WILLIS THE PILOT,
A Sequel to the Swiss Family Robinson:
ADVENTURES OF AN EMIGRANT FAMILY WRECKED ON AN UNKNOWN COAST OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN.
TALES, INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL, AND ILLUSTRATIONS OF NATURAL HISTORY.
BOSTON: LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS. NEW YORK: LEE, SHEPARD AND DILLINGHAM. 1875.
LITHOTYPED BY COWLES AND COMPANY At the Office of the American Stereotype Company, PHOENIX BUILDING, BOSTON.
ILLUSTRATED BY KILBURN & MALLORY
The love of adventure that characterises the youth of the present day, and the growing tendency of the surplus European population to seek abroad the comforts that are often denied at home, gives absorbing interest to the narratives of old colonists and settlers in the wonderful regions of the New World. Accordingly, the work known as the Swiss Family Robinson has long enjoyed a well-merited popularity, and has been perused by a multitude of readers, young and old, with profit as well as pleasure.
A Swiss clergyman resolved to better his fortune by emigration. In furtherance of this resolution, he embarked with his wife and four sons—the latter ranging from eight to fifteen years of age—for one of the newly-discovered islands in the Pacific Ocean. As far as the coast of New Guinea the voyage had been favorable, but here a violent storm arose, which drove the ill-fated vessel out of its course, and finally cast it a wreck upon an unknown coast. The family succeeded in extricating themselves from the stranded ship, and landed safely on shore; but the remaining passengers and crew all perished. For many years these six individuals struggled alone against a variety of trials and privations, till at length another storm brought the English despatch-boat Nelson within reach of their signals. Such is a brief outline of the events recorded in the Swiss Family Robinson.
The present volume is virtually a continuation of this narrative. The careers of the four sons—Frank, Ernest, Fritz, and Jack—are taken up where the preceding chronicler left them off. The subsequent adventures of these four young men, by flood and field, are faithfully detailed. With these particulars are mingled the experiences of another interesting family that afterwards became dwellers in the same territory; as are also the sayings and doings of a weather-beaten sailor—Willis the Pilot.
The scene is laid chiefly in the South Seas, and the narrative illustrates the geography and ethnology of that section of the Far-West. The difficulties, dangers, and hardships to be encountered in founding a new colony are truthfully set forth, whilst it is shown how readily these are overcome by perseverance and intelligent labor. It will be seen that a liberal education has its uses, even under circumstances the least likely to foster the social amenities, and that, too, not only as regards the mental well-being of its possessors, but also as regards augmenting their material comforts.
In the Swiss Family Robinson the resources of Natural History have been largely, and perhaps somewhat freely, drawn upon. This branch of knowledge has, therefore, been left throughout the present volume comparatively untouched. Nevertheless, as it is the aim of the narrator to combine instruction with amusement, the more elementary phenomena of the Physical Sciences have been blended with the current of the story—thus garnishing, as it were, the dry, hard facts of Owen, Liebig, and Arago, with the more attractive, groupings of life and action.
The reader has, consequently, in hand a melange of the useful and agreeable—a little for the grave and a little for the gay—so that, should our endeavors to impart instruction prove unavailing, en revanche we may, perhaps, be more successful in our efforts to amuse.
The Colony—Reflections on the Past—Ideas of Willis the Pilot—Sophia Wolston
To what extent Willis the Pilot had Ideas on certain Subjects—The Knights of the Ocean
Wherein Willis the Pilot proves "Irrefragably" that Ephemerides die of Consumption and Home-Sickness—The Canoe and its Young ones—The Search after the Sloop—Found—The Sword-Fish—Floating Atoms—Admiral Socrates
A Landscape—Sad Houses and Smiling Houses—Politeness in China—Eight Soups at Dessert—Wind Merchants—Another Idea of the Pilot's—Susan, vice Sophia
Allotment of Quarters—A Horse Marine—Travelling Plants—Change of Dynasty in England—A Woman's Kingdom—Sheep converted into Chops—Resurrection of the Fried Fish—A Secret
The Queen's Doll—Rockhouse to Falcon's Nest—The Wind—Grasses—Admiral Homer—The Three Frogs—Oat Jelly—Esquimaux Astronomy—An Unknown
The Search for the Unknown—Three Fleets on Dry Land—The Indiscretions of a Sugar Cane—Larboard and Starboard—The supposed Sensibility of Plants—The Fly-trap—Vendetta—Root and Germ—Mine and Countermine—The Polypi—Oviparous and Viviparous—A Quid pro Quo
Inhabitant of the Moon, Anthropophagian or Hobgoblin?—The Lacedemonian Stew of Madame Dacier—Utile Dulci—Tete-a-tete between Willis and his Pipe—Tobacco versus Birch—Is it for Eating?—Mosquitoes—The Alarm—Toby—The Nocturnal Expedition—We've got him
The Chimpanzee—Imperfect Negro, or Perfect Ape—The Harmonies of Nature—A Handful of Paws—A Stone Skin—Seventeen Spectacles on one Nose—Animalculae—Pelion on Ossa—Ptolemy—Copernicus to Galileo—Metaphysics and Cosmogonies—A live Tiger
The Pioneers—Excursion to Coromandel—Hindoo Fancies—A Caged Hunter—Louis XI and Cardinal Balue—A Furlong of News—Carnage—The Baronet and his seventeen Tigers—Fifty-four feet of Celebrity—Sterne's Window—Promenade of the Consciences—Emulation and Vanity
On the Watch—Fecundity of Plants and Animals—Latest News from the Moon—A Death-Knell every Second—The Inconveniences of being too near the Sun—Narcotics—Willis contralto—Hunting turned upside down—Electric Clouds—Partialities of Lightning—Bells and Bellringers—Conducting Rods—The Return—The Two Sisters—Toby becomes a Dragoman
Man proposes, but God disposes—The Choice of a Profession—Conqueror—Orator—Astronomer—Composer—Painter—Poet—Village Curate—The Kafirs—Occupations of Women—The Alpha and Omega of the Sea
Herbert and Cecilia—The little Angels—A Catastrophe—The Departure—Marriage of the Doge with the Adriatic—Sovereigns of the Sea—Dante and Beatrix—Eleonora and Tasso—Laura and Petrarch—The Return—Surprises—What one finds in Turbots—A Horror—The Price of Crime—Ballooning—Philipson and the Cholera—A Metamorphosis—Adventure of the Chimpanzee—Are you Rich?
The Tears of Childhood and Rain of the Tropics—Charles' Wain—Voluntary Enlistment—A Likeness Guaranteed—The World at Peace—Alas, poor Mary!—The same Breath for two Beings—The first Pillow—The Logic of the Heart—How Fritz supported Grief—A Grain of Sand and the Himalaya
God's Government—King Stanislaus—The Dauphin son of Louis XV.—The shortest Road—New Year's Day—A Miracle—Clever Animals—The Calendar—Mr. Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII.—How the day after the 4th of October was the 15th—Olympiads—Lustres—The Hegira—A Horse made Consul—Jack's Dream
Separation—Guelphs and Ghibelines—Montagues and Capulets—Sadness—The Reunion—Jocko and his Education—The Entertainments of a King—The Mules of Nero and the Asses of Poppaea—Hercules and Achilles—Liberty and Equality—Semiramis and Elizabeth—Christianity and the Religion of Zoroaster—The Willisonian Method—Moral Discipline versus Birch
Where there's a Will there's a Way—Mucius Scaevola—What's to be done?—Brutus Torquatus and Peter the Great—Australia, Botany Bay, and the Flying Dutchman—New Guinea and the Buccaneer—Vancouver's Island—White Skins—Danger of Landing on a Wave—Hanged or Drowned—Route to Happiness—Omens
Bacon and Biscuit—Let Sleeping Dogs Lie—The Paternal Benediction—An Apparition—A Mother not easily deceived—The Adieu—The Emperor Constantine—hoc signo vinces—The Sailor's Postscript—Caesar and his Fortunes—Recollections—Mrs. Becker plucks Stockings and Knits Ortolans—How delightful it is to be Scolded—The Bodies vanish, but the Souls remain
Eighteen Hundred and Twelve—The Mary—Count Ugolino—The Sources of Rivers—The Alps demolished—No more Pyrenees—The First Ship—Admiral Noah—Fleets of the Israelites—The Compass—Printing—Gunpowder—Actium and Salamis—Dido and AEolus—Steam—Don Garay and Roger Bacon—Melchthal, Furst, and William Tell—Going a-pleasuring—Upset versus blown up—A Dead Calm—The Log—Willis's Archipelago—The Island of Sophia—The Bread Fruit-tree—Natives of Polynesia—Striped Trowsers—Abduction of Willis—Is he to be Roasted or Boiled?—When the Wine is poured out, we must Drink it
Jupiter Tonans—The Thunders of the Pilot—Worshippers of the Far West—A late Breakfast—Rono the Great—A Polynesian Legend—Manners and Customs of Oceanica Mr. and Mrs. Tamaidi—Regal Pomp—Elbow Room—Katzenmusik—Queen Tonico and the Shaving Glass—Consequences of a Pinch of Snuff—Disgrace of the Great Rono—Marins—Coriolanus—Hannibal—Alcibiades—Cimon—Aristides—A Sop for the Thirsty—Air something else besides Oxygen and Hydrogen—Maryland and Whitechapel—Half-way up the Cordilleras—Human Machines—Star of the Sea, pray for us!
