"We follow the system in fashion aboard ship," replied Willis.
"And what does that consist of?"
"A rope's end."
"Oh, then, you are an advocate for the birch, are you?" said Wolston; "it is, doubtless, a very good thing when moderately and judiciously administered. That puts me in mind of the missionary and the king of the Kuruman negroes."
"A tribe of Southern Africa, is it not?"
"Yes, the missionary and the king were great friends. The king not only permitted him to baptize his subjects, but offered to whip them all into Christianity in a week. This summary mode of proselytism did not, however, coincide with the Englishman's ideas, and he refused the offer, although the king insisted that it was the only kind of argument that could ever reach their understandings."
The day at length drew to a close, and, though no one asked the time yet all felt that the moment of departure was approaching; whether they were willing to go was doubtful, but at they were loth to depart was certain.
"It is time to return now," said Becker, rising.
"There are some clouds in the distance that bode no good."
"Nothing more than a little rain at worst," said Jack.
"And your mother?" inquired Decker.
"Oh! we can make a palanquin for her."
"Your plan, Jack, is not particularly bright; it puts me in mind of some genius or other that took shelter in the water to keep out of the wet."
"Very odd," said Jack, "we are always wishing for rain, and when it comes, we do all we can to keep out of its way."
"That is, because we are neither green pease nor gooseberries," said Ernest, drily.
"True, brother; and as the rain is your affair, perhaps you will be good enough to delay it for an hour or so."
"I am sorry on my own account, as well as yours, that I have not yet discovered the art of controlling the skies."
Here Fritz whispered a few words in his mother's ear, that called up one of those ineffable smiles that the maternal heart alone can produce.
"Well," said Mrs. Becker, "if you think so, deliver the message yourself."
"Mrs. Wolston," said Fritz, "I am charged to invite you and your family to Falcon's Nest this day week."
"The invitation is accepted, unless my daughters have any objections to urge."
"How can you fancy such a thing, mamma?" said both girls.
"The fact is, that my daughters have got such a dread of cold water, that they dread to wet the soles of their shoes, unless one or other of you gentlemen is within hail."
"Mamma does so love to tease us," said Mary; "we are afraid of nothing but putting you to inconvenience."
"Well, in that case, we shall be at Falcon's Nest on the appointed day, unless the roads are positively submerged."
"In that case," said Jack, "a line of canoes will be placed upon the highway, between the two localities."
As the prospect of a prize incites the young scholar to increased exertion—as the prospect of worldly honors urges the ambitious man on in his career—as the oasis cheers the weary traveller on his journey through the desert, and makes him forget hunger and thirst—as the dreams of comfort and home warm the blood of a wayfarer amongst snow and ice—as hope smooths the ruggedness of poverty and softens the calamities of adversity, so the prospect of meeting again mitigates the regrets of parting.
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.
The old saw, Where there's a will there's a way, means—if it means anything—that a great deal may be effected by energy. A man without energy is a helpless character, and invariably lags behind his fellow mortals in the stream of life; like a cork in an eddy, he is rebuffed here and jostled there, and goes on travelling in a circle to the end of the chapter. Not so the man of action; no jostling thwarts him, no rebuffs retard him; he breaks through all sorts of obstacles, and floats along with the current.
Such a man was Becker. Though surrounded with dangers, and harassed by the elements, almost alone he had converted a wilderness into fertile fields; he pursued the track that his judgment suggested, and followed it up with invincible resolution; he manfully resisted the severest trials, and cheerfully bore the heaviest burdens; his reliance on Truth or Virtue and on God were unfaltering; but had he provided for every emergency? Is mortal power capable of overcoming every difficulty? We shall see.
A day or two after the entertainment at Rockhouse, Becker whispered to the Pilot—
"Willis, take a rifle, and come along with me; I have something to say to you."
They walked a quarter of an hour or so without uttering a word, when Willis broke the silence.
"You seem sad, Mr. Becker."
"Yes, Willis, I am almost distracted."
"Still, you seem well enough; you are as hale and hearty as if you had just been keel-hauled and got a new rig."
"It is not my body that is suffering, Willis; it is my mind."
"Whatever is the matter?"
"Willis, my wife is dying."
And so it was. For a long period Becker's wife had been a prey to racking pains, which, so to speak, she hid from herself, the better to conceal them from others, just as if suffering had been a crime. After having resisted for fourteen years the afflictions of exile, long and perilous expeditions, nights passed under tents, humid winters and fierce burning summers, her health had, at length, succumbed, not all at once, like fabrics sapped by gunpowder, but little by little, like those that are demolished piecemeal with the pickaxe of the workman. Day by day she grew more and more feeble, without those who were constantly by her side observing the insidious workings of disease. Like Mucius Scaevola, who held his hands in a burning brazier without uttering a word, she so effectually hid her griefs within the recesses of her own bosom, that no one even suspected her illness.
"But, Mr. Becker," said Willis, "I saw your wife this morning, and she seemed as well as usual."
"Yes, seemed, Willis, that is true enough; not to give us pain, she has concealed her illness from us all. It is only within the last twelve hours that I accidentally discovered that she has been long laboring under some fearful malady."
"Do you know the nature of the disease?"
"No, that I have no means of ascertaining; it may be a distinct form of disease, or it may be a complication of disorders, which I know not."
"It would not signify about the name if we only knew a remedy."
"True; but I dread some malady of a cancerous type, which could not be eradicated without surgical skill."
"I wish I had been born a doctor instead of a pilot," sighed Willis.
"I cannot see her perish before my eyes."
"Certainly not, Mr. Becker; it would never do to allow a ship to sink if she can be saved."
"Well, what is to be done?"
"There lies the difficulty; had it been a question of anything that floats on the water, I might have suggested a remedy; but, in this case, I am fairly run aground."
"I know too well what must be done, Willis. In cases of ordinary maladies, with care and due precaution, proper nourishment and time, Nature will generally effect a cure."
"Nature has no diploma, but she accomplishes more cures than those that have."
"Unfortunately this is not a malady that can be cured by such means; and, unless its progress be checked in time, it may ultimately assume a form that will render a cure impossible."
"Is death, then, inevitable?"
"A patient may retain a languishing life under such circumstances for some time; but if the disease be cancer, a cure is hopeless without instruments and scientific skill."
"I thought I was the only wretched being in the colony," said Willis, sighing, "but I find I am not alone."
"There are no hopes of the Nelson, are there?" inquired Becker.
"None now; for some time Mr. Wolston and yourself almost persuaded me that she had escaped; but had she reached the Cape, we should have heard of her ere now."
"The probabilities of another vessel touching here are small, are they not?"
"We are not in the direct track to anywhere; therefore, unless a ship has been driven out of her course by a gale, there is not a chance."
"Unfortunate that I am!" exclaimed Becker, covering his face with his hands. "Brutus, Manlius Torquatus, and Peter the Great, condemned their sons to death, but they were guilty; still the sacrifice must be made."
Here Willis stared aghast, and began to fear Becker's intellect had been affected by his troubles.
"I do not exactly understand you, Mr. Becker."
"Two of my sons have gone on before us; they were to embark in the canoe for Shark's Island, and wait for us there. I must have courage, and you also, Willis."
This exordium did not tend to alter the Pilot's impression. They walked on for some time in silence towards the coast.
"Do you know the latitude and longitude of this coast, Willis?"
"Good!" thought the Pilot, "he has changed the subject."
"Yes; we are in the South Sea, and no great distance from the line."
