not be of the same wayof thinking. Very
few persons, I believe, inquire into the reasons of what they
have been taught on the subject of religion, but take things
as they find them."

"And here they find an Episcopalian, and they ought to
receive him confidingly."

" That might do with children, but most of our people
came here with their opinions formed. I wish Mr. Horn-
blower were less set in his opinions, for I am content to be
an Episcopalian, with you, my dear husband ; certain, if the
authority be not absolutely necessary, it can, at least, do
no harm."

This ended the conversation at that time, for just then
the party reached the Peak. Little, however, did the go
vernor, or his pretty wife, imagine how much the future
was connected with the interest of which they had just
been speaking, or dream of the form in which the serpent
of old was about to visit this Eden of modern times. But
occurrences of another character almost immediately at
tracted their attention, and absorbed all the care and energy
of the colony for some time. Scarcely was the party on
the Peak, when the keen, lively eyes of the younger Brid
get caught sight of a strange sail ; and, presently, another
and another came into view. In a word, no less than three
vessels were in sight, the first that had ever been seen in
those seas, with the exception of the regular and well-
known craft of the colony. These strangers were a ship
and two brigs ; evidently vessels of some size, particularly
the first; and they were consorts, keeping in company,
and sailing in a sort of line, which would seem to denote



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 391

more of order and concert than it was usual to find among
merchantmen. They were all on a wind, standing to the
southward and eastward, and were now, when first seen,
fairly within the strait between the Peak and the. group,
unquestionably in full sight of both, and distant from each
some five or six leagues. With the wind as it was, nothing
would have been easier for them all, than to fetch far
enough to windward to pass directly beneath the western
cliffs, and, consequently, directly in front of the cove.

Luckily, there were several lads on the Peak, early as
was the hour, who had ascended in quest of the berries of
certain plants that flourished there. The governor in
stantly despatched one of these lads, with a note to Hea-
ton, written in pencil, in which he desired that functionary
to send a messenger down to the cove, to prevent any of
the fishermen from going out; it being the practice of
many of the bys to fish in the shade of the cliffs, to lee
ward, ere the sun rose high enough to make the heat op
pressive. Hitherto, the existence of the cove, as it was
believed, remained unknown even to the Kannakas, and a
stringent order existed, that no boat should ever enter it
so long as craft was in sight, which might have any of
those men on board it. Indeed, the whole Peak was just
as much a place of mystery, to all but the colonists, as it
was the day when Waally and his followers were driven
away by their superstitious dread.

Having taken this precaution, and kept the other lads to
send down with any farther message he might deem neces
sary, the governor now gave all his attention to the stran
gers. A couple of glasses were always kept on the Peak,
and the best of these was soon in his hand, and levelled at
the ship. Bridget stood at her husband's side, eager to
hear his opinion, but waiting with woman's patience for
the moment it might be given with safety. At length that
instant came, and the half-terrified wife questioned the hus
band on the subject of his discoveries.

" What is it, Mark?" said Bridget, almost afraid of the
answer she was so desirous of obtaining. " Is it the Ran-
eocus 1"

"If the Rancocus, love, be certain she would not ba



392 THE CRATER;

coming hither. The ship is of some size, and appears to
be armed ; though I cannot make out her nation."

" It is not surprising that she should be armed, Mark.
You know that the papers Captain Saunders brought us
were filled with accounts of battles fought in Europe."

" It is very true that the whole world is in arms, though
that does not explain the singular appearance of these
three vessels, in this remote corner of the earth. It is
possible they may be discovery ships, for wars do not al
ways put a stop to such enterprises. They appear to be
steering for the Peak, which is some proof that they do
not know of the existence of the settlements in the group.
There they might anchor ; but here, they cannot without
entering the cove, of which they can know nothing."

" If discovery vessels, would they not naturally come
first to the Peak, as the most striking object ?"

" In that you are probably right, Bridget, though I think
the commodore would be apt to divide his force, having
three ships, and send one, at least, towards the group, even
if he came hither with the others. No nation but Eng
land, however, would be likely to have vessels of that cha
racter out 4 }n such a war, and these do not look like Eng
lish craft, at all. Besides, we should have heard something
of such an expedition, by means of the papers, were there
one out. It would be bad enough to be visited by explor
ers ; yet, I fear these are worse than explorers."