Lying-to—Heart and Instinct—Sparrows viewed as Consumers—Migrations—Posting a Letter in the Pacific—Cannibals—Adventures of a Locket
The Utility of Adversity—An Encounter—The Hoboken—Bill alias Bob
In which Willis shows, that the term Press-gang means something else besides the Gentlemen of the Press
Another Idea of the Pilot's—The Boudeuse
Delhi—William of Normandy and King John—Isabella of Bavaria and Joan of Arc—Poitier and Bovines—History of a Ghost, a Gridiron, and a Chest of Guineas
Willis falls in with the Sloop on terra firma, instead of at the bottom of the Sea, as might have been expected—Admiral Cicero—The Defunct not yet Dead
Captain Littlestone is found, and the Rev. Mr. Wolston is seen for the first time
Willis proves that the only way to be free is to get sent to Prison—An Escape—A Discovery—Promotions—Somnambulism
THE COLONY—REFLECTIONS ON THE PAST—IDEAS OF WILLIS THE PILOT—SOPHIA WOLSTON.
The early adventures of the Swiss family, who were wrecked on an unknown coast in the Pacific Ocean, have already been given to the world. There are, however, many interesting details in their subsequent career which have not been made public. These, and the conversations with which they enlivened the long, dreary days of the rainy season, we are now about to lay before our readers.
Becker, his wife, and their four sons had been fifteen years on this uninhabited coast, when a storm drove the English despatch sloop Nelson to the same spot. Before this event occurred, the family had cleared and enclosed a large extent of country; but, whether the territory was part of an island or part of a continent, they had not yet ascertained. The land was naturally fertile; and, amongst other things that had been obtained from the wreck of their ship, were sundry packages of European seeds: the produce of these, together with that of two or three heads of cattle they had likewise rescued from the wreck, supplied them abundantly with the necessaries of life. They had erected dwellings here and there, but chiefly lived in a cave near the shore, over the entrance to which they had built a sort of gallery. This structure, conjointly with the cave, formed a commodious habitation, to which they had given the name of Rockhouse. In the vicinity, a stream flowed tranquilly into the sea; this stream they were accustomed to call Jackal River, because, a few days after their landing, they had encountered some of these animals on its banks. Fronting Rockhouse the coast curved inwards, the headlands on either side enclosing a portion of the ocean; to this inlet they had given the name of Safety Bay, because it was here they first felt themselves secure after having escaped the dangers of the storm. In the centre of the bay there was a small island which they called Shark's Island, to commemorate the capture of one of those monsters of the deep. Safely Bay, had, a second time, acquired a legitimate title to its name, for in it Providence had brought the Nelson safely to anchor.
By unwearying perseverance, indefatigable industry, and an untiring reliance on the goodness of God, Becker and his family had surrounded themselves with abundance. There was only one thing left for them to desire, and that was the means of communicating with their kindred; and now this one wish of their hearts was gratified by the unexpected appearance of the Nelson on their shore. The fifteen years of exile they had so patiently endured was at once forgotten. Every bosom was filled with boundless joy; so true it is, that man only requires a ray of sunshine to change his most poignant griefs into smiles and gladness.
The first impressions of their deliverance awakened in the minds of the young people a flood of projects. The mute whisperings that murmured within them had divulged to their understandings that they were created for a wider sphere than that in which they had hitherto been confined. Europe and its wonders—society, with its endearing interchanges of affection—that vast panorama of the arts and of civilization, of the trivial and the sublime, of the beautiful and terrible, that is called the world—came vividly into their thoughts. They felt as a man would feel when dazzled all at once by a spectacle, the splendor of which the eyes and the mind can only withstand by degrees. They had spelt life in the horn-book of true and simple nature—they were now about to read it fluently in the gilded volume of a nature false and vitiated, perhaps to regret their former tranquil ignorance.
Becker himself had, for an instant, given way to the general enthusiasm, but reflection soon regained her sway; he asked himself whether he had solid reasons for wishing to return to Europe, whether it would be advisable to relinquish a certain livelihood, and abandon a spot that God appeared to bless beyond all others, to run after the doubtful advantages of civilized society.
His wife desired nothing better than to end her days there, under the beautiful sky, where, from the bosom of the tempest, they had been guided by the merciful will of Him who is the source of all things. Still the solitude frightened her for her children. "Might it not," she asked herself, "be egotism to imprison their young lives in the narrow limits of maternal affection?" It occurred to her that the dangers to which they were constantly exposed might remove them from her; to-day this one, to-morrow another; what, then, would be her own desolation, when there remained to her no bosom on which to rest her head—no heart to beat in unison with her own—no kindly hand to grasp—and no friendly voice to pray at her pillow, when she was called away in her turn!
At length, after mature deliberation, it was resolved that Becker himself, his wife, Fritz and Jack, two of their sons, should remain where they were, whilst the two other young men should return to Europe with a cargo of cochineal, pearls, coral, nutmegs, and other articles that the country produced of value in a commercial point of view. It was, however, understood that one of the two should return again as soon as possible, and bring back with him any of his countrymen who might be induced to become settlers in this land of promise, Becker hoping, by this means, to found a new colony which might afterwards flourish under the name of New Switzerland. The mission to Europe was formally confided to Frank and Ernest, the two most sedate of the family.
Besides the captain and crew, there was on board the ship now riding at anchor in the bay a passenger, named Wolston, with his wife and two daughters. This gentleman was on his way to join his son at the Cape of Good Hope, but had been taken seriously ill previous to the Nelsons arrival on the coast. He and his family were invited on shore by Becker, and had taken up their quarters at Rockhouse. Wolston was an engineer by profession, but his wife belonged to a highly aristocratic family of the West of England; she had been brought up in a state of ease and refinement, was possessed of all the accomplishments required in fashionable society, but she was at the same time gifted with strong good sense, and could readily accommodate herself to the circumstances in which she was now placed. Her two daughters, Sophia the youngest, a lively child of thirteen, and Mary the eldest, a demure girl of sixteen, had been likewise carefully, but somewhat elaborately, educated. Attracted no less by the hearty and warm reception of the Swiss family, than determined by the state of his health and the pure air of the country, Wolston resolved to await there the return of the sloop, the official destination of which was the Cape of Good Hope, where it had to land despatches from Sidney.
Captain Littlestone, of H.B.M.'s sloop Nelson, had kindly consented to all these arrangements; he agreed to convey Ernest and Frank Becker and their cargo to the Cape, to aid them there with his experience, and, finally, to recommend them to some trustworthy correspondents he had at Liverpool. He likewise promised to bring back young Wolston with him on his return voyage.
Everything being prepared, the departure was fixed for the next day: the sloop, with the blue Peter at the fore, was ready, as soon as the anchor was weighed, to continue her voyage. The cargo had been stowed under hatches. Becker had just given the farewell dinner to Captain Littlestone and Lieutenant Dunsley, his second in command. These two gentlemen had discreetly taken their leave, not to interrupt by their presence the final embraces of the family, the ties of which, after so many long years of labor and hardship, were for the first time to be broken asunder.
During the voyage, Wolston had formed an intimacy with the boatswain of the Nelson, named Willis, and he, on his side, held Wolston and his family in high esteem. Willis was likewise a great favorite with his captain—they had served in the same ship together when boys; Willis was known to be a first-rate seaman; so great, indeed, was his skill in steering amongst reefs and shoals, that he was familiarly styled the "Pilot," by which cognomen he was better known on board than any other. At the particular request of Wolston, who had some communications to make to him respecting his son, Willis remained on shore, the captain promising to send his gig for him and his two passengers the following morning.
Whilst Wolston was busy charging the pilot with a multitude of messages for his son, Mrs. Becker was invoking the blessings of Heaven upon the heads of her two boys; praying that the hour might be deferred that was to separate her from these idols of her soul. Becker himself, upon whom his position, as head of the family, imposed the obligation of exhibiting, at least outwardly, more courage, instilled into their minds such principles of truth and rules of conduct as the solemnity of the moment was calculated to engrave on their hearts.
The dial now marked three o'clock, tropical time. Willis, wiping, with the cuff of his jacket, a drop that trickled from the corner of his eye, laid hold of his seal-skin sou'-wester as a signal of immediate departure. Ernest and Frank were bending their heads to receive the parting benediction of their parents, when suddenly a fierce torrent of wind shook the gallery of Rockhouse to its foundation, and uprooted some of the bamboo columns by which it was supported.
"Only a squall," said Willis quietly.
"A squall!" exclaimed Becker, "what do you call a hurricane then?"
"Oh, a hurricane, I mean a downright reefer, all square and close-hauled, that is a very different affair; but, after all, this begins to look very like the real article."
Now came a succession of gusts, each succeeding one more powerful than its predecessor, till every beam of the gallery bent and quivered; dense copper-colored clouds appeared in the atmosphere, rolling against each other, and disengaging by their shock, the thunder and lightnings. Then fell, not the slender needles of water we call rain, but veritable floods, that were to our heaviest European showers what the cataracts of the Rhine, at Staubach, or the falls of Niagara, are to the gushings of a sylvan rivulet. In a few minutes the Jackal river had converted the valley into a lake, in which the plantations and buildings appeared to be afloat, and rendering egress from Rockhouse nearly impossible.
However much of a colorist Willis might be, he could not have painted a storm with the eloquence of the elements that had cut short his observation.
"You will not attempt to embark in weather like this?" inquired Mrs. Becker anxiously.