"What continent is nearest us?"
"We cannot be very far off the south coast of New Holland, or, as it is named in some charts, Australia. You know that the Nelson hailed from Botany Bay, or Sydney, as the convict colony which the English Government has just founded there is called."
"How far do you suppose we are from Sydney?"
"Well, I should say, with a fair wind and a smart craft, Sydney is not above two months' sail, if so much."
"Is the coast inhabited?"
"What character do the inhabitants bear?"
"According to the Dutch sailors, who have been on the coast, they are the most plundering and lubberly set of rascals to be met with anywhere."
"They are not acquainted with the use of fire-arms, are they?"
"No not of fire-arms; but they have a machine of their own that they call a waddy, or something of that sort, which they throw like a harpoon; but the thing takes a twist in the air, and strikes behind them."
"Is the coast accessible?"
"No; it is fringed with reefs, and, in some places, the surf runs for miles out to sea."
"The navigation along shore, then, is extremely perilous?"
"Whatever can he be driving at?" thought Willis.
"Yes; such a lee shore in a gale would terrify the Flying Dutchman himself."
Here Becker shook his head dolefully, and they walked on a little further in silence.
"What islands do you suppose are nearest us, Willis?"
"I should say we are in or near the group marked in the chart Papuasia; beyond them is the territory of New Guinea, and a point to nor'ard are a whole nest of islands discovered by the celebrated buccaneer, Dampiere."
"And their inhabitants?"
"Oh, some of them are pretty fair; but, taking them in the lump, they are a bad lot."
"The islands to the west are those discovered by Cook, Vancouver, and Bougainville, are they not?"
"They are marked Polynesia in the charts."
"Do you know of any European settlements on these islands?"
"Well, there is a fort of the Hudson's Bay Company on Vancouver's Island, but that is a long way north; and, I believe, a factory has recently been anchored in New Zealand, but that is a long way south."
"And what are the principal islands between?"
"There is New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, the Friendly Islands, the Societies' Islands, the Marquesas, Tahite, and the Pelew Islands; but each navigator gives them a new name, so that it is hard to say which is which; all you can do is to say that there is an island in latitude so and so and longitude so and so, but the name is almost out of the question."
"And the natives?"
"Some of them are remarkably tame, and trade freely with strangers; but others have strongly marked cannibal propensities, and dote upon a white-skin feast when they can get one."
Here Becker shuddered, and uttered an exclamation of horror.
"That would be a terrible fate, Willis."
"Whatever can he mean?" thought the Pilot.
"Willis, to reach Europe from here, what course do you think would be best?"
"Now I think I shall fix him at last," said the Pilot, levelling his rifle at an imaginary bird.
"You will only waste gunpowder," said Becker; "I see nothing."
"You asked me just now what course I should steer for Europe, did you not?"
"Well, the most direct course would be to make the Straits of Macassar, and then steer for Java."
"And when there?"
"You would then be fifteen or sixteen hundred leagues from the Cape."
"Yes, that is about the distance in a straight line across the Indian Ocean. When at the Cape, another fifteen days' sail will bring you to the line; five or six weeks after that St. Helena will heave in sight; then you fall in with the Island of Ascension; leaving which a week or two will bring you to the Straits of Gibraltar, where you get the first glimpse of Europe. But if you are bound for England, your daughter may commence working a pair of slippers for you; they will be ready by the time you get there."
They had now arrived at the point of the Jackal River where the pinnace was moored.
"What do you think of this boat?" inquired Becker.
"The pinnace is well enough for fair weather; but it is not the sort of craft I should like to command in a storm at sea."
"So that to venture to sea in it would be to incur imminent danger?"
"There is no denying that, Mr. Becker; if she shipped a moderately heavy sea, down she must go to the bottom, like a four and twenty pound shot; and if she should spring a leak, you cannot land to put her to rights; the waves are by no means solid."
"Just as I thought!" exclaimed Becker; "I was right in judging that it would be a sacrifice. It is almost certain death; but they must go."
"Where?" inquired Willis.
"To Europe if need be, if God in his mercy spares the pinnace."
"I have the means of purchasing surgical skill, and I must use all the sacrifices at my command to obtain it."
"Avast heaving, Mr. Becker," cried Willis; "now I understand; the thing is as clear as the tackle of the best bower, and when a resolution is once formed, nothing like paying it out at the word of command. When shall we start?"
"I am not talking of either you or myself, Willis."
"Of whom then, may I ask?"
"Fritz and Jack. Fritz knows something of navigation; and if they succeed, they will have saved their mother; if they perish, they will have died to save her."
"Fritz, as you say, does know something of navigation, particularly as regards coasting; but here you have a pilot, accustomed to salt water, quite handy, why not engage him also?"
"Willis, you have yourself said that the undertaking is perilous in the extreme, and your life is not bound up like theirs in that of their mother."
"True; but do you not see that I am sick of dry land, and that I am getting rusty for the want of a little sea air?"
"I felt ashamed to ask you to share in so desperate an enterprise, otherwise I would have proposed it to you, Willis."
"But you might have seen that I was growing thin, absolutely pining away, and drying up on land. There are ducks that can live without water, but I am not one of them."
"Am I, then, to understand that you offer to risk your life in this forlorn hope?"
"Certainly, Mr. Becker; a man condemned to be hanged, running the risk of being drowned is no great sacrifice."
"Willis, I accept your offer, to share in the dangers of this enterprise, most gratefully. I thank you in the name of my sons and of their mother, and trust that God may enable me to recompense you for your devotion to them and to myself."
"You forget," added Willis, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye, that he ascribed to a grain of dust, "you forget that I was on the point of venturing out to sea in the canoe, had you yourself and Mr. Wolston not prevented me. There is work to be done, I admit; and it is not impossible to cross even the Indian Ocean in the pinnace. But we may find a doctor, perhaps, at some of the settlements—for instance, at Manilla, in the Philippines."
"That is not to be hoped for, Willis; there is, probably, only one skilful medical man in each colony, and he will be prevented leaving by Government engagements."
"True; then we had better hoist sail for Europe direct, and trust to falling in with a ship now and then."
"Alas!" sighed Becker, "in a path so wide as the ocean, it would be unwise to trust to such chances; you will have to rely, I fear, entirely upon the resources of the pinnace alone."
"Well, I dare say, though we may have to put up with half rations, we shall not starve on the voyage, at all events."
They had unmoored the pinnace, and were on their way to Shark's Island.
"You are about to announce to your sons their departure?" said Willis, inquiringly.
"Yes; but my heart almost fails me."
"The iron must be struck while it is hot. Will you commission me to whisper a few words in their ear?"
"Thanks, Willis; but what right have I to expect courage from them, if I exhibit weakness myself? No, my friend, I may shed tears in your presence, but not before them."
"A man ought never to allow his feelings to get the better of his courage," said Willis, in whose eyes, however, the dust was evidently playing sad havoc.
"These boys have almost never been absent from me. I have watched them grow up from infancy to adolescence, and from adolescence to manhood; they have always been dutiful and obedient, and with gratitude I have blessed them every night of their lives. But stern are the decrees of Fate; I must command them to depart from me—perhaps for ever!"
"There are evils that lead to good," said Willis, "even though these evils be the Straits of Magellan or the storms of the Indian Ocean."
Here the pinnace reached the offing of Shark's Island, where Fritz and Jack, leaning on the battery, watched the progress of the boat.
