James Fenimore Cooper.

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tion in the way of names, did not satisfy the minor-majo
rity, after they got into the ascendant; and a law was


passed authorizing a new surrey, and a new subdirisioa
of the public lands on the Peak, among the citizens of the
colony. On some pretence of justice, that is not very
easily to be understood, those who had property there
already were not to have shares in the new lottery ; a lot
tery, by the way, ra which the prizes were about twice as
large as those which had originally been distributed among
the colonists.

But, Mark and Bridget endeavoured to forget every
thing unpleasant in this visit to their much-loved home.
They regarded the place as a boon from Providence, that
demanded all their gratitude, in spite of the abuses of
which it was the subject ; and never did it seem to them
more exquisitely beautiful, perhaps it never had been more
perfectly lovely, than it appeared the hour they left it.
Mark remembered it as he found it, a paradise in the
midst of the waters, wanting only in man to erect the last
great altar in his heart, in honour of its divine creator.
As yet, its beauties had not been much marred ; though
the new irruption menaced them with serious injuries.

Mr. and Mrs. Woolston took leave of their friends, and
tore themselves away from the charming scenery of the
Peak, with heavy hearts. The Rancocus was waiting for
them, under the lee of the island, and everybody was soon
on board her. The sails were filled, and the ship passed
out from among the islands, by steering south, and haul
ing up between the Peak and the volcano. The latter
now seemed to be totally extinct. No more smoke arose
from it, or had indeed risen from it, for a twelvemonth. It
was an island, and in time it might become habitable, like
the others near it.

Off Cape Horn the Rancocus spoke the Dragon ; Captain
Betts and his passengers being all well. The two vessels
saw no more of each other until the ship was coming out
of the Bay of Rio, as the brig was going in. Notwith
standing this advantage, and the general superiority of the
sailing of the Rancocus, such was the nature of the winds
that the last encountered, that when she passed Cape May
lights the brig was actually in the bay, and ahead of her;
This circumstance, however, afforded pleasure rather than
anything else, and the two vessels landed their passengers


n the wharves of Philadelphia within an hour of each

Great was the commotion in the little town of Bristol at
the return of all the Woolstons, who had gone off, no one
knew exactly whither ; some saying to New Holland ;
others to China ; and a few even to Japan. The excite
ment extended across the river to the little city of Bur
lington, and there was danger of the whole history of the
colony's getting into the newspapers. The colonists, how
ever, were still discreet, and in a week something else
occurred to draw the attention of the multitude, and the
unexpected visit was soon regarded like any other visit.

Glad enough, notwithstanding, were the near relatives of
Bridget and Anne, in particular, to see those two fine young
women again. Neither appeared much more than a twelve
month older than when she went away. This was owing
to the delicious, yet not enervating climate, in which both
had lived. They were mothers, and a little more matronly
in appearance, but none the less lovely ; their children,
like themselves, were objects of great interest, in their re
spective families, and happy indeed were the households
which received them. It in no degree lessened the satis
faction of any of the parties, that the travellers had all re
turned much better off in their circumstances than when
they went away. Even the two younger Woolstons were
now comfortable, and early announced an intention not to
return to the islands. As for the ex-governor, he might be
aid to be rich ; but his heart was still in the colony, over
the weaknesses of which his spirit yearned, as the indulgent
parent feels for the failings of a backsliding child. Never
theless, Bridget was persuaded to remain with her father a
twelvemonth longer than her husband, for the health of the
old gentleman had become infirm, and he could not bear
to part with his only child so soon again, after she had
once been restored to his arms. It was, therefore, decided,
that Mr. Mark Woolston should fill the Rancocus with
such articles as were deemed the most useful to the colo
ny, and go back in that vessel, leaving his wife and chil
dren at Bristol, with the understanding he would return and
eek them the succeeding summer. A similar arrange
ment was made for the wife and children of Captain Betti,


Friend Martha Betts being much in the practice of regu
lating her conduct by that of Friend Bridget Woolston.
Belts sold his brig, and consented to go in the Rancocus
as a passenger, having no scruples, now he had become
comparatively wealthy, about eating with his old shipmate,
and otherwise associating with him, though it waa always
as a sort of humble companion.

The Heatons determined to remain in America, for a
time at least. Mr. Heaton felt the ingratitude of the co
lonists even more keenly than his brother-in-law ; for he
knew how much had been done for them, and how com
pletely they had forgotten it all. Anne regretted the
Peak, and its delicious climate; but her heart was mainly
concentred in her family, and she could not be otherwise
than happy, while permitted to dwell with her husband
and children.