"My duty it is to be on board," replied the Pilot.
"The craft that ventures to take you there will get swamped twenty times on the way," observed Becker.
"The worst of it is, the wind is from the east, and evidently carries waterspouts with it. These waterspouts strike a ship without the slightest warning, play amongst the rigging, whirl the sails about like feathers—sometimes carry them off bodily, or, if they do not do that, tear them to shreds and shiver the masts. In either case, the consequences are disagreeable."
"A reason for you to be thankful you are safe on shore with us!" remarked Mrs. Wolston.
"It is all very well for you, Mrs. Wolston, and you, Mrs. Becker, to talk in that way; your business in life is that of wives and mothers. But what will the Lords of the Admiralty say, when they hear that the sloop Nelson was wrecked whilst Master Willis, the boatswain, was skulking on shore like a land-rat?"
"Oh, they would only say there was one useful man more, and a victim the less," replied Fritz.
"Why, not exactly, Master Fritz; they would say that Willis was a poltroon or a deserter, whichever he likes; they would very likely condemn him to the yard-arm by default, and carry out the operation when they get hold of him. But I will not endanger any one else; all I want is the use of your canoe."
"What! brave this storm in a wretched seal-skin cockle-shell like that?"
"Would it not be offending Providence," hazarded Mary Wolston, "for one of God's creatures to abandon himself to certain death?"
"It would, indeed," added Mrs. Wolston; "true courage consists in facing danger when it is inevitable, but not in uselessly imperiling one's life; there stops courage, and temerity begins."
"If it is not pride or folly. I do not mean that with reference to you, Willis," hastily added Wolston; "I know that you are open as day, and that all your impulses arise from the heart."
"That is all very fine—but I must act; let me have the canoe. I want the canoe: that is my idea."
"Having lived fifteen years cut off from society," gravely observed Becker, "it may be that I have forgotten some of the laws it imposes; nevertheless, I declare upon my honor and conscience—"
"Let me have the canoe, otherwise I must swim to the ship."
"I declare," continued Becker, "that Willis exaggerates the requirements of his duty. There are stronger forces to which the human will must yield. It is one thing to desert one's post in the hour of danger, and another to have come on shore at the express desire of a superior officer, when the weather was fine, and nothing presaged a storm."
"If there is danger," continued the obstinate sailor, whom the united strength of the four men could scarcely restrain, "I ought to share it; that is my duty and I must."
"But," said Wolston, "all the boatswains and pilots in the world can do nothing against hurricanes and waterspouts; their duty consists in steering the ship clear of reefs and quicksands, and not in fighting with the elements."
"There is one thing you forget, Mr. Wolston."
"And what is that, Willis?"
"It is to be side by side with your comrades in the hour of calamity, to aid them if you can, and to perish with them if such be the will of Fate. At this moment, poor Littlestone may be on the point of taking up his winter quarters in the body of a shark. But there, if the sloop is lost while I am here on shore, I will not survive her; all that you can say or do will not prevent me doing myself justice."
At this moment Jack, who had disappeared during this discussion, unobserved, came in saturated to the skin with water, and in a state difficult to describe. Like the boots of Panurge, his feet were floating in the water that flowed from the rim of his cap.
"What is this?" exclaimed his mother. "You wilful boy, may I ask where, in all the world, you have been?"
"I have just come from the bay. O father and mother! O Mr. and Mrs. Wolston! O Master Willis! if you had only seen! The sea is furious; sometimes the waves rise to the skies and mingle with the clouds, so that it is impossible to say where the one begins and the other ends. It is frightful, but it is magnificent!"
"And the sloop?" demanded Willis.
"She is not to be seen; she is no longer at anchor in the bay."
"Gone to the open sea, to avoid being driven ashore," said Wolston. "Captain Littlestone is not the man to remain in a perilous position whilst there remained a means of escape; besides, nothing that science, united with courage and presence of mind, could do, would have been neglected by him to save his ship."
"In addition to which," observed Becker, "if he had found himself in positive danger, he would have fired a gun; and in that case, though we are not pilots, every one of us would have hastened to his assistance."
"You see, Willis," said Mrs. Wolston, "God comes to ease your mind; were we to allow you to go to the sloop now, the thing is simply impossible."
"I have my own idea about that," insisted Willis, whilst he kept beating a tatoo on the isinglass window panes.
Whilst thus chafing like a caged lion, Wolston's youngest daughter went towards him, and gently putting her hand in his, said, "Sweetheart" (for so she had been accustomed to address him), "do you remember when, during the voyage, you used to look at me very closely, and that one evening I went boldly up to you and asked you why you did so?"
"Yes, Miss Sophia, I recollect."
"Do you remember the answer you gave me?"
"Yes, I told you that I had left in England, on her mother's bosom, a little girl who would now be about your own age, and that I could not observe the wind play amongst the curls of your fair hair without thinking of her, and that it sometimes made my breast swell like the mizen-top-sail before the breeze."
"Yes, and when I promised to keep out of your sight, not to reawaken your grief, you told me it was a kind of grief that did you more good than harm, and that the more it made you grieve, the happier you would be."
"All true:" replied the sailor, whose excitement was melting away before the soft tones of the child like hoar frost in the sunshine.
"Then I promised to come and talk to you about your Susan every day; and did I not keep my word?"
"Certainly, Miss Sophia; and it is only bare justice to say that you gracefully yielded to all my fatherly whims, and even went so far as to wear a brown dress oftener than another, because I said that my little Susan wore that color the last time I kissed her."
"Oh, but that is a secret, Willis."
"Yes, but I am going to tell all our secrets—that is an idea of mine. You then went and learned Susan's mother's favorite song, with which you would sometimes sing me to sleep, like a great baby that I am, and make me fancy that I was surrounded by my wife and daughter, and was comfortably smoking my pipe in my own cottage, with a glass of grog at my elbow."
Willis said this so earnestly, that the smile called forth by the oddness of the remark scarcely dared to show itself on the lips of the listeners.
"Very well," resumed the little damsel, "if you are not more reasonable, and if you keep talking of throwing your life away, I will never again place my hand in yours as now; I shall not love you any more, and shall find means of letting Susan's mother know that you went away and killed yourself, and made her a widow."
Men can only speak coldly and appeal to reason—logic is their panacea in argument. Women alone possess those inspirations, those simple words without emphasis, that find their way directly to the heart, and for which purpose God has doubtless endowed them with those soft, mild tones, whose melodies cause our most cherished resolutions to vanish in the air; like those massive stone gates we have seen in some of the old castles in Germany, that resist the most powerful effort to push them open, but which a spring of the simplest construction causes to move gently on their formidable hinges.
Willis was silent; but no openly-expressed submission could have been more eloquent than this mute acquiescence.
In the meantime the tempest raged with increased fury, the winds howled, and the water splashed; it appeared at each shock as if the elements had reached the utmost limit of the terrific; that the sea, as the poet says, had lashed itself into exhaustion! But, anon, there came another outburst more terrible still, to declare that, in his anger as in his blessings, the All-Powerful has no other limit than the infinite.
"If it is not in the power of human beings to aid the crew of the Nelson," said Mrs. Becker kneeling, "there are other means more efficacious which we are guilty in not having sought before."
Every one followed this example, and it was a touching scene to behold the rough sailor yield submissively to the gentle violence of the child's hand, and bend his bronzed and swarthy visage humbly beside her cherub head.
TO WHAT EXTENT WILLIS THE PILOT HAD IDEAS ON CERTAIN SUBJECTS—THE KNIGHTS OF THE OCEAN.
The storm continued to rage without intermission for three entire days. During this interval, not only was it impossible to send the canoe or pinnace to sea, but even to venture a step beyond the threshold, so completely had the tempest broken up the burning soil, the thirst of which the great Disposer of all things had proportioned to the deluges that were destined to assuage it.
All had at length yielded to bodily fatigue and mental anxiety, for the seeming eternity of these three days and three nights had been passed in prayer, and in the most fearful apprehensions as to the fate of the Nelson and her crew.
Nothing in the horizon as yet indicated that the thunders were tired of roaring, the clouds of rending themselves asunder, the winds of howling, or the waves of frantically beating on the cliffs.
Towards evening the ladies had retired to the sick-room with a view of seeking some repose. Becker, Willis, and the young men bivouacked in the hall, where some mattresses and bear-skins had been laid down. Here it was arranged that, for the common safety, each during the night should watch in turn. But about two in the morning, Ernest had no sooner relieved Fritz than, fatigue overcoming his sense of duty, the poor fellow fell comfortably asleep, and he was soon perfectly unconscious of all that was passing around him.
Becker awoke first—it was broad daylight. "Where is Willis?" he cried, on getting up.
"Holloa!" exclaimed Fritz, running towards the magazine, "the canoe has disappeared!"
In an instant all were on their feet.
"Some one of you has fallen asleep then," said Becker to his children; "for when the pilot watched I watched with him, and never lost sight of him for a moment."
"I am the culprit," said Ernest; "and if any mischief arises out of this imprudence, I shall never forgive myself. But who could have dreamt of any one being foolhardy enough to attempt the rescue of a ship in a nutshell that scarcely holds two persons?"
"I pray Heaven that your sleepy-headedness may not result in the loss of human life! You see, my son, that there is no amount of duty, be it ever so trifling in importance, that can be neglected with impunity. It is the concurrent devotion of each, and the sacrifices of one for another, that constitutes and secures the mutual security. Society on a small, as on a large scale, is a chain of which each individual is a link, and when one fails the whole is broken."