"Do you observe how downcast my father looks?" said Fritz.
"Willis does not look much gayer," remarked Jack.
"Do you believe in omens, Jack?"
"Now and then."
"Well, mark me, there is a screw loose somewhere, or I am no oracle."
BACON AND BISCUIT—LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE—THE PATERNAL BENEDICTION—AN APPARITION—A MOTHER NOT EASILY DECEIVED—THE ADIEU—THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE—IN 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.
On their return from Shark's Island, Fritz and Jack were deeply affected, not by the dread of the perils they were destined to encounter—these never gave them a moment's uneasiness—but by the knowledge that a merciless vulture was preying upon the vitals of their beloved mother.
Willis on the contrary, appeared as lively as if he had just received notice of promotion; but whether the idea of again dwelling on the open sea had really elevated his spirits, or whether this gaiety was only assumed to encourage Becker and his sons, was best known to himself.
It was arranged amongst them that no one, under any circumstances, should be made acquainted with the design they had in contemplation. By this means all opposition would be vanquished, and the regrets of separation would, in some degree, be avoided. Besides, if the project were divulged, might not Frank and Ernest insist upon their right to share its dangers? This eventuality alone was sufficient to impress upon them all the urgency of secrecy. The really strong man knows his weakness, and therefore dislikes to run the risk of exposing it, so Becker dreaded the tears and entreaties that this desperate undertaking would inevitably exercise, were it generally known beforehand to the rest of the family; whereas, if once the pinnace were fairly at sea, it could not be recalled, and time would do the rest.
Since, then, all the preparations had to be made in such a way as not to excite suspicion that any thing extraordinary was on foot, the progress was necessarily slow. Willis, under pretext of amusing himself, refitted the pinnace, and strengthened it so far as he could without impairing its sailing efficiency. He called to mind that, when Captain Cook reached Batavia, after his first voyage round the world, he observed with astonishment that a large portion of the sides of his famous ship the Endeavor was, under the water line, no thicker than the sole of a shoe.
As soon as the weather had settled, and the tropical heats set in, the Wolstons resumed their abode at Falcon's Nest; whilst, under some plausible pretext or other, Willis, Fritz, and Jack took up their quarters at Rockhouse. This arrangement gave the destined navigators the means of carrying on their operations unobserved, especially as regards salting provisions and baking for the voyage.
Along with the stores, a portion of the valuables, that still remained in the magazines of Rockhouse, were placed on board the pinnace; for, though gold and precious stones were not of much value in New Switzerland, Becker had not forgotten that such was not the case in other portions of the world; he reflected that his sons must be furnished with the means of returning to the colony with comfort. There was also a man of science and education to be bought, and that, he knew, could not be done without as the French proverb has it, having some hay in one's boots.
Storms are usually heralded by some premonitory symptoms: the atmosphere becomes oppressive, the clouds increase in density, the sky gradually becomes obscure and large drops of rain begin to fall, then follows the deluge, and the elements commence their strife. It is much the same with impending misfortunes: gloom gathers on the countenance, our movements become constrained, our thoughts wander, and a tear lingers in the corner of the eye. Fritz and Jack endeavored in vain to appear unconcerned, but, in spite of their efforts, it was painfully evident that their minds were burdened by some heavy weight. They were more tender and more affectionate, particularly towards their mother. Towards evening, when they quitted the family circle for Rockhouse, their adieus were so earnest, so warm, and so often repeated, that it almost appeared as if they were laying in a stock of them for their voyage, to store up and preserve with the bacon and biscuits. Even the animals came in for an extra share of caresses, and, if they were capable of reflection, it must have puzzled them sorely to account for all the endearments that were lavished upon them by the two brothers.
Becker himself was no less affected than his sons; sometimes, when the latter were busily occupied with some preparation for the voyage, he would fix his eyes sadly upon them, just as if every trait of these cherished features had not already been deeply graven on his soul.
During the preceding rainy season, the two young men felt the days long and tedious, and wished in their inmost hearts that they would pass away more swiftly; now, the hours seemed to fly with unaccountable rapidity, and they would gladly have lengthened them if they had had the power. But no one can arrest
Le temps, cette image mobile De l'immobile eternite.
And time is right in holding on the even tenor of its way; for if it once yielded to the desires of mortals, there would be no end of confusion and perplexity. It takes unto itself wings and flies away, say the fortunate; it lags at a snail's pace, say the unfortunate. The idler knows not how to pass it away. The man of action does not observe its progress. Those who are looking forward to some favorite amusement exclaim, "Would that it were to-morrow!" but how many there are that might well ejaculate, from the bottom of their souls, "Would that to-morrow may never arrive!" How, then, could such wishes be met in a way to satisfy all?
A day at length arrived when everything was ready for departure, and when nothing was wanted to weigh anchor but courage on the part of the voyagers. The pinnace was laden to the gunwale, the compass was in its place, the casks were filled with fresh water from the Jackal River, and Willis reported that both wind and sea were propitious for a start.
The morning of that day was lovely in the extreme. Willis, Fritz, and Jack were early at Falcon's Nest; the two families breakfasted together under the trees in the open air. After breakfast an adjournment to the umbrageous shade of the bananas was proposed and agreed to.
"Mother," said Fritz, taking Mrs. Becker's arm, "I want you all to myself."
"I object to that, if you please," cried Jack, taking her other arm.
"Why, you boys seem extravagantly fond of your mother to-day," said Mrs. Becker, gaily.
"Well, you see, mother, we have the right to have an idea now and then—Willis has one every week."
"So long as your ideas are about myself, I have no reason to object to them," said Mrs. Becker, smiling.
"We have always been dutiful sons, have we not, mother?" inquired Fritz.
"You are well pleased with us then?"
"We have never caused you any uneasiness, have we?" inquired Jack.
"That is to say, inadvertently," added Fritz; "designedly is out of the question."
"No, not even inadvertently," replied their mother.
"Were you very sorry when Frank and Ernest were going to leave us?"
"Yes, my children, the tears still burn my cheek."
"Nevertheless, you knew that it was for the common welfare, and you felt resigned to the separation."
"But why do you ask such a question now?"
"Well, a propos de rien, mother," replied Jack, "simply because we love you, and, like misers, we treasure your love."
Towards the afternoon both families were again assembled under the trees at Falcon's Nest This time it was dinner that brought them together; the repast consisted of cold meats of various kinds, but the chief dish was a wonderful salad, the rich, fresh odor of which perfumed the air. Wolston, Frank, and Ernest kept up a lively conversation, yet, though all seemed happy and pleased, there were bursting hearts at the table that day."
"I am going to take a turn in the pinnace to-morrow," said Willis, quietly; "who will go with me?"
"I will!" cried all the four brothers.
"I shall require you, Frank and Ernest, to take a look at the rice plantation to-morrow," said Becker, "so I wish you to put off the excursion till another time."
"We are at your orders, father," replied the two young men.
"Where are you going, Willis?" inquired Mrs. Wolston.
"Well, I am anxious to discover whether we inhabit an island or a continent, and may, consequently, extend the survey beyond the points already known; so you must not be disappointed should we not return the same night."
"But what is the good of such an expedition?" inquired Mrs. Becker.
"The country may be inhabited, or there may be inhabited islands in the vicinity," replied Willis.
"If there be natives anywhere near," said Mrs. Becker, "they have left us at peace hitherto, and, in my opinion, since the dog sleeps, it will be prudent for us to let it lie."