Bridget very well understood her husband's apprehen
sions on the subject of exploring parties. As yet, the
colony had got on very well, without having the question
of nationality called into the account ; but it had now be
come so far important, as, in a small way, to be a nursery
for seamen ; and there was much reason to fear that the
ruthless policy of the strong would, in the event of a dis
covery, make it share the usual fortunes of the weak. It
was on account of this dread of foreign interference, that
so much pains had been taken to conceal the history and
state of the little community, the strongest inducements
being placed before all the seamen who went to Europe, to
be discreet and silent. As for the Kannakas, they did not
know enough to be very dangerous, and could not, at all,
give any accurate idea of the position of the islands, had



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 393

they been better acquainted than they were with their re
lation to other communities, and desirous of betraying
them.

The governor now sent another note down to Heaton,
with a request that orders might be forwarded along the
cliffs, for every one to keep out of sight ; as well as direc
tions that care should be taken not to let any smoke even
be seen to rise from the plain. This message was speedily
followed by another, directing that all the men should be
assembled, and the usual preparations made for defence.
He also asked if it were not possible to send a whale-boat
out, by keeping immediately under the cliffs, and going
well to windward, in such a manner as to get a communi
cation across to the Reef, in order to put the people
on their guard in that quarter. One or two whale-boats
were always in the cove, and there were several crews of
capital oarsmen among the people of the Peak. If such a
boat could be prepared, it was to be held in readiness, as
the governor himself might deem it expedient to cross the
strait.

All this time the strange vessels were not idle, but drew
nearer to the Peak, at a swift rate of sailing. It was not
usual for mere merchantmen to be as weatherly, or to
make as much way through the water, as did all these
craft. On account of the great elevation at which the
governor stood, they appeared small, but he was too much
accustomed to his situation not to know how to make
the necessary allowances. After examining her well,
when she was within a league of the cliffs, he came to the
opinion that the ship was a vessel of about six hundred
tons, and that she was both armed and strongly manned.
So far as he could judge, by the bird's-eye view he got, he
fancied she was even frigate-built, and had a regular gun-
deck. In that age such craft were very common, sloops
of war having that construction quite as often as that of
the more modern deep-waisted vessel. As for the brigs,
they were much smaller than their consort, being of less
than two hundred tons each, apparently, but also armed
and strongly manned. The armaments were now easily to
be seen, as indeed were the crews, each and all the vessels



394 THE GRATER;

showing a great many men aloft, to shorten sail as they
drew nearer to the island.

One thing gave the governor great satisfaction. The
strangers headed well up, as if disposed to pass to wind
ward of the cliffs, from which he inferred that none on
board them knew anything of the existence or position of
the cove. So much care had been taken, indeed, to con
ceal this spot from even the Kannakas, that ne great appre
hension existed of its being known to any beyond the cir
cle of the regular colonists. As the ship drew still nearer,
and came more under the cliffs, the governor was enabled
to get a better view of her construction, and of the nature
of her armament. That she was frigate-built was now
certain, and the strength of her crew became still more
evident, as the men were employed in shortening and
making sail almost immediately under his eye.

Great care was taken that no one should be visible on
the Peak. Of the whole island, that was the only spot
where there was much danger of a man's being seen from
the ocean; for the fringe of wood had been religiously
preserved all around the cliffs. But, with the exception of
the single tree already mentioned, the Peak was entirely
naked ; and, in that clear atmosphere, the form of a man
might readily be distinguished even at a much greater
elevation. But the glasses were levelled at the strangers
from covers long before prepared for that purpose, and no
fear was entertained of the look-outs, who had their in
structions, and well understood the importance of caution.

At length, the vessels got so near, as to allow of the
glasses being pointed directly down upon the upper deck
of the ship, in particular. The strangers had a little diffi
culty in weathering the northern extremity of the island,
and they came much closer to the cliffs than they other
wise would, in order to do so. While endeavouring to
ascertain the country of the ship, by examining her people,
the governor fancied he saw some natives on board her.
At first, he supposed there might be Kannakas, or Mow-
rees, among the crew ; but, a better look assured him that
the Indians present were not acting in the character of
sailors at all. They appeared to be chiefs, and chiefs in
their war-dresses. This fact induced a still closer exami-



OR, VULCAN S PEAK. 395

nation, until the governor believed that he could trace the
person of Waally among them. The distance itself was
not such as to render it difficult to recognize a form, or a
face, when assisted by the glass ; but the inverted position
of all on board the ship did make a view less certain than
might otherwise have been the case. Still the governor
grew, at each instant, more and more assured that Waally
was there, as indeed he believed his son to be, also. By
this time, one of the men who knew the chief had come
up to the Peak, with a message from Heaton, and he was
of the same opinion as the governor, after taking a good
'ook through the best glass. Bridget, too, had seen the
formidable Waally, and she gave it as her opinion that he
was certainly on board the ship. This was considered as a
most important discovery. If Waally were there, it was
for no purpose that was friendly to the colonists. The
grudge he owed the last, was enduring and deadly. No
thing but the strong arm of power could suppress its out-
breakings, or had kept him in subjection, for the last five
years. Of late, the intercourse between the two groups
had not been great ; and it was now several months since
any craft had been across to Ooroony's islands, from the
Reef. There had been sufficient time, consequently, for
great events to have been planned and executed, and, yet,
that the colonists should know nothing of them.