"I will go after him," said Ernest.
"Fritz and I will go with you," added Frank.
"No," said Ernest; "I alone am guilty, and I wish alone to remedy my fault—that is, as far as possible."
"I could not hide the canoe," observed Fritz, "but I hid the oars, and I find them in their place."
"That, perhaps, will have prevented him embarking," remarked one of the boys.
"A man like Willis," replied Becker, "is not prevented carrying out his intentions by such obstacles; he will have taken the first thing that came to hand; but let us go."
"What, father, am I not then to go alone, and so bear the penalty of my own fault?"
"No, Ernest, that would be to inflict two evils upon us instead of one; it is sufficient that you have shown your willingness to do so. Besides, three will not be over many to convince Willis, even if yet in time."
"And mother? and the ladies?" inquired Fritz.
"I shall leave Frank and Jack to see to them; a mere obstinate freak, or a catastrophe, it will be time enough, when over, to inform them of this new idea of the Pilot's."
"It is something more than an idea this time," remarked Jack.
Just as Becker and his two sons were issuing from the grotto, the report of a cannon-shot resounded through the air.
Awoke and startled by the explosion, Becker's wife and Mrs. Wolston came running towards them. As for the girls, their guardian angel had too closely enveloped them in its wings to admit of their sleep being disturbed.
"The sloop on the coast!" said Frank; "for the sound is too distinct to come from a distance."
"Unless Willis has got upon Shark's Island," objected Fritz, running towards the terrace, armed with a telescope. "Just so; he is there, I see him distinctly; he is recharging our four-pounder."
"God be praised! you relieve my conscience of a great burden," said Ernest, placing his hand on his breast.
"He is going to discharge it," cried Fritz—boom. Then a second shot reverberated in the air.
"If Captain Littlestone be within hearing of that signal, he will be sure to reply to it." said Becker. "Listen!"
They hushed themselves in silence, each retaining his respiration, as if their object had been to hear the sound of a fly's wing rather than the report of a cannon.
"Nothing!" said Becker sadly, at the expiration of a few minutes.
"Nothing!" reiterated successively all the voices.
"How in all the world did Willis contrive to get transported to Shark's Island?" inquired Mrs. Becker.
"Simply, wife, by watching when asleep, whilst one of our gentlemen slept when he watched."
"Yes, mother," said Ernest, "and if you would not have me blush before Mrs. Wolston, you will not insist upon an explanation of the mystery."
"Mrs. Wolston," she replied, "is not so exacting as you seem to think, Master Ernest—the only difference that her presence here should make amongst you is that you have two mothers instead of one."
"That is," said Mrs. Wolston smiling, "if Mrs. Becker has no objections to dividing the office with me."
"Shall I not have compensation in your daughters?" said Mrs. Becker, taking her by the hand.
"Still," interrupted Fritz, "I cannot yet conceive how Willis managed to reach Shark's Island in a wretched canoe, without oars, through waves that ought to have swallowed him up over and over again."
"Bah!" exclaimed Jack; "what use has a pilot for oars?"
"There is a question! You, who modestly call yourself the best horseman on the island, how would you do, if you had nothing to ride upon?"
"I could at least fall back upon broomsticks," retorted the imperturbable Jack. "Besides, in Willis's case, the canoe was the steed, the oars the saddle—nothing more."
"We shall not stay here to solve the riddle," said Becker; "the storm seems disposed to abate; and the more that it was unreasonable to face certain destruction in a vain endeavor to assist a problematical shipwreck, the more it is incumbent upon us now to go in quest of the Nelson."
"But the sea will still be very terrible!" quickly added Mrs. Becker.
"If all danger were over, wife, the enterprise would do us little credit. It is our duty to do the best we can, according to the strength and means at our command. Fritz, Ernest, and Jack, go and put on your life-preservers—we shall take up Willis in passing."
"I must not insist," said Mrs. Becker; "the sacrifice would, indeed, be no sacrifice, if it could be easily borne; and yet—"
"Remember the time, wife, when I was obliged, in order to secure the precious remains of our ship, to venture with our eldest sons on a float of tubs, leaving you exposed, alone with a child of seven, to the chance of eternal isolation!"
"That is very true, husband: I am unjust towards Providence, which has never ceased blessing us; but I am only a weak woman, and my heart often gets the better of my head."
"To-day I leave Frank with you; but, instead of your being his protector, as was the case fifteen years ago, he will be yours. Then there is Mrs. Wolston, her daughters, and husband, quite a new world of sympathies and consolations, by which our island has been so miraculously peopled."
"Go then, husband, and may God bring back in safety both the pinnace and the Nelson!"
"By the way, Mrs. Wolston, how does our worthy invalid get on? We live in such a turmoil of events and consternations, that I must beg a thousand pardons for not having asked after him before."
"His sleep appears untroubled; and, notwithstanding all the terrors of the last few days, I entertain sanguine hopes of his immediate recovery."
"You will at least return before night?" said Mrs. Becker to her husband.
"Rely upon my not prolonging my stay beyond what the exigencies of the expedition imperiously require."
"Good gracious! what are these?" exclaimed Mrs. Wolston as the three brothers entered, equipped in seal-gut trowsers, floating stays of the same material, and Greenland caps.
"The Knights of the Ocean," replied Jack gravely, "who, like the heroes of Cervantes, go forth to redress the wrongs done by the tempest, and to break lances—oars, I mean—in favor of persecuted sloops."
Mrs. Becker herself could scarcely refrain from smiling.
Such is the power of the smile that, in season or out of season, it often finds its way to the most pallid lips, in the midst of the greatest disasters and the deepest grief. It appears as if always listening at the door ready to take its place on the slightest notice. This diversion had the good effect of mixing a little honey with—if the expression may be used—the bitterness of the parting adieus. Becker took the lead in hiding his sorrow; the three young Greenlanders tore themselves from the maternal embrace, and affectionately kissed the hand held out to them by Mrs. Wolston.
Then, between those that departed and those that remained behind, there was nothing more than the ties of recollection, the common sadness, and the endless links of mutual affection.
WHEREIN WILLIS THE PILOT PROVES "IRREFRAGABLY" THAT EPHEMERIDES DIE OF CONSUMPTION AND HOME-SICKNESS—THE CANOE AND ITS YOUNG ONES—THE SEARCH AFTER THE SLOOP—FOUND—THE SWORD-FISH—FLOATING ATOMS—ADMIRAL SOCRATES.
When they had come within a short distance of the bay, Jack thought he saw a large black creature moving in the bushes that lined the shore.
"A sea monster!" he cried, levelling his musket; "I discovered it, and have the right to the first shot."
"No, sir," said Fritz, whose keen eye was a sort of locomotive telescope, "I object to that, for I do not want you to kill or wound my canoe."
"Nonsense, it moves."
"Whether it moves or not, we shall all see by and by; but do you not observe this monster's young ones gambolling by its side?"
"Which proves I am right, unless you mean to say your canoe has been hatching," and Jack again levelled his rifle.
"Don't fire, it is the hat and jacket of Willis!"
"What!" exclaimed Ernest, "is the Pilot a triton then, that he could dispense with the canoe?"
"Well, yes, unless the canoe has found its way back of its own accord, which would indeed make it an intelligent creature."
"The Pilot has evidently reached Shark's Island by swimming, in spite of surf and breakers—a feat almost without a parallel."
"Bah!" said Ernest, parodying Jack's witticism about the oars, "what does a pilot care about surf and breakers?"
Strongly moored in a creek of the Jackal River, and protected by a bluff, forming a screen between it and the sea, the pinnace had in no way suffered from the storm.
The swell was so violent, that they had a world of trouble in making the island; as they approached, Willis, who had made a speaking-trumpet by joining his hands round his mouth, was roaring out alternately, "starboard," "larboard," "hard-a-port," just as if these terms had not been Hebrew to the impromptu mariners.
At last, tired of holloaing, "Stop a bit," he said, "I shall find a quicker way;" with that he threw himself directly into the sea, and cut through the waves towards them as if his arms had been driven by a steam engine.
Arrived on board, he gave a vigorous turn to the tiller, laid hold of the sheet, let out a reef here, took in another there; the pinnace was soon completely at his command, and behaved admirably; true, she pitched furiously, and the gunwale was under water at every plunge. He headed along the coast till the point beyond which Fritz had first observed the Nelson was fairly doubled; some days before this point was called Cape Deliverance, it was now, perhaps, about to acquire the term of Cape Disappointment, but for the moment its future designation was in embryo.
Leaping on the poop, Willis carefully scanned the horizon as the boat rose upon the summit of the waves; but seeing nothing, he at last leapt down again with an expression of rage that, under other circumstances, would have been irresistibly comic. Abandoning the direction of the pinnace, he went and sat down on a bulk-head, and covered his face with his hands, in an attitude of profound desolation.
"Willis! Willis!" cried Jack, "I shall tell Sophia."
But there was neither the soft voice there, the caressing hand, nor the sweet fascination of the young girl's presence, and Willis continued immovable.
Becker saw that his was one of those minds that grew less calm the more they were urged, and the excitement of which must be permitted to wear itself out; he therefore beckoned his sons to leave him to his own reflections.
The wind still blew a gale, and the pinnace pitched heavily; but the sun was now beginning to break through the masses of lurid cloud, and the air was becoming less and less charged with vapor.