"It is not a question of creating any inconvenience," suggested Becker, "but only to ascertain more accurately our geographical position: such a knowledge can do us no possible harm, but, some day, it may be of immense service to us."
"What if you should fall in with a ship?" inquired Mrs. Wolston.
"In that case we shall give your compliments to the commander," replied Jack.
"You may do that if you like, but try and bring it back with you if you can."
"Do you wish to leave us?"
"I do not mean that," hastily added Mrs. Wolston, "but I am beginning to get anxious about my son, poor fellow. If the Nelson has not arrived at the Cape, then he will suppose we are all drowned, and I should like to fall in with some means of assuring him of our safety."
"Oh yes," cried the two girls, "do try and fall in with a ship; our poor brother will be so wretched."
"You might say our brother as well," added the two young men.
Here the two mothers interchanged a glance of intelligence, which might mean very little, but which likewise might signify a great deal.
A moment of intense anxiety had now arrived for Becker and his two sons; they could scarcely refrain from shedding tears, but they felt that the slightest imprudence of that nature would divulge everything.
"Come now, my lads, look alive," cried Willis, in a voice which he meant to be gruff; "if you intend to take a few hours' repose before we start in the morning, it is time to be off."
Fritz and Jack, had it been to save their lives, could not now have helped throwing more than usual energy into their parting embraces that particular afternoon; but they passed through the ordeal with tolerable firmness, and then with heavy hearts turned towards the door.
"I think I will walk with you as far as Rockhouse," said Becker.
All four then departed; and when the party were about fifty yards from Falcon's Nest, Fritz and Jack turned round and waved a final adieu to those loved beings whom probably, they might never see again.
"It is well," said Becker. "I am satisfied with your conduct throughout this trying interval."
It was now an hour when there is something indescribably sombre about the country; day was declining, the outlines of the larger objects in the landscape were becoming less distinct, and the trees were assuming any sort of fantastical shape that the mind chose to assign to them. Here and there a bird rustled in the foliage, but otherwise the silence was only broken by footsteps of the four men.
In ordinary life children quit the parental home by easy and almost imperceptible gradations. First, there is the school, then college; next, perhaps, the requirements of the profession they have adopted. Thus they readily abandon the domestic hearth; friends, intercourse, and society divide their affection, and the separation from home rarely, if ever, costs them a pang. Not so with Becker's two sons; their world was New Switzerland; therefore, like the rays of the sun absorbed by the mirror of Archimedes, all their affections were concentrated on one point.
On the former occasion when the family ties were on the eve of being rent asunder, the case was very different. It is true, Frank and Ernest were about to leave for an indefinite period of time; but then, every comfort that the most fastidious voyager could desire was awaiting them on board the Nelson; for a well-appointed ship is like a well-appointed inn on shore, all your wants are ministered to with the utmost celerity. Besides, Captain Littlestone had taken the young men under his special protection, and had promised to see them properly introduced and cared for in Europe. How dissimilar was the position of Fritz and his brother; they were about to tumble into the old world should they be so fortunate as to reach it, much as if they had dropped from the skies, without a guide and without a friend. They were about to entrust themselves to the ocean, separated from its treacherous floods by a few wretched planks; to be exposed for months, almost unsheltered, to wind, rain, and the mercy of pitiless storms.
"If God in His mercy preserves you, my sons," said Becker, breaking at last the silence, "you will find yourselves launched in an ocean still more turbulent than that you have escaped—an ocean where falsehood and cunning assume the names of policy and tact; where results always justify the means, whatever these may be; where everything is sacrificed to personal interest and ambition; where fortune is honored as a virtue that dispenses with all others, and where profligacies of the most odious kinds are decorated with gay and seductive colors. It is difficult for me to foresee the various circumstances amidst which you may be placed; but there are certain rules of conduct that provide for nearly every emergency. I have no need to urge loyalty or courage—these qualities are inseparable from your hearts. Strive only for what is just and honest. Submit to be cheated rather than be cheats yourselves; ill-gotten gains never made any one rich. Put your trust in Providence. Seek aid from on high, when you find yourselves surrounded with difficulties. Never forget that there is no corner on the earth's surface, however obscure, that the eyes of the Lord are not there to behold your actions. Act promptly and with energy. Bear in mind that every moment lost will be to your mother an age of suffering, and that her life is suspended on the fragile thread of your return."
The party had now reached the banks of the Jackal River, where the pinnace was moored. Fritz and Jack were shedding tears unrestrainedly, and had dropped on their knees at their father's feet.
"I call," said Becker, in a trembling voice, "the benediction of Heaven upon your heads, my sons."
"Oh, but they must not go!" cried Mrs. Becker, rushing out from behind some tall brushwood that hid her from their view; "they shall not go!"
Fritz and Jack were instantly inclosed within their mother's arms.
"Ah!" cried she, pushing aside the hair from their brows, the better to observe their features, "you thought to deceive your mother, did you?"
"Pardon!" exclaimed both the young men.
Here Becker thought it necessary to interfere; and, summoning all the courage he could muster to the task, said—
"Why should they not go? Is this the first expedition they have undertaken?"
"No, it is not the first expedition they have undertaken, but it is the first time their eyes and their looks betokened an eternal adieu. It is the first time that I felt they were forsaking me for ever, and it is the first time you ever addressed them with the words you just now uttered."
Becker saw that it was useless to attempt to carry deceit any further; he therefore withdrew his eyes from the piercing glance of his wife. Willis, caught in the act, as it were, was completely thrown off his guard, and had not a word to say for himself. Fritz and Jack had again fallen on their knees, this time at the feet of their mother.
"Ah! I begin to understand," she screamed, as she glanced around on the scared group that surrounded her, like a wounded lioness whose cubs were being carried off; "now the bandage begins to drop from my eyes. A thousand inexplicable things dart into my mind. You are sending the boys on an impracticable voyage to secure the safety of their mother; but you did not think that in order to prolong my existence for a few years, you would kill me instantly with grief! What right have you to impose a remedy upon me that is a thousand times worse than the malady? Have I ever complained? May my sufferings not be agreeable to me? May I not like them? Is pain and suffering not our lot from the cradle to the tomb? But I am not ill, I was never better in my life than I am at this moment."
Here she was seized with a paroxysm of nervous tremors that convulsed her frame most fearfully, and completely belied her words. Becker rushed forward and held her firmly in his arms.
"God give me strength!" he murmured. "Go, my children, where your duty calls you; go, my friend, do not prolong this terrible scene an instant longer."
Not another word was spoken, the pinnace was unmoored; Fritz, Jack, and Willis embarked. When at some little distance from the shore, there was just light enough for Fritz to notice that his father was directing the feeble steps of his mother in the direction of Falcon's Nest. In a few moments more all the objects on shore were one confused mass of unfathomable shadow. The pinnace dropped anchor at Shark's Island, where some few final preparations for the voyage had to be made. Fritz here took a pen and wrote:
"We part. We are gone. When you read this letter, the sea, for some distance, will extend between us. We shall live and move elsewhere, but our hearts still with you. We wish that Ernest and Frank would erect a flagstaff on the spot where we last parted with our parents. It may be to us what the celestial standard bearing the scroll, in hoc signo vinces was to the Emperor Constantine. The place is already sacred, and may be hallowed by your prayers for us. Our confidence in the divine mercy is boundless. Do not despair of seeing us again. We have no misgivings, not one of us but anticipates confidently the period when we shall return and bring with us health, happiness, and prosperity to you all.