When the Rancocus sailed, therefore, she had no one
on board her but Mark Woolston and Betts, with the ex
ception of her proper crew. Her cargo was of no great
intrinsic value, though it consisted in articles much used,
and consequently in great demand, in the colony. As the
vessel had lain some months at Philadelphia, where she
had been thoroughly repaired and new-coppered, she
sailed well, and made an excellent run to Rio,, nor was
her passage bad as far as the straits of La Maire. Here
she encountered westerly gales, and the Cape may be said
to have been doubled in a tempest. After beating about
for six weeks in that stormy ocean, the ship finally got
into the Pacific, and went into Valparaiso. Here Mark
Woolston received very favourable offers for most of his
cargo, but, still feeling desirous to serve his colony, he
refused them all, setting sail for the islands as soon as he
had made a few repairs, and had a little refreshed his

The passages between Valparaiso and the Crater had
usually consumed about five weeks, though somewhat de
pendent on the state of the trades. On this occasion the
run was rather long, it having been attempted to find a
new course. Formerly, the vessels had fallen in with the
Crater, between Betto'g group and the Reef, which was
bringing them somewhat to leeward, and Mr. Woolston


now thought he would try a more southern route, and see
if he could not make the Peak, which would not only
bring him to windward, but which place was certainly
giving him a more striking object to fall in with than the
lower islands of the group.

It was on the morning of one of the most brilliant days
of those seas, that Captain Saunders met the ex-governor
on the quarter-deck, as the latter appeared there for the first
time since quitting his berth, and announced that he had
just sent look-outs aloft to have a search for the land. By
his reckoning they must be within twelve leagues of the
Peak, and he was rather surprised that it was not yet visi
ble from the deck. Make it they must very shortly ; for
he was quite certain of his latitude, and did not believe
that he could be much out of the way, as respected his
longitude. The cross-trees were next hailed, and the inquiry
was made if the Peak could not be seen ahead. The an
swer was, that no land was in sight, in any part of the
ocean !

For several hours the ship ran down before the wind,
and the same extraordinary vacancy existed on the waters !
At length an island was seen, and the news was sent down
on deck. Towards that island the ship steered, and about
two in the afternoon, she came up close under its lee, and
backed her topsail. This island was a stranger to all on
board! The navigators were confident they must be
within a few leagues of the Peak, as well as of the volca
no ; yet nothing could be seen of either, while here was
an unknown island in their places ! This strange land
was of very small dimensions, rising out of the sea about
three hundred feet. Its extent was no great matter, half
a mile in diameter perhaps, and its form nearly circular.
A boat was lowered, and a party pulled towards it.

As Mr. Woolston approached this as yet strange spot,
something in its outlines recurred to his memory. The
boat moved a little further north, and he beheld a solitary
tree. Then a cry escaped him, and the whole of the ter
rible truth flashed on his mind. He beheld the summit
of the Peak, and the solitary tree was that which he had
himself preserved as a signal. The remainder of his pa
radise had sunk beneath the ocean !


On landing, and examining more minutely, this awful
catastrophe was fully confirmed. No part of Vulcan's
Peak remained above water but its rocky summit, and its
venerable deposit of guano. All the rest was submerged ;
and when soundings were made, the plain, that spot which
had almost as much of Heaven as of earth about it, ac
cording to the unenlightened minds of its inhabitants, was
found to be nearly a hundred fathoms deep in the ocean !

It is scarcely possible to describe the sickening awe
which came over the party, when they had assured them-
selves of the fatal facts by further observation. Everything,
however, went to confirm the existence of the dire catas
trophe. These internal fires had wrought a new convul
sion, and the labours and hopes of years had vanished in
a moment. The crust of the earth had again been broken;
and this time it was to destroy, instead of to create. The
lead gave feaiful confirmation of the nature of the disaster,
the soundings answering accurately to the known forma-
tion of the land in the neighbourhood of the Peak. But,
in the Peak itsel it was not possible to be mistaken:
there it was in its familiar outline, just as it had stood "in
its more elevated position, when it crowned its charming
mountain, and overlooked the whole of that enchanting
plain which had so lately stretched beneath. It might be
said to resemble, in this respect, that sublime rock, which
is recognised as a part of the " everlasting hills," in Cole's
series of noble landscapes that is called " the March of
Empire ;" ever the same amid the changes of time, and
civilization, and decay, there it was the apex of the Peak ;
naked, storm-beaten, and familiar to the eye, though sur
rounded no longer by the many delightful objects which
had once been seen in its neighbourhood.

Saddened, and chastened in spirit, by these proofs of
what had befallen the colony, the party returned to the
ship. That night they remained near the little islet ; next
day they edged away in the direction of the place where
the volcano had formerly risen up out of the waves. After
running the proper distance, the ship was hove-to, and her
people sounded ; two hundred fathoms of line were out,
but no bottom was found. Then the Rancocus bore up
for the island which had borne her own name. The spot

on, VULCAN'S PEAK. 457

was ascertained, but the mountain had also sunk into the
ocean. In one place, soundings were had in ten fathoms
water, and here the vessel was anchored. Next day, when
the ship was again got under way, the anchor brought up
with it, a portion of the skeleton of a goat. It had doubt*
less fallen upon the remains of such an animal, and hook
ing it with its flukes thus unexpectedly brought once more
to the light of day, the remains of a creature that may have
been on the very summit of the island, when the earth
quake in which it was swallowed, occurred.