"I can descry nothing either," said Becker; "and yet this is the direction the storm must have driven the sloop."
"The sea is very capricious," suggested Fritz.
"True, but not to the extent of carrying a ship against the wind."
"Unfortunately," said Jack, "it is not on sea as on land, where the slightest indications of an object lost may lead to its discovery; a word dropped in the ear of a passer-by might put you on the track, but here it is no use saying, 'Sir, did you not see the Nelson pass this way?'"
"Fire a shot," said Ernest; "it may perhaps be heard, now that the air is less humid."
The two-pounder was ready charged; Fritz struck a light and set fire to a strip of mimosa bark, with which he touched the piece, and the report boomed across the waters.
Willis raised his head and listened anxiously, but soon dropped it again, and resumed his former attitude of hopeless despair.
"It may be," said Ernest, "that the Nelson hears our signal, though we do not hear hers."
"How can that be?" inquired Jack.
"Why, very easily. Sound increases or diminishes in intensity according as the wind carries it on or retards it."
"What, then, is sound, that the wind can blow it about, most learned brother?"
"It is a result of the compression of the air, that from its elasticity extends and expands, and which causes a sort of trembling or undulation, similar to that which is observed in water when a stone is thrown into it."
"And you may add," said Becker, "that bodies striking the air excite sonorous vibrations in this fluid; thus it rings under the lash that strikes it with violence, and whistles under the rapid impulsion of a switch: it likewise becomes sonorous when it strikes itself with force against any solid body, as the wind when it blows against the cordage of ships, houses, trees, and generally every object with which it comes in contact."
"I can understand," replied Jack, "how this sonorous effect is produced on the particles of air in immediate contact with the object struck; but how this sound is propagated, I do not see."
"Very likely; but still it travels from particle to particle, in a circle, at the rate of three hundred and forty yards in a second."
"Three hundred and forty yards in a second!" said Willis, who was beginning by degrees to recover his self-possession. "Well, that is what I should call going a-head."
"And by what sort of compasses has this speed been measured, Master Ernest?"
"The first accurate measurement, Master Jack, was made at Paris in 1738. There are there two tolerably elevated points, namely, Montmartre and Montlhery—the distance between these, in a direct line, is 14,636 toises. Cannons were fired during the night, and the engineers on one of the elevations observed that an interval of eighty-six seconds and a half elapsed between the flash and the report of a cannon fired on the other."
"That half-second is very amusing," said Jack laughing; "if there had been only eighty or eighty-six net, one might still be permitted to entertain some doubts; but eighty-six and a half admits nothing of the kind. But why not three-quarters or six-eighths, they would do as well?"
"What is more natural than to reckon the fraction, if we are desirous of obtaining absolute precision? Is six months of your time of no value? Are thirty minutes more or less on the dial of your watch of no signification to you?"
"Your brother is perfectly right, Jack; you are not always successful in your jokes."
"Other experiments have been made since then," continued Ernest, "and the results have always been the same, making allowances for the wind, and a slight variation that is ascribed to temperature."
"To confirm the accuracy of this statement, the speed of light would have to be taken into consideration."
"True; but the velocity of light is so great, that the instant a cannon is fired the flash is seen."
"Whatever the distance?"
"Yes, whatever the distance. Bear in mind that the rays of the sun only require eight minutes to traverse the thirty-four millions of leagues that extend between us and that body. Hence it follows that the time light takes to travel from one point to another on the earth may be regarded as nil."
"That is something like distance and speed," remarked Willis, "and may be all right as regards the sun, but I should not be disposed to admit that there are any other instances of the same kind."
"Very good, Master Willis; and yet the sun is only a step from us in comparison to the distance of some stars that we see very distinctly, but which are, nevertheless, so remote, that their rays, travelling at the same rate as those of the sun, are several years in reaching us."
Willis rose abruptly, whistling "the Mariner's March," and went to join Fritz, who was steering the pinnace.
At this naive mark of disapprobation on the part of the Pilot, Becker, Ernest, and Jack burst involuntarily into a violent peal of laughter.
"Laugh away, laugh away." said Willis; "I will not admit your calculations for all that."
The sky had now assumed an opal or azure tint, the wind had gradually died away into a gentle breeze, the waves were now swelling gently and regularly, like the movements of the infant's cradle that is being rocked asleep. Never had a day, opening in the convulsions of a tempest, more suddenly lapsed into sunshine and smiles: it was like the fairies of Perrault's Tales, who, at first wrapped in sorry rags, begging and borne down with age, throw off their chrysalis and appear sparkling with youth, gaiety, and beauty, their wallet converted into a basket of flowers, and their crutch to a magic wand.
"Father" inquired Fritz, "shall we go any farther?"
Since the weather had calmed down, and there was no longer any necessity for exertion, the expedition had lost its charm for the young man.
"I think it is useless; what say you, Willis?"
"Ah," said the latter, taking Becker by the hand, "in consideration of the eight days' friendship that connects you even more intimately with Captain Littlestone than my affection for him of twenty years' standing, keep still a few miles to the east."
"If the sloop has been driven to a distance by the storm, and is returning towards us, which is very likely, I do not see that we can be of much use."
"But if dismasted and leaky?"
"That would alter the case, only I am afraid the ladies will be uneasy about us."
"But they were half prepared, father."
"Jack is right," added Fritz, whose energies were again called into play by the thought of the Nelson in distress; "let us go on."
"Besides, on the word of a pilot, the sea will be very calm and gentle for some time to come: there is not the slightest danger."
"And what if there were?" replied Fritz.
"Well, Willis, I shall give up the pinnace to you till dark," said Becker, "and may God guide us; we shall return to-night, so as to arrive at Rockhouse early in the morning."
"Hurrah for the captain!" cried Willis, throwing a cap into the air.
The evolutions of a cap, thrown up towards the sky or down upon the ground, were very usual modes with Willis of expressing his joy or sorrow.
This homage rendered to Becker, he hastened to let a reef out of the sheet, and the pinnace, for a moment at rest, redoubled its speed, like post-horses starting from the inn-door under the combined influence of a cheer from the postillion and a flourish of the whip.
"There is a cockle-shell that skips along pretty fairly," said Willis; "but it wants two very important things."
"A caboose and a nigger."
"A caboose and a nigger?"
"Yes, I mean a pantry and a cook; a gale for breakfast is all very well, one gets used to it, it is light and easily digested; but the same for dinner is rather too much of a good thing in one day."
"I observed your thoughtful mother hang a sack on one of your shoulders, which appeared tolerably well filled—where is it?"
"Here it is," said Jack, issuing from the hatchway; "here are our stores: a ham, two Dutch cheeses, two callabashes full of Rockhouse malaga, and there is plenty of fresh water in the gourds; with these, we have wherewithal to defy hunger till to-morrow."
"Capital!" said Willis.
This time, however, a cap did not appear in the air, as the last one had not been seen since the former ovation.
"Let us lay the table," said Jack, arranging the coils of rope that crowded the deck. "Well, you see, Willis, we want for nothing on board the pinnace, not even a what-do-you-call-it?"
"A caboose, Master Jack."
"Well, not even a caboose."
"Quite true; and if the Nelson were in the offing, I would not exchange my pilot's badge for the epaulettes of a commodore; but, alas! she is not there."
"Cheer up, Willis, cheer up; one is either a man or one is not. What is the good of useless regrets?"
"Very little, but it is hard to be yard-armed while absent at my time of life—and afterwards—your health, Mr. Becker."
"That would be hard at any age, Willis; but I rather think it has not come to that yet."
"When it has come to it, there will be very little time left to talk it over."
"Did you not say, brother, that the Nelson might hear our signals without our hearing hers? If so, there is a chance for Willis yet."
"Certainly, Jack, because she has the wind in her favor to act as a speaking-trumpet, whilst we had it against us acting as a deafener."
"Is there any other influence that affects sound besides the wind?"
"Yes, I have already mentioned that temperature has something to do with it. Sound varies in intensity according to the state of the atmosphere. If, for example, we ring a small bell in a closed vessel filled with air, it has been observed that, as the air is withdrawn by the pump, the sound gradually grows less and less distinct."
"And if a vacuum be formed?"
"Then the sound is totally extinguished."
"So, then," objected Willis, "if two persons were to talk in what you call a vacuum, they would not hear each other?"
"Two persons could not talk in a vacuum," replied Ernest.
"Because they would die as soon as they opened their mouths."
"Ah, that alters the case."
"If, on the contrary, a quantity of air or gas were compressed into a space beyond what it habitually held, then the sound," continued Ernest, "would be more intense than if the air were free."
"In that case a whisper would be equal to a howl!"
"You think I am joking, Willis; but on the tops of high mountains, such as the Himalaya and Mont Blanc, where the air is much rarified, voices are not heard at the distance of two paces."
"Awkward for deaf people!"
"Whilst, on the icy plains of the frozen regions, where the air is condensed by the severe cold, a conversation, held in the ordinary tone, may be easily carried on at the distance of half a league."
"Awkward for secrets!"
"And how does sound operate with regard to solid bodies?" inquired Jack.
"According to the degree of elasticity possessed by their veins or fibres."
"That is, solid bodies, whose structure is such that the vibration communicated to some of their atoms circulates through the mass, are susceptible of conveying sound."
"Give us an instance."
"Apply your ear to one end of a long beam, and you will hear distinctly the stroke of a pin's head on the other; whilst the same stroke will scarcely be heard through the breadth of the wood."