"Let me add a word," said Jack.
"The sea is calm, our hearts are firm, our enterprise is under the protection of Heaven—there never was an undertaking commenced under more favorable auspices. Farewell then, once more, farewell. All our aspirations are for you.
"P.S.—Willis was going to write a line or two when, lo and behold! a big tear rolled upon the paper. 'Ha!' said he, 'that is enough, I will not write a word, they will understand that, I think,' and he threw down the pen."
"How is the letter to be sent on shore?" inquired Fritz.
"There is a cage of pigeons on board the pinnace," replied Jack, "but I do not want them to know that, for, if they should expect to hear from us, and some accident happen to the pigeons, they might be dreadfully disappointed."
"We can return on shore," observed Willis, "and place it on the spot, where we embarked; they are sure to be there to-morrow."
This suggestion was incontinently adopted. The letter was attached to a small cross, and fixed in the ground. The voyagers had all re-embarked in the pinnace, which was destined to bear even more than Caesar and his fortunes. Willis had already loosened the warp, when, a thought crossed the mind of Fritz.
"I must revisit Falcon's Nest once more," said he.
"What!" cried Willis, "you are not going to get up such another scene as we witnessed an hour or two ago?"
"No, Willis, I mean to go by stealth like the Indian trapper, so as to be seen by no mortal eye. I wish to take one more look at the old familiar trees, and endeavor to ascertain whether my mother has reached home in safety."
"But the dogs?" objected Willis.
"The dogs know me too well to give the slightest alarm at my approach. I shall not be long gone; but really I must go, the desire is too powerful within me to be resisted."
"I will go with you," said Jack.
Here Willis shook his head and reflected an instant.
"You are not angry with us, Willis, are you?"
"Not at all," he replied, "and I think the best thing I can do, under the circumstances, is to go too."
"Very well, make fast that warp again, and come along."
The party then disappeared amongst the brushwood.
"Some time ago," remarked Fritz, "we followed this track about the same hour; there was danger to be apprehended, but the enterprise was bloodless, though successful."
"You mean the chimpanzee affair," said Willis.
"Yes; this time we have only an emotion to conquer, but I am afraid it is too strong for us."
"These are the trees," said Jack, as they debouched upon the road, "that I stuck my proclamations upon. We had very little to think of in those days."
As the party drew near Falcon's Nest, the dogs approached and welcomed them with the usual canine demonstrations of joy.
"I have half a mind to carry off Toby," said Fritz; "but I fear Mary would miss him."
Externally all appeared tranquil at Falcon's Nest; this satisfied the young men that their mother had succeeded in reaching home, at least, in safety; a light streaming through the window of Becker's dwelling, however, showed that the family had not yet retired for the night.
"If they only knew we were so near them!" remarked Jack.
The entire party then sat down upon a rustic bench, shrouded with flowering orchis and Spanish jasmine.
"How often, on returning from the fields or the chase, we have seen our mother at work on this very seat," observed Fritz.
"Aye," added Jack; "once I observed she had fallen asleep whilst knitting stockings. I advanced on tip-toe, removed gently her knitting apparatus, stockings, and all, and placed on her lap some ortolans that I had caught and strangled; but I first plucked one of them, and scattered the feathers all about, and then retreated into a thicket to watch the denouement of my scheme. She awoke, put down her hand to take up a stocking, and laid hold of a bird. She stared, rubbed her eyes, stared again, looked about, and could find nothing but the ortolan feathers. I then ran forward and embraced her, looking as if I had just come from unearthing turnips. 'Well, I declare,' she said with a bewildered air, 'I could have sworn that I was knitting just now, and here I find myself plucking ortolans; and what is more, I have not the slightest idea where, in all the world, the birds have come from!' Of course, I looked as innocent as possible; so that the more she stared and reflected, the less she could make the matter out. At last, she went on plucking the birds, and when this was done she stuck them on the spit. When the ortolans were roasted and ready to be served up, I went into the kitchen, carried them off, and put my mother's knitting apparatus on the spit. Imagine her surprise when she beheld her worsted and stockings at the fire, knowing, at the same time, that four hungry stomachs were waiting for their dinners! At last, fearing that she was going to ascribe the metamorphosis to some hallucination of her own, I went up to her, threw my arms round her neck, told her the whole story, and we both of us enjoyed a hearty laugh over it."
"Aye, Jack, those were laughing times," said Fritz, sadly.
"Not only that, but our mother was always so even—tempered; she was never ruffled in the slightest degree by my nonsense; though she often had the right to be very angry, yet she never once took offence. On another occasion, Mary and Sophia Wolston were working here at those mysterious embroideries which they always hid when we came near."
"Toby's collar, I suppose," remarked Fritz.
"My tobacco pouch," suggested Willis.
"I approached," continued Jack, "with the muffled softness of a cat, and was just on the point of discovering their secret, when my monkey, Knips, who was cracking nuts at their feet, made a spring, and drew a bobbin of silk after it; this caused them to look round, and great was my astonishment to find myself caught at the very moment I expected to surprise them. They commenced scolding me at an immense rate, but then it was so delightful to be scolded!"
"Aye," murmured Fritz, "that is all over now."
Like a file of sheep, one recollection dragged another after it, so that the whole of the past recurred to their memories. Some faint streaks of light now warned them that day was about to break; the cocks began to crow one after the other, and to fill the air with their shrill voices.
"Now," said Willis, "it is high time to be off."
Jack hastily gathered two bouquets of flowers, which he suspended to the lintel of each dwelling.
"These," said he, "will show them that we have paid them another visit."
They then bent down all three on their knees, uttered a short prayer, and afterwards disappeared amidst the shadows of the chestnut trees.
"Listen!" said Willis, seeing that his companions were about to make a halt, "if you stop again, or speak of returning any more, I will cease to regard you as men."
Half an hour afterwards, on the morning of the 8th March, 1812, the pinnace bore out to sea, and when day broke, the crew could not descry a single trace of New Switzerland on any point of the horizon.
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 AENEAS—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.