But, it was impossible to penetrate further into this
singular mystery, so long as the strangers kept off the land.
This they did of course, the three vessels passing to wind
ward of the Peak, in a line ahead, going to the southward,
and standing along the cliffs, on an easy bowline. The
governor now sent a whale-boat out of the cove, under her
sails, with orders to stand directly across to the Reef,
carrying the tidings, and bearing a letter of instructions to
Pennock and such members of the council as might be
present. The letter was short, but it rather assumed the
probability of hostilities, while it admitted that there was a
doubt of the issue. A good look-out was to be kept, at all
events, and the forces of the colony were to be assembled.
The governor promised to cross himself, as soon as the
Strangers quitted the neighbourhood of the Peak.

In the mean time, Heaton mounted a horse, and kept



396 THE CRATER;

company with the squadron as it circled the island. Froifl
time to time, he sent messages to the governor, in order to
let him know the movements of the strangers. While this
was going on, the men were all called in from their seve
ral occupations, and the prescribed arrangements were
made for defence. As a circuit of the island required
several hours, there was time for everything; and the
whale-boat was fairly out of sight from even the Peak,
when Heaton despatched a messenger to say that the
squadron had reached the southern extremity of the island,
and was standing off south-east, evidently steering towards
the volcano.

Doubts now began to be felt whether the colonists would 1
see anything more of the strangers. It was natural that
navigators should examine unknown islands, cursorily at
least ; but it did not follow that, if trade was their object,
they should delay their voyage in order to push their inves
tigations beyond a very moderate limit. Had it not been
for the undoubted presence of savages in the ship, and the
strong probability that Waally was one of them, the go
vernor would now have had hopes that he had seen the
last of his visitors. Nevertheless, there was the chance
that these vessels would run down to Rancocus Island,
where not only might a landing be easily effected, but
where the mills, the brick-yards, and indeed the principal
cluster of houses, were all plainly to be seen from the offing.
No sooner was it certain, therefore, that the strangers had
stood away to the southward and eastward, than another
boat was sent across to let the millers, brickmakers, stone-
quarriers, and lumbermen know that they might receive
guests who would require much discretion in their recep
tion.

The great policy of secrecy was obviously in serious
danger of being defeated. How the existence of the co
lony was to be concealed, should the vessels remain any
time in the group, it was not easy to see ; and that advan
tage the governor and Heaton, both of whom attached the
highest importance to it, were now nearly ready to aban
don in despair. Still, neither thought of yielding even
this policy until the last moment, and circumstances ren
dered it indispensable; for so much reflection had beeA



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 397

bestowed on that, as well as on every other interest of the
colony, that it was not easy to unsettle any part of their
plans in the opinion of its rulers, at least.

A sharp look-out for the squadron was kept, not only
from the Peak, but from the southern end of the cliffs, all
that day. The vessels were seen until they were quite
near to the volcano, when their sudden disappearance was
ascribed to the circumstance of their shortening sail. Per
haps they anchored. This could only be conjecture, how
ever, as no boat could be trusted out to watch them, near
by. Although there was no anchorage near the Peak, it
was possible for a vessel to anchor anywhere in the vici
nity of the volcano. The island of Vulcan's Peak appears
to have been projected upwards, out of the depths of the
ocean, in one solid, perpendicular wall, leaving no shallow
water near it ; but, as respects the other islands, the coast
shoaled gradually in most places; though the eastern edge
of the group was an exception to the rule. Still, vessels
could anchor in any or all the coves and roadsteads of the
group ; and there the holding ground was unusually good,
being commonly mud and sand, and these without rocks.

The remainder of the day, and the whole of the succeed
ing night, were passed with much anxiety, by the governor
and his friends. Time was given to receive an answer to
the messages sent across to the Reef, but nothing was seen
of the strangers, when day returned. The boat that came
in from the Reef, reported that the coast was clear to the
northward. It also brought a letter, stating that notices



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 36 of 42)