"So that, in the first case, the sound runs along the longitudinal fibres where the contiguity of parts is closer, than when the body is taken transversely?"
"And across water?"
"It is heard, but more feebly."
For some time Fritz had been closely observing with the telescope a particular part of the horizon, when all at once he cried, "This time I see him distinctly; he is bearing down upon us."
"Who? the sloop?" cried Willis, starting up and letting fall the glass he had in his hand.
"What an extraordinary pace! he bounds into the air, then plumps into the water, then leaps up again, just like an India-rubber ball, that touches the ground only to take a fresh spring!"
"Impossible, Master Fritz; the Nelson tops the waves honestly and gallantly; but as to leaping into the air, she is a little too bulky for that."
"Ah, poor Willis, it is not the Nelson that is under my glass at present, but an enormous fish, ten or twelve feet in length."
"Oh, how you startled me!"
"Father! Ernest! prepare to fire! Jack, the harpoon! he is coming this way."
Fritz stood at the stern of the pinnace, his rifle levelled, following with his eyes the movements of the monster; when within reach, he fired with so much success and address that he hit the creature on the head. It then changed its course, leaving behind a train of blood.
"Let us after him, Willis; quick!"
The Pilot turned the head of the pinnace, and Jack immediately threw his harpoon.
"Struck!" cried he joyfully.
By the hissing of the line, and then the rapid impulsion of the pinnace, it was felt that the monster had more strength than the craft and its crew together.
Ernest and his father fired at the same time; the ball of the former was lost in the animal's flesh, that of the latter rebounded off a horny protuberance that armed the monster's upper lip.
Fritz had time to recharge his rifle; he levelled it a second time, and the ball went to join the former; but, for all that, the pinnace continued to cleave the water at a furious rate.
Becker seized an axe and cut the rope.
"Oh, father, what a pity! such a splendid capture for our museum of natural history!"
"It is a sword-fish, children; a monster of a dangerous species, and of extreme voracity. If, by way of reciprocity, the fish have a museum at the bottom of the sea, they will have some fine specimens of the human race that have become the prey of this creature; and it may be that we were on the way to join the collection."
"Did you observe the formidable dentilated horn?"
"It is by means of this horn or sword, from which it takes its name, that it wages a continual war with the whale, whose only mode of escape is by flourishing its enormous tail; but the sword-fish, being very agile, easily avoids this, bounds into the air as Fritz saw it doing just now, then, falling down upon its huge adversary, pierces him with its sword."
"By the way, talking about the whale," said Jack, "all naturalists seem agreed, and we ourselves are convinced from our own observation, that its throat is very narrow, and that it can only swallow molluscs, or very small fishes—what, in that case, becomes of the history of Jonah?"
"It is rather unfortunate," replied Becker, "that the whale has been associated with this miracle. There is now no possibility of separating the whale from Jonah, or Jonah from the whale; yet, in the Greek translation of the Chaldean text, there is Ketos—in the Latin, there is Cete—and both these words were understood by the ancients to signify a fish of enormous size, but not the whale in particular. The shark, for example, can swallow a man, and even a horse, without mangling it."
"I have heard," said Jack, "of navigators who have landed on the back of a whale, and walked about on it, supposing it a small island."
"There is nothing impossible about that," observed Willis.
"One thing is certain, that we had just now within reach a sea monster who has carried off four leaden bullets in his body without seeming to be in the least inconvenienced by them; on the contrary, he seemed to move all the quicker for the dose."
"Life is a very different thing with those fellows than with us. The carp is said to live two hundred years, and it is supposed that a whale might live for ten centuries if the harpoon did not come in the way to shorten the period."
"Ah!" exclaimed Willis, with a sigh that might have moved a train of waggons, "these fellows have no cares."
"And the ephemeride, that dies an instant after its birth, do you suppose that it dies of grief?"
"Who knows, Master Jack?"
"The ephemeride does not die so quickly as you think," said Becker; "it commences by living three years under water in the form of a maggot. It afterwards becomes amphibious, when it has a horny covering, on which the rudiments of wings may be observed. Then, four or five months after this first metamorphosis, generally in the month of August, it issues from its skin, almost as rapidly as we throw off a jacket; attached to the rejected skin are the teeth, lips, horns, and all the apparatus that the creature required as a water insect; then it is no sooner winged, gay, and beautiful, than, as you observe, it dies—hence it is called the day-fly, its existence being terminated by the shades of night."
"I was certain of it," said Willis.
"Certain of what?"
"That it died of grief at being on land. When one has been accustomed to the water, you see, under such circumstances life is not worth the having."
"The day-fly," continued Becker, "is an epitome of those men who spend a life-time hunting after wealth and glory, and who perish themselves at the moment they reach the pinnacle of their ambitious desires. Whence I conclude, my dear children, that there are nothing but beginnings and endings of unhappiness in this world, and that true felicity is only to be hoped for in another sphere."
"What a curious series of transformations! First an aquatic insect, next amphibious, then throwing away the organs for which it has no further use, and becoming provided with those suited to its new state!"
"Yes, my dear Fritz; and yet those complicated and beautiful operations of Nature have not prevented philosophers from asserting that the world resulted from floating atoms, which, by force of combination, and after an infinity of blind movements, conglomerate into plants, animals, men, heaven, and earth."
"I am only a plain sailor," said Willis "yet the eye of a worm teaches me more than these philosophers seem to have imagined in their philosophy."
"Such a system could only have originated in Bedlam or Charenton."
"No, Ernest, it is the system of Epicurus and Lucretius. Without going so far back, there are a thousand others quite as ridiculous, with which it is unnecessary to charge your young heads."
"All madmen are not in confinement, and it may be that Epicurus and Lucretius had arrived at those limits of human reason, where genius begins in some and folly in others."
"It is not that, Fritz; but if men, says Malebranche somewhere,[A] are interested in having the sides of an equilateral triangle unequal, and that false geometry was as agreeable to them as false philosophy, they would make the problems equally false in geometry as in morality, for this simple reason, that their errors afford them gratification, whilst truth would only hurt and annoy them."
"Very good," observed Willis; "this Malebranche, as you call him, must have been an admiral?"
"No, Willis, nothing more than a simple philosopher, but one of good faith, like Socrates, who admitted that what he knew best was, that he knew nothing."
The sun had gradually disappeared in the midst of purple tinged clouds, leaving along the horizon at first a fringe of gold, then a simple thread, and finally nothing but the reflection of his rays, sent to the earth by the layers of atmosphere,[B] like the adieu we receive at the turning of a road from a friend who is leaving us.
There was a festival in the sky that night; the firmament brought out, one by one, her circlet of diamonds, till the whole were sparkling like a blaze of light; the pinnace also left a fiery train in her wake, caused partly by electricity and partly by the phosphorescent animalculae that people the ocean.
"Willis," said Becker, "I leave it entirely to you to decide the instant of our return."
The Pilot changed at once the course of the boat, without attempting to utter a word, so heavy was his heart at this unsuccessful termination of the expedition.
"It will be curious," observed Fritz, "if we find the Nelson, on our return, snugly at anchor in Safety Bay."
"I have a presentiment," said Jack; "and you will see that we have been playing at hide-and-seek with the Nelson."
Willis shook his head.
"Are there not a thousand accidents to cause a ship to deviate from her route?"
"Yes, Master Ernest, there are typhoons, and the waterspouts of which I spoke to you before. In such cases, ships often deviate from their route, but generally by going to the bottom."
Willis concluded this sentence with a gesture that defies description, implying annihilation.
"Remember Admiral Socrates, Willis," said Jack; "what I know best is, that I know nothing, and avow that God has other means of accomplishing his decrees besides typhoons and waterspouts."
"My excellent young friends, I know you want to inspire me with hope, as they give a toy to a child to keep it from crying, and I thank you for your good intentions. Now, for three days you have, so to speak, had no rest, and I insist on your profiting by this night to take some repose; and you also, Mr. Becker; I am quite able to manage the pinnace alone."
"Yes providing you do not play us some trick, like that of this morning, for instance."
"All stratagems are justifiable in war. Master Ernest had fair warning that I had an idea to work out. Besides, a prisoner, when under hatches, has the right to escape if he can: under parole, the case is quite different."
"Well, Willis, if you give me your simple promise to steer straight for New Switzerland, and awake me in two hours to take the bearings—"
"I give it, Mr. Becker."
The three Greenlanders then descended into the hold, for tropical nights are as chilly as the days are hot, and Becker, rolling himself up in a sail, lay on deck.
In less than five minutes they were all fast asleep, and Willis paced the deck, his arms crossed, and mechanically gazing upon a star that was mirrored in the water.
"Several years to come to us, and that at the rate of seventy thousand leagues a second—that is a little too much."
Then he went to the rudder, his head leaning upon his breast, and glancing now and then with distracted eye at the course of the boat, buried in a world of thought, sad and confused, doubtless beholding in succession visions of the Nelson, of Susan, and of Scotland.
[A] "Search after Truth," book ix.
[B] The twilight is entirely owing to this.
A LANDSCAPE—SAD HOUSES AND SMILING HOUSES—POLITENESS IN CHINA—EIGHT SOUPS AT DESSERT—WIND MERCHANTS—ANOTHER IDEA OF THE PILOT'S—SUSAN, VICE SOPHIA.