At the date of the events narrated in the preceeding chapter, comparatively little was known of Oceania, that is, of the islands and continents that are scattered about the Pacific Ocean. Most of them had been discovered, named, and marked correctly enough in the charts, but beyond this all was supposition, hypothesis, and mystery. The mighty empire of England in the east was then only in its infancy, Sutteeism and Thuggism were still rampant on the banks of the Ganges, but the power of the descendants of the Great Mogul was on the wane. California was only known as the hunting-ground of a savage race of wild Indians. The now rich and flourishing colonies of Australia were represented by the convict settlement of Sydney. The Dutch had asserted that the territory of New Holland was utterly uninhabitable, and this was still the belief of the civilized world; nor was it without considerable opposition on the part of soi-disant philanthropists that the English government succeeded in establishing a prison depot on what at the time was considered the sole spot in that vast territory susceptible of cultivation. At the present time, these formerly-despised regions send one hundred tons of pure gold to England. The political state of Europe itself had at this time assumed a singular aspect. Napoleon had made himself master of nearly all the continental states; Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, and a part of Germany were at his feet; and, by the Peace of Tilsit, he had secured the cooperation of Alexander, Emperor of Russia, in his schemes to ruin the trade and commerce of Great Britain. England, by her opportune seizure of the Danish fleet, broke up the first great northern confederacy that was formed against her. This act, though much impugned by the politicians of the day, is now known not only to have been perfectly justifiable, but also highly creditable to the political foresight of Canning and Castlereagh, by whom it was suggested, to say nothing of the daring and boldness that Nelson displayed in executing the manoeuvre. When news of this event reached the Russian Emperor it threw him into a paroxysm of rage, and he declared war against England in violent language. He had the insolence to make peace with France the sina qua non of his friendship. At the distance of nearly half a century, the actual language employed has a peculiar flavor. The emperor, after detailing his grievances, declares that henceforth there shall be no connection between the two countries, and calls on his Britannic Majesty to dismiss his ministers, and conclude a peace forthwith. The British Government replied to this by ordering Nelson to set sail forthwith for the mouth of the Neva. A bitter and scorching manifesto was at the time forwarded to the emperor. It accused him flatly of duplicity, and boldly defied him and all his legions. The whole document is well worthy of perusal in these lackadaisical times. It is dated Westminister, December 18, 1807. It sets forth anew the principles of maritime war, which England had then rigidly in force. Napoleon had declared the whole of the British Islands in a state of blockade. The British Government replied by blockading de facto the whole of Europe. This was done by those celebrated orders in council, which, more than anything else, precipitated the downfall of Napoleon. They threw the trade of the world into the hands of England. Of course, Russia was deeply affected, so was Spain and all the other maritime states; and they were all, one way or another, in open hostility with this country. But England laughed all their threats to scorn; and in the whole history of the country, there was not a more brilliant period in her eventful history. She stood alone against the world in arms. Even the blusterings of the United States were unheeded, and in no degree disturbed her stern equanimity. She saw the road to victory, and resolved to pursue it. But England then had great statesmen, and, of them all, Lord Castlereagh was the greatest, although he served a Prince Regent who cared no more for England or the English people, than the Irish member, who, when reproached for selling his country, thanked God that he had a country to sell.
At length the ill-will of the Americans resolved itself into open warfare, and the United States was numbered with the overt enemies of England. This resulted in British troops marching up to Washington and burning the Capitol, or Congress House, about the ears of the members who had stirred up the strife. Meanwhile, all the islands of France in the east and west had been taken possession of; the British flag waved on the Spanish island of Cuba, and in the no less valuable possessions of Holland, in Java. Everywhere on the ocean England held undisputed sway. This state of things gave rise to one great evil—the sea swarmed with cruisers and privateers, English, French, and American; so that no vessel, unless sailing under convoy, heavily armed, or a very swift sailer, but ran risk of capture.
The Mary—for so Fritz now called the pinnace—had been ten days at sea, the wind had died away, and for some time scarcely a zephyr had ruffled the surface of the water, the sails were lazily flapping against the mast, and but for the currents, the voyagers would have been almost stationary. It may readily be supposed that, under such circumstances, their progress was somewhat slow, and, as Jack observed, to judge from their actual rate of sailing, they ought to have started when very young, in order to arrive at the termination of the voyage before they became bald-headed old men.
They prayed for a breeze, a gale, or even a storm; their fresh water was beginning to get sour, and they reflected that, if the calm continued any length of time, their provisions would eventually run short, and the ordinary resource of eating one another would stare them in the face. Jack, being the youngest, would probably disappear first, next Fritz, then Willis would be left to eat himself, in order to avoid dying of hunger, just as the unfortunate Count Ugolino devoured his own children to save them from orphanage.
As yet, however, there were no symptoms of such a dire disaster; they were in excellent health and tolerable spirits; they had provisions enough to last them for six months at least, and consequently had not as yet, at all events, the slightest occasion to manifest a tendency to anthropophagism.
"I can understand the sea," remarked Jack, "as I understand the land and the sky; God created them, that is enough; but I cannot understand how a mighty river like the Nile or the Ganges can continue eternally discharging immense deluges of water into the sea without becoming exhausted. From what fathomless reservoirs do the Amazon and the Mississippi receive their endless torrents?"
"The reservoirs of the greatest rivers," replied Fritz, "are nothing more than drops of water that fall from the crevice of some rock on or near the summit of a hill; these are collected together in a pool or hollow, from which they issue in the form of a slender rivulet. At first, the smallest pebble is sufficient to arrest the course of this thread of water; but it turns upon itself, gathers strength, finally surmounts the obstacle, dashes over it, unites itself with other rivulets, reaches the plain, scoops out a bed, and goes on, as you say, for ever emptying its waters into the sea."
"Yes; but it is the source of these sources that I want to know the origin of. You speak of hills, whilst we know that water naturally, by reason of its weight and fluidity; seeks to secrete itself in the lowest beds of the earth."
"It is scarcely necessary for me to observe that water may come down a hill, although it never goes up. Rain, snow, dew, and generally all the vapors that fall from the atmosphere, furnish the enormous masses of water that are constantly flowing into the sea. The vapor alone that is absorbed in the air from the sea is more than sufficient to feed all the rivers on the face of the earth. Mountains, by their formation, arrest these vapors, collect them in a hole here and in a cavern there, and permit them to filter by a million of threads from rock to rock, fertilizing the land and nourishing the rivers that intersect it. If, therefore, you were to suppress the Alps that rise between France and Italy, you would, at the same time, extinguish the Rhone and the Po."
"It would be a pity to do that," said Jack; "there was a time though when there were no Pyrenees."
"That must have been, then, at a period prior to the formation of granite, which is esteemed the oldest of rocks."
"No such thing," insisted Jack; "it was so late as 1713, when, by the peace of Utrecht, the crown of Spain was secured to the Duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV."
"Howsomever," remarked Willis, "all the mariners in the French fleet could not convince me that the Pyrenean mountains are only a hundred years old."
"My brother is only speaking metaphorically," said Fritz; "when the crown of Spain was assigned to the Duke of Anjou, his grandfather said—Qu il n'y avait plus de Pyrenees. He meant by that simply, that France and Spain being governed by the same prince, the moral barrier between them existed no longer. The formidable mountains still stood for all that, and he who removes them would certainly be possessed of extraordinary power."
"I am always putting my foot in it," said Willis, "when the yarn is about the land; let us talk of the sea for a bit. Who built the first ship?"
"Well," replied Fritz, "I should say that the first ship was the ark."
"Whence we may infer," added Jack, "that Noah was the first admiral."
"We learn from the Scriptures," continued Fritz, "that the first navigators were the children of Noah, and it appears from profane history that the earliest attempts at navigation were manifested near where the ark rested; consequently, we may fairly presume that the art of ship-building arose from the traditions of the deluge and the ark."
"In that case, the art in question dates very far back."
"Yes, since it dates from 2348 years before the birth of Christ; but the human race degenerated, the traditions were forgotten, and navigation was confined to planks, rafts, bark canoes, or the trunk of a tree hollowed out by fire."
"That is the sort of craft used by the inhabitants of Polynesia at the present day," remarked Willis.
"It appears, however, by the Book of Job, that pirates existed in those days, and that they went to sea in ships and captured merchantmen, which proves, to a certain extent, that there were merchantmen to conquer. We know also that David and Solomon equipped large fleets, and even fought battles on sea."
"Whether an ancient or modern, a Jew or a Gentile," said Willis, "he must have been a brave fellow who launched the first ship, and risked himself and his goods at sea in it."
"True," continued Fritz; "but when once the equilibrium of a floating body was known, there would be no longer any risk; as soon as it came to be understood that any solid body would float if it were lighter than its bulk of water, the matter was simple enough."