The Rancocus next shaped her course in the direction
of the group. Soundings were struck near the western
roads, and it was easy enough to carry the vessel towards
what had formerly been the centre of those pleasant isles.
The lead was kept going, and a good look-out was had for
shoals ; for, by this time, Mr. Woolston was satisfied that
the greatest changes had occurred at the southward, as in
the former convulsion, the group having sunk but a trifle
compared with the Peak ; nevertheless, every person, as
well as thing, would seem to have been engulfed. To
wards evening, however, as the ship was feeling her way
to windward with great caution, and when the ex-governor
believed himself to be at no great distance from the centre
of the group, the look-outs proclaimed shoal-water, and
even small breakers, about half a mile on their larboard
beam. The vessel was hove-to, and a boat went to ex
amine the place, Woolston and his friend Betts going in

The shoal was made by the summit of the crater;
breakers appearing in one or two places where the hill
had been highest. The boat met with no difficulty, how
ever, in passing over the spot, merely avoiding the white
water. When the lead was dropped into the centre of the
crater, it took out just twenty fathoms of line. That dis
tance, then, below the surface of the sea, had the crater,
and its town, and its people sunk ! If any object had
floated, as many must have done, it had long before drifted
off in the currents of the ocean, leaving no traces behind
to mark a place that had so lately been tenanted by human
beings. The Rancocus anchored in twenty-three fathoms,
it being thought she lay nearly over the Colony House,


and for eight-and-forty hours the exploration was conti.
nued. The sites of many a familiar spot were ascertained,
but nothing could be found on which even a spar might
be anchored, to buoy out a lost community.

At the end of the time mentioned, the ship bore up for
Betto's group. There young Ooroony was found, peace
fully ruling as of old. Nothing was known of the fate of
the colonists, though surprise had been felt at not receiving
any visits from their vessels. The intercourse had not
been great of late, and most of the Kannakas had come
away. Soon after the Woolstons had left, the especial
friends of humanity, and the almost exclusive lovers of the
" people" having begun to oppress them by exacting more
work than was usual, and forgetting to pay for it. These
men could say but little about the condition of the colony
beyond this fact. Not only they, but all in the group,
however, could render some account of the awful earth
quake of the last season, which, by their descriptions,
greatly exceeded n violence anything formerly known in
those regions. It was in that earthquake, doubtless, that
the colony of the crater perished to a man.

Leaving handsome and useful presents with his friend,
young Ooroony, and putting ashore two or three Kannakas
who were in the vessel, Woolston r." mailed for Valpa
raiso. Here he disposed of his cargo to great advantage,
and purchcised copper in pigs at almost as great. With
this new cargo he reached Philadelphia, after an absence
of rather more than nine months.

Of the colony of the crater and its fortunes, little was
ever said among its survivors. It came into existence in
a manner that was most extraordinary, and went out of it
in one that was awful. Mark and Bridget, however, pon
dered deeply on these things ; the influence of which co
loured and chastened their future lives. The husband
often went over, in his mind, all the events connected with
his knowledge of the Reef. He would thus recall his ship
wreck and desolate condition when suffered first to reach
the rocks ; the manner in which he was the instrument in
causing vegetation to spring up in the barren places ; the
earthquake, and the upheaving of the islands from out of
the waters; the arrival of his wife and other friends; the


commencement and progress of the colony ; its blessings,
BO long as it pursued the right, and its curses, when it
began to pursue the wrong; his departure, leaving it still
a settlement surrounded with a sort of earthly paradise,
and his return, to find all buried beneath the ocean. Of
such is the world and its much-coveted advantages. For
a time our efforts seem to create, and to adorn, and to
perfect, until we forget our origin and destination, substi
tuting self for that divine hand which alone can unite the
elements of worlds as they float in gasses, equally from
His mysterious laboratory, and scatter them again into thin
air when the works of His hand cease to find favour in
His view.

Let those who would substitute the voice of the created
for that of the Creator, who shout " the people, the peo
ple," instead of hymning the praises of their God, who
vainly imagine that the masses are sufficient for all things,
remember their insignificance and tremble. They are but
mites amid millions of other mites, that the goodness of
providence has produced for its own wise ends ; their
boasted countries, with their vaunted climates and pro
ductions, have temporary possessions of but small portions
of a globe that floats, a point, in space, following the
course pointed out by an invisible finger, and which will
one day be suddenly struck out of its orbit, as it was ori
ginally put there, by the hand that made it. Let that
dread Being, then, be never made to act a second part in
human affairs, or the rebellious vanity of our race imagine
that either numbers, or capacity, or success, or power in
arms, is aught more than a short-lived gift of His benefi
cence, to be resumed when His purposes are accomplished




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