Towards five o'clock next morning everything about Rockhouse was beginning to assume life and motion—within, all its inhabitants were already astir—without, little remained of the recent storm and inundation except that refreshing coolness, which, conjointly with the purified air, infuses fresh vigor, not only into men, but also into every living thing. The citrous, the aloes, and the Spanish jasmines perfumed the landscape. The flexible palms, the tall bananas, with their unbrageous canopy, the broad, pendant-leaved mangoes, and all the rank but luxuriant vegetation that clothed the land to the water's edge, waved majestically under the gentle breeze that blew from the sea. The Jackal River unfolded its silvery band through the roses, bamboos, and cactii that lined its banks. The sun—for that luminary plays an important part in all Nature's festivals—darted its rays on the soil still charged with vapor. Diamond drops sparkled in the cups of the flowers and on the points of the leaves. In the distance, pines, cedars, and richly-laden cocoa-nut trees filled up the background with their dark foliage. The swans displayed their brilliant plumage on the lake, the boughs of the trees were alive with parroquets and other winged creatures of the tropics. Add to the charms of this scene, Mrs. Becker returning from the prairie with a jar of warm, frothy milk—Mrs. Wolston and Mary busied in a multiplicity of household occupations, to which their white hands and ringing voices gave elegance and grace—Sophia tying a rose to the neck of a blue antelope which she had adopted as a companion—Frank distributing food to the ostriches and large animals, and admit, if there is a paradise on earth, it was this spot.
Compare this scene with that presented by any of our large cities at the same hour in the morning. In London or Paris, our dominion rarely extends over two or three dreary-looking rooms—a geranium, perhaps, at one of the windows to represent the fields and green lanes of the country; above, a forest of smoking chimneys vary the monotony of the zig-zag roofs; below, a thousand confused noises of waggons, cabs, and the hoarse voices of the street criers; probably the lamps are just being extinguished, and the dust heaps carted away, filling our rooms, and perhaps our eyes, with ashes; the chalk-milk, the air, and the odors are scarcely required to fill up the picture.
Breakfast was spread a few paces from Mr. Wolston's bed, whom the two young girls were tending with anxious solicitude, and whose sickness was almost enviable, so many were the cares lavished upon him.
"You are wrong, Mrs. Becker," said Mrs. Wolston, "to make yourself uneasy, the sea has become as smooth as a mirror since their departure."
"Ah, yes, I know that, my dear Mrs. Wolston, but when one has already undergone the perils of shipwreck, the impression always remains, and makes us see storms in a glass of water."
"I am certain," remarked Mr. Wolston, "the cause of their delay is a concession made to Willis."
"Very likely he would not consent to return, unless they went as far as possible."
"By the way, madam," said Mary, "now that you have got two great girls added to your establishment, I hope you are going to make them useful in some way—we can sew, knit, and spin."
"And know how to make preserves," added Sophia.
"Yes, and to eat them too," said her mother.
"If you can spin, my dears, we shall find plenty of work for you; we have here the Nankin cotton plant, and I intend to dress the whole colony with it."
"Delightful!" exclaimed Sophia, clapping her hands; "Nankin dresses just as at the boarding-school, with a straw hat and a green veil."
"To be sure, it must be woven first," reflected Mrs. Becker; "but I dare say we shall be able to manage that."
"By the way, girls," said Mrs. Wolston, "have you forgotten your lessons in tapestry?"
"Not at all, mamma; and now that we think of it, we shall handsomely furnish a drawing-room for you."
"But where are the tables and chairs to come from?" inquired Mrs. Becker.
"Oh, the gentlemen will see to them."
"And the room, where is that to be?"
"There is the gallery, is there not?"
"And the wool for the carpet?"
"Have you not sheep?"
"That is true, children; you speak as if we had only to go and sit down in it."
"The piano, however, I fear will be wanting, unless we can pick up an Erard in the neighboring forest."
"True, mamma, all the overtures that we have had so much trouble in learning will have to go for nothing."
"But," said Mrs. Becker, "by way of compensation, there is the vegetable and fruit garden, the pantry, the kitchen, the dairy, and the poultry yard; these are all my charges, and you may have some of them if you like."
"Excellent, each shall have her own kingdom and subjects."
"It being understood," suggested Mrs. Wolston, "that you are not to eat everything up, should the fruit garden or pantry come under your charge."
"That is not fair, mamma; you are making us out to be a couple of cannibals."
"You see," continued Mrs. Wolston, "these young people have not the slightest objection to my parading their accomplishments, but the moment I touch their faults they feel aggrieved."
"I am persuaded," rejoined Mrs. Becker laughing, "that there are no calumniators in the world like mothers."
"Therefore, mamma, to punish you we shall come and kiss you."
And accordingly Mrs. Wolston was half stifled under the embraces of her two daughters.
"I am certainly not the offender," said Mrs. Becker, "but I should not object to receive a portion of the punishment; these great boys—pointing to Frank—are too heavy to hang on my neck now; you will replace them, my dears, will you not?"
"Most willingly, madam; but not to deprive them of their places in your affection."
"In case you should lose that, Master Frank," said Mrs. Wolston, "you must have recourse to mine."
"But now, my friends, what do you say to going down to the shore to meet the pinnace, and perhaps the Nelson?" said Mrs. Becker.
"Ah, yes," said Sophia; "and I will stay at home to wait upon father."
"No," said Mary; "I am the eldest—that is my right."
"Well, my children, do not quarrel about that," said Wolston; "I feel rather better; and I dare say a walk will do me good. Perhaps, when I get tired, Frank will lend me his arm."
"Better than that," hastily added Frank; "I shall saddle Blinky; and lead him gently, and you will be as comfortable as in an arm-chair."
"What is that you call Blinky?"
"Oh, one of our donkeys."
"Ah, very good; I was afraid you meant one of your ostriches, and I candidly admit that my experiences in equitation do not extend to riding a winged horse."
"In that case," said Mrs. Becker, "to keep Blinky's brother from being jealous, I, shall charge him with a basket of provisions; and we shall lay a cloth under the mangoes, so that our ocean knights, as Jack will have it, may have something to refresh themselves withal as soon as they dismount."
The little caravan was soon on the march; the two dogs cleared the way, leaping, bounding, and scampering on before, sniffing the bushes with their intelligent noses; then, returning to their master, they read in his face what was next to be done. Mary walked by the side of Blinky, amusing her father with her prattle. Sophia, with her antelope, was gambolling around them, the one rivalling the other in the grace of their movements, not only without knowing it, but rather because they did not know it. The two mothers were keeping an eye on the donkey; whilst Frank, with his rifle charged, was ready to bring down a quail or encounter a hyena.
Some hours after the pinnace hove in sight, the voyagers landed, and received the warm congratulations of those on shore. When Willis had secured the boat, he took a final survey of the coast, penetrating with his eyes every creek and crevice.
"Is there no trace of the Nelson?" inquired Wolston.
"Well, I had all along thought you would find it so; the wind for four days has been blowing that it would drive the Nelson to her destination. Captain Littlestone, being charged with important despatches, having already lost a fortnight here, has, no doubt, taken advantage of the gale, and made sail for the Cape, trusting to find us all alive here on his return voyage."
"Yes," said the Pilot, "I know very well that you have all good hearts, and that you are desirous of giving me all the consolation you can."
"Would you not have acted, under similar circumstances, precisely as we suppose Captain Littlestone to have done?"
"I admit that the thing, is not only possible, but also that, if alive, it is just what he would have done. I trust, if it be so, that when he gets into port he will report me keel-hauled?"
"Yes, I mean dead. It is a thousand times better to pass for a dead man than a deserter."
"The wisest course he could pursue, it appears to me, would be to hold his tongue—probably you will not be missed."
"Ah! you think that her Majesty's blue jackets can disappear in that way, like musk-rats? But no such thing. When the captain in command at the station hails on board, every man and boy of the crew, from the powder-monkey to the first-lieutenant, are mustered in pipe-clay on the quarter-deck, and there, with the ship's commission in his hand, every one must report himself as he calls over the names.
"Then the captain will tell the simple truth."
"Well, you see, truth has nothing at all to do with the rules of the service, the questions printed in the orderly-book only will be asked, and he may not have an opportunity of stating the facts of the case; besides, discipline on board a ship in commission could not be maintained if irregularities could be patched up by a few words from the captain. When it is found that I had been left on shore, the questions will be, 'Was the Nelson in want of repairs?' 'No.' 'Did she require water?' 'No.' 'Provisions?' 'No.' 'Then Willis has deserted?' 'Yes.' And his condemnation will follow as a matter of course."
"In that case, the Captain would be more to blame than you are."
"So he would, and it is for that reason I hope he will be able to show by the log that I was seized with cholera, tied up in a sack, and duly thrown overboard with a four-pound shot for ballast."
"I cannot conceive," said Becker, "that the discipline of any service can be so cruelly unreasonable as you would have us believe."
"No, perhaps you think that just before the anchor is heaved, and the ship about to start on a long voyage, the cabin boys are asked whether they have the colic—that lubbers, who wish to back out have only to say the word, and they are free—that the pilot may go a-hunting if he likes, and that the officers may stay on shore and amuse themselves in defiance of the rules of the service? In that case the navy would be rather jolly, but not much worth."
When Willis was once fairly started there was no stopping him.
"Dead," he continued; "that is to say, without a berth, pay, or even a name, nothing! My wife will have the right to marry again, my little Susan will have another father, and I shall only be able to breathe by stealth, and to consider that as more than I deserve. You must admit that all this is rather a poor look-out a-head."