"Very good," interrupted Jack; "but the words 'when' and 'as soon as' imply a great deal; when, or as soon as, we know anything, the mystery of course disappears. But before! there is the difficulty. Particles of water do not cohere—how is it, then, that a ship of war, that often weighs two millions of pounds, does not sink through them, and go to the bottom? Individuals, like myself for example, who are not members of a learned society, may be pardoned for not knowing how water bears the weight of a seventy-four."
"The seventy-four would, most undoubtedly, sink if it were heavier than the weight of water it displaced; but this is not the case; wood is generally lighter than water."
"The wood, yes; but the cannon, the cargo, and the crew?"
"You forget the cabooses, the cockpits, and the cabins, that do not weigh anything. Allowing for everything, the weight of a ship, cargo and all, is much lighter than its bulk of water, and consequently it cannot sink."
"But how is it, then, that the immense bulk of a seventy-four moves so easily in the water? One would think that its prodigious weight would make it stick fast, and continue immoveable."
"When the seventy-four in question has displaced its weight of water, its own weight is substituted for the water, and is in consequence virtually annihilated; it does not, in point of fact, weigh anything at all, and therefore is easily impelled by the wind."
"When there is any, understood," added Jack.
"And a yard or so of canvas," suggested Willis.
"True," continued Fritz, "a sail or two would be very desirable; these instruments of propulsion do not appear, however, to have been used by the ancients. We first hear of a sail being employed at the time when Isis went in search of her husband Osiris, who was killed by his brother Typhon, and whose quarters were scattered in the Nile. This lady, it seems, took off the veil that covered her head, and fastened it to an upright shaft stuck in the middle of the boat, and, much to her astonishment, it impelled her onwards at a marvellous speed."
"A clever young woman that," said Willis; "but I doubt whether veils would answer the purpose on board a seventy-four, particularly as regards the mainsail and mizentops."
"The Phoenicians were the most enterprising of the early navigators. They appeared to have sailed round Africa without a compass, for they embarked on the Red Sea and reappeared at the mouth of the Nile, and the compass was not invented till the fourteenth century."
"And who was the inventor of the compass?" inquired Willis.
"According to some authorities, it was invented by a Neapolitan named Jean Goya; according to others, the inventor was a certain Hugues de Bercy."
"Then," said Jack, "you do not admit the claims of the Chinese and Hindoos, who assert priority in the discovery?"
"I neither deny nor admit their claims, because I do not know the grounds upon which they are founded; like the invention of gunpowder and printing, the discovery of the compass has many rival claimants."
"I am of opinion," said Jack, "that Guttenberg is entitled to the honor of discovering printing, and that Berthold Schwartz invented gunpowder."
"Perhaps you are right; but there is scarcely any invention of importance that has not two or three names fastened to it as inventors; they stick to it like barnacles, and there is no way to shake any of them off. So, in the case of illustrious men, nations dispute the honor of giving them birth; there are six or seven towns in Asia Minor that claim to be the birth-place of Homer. National vanities justly desire to possess the largest amount of genius; hence, no sooner does anything useful make its appearance in the world, than half a dozen nations or individuals start up to claim it as their offspring. The wisest course, under such circumstances, is to side with the best accredited opinion, which I have done in the case of the compass."
"It was no joke," said Willis, "to circumnavigate Africa without a compass."
"You are quite right, Willis, if you judge the navigation of those days by the modern standard; but it is to be borne in mind that the ancients never lost sight of the coast. They steered from cape to promontory, and from promontory to cape, dropping their anchor every night and remaining well in-shore till morning. If by accident they were driven out into the open sea, and the stars happened to be hidden by fog or clouds, they were lost beyond recovery, even though within a day's sail of a harbor; because, whilst supposing they were making for the coast, they might, in all probability, be steering in precisely the opposite direction."
"It is certainly marvellous," said Jack, "that a piece of iron stuck upon a board should be a safe and sure guide to the mariner through the trackless ocean, even when the stars are enveloped in obscurity and darkness!"
"It is a symbol of faith," remarked Willis, "that supplies the doubts and incertitudes of reason."
"As for the ships, or rather galleys, of the ancients," continued Fritz, "with the exception of the ambitious fleets of the Greeks and Romans that fought at Salamis and Actium, one of the modern ships of war could sweep them all out of the sea with its rudder."
"Yes," said Jack, "at the period of which you speak, the ancients possessed a great advantage over us. The winds in those days were personages, and were very well known; they were called Aeolus, Boreas, and so forth. They were to be found in caves or islands, and, if treated with civility, were remarkably condescending. Queen Dido, through one of these potentates, obtained contrary winds, to prevent Aeneas from leaving her."
"By the way," said Willis, "there is, or at least was, in one of the Scottish rivers, a ship without either oars or sails."
"Yes, very likely; but it did not move."
"It did though, and, what is more, against both wind and tide."
"I wish we had your wonderful ship here just now, it is just the thing to suit us under present circumstances," said Jack.
"So it would, Master Jack, for it sails against currents, up rivers, and the crew care no more about the wind than I do about the color of the clouds when I am lighting my pipe."
"You don't happen to mean that the Flying Dutchman has appeared on the Scotch coast, do you, Willis?"
"Not a bit of it, I mean just exactly what I say. It is a real ship, with a real stern and a real figure-head, but manned by blacksmiths instead of mariners."
"Well, but how does it move? Does somebody go behind and push it, or is it dragged in front by sea-horses and water-kelpies?"
"No, it moves by steam."
"Aye, there lies the mystery. The affair has often been discussed by us sailors on board ship; some have suggested one way and some another."
"Neither of which throws much light on the subject," observed Jack; "at least, in so far as we are concerned."
"All I can tell you," said Willis, "is, that the steam is obtained by boiling water in a large cauldron, and that the power so obtained is very powerful."
"That it certainly is, if it could be controlled, for steam occupies seventeen or eighteen hundred times the space of the water in its liquid state; but then, if the vessel that contains the boiling water has no outlet, the steam will burst it."
"It appears that it can be prevented doing that, though," replied Willis, "even though additional heat be applied to the vapor itself."
"By heating the steam, the vapor may acquire a volume forty thousand times greater than that of the water; all that is well known; but as soon as it comes in contact with the air, nothing is left of it but a cloud, which collapses again into a few drops of water."
"That may be all very true, Master Fritz, if the steam were allowed to escape into the air; but it is only permitted to do that after it has done duty on board ship. It appears that steam is very elastic, and may be compressed like India-rubber, but has a tendency to resist the pressure and set itself free. Imagine, for example, a headstrong young man, for a long time kept in restraint by parental control, suddenly let loose, and allowed scope to follow the bent of his own inclinations."
"Very good, Willis; for argument's sake, let us take your headstrong young man, or rather the steam, for granted, and let us admit that it is as elastic as ever you please—but what then?"
"Then you must imagine a piston in a cylinder, forced upwards when the steam is heated, and falling downwards when the steam is cooled. Next fancy this upward and downward motion regulated by a number of wheels and cranks that turn two wheels on each side of the ship, keeping up a constant jangling and clanking, the wheels or paddles splashing in the water, and then you may form a slight idea of the thing."
"Oh!" cried Jack, "we invented a machine of that kind for our canoe, with a turnspit. Do you recollect it, Fritz?"
"Yes, I recollect it well enough; and I also recollect that the canoe went much better without than with it."
"You spoke just now," continued Willis, "of rival nations, who pounce like birds of prey upon every new invention; and so it is with the steamship. An American, named Fulton, made a trial in the Hudson with one in 1807—that is about five years ago—and I believe the Yankees, in consequence, are laying claim to the invention."