"Really, Willis," said Mrs. Wolston, "you seem to take a pride in making things worse than they are, conjuring up phantoms that have no existence."
"It is true, madam. I may be going upon a wrong tack. Judging from all appearances, the sloop, instead of being on her way to the Cape, is tranquilly reposing at the bottom of the sea. But it is only death for death; hanged by a court-martial or drowned with the sloop, it comes, in the end, to the same thing."
"I dare say, Willis, had there really been an accident, and you had been on board, you would not have felt yourself entitled to escape?"
"Certainly not, madam; unless the crew could be saved, it would look anything but well for the pilot to escape alone."
Willis, however, to do him justice, seemed trying to smother his grief; and, in the meanwhile, the two girls had been spreading a pure white cloth on a neighboring rock, cutting fruit plates out of the thick mangoe leaves, cooling the Rockhouse malaga in the brook, and giving to the repast an air of elegance and refinement which had the effect of augmenting the appetite of the company. The viands were not better than they had been on many similar occasions, but they were now more artistically displayed, and consequently more inviting.
Who has not remarked, in passing through a street of dingy-looking houses, one of them distinguished from the others by its fresh and cheerful aspect, the windows garnished with a luxuriant screen of flowers, with curtains on either side of snowy whiteness and elaborate workmanship? Very likely the passer-by has asked himself, Why is this house not as neglected, tattered, and dirty as its wretched neighbors? The answer is simple; there dwells in this house a young girl, blithe, frolicsome, and joyous, singing with the lark, and, like a butterfly, floating from her book to her work-box—from her mother's cheek to her father's, leaving an impress of her youthfulness and purity on whatever she touches.
For a like reason the al fresco dinner of this day had a charm that no such feast had been observed to possess before.
"We are not presentable," said Fritz, referring to his seal-gut uniform.
"Ah," replied Mrs. Wolston, "it is your costume of war, brave knights; and, for my part, I admire you more in it than in the livery of Hyde Park or Bond Street."
"In that case," said Ernest, "we shall do as they do in China."
"And what is that?"
"Well, the most profound remark of respect a host can pay to his guests, is to go and dress after dinner."
"Just when they are about to leave?"
"Exactly so, madam."
"That is very decidedly a Chinese observance. Are they not somewhat behind in cookery?"
"By no means, madam; on the contrary, they have attained a very high degree of perfection in that branch of the arts. It is customary, at every ceremonious dinner, to serve up fifty-two distinct dishes. And when that course is cleared off, what do you think is produced next?"
"The dessert, I suppose."
"Eight kinds of soup, never either one more or one less. If the number were deficient, the guests would consider themselves grossly insulted, the number of dishes denoting the degree of respect entertained by the host for his guests."
"I beg, Mrs. Wolston," said Mrs. Becker laughing, "that you will not estimate our esteem for you by the dinner we offer you."
"Well," replied Mrs. Wolston in the same tone, "let me see; to be treated as we ought to be, there are fifty-seven dishes wanting, therefore we must go and dine at home. John, call my carriage."
At this sally they all laughed heartily, and even Willis chimed in with the general hilarity.
"Then, after the soups," continued Ernest, "comes the tea, and with that the dessert, as also sixty square pieces of silver paper to wipe the mouth. It is then that the host vanishes, to reappear in a brilliant robe of gold brocade and a vest of satin."
"These people ought all to perish of indigestion."
"No; they are moderate eaters, their dishes consist of small saucers, each containing only a few mouthfuls of meat, and, as for Europeans, the want of forks and spoons—"
"What! have they no forks?"
"Not at table—nor knives either; but, on the other hand, they are exceedingly expert in the use of two slender sticks of ivory, which they hold in the first three fingers of the right hand, and with which they manage to convey solids, and even liquids, to their mouths."
"Ah! I see," said Jack; "the Europeans would be obliged, like Mrs. Wolston, to call their carriage, in spite of the fifty-two saucers of meat: it puts me in mind of the stork inviting the fox to dine with her out of a long-necked jar."
"We are apt to judge the Chinese by the pictures seen of them on their own porcelain, and copied upon our pottery," said Becker; "but this conveys only a ludicrous idea of them. They are the most industrious, but at the same time the vainest, most stupid, and most credulous people in the world; they worship the moon, fire, fortune, and a thousand other things; people go about amongst them selling wind, which they dispose of in vials of various sizes."
"That is a trade that will not require an extraordinary amount of capital."
"True; and besides, as they carry on their trade in the open air, they have no rent to pay."
"Their bonzes or priests," continued Becker, "to excite charity, perambulate the streets in chains, sometimes with some inflammable matter burning on their heads, whilst, instead of attempting to purify the souls of dying sinners, they put rice and gold in their mouths when the vital spark has fled. They have a very cruel mode of punishing renegade Lamas: these are pierced through the neck with a red-hot iron."
"What is a Lama, father?"
"It is a designation of the Tartar priests."
For some time Willis had been closely examining a particular point in the bay with increasing anxiety; at last he ran towards the shore and leapt into the sea. Becker and his four sons were on the point of starting off in pursuit of him.
"Stop," said Wolston, "I have been watching Willis's movements for the last ten minutes, and I guess his purpose—let him alone."
Willis swam to some object that was floating on the water, and returned in about a quarter of an hour, bringing with him a plank.
"Well," he inquired, on landing, "was I wrong?"
"Wrong about what?" inquired Wolston.
"The Nelson is gone."
"The proof, Willis."
"Well, what about the plank?"
"I recognise it."
"How! Well," replied the obstinate pilot, "fish don't breed planks, and—and—I scarcely think this one could escape from a dockyard, and float here of its own accord."
"Then, Willis, according to you, there are no ships but the Nelson, no ships wrecked but the Nelson, and no planks but the Nelson's. Willis, you are a fool."
"Every one has his own ideas, Mr. Wolston."
Towards evening, when they were on their way back to Rockhouse, Sophia confidentially called Willis aside, and he cheerfully obeyed the summons.
"Pilot," said she, "I have made up my mind about one thing."
"And what is that, Miss Sophia?"
"Why, this—in future, when we are alone, as just now, you must call me Susan, as you used to call your own little girl when at home, not Miss Susan."
"Oh, I cannot do that, Miss Sophia."
"But I insist upon it."
"Well, Miss Sophia, I will try."
"What did you say?"
"Susan, I mean."
"There now, that will do."
ALLOTMENT OF QUARTERS—A HORSE MARINE—TRAVELLING PLANTS—CHANGE OF DYNASTY IN ENGLAND—A WOMAN'S KINGDOM—SHEEP CONVERTED INTO CHOPS—RESURRECTION OF THE FRIED FISH—A SECRET.
After some days more of anxious but fruitless expectation, it was finally concluded that either the Nelson had sailed for the Cape, or, as Willis would have it, she had gone to that unexplored and dread land where there were neither poles nor equator, and whence no mariner was ever known to return. It was necessary, therefore, to make arrangements for the surplus population of the colony—whether for a time or for ever, it was then impossible to say. At first sight, it might appear easy enough to provide accommodation for the eleven individuals that constituted the colony of New Switzerland. It is true that land might have been marked off, and each person made sovereign over a territory as large as some European kingdoms; but these sovereignties would have resembled the republic of St. Martin—there would have been no subjects. What, then, would they have governed? it may be asked. Themselves, might be answered; and it is said to be a far more difficult task to govern ourselves than to rule others.
Though space was ample enough as regards the colony in general, it was somewhat limited as regards detail. To live pele-mele in Rockhouse was entirely out of the question. Independently of accommodation, a thousand reasons of propriety opposed such an arrangement. Whether or not there might be another cave in the neighborhood, hollowed out by Nature, was not known; if there were, it had still to be discovered. Chance would not be chance, if it were undeviating and certain in its operations. To consign the Wolstons to Falcon's Nest or Prospect Hill, and leave them there alone, even though under the protection of Willis, could not be thought of; they knew nothing of the dangers that would surround them, and as yet they were ignorant of the topography of the island. It was, therefore, requisite that both families should continue in proximity, so as to aid each other in moments of peril, but without, at the same time, outraging propriety, or shackling individual freedom of action. Under ordinary circumstances, these difficulties might have been solved by taking apartments on the opposite side of the street, or renting a house next door. But, alas! the blessings of landlords and poor-rates had not yet been bestowed on the island.
One day after dinner, when these points were under consideration, Willis, who was accustomed to disappear after each meal, no one knew why or whereto, came and took his place amongst them under the gallery.
"As for myself," said the Pilot, "I do not wish to live anywhere. Since I am in your house, Mr. Becker, and cannot get away honestly for a quarter of an hour, I must of course remain; but as for becoming a mere dependant on your bounty, that I will not suffer."
"What you say there is not very complimentary to me," said Mr. Wolston.
"Your position, Mr. Wolston, is a very different thing: besides, you are an invalid and require attention, whilst I am strong and healthy, for which I ought to be thankful."
"You are not in my house," replied Becker "any more than I am in yours; the place we are in is a shelter provided by Providence for us all, and I venture to suppose that such a host is rich enough to supply all our wants. I am only the humble instrument distributing the gifts that have been so lavishly bestowed on this island."
"What you say is very kind and very generous," added Willis, "but I mean to provide for myself—that is my idea."
"And not a bad one either," continued Becker; "but how? You are welcome here to do the work for four—if you like; and then, supposing you eat for two, I will be your debtor, not you mine."