"Now that you bring the thing to my recollection," said Fritz, "the idea of applying steam in the arts is by no means new, although, I must candidly admit, I never heard of it being used in propelling ships before. The Spaniards assert that a captain of one of their vessels, named Don Blas de Garay, discovered, as early as the sixteenth century, the art of making steam a motive power."
"I don't believe that," said Jack.
"Because a real Spaniard has never less than thirty-six words in his name. If you had said that the steam engine was discovered by Don Pedrillo y Alvares y Toledo y Concha y Alonzo y Martinez y Xacarillo, or something of that sort, then I could believe the man to have been a genuine Spaniard, but not otherwise."
"Spaniard or no Spaniard, the Spanish claim the discovery of steam through Don Blas; the Italians likewise claim the discovery for a mechanician, named Bianca; the Germans assign its discovery to Solomon de Causs; the French urge Denis Papin; and the English claim the invention for Roger Bacon."
"You have forgotten the Swiss," said Jack.
"The Swiss," replied Fritz, with an air of dignity, "put forward no candidate: steam and vapor and smoke are not much in their line. They discovered something infinitely better—the world is indebted to them for the invention of liberty. I mean rational, intelligent, and true liberty—not the savagery and mob tyranny of red republicanism. The three discoverers of this noble invention were Melchthal, Furst, and William Tell."
"You can have no idea," continued Willis, "of the stir that steam was creating in Europe the last time I was there. Of course there were plenty of incredulous people who said that it was no good; that it would never be of any use; and that if it were, it would not pay for the fuel consumed. On the other hand, the enthusiasts held that, eventually, it would be used for everything; that in the air we should have steam balloons; on the sea, steam ships, steam guns, and perhaps steam men to work them; that on land there would be steam coaches driven by steam horses. Journeys, say they, will be performed in no time, that is, as soon as you start for a place you arrive at it, just like an arrow, that no sooner leaves the bow than you see it stuck in the bull's eye."
"In that case," observed Jack, "it will be necessary to do away with respiration, as well as horses."
"A Londoner will be able to say to his wife, My dear, I am going to Birmingham to-day, but I will be back to dinner; and if a Parisian lights his cigar at Paris, it will burn till he arrives at Bordeaux."
"Holloa, Willis, you have fairly converted Fritz and me into marines at last."
"I am only speaking of what will be, not of what is—that makes all the difference you know. It is expected that there will be steam coaches on every turnpike-road; so that, instead of hiring a post-chaise, you will have to order a locomotive, and instead of postboys, you will to engage an engineer and stoker."
"Then, instead of saying, Put the horses to," remarked Jack, "we shall have to say, Get the steam up."
"Exactly; and when you go on a pleasure excursion, you will be whisked from one point to another without having time to see whether you pass through a desert or a flower-garden."
"What, then, is to become of adventures by the way, road-side inns, and banditti?"
"All to be suppressed."
"So it appears," said Jack; "men are to be carried about from place to place like flocks of sheep; perhaps they will invent steam dogs as well to run after stragglers, and bring them into the fold by the calf of the leg. Your new mode of going a-pleasuring may be a very excellent thing in its way, Willis; but it would not suit my taste."
"Probably not; nor mine either, for the matter of that, Master Jack."
"At all events," said Fritz, "you would run no danger of being upset on the road."
"No; but, by way of compensation, you may be blown up."
"True, I forgot that."
"This conversation has carried us along another knot," said Jack, opening the log, which he had been appointed to keep; "and now, by your leave, I will read over some of my entries to refresh your memories as to our proceedings.
"March 9th.—Wind fair and fresh—steered to north-west—a flock of seals under our lee bow—feel rather squeamish.
"10th.—No wind—fall in with a largish island and four little ones, give them the name of Willis's Archipelago.
"11th.—A dead calm—sea smooth as a mirror—all of us dull and sleepy.
"12th.—Heat 90 deg.—shot a boobie, roasted and ate him, rather fishy—passed the night amongst some reefs.
"13th.—Same as the 12th, but no boobie.
"14th.—Same as the 13th.
"Dreadfully tiresome, is it not," said Jack; "no wonder they call this ocean the Pacific."
"Alas!" sighed Willis, thinking of the Nelson, "it does not always justify the name."
"15th.—Hailed a low island, surrounded with breakers, named it Sophia's Island."
"But all these islands have been named half a dozen times already," said Willis.
"Oh, never mind that, another name or two will not break their backs."
"16th.—Current bearing us rapidly to westward—caught a sea cow, and had it converted into pemican.
"17th.—Shot another boobie, which we put in the pot to remind us that we were no worse off than the subjects of Henry IV. No wind—sea blazing like a furnace."
"You will have to turn over a new leaf in your log by-and-by," said Willis, "or I am very much mistaken."
"Well, I hope you are not mistaken, Willis, for I am tired of this sort of thing."
A red haze now began to shroud the sun, the heat of the air became almost stifling, but the muffled roar of distant thunder and bright flashes of light warned the voyagers to prepare for a change. Willis reefed the canvas close to the mast, and suggested that everything likely to spoil should be put under hatches. This was scarcely done before the storm had reached them, and they were soon in the midst of a tropical deluge. At first, a light breeze sprung up, blowing towards the south-east, which continued till midnight, when it chopped round. Towards morning, it blew a heavy gale from east to east-south-east, with a heavy sea running. In the meantime, the pinnace labored heavily, and several seas broke over her. Willis now saw that their only chance of safety lay in altering their course. All the canvas was already braced up except the jib, which was necessary to give the craft headway, and with this sail alone they were soon after speeding at a rapid rate in the direction of the Polynesian Islands. The gale continued almost without intermission for three weeks, during which period Willis considered they must have been driven some hundreds, of miles to the north-west.
The gale at length ceased, the sea resumed its tranquility, and the wind became favorable. The pinnace had, however, been a good deal battered by the storm, and their fresh water was getting low, and it was decided they should still keep a westerly course till they reached an island where they could refit before resuming their voyage.
"The gale has not done us much good," said Jack, sadly; "if it had blown the other way, we might have been in the Indian Ocean by this time."
"Cheer up," said Willis, taking the glass from his eye, "I see land about three miles to leeward, and the landing appears easy."
"But the savages?" inquired Jack.
"The islands of this latitude are not all inhabited," replied Fritz; "besides, under our present circumstances, we have no alternative but to take our chance with them."
"Well, I do not know that," objected Jack; "it would be better for us to do without fresh water than to run the risk of being eaten."
"What a beautiful coast!" cried Willis, who still kept the telescope at his eye. "Near the shore the land is flat, and appears cultivated; but behind, it rises gradually, and is closed in with a range of hills, covered with trees. There is a beautiful bay in front of us, which appears to invite us ashore. But the place is inhabited; the shore is strewn with huts, and I can see clumps of the bread-fruit tree growing near them."
"What sort of vegetable is the bread-fruit?" inquired Fritz.
"It is a very excellent thing, and supplies the natives with bread without the intervention of grain, flour-mills, or bakers. It can be eaten either raw, or baked, or boiled; either way, it is palatable. The tree itself is like our apple trees; but the fruit is as large as a pine-apple—when it is ripe, it is yellow and soft. The natives, however, generally gather it before it is ripe; it is then cooked in an oven; the skin is burnt or peeled off—the inside is tender and white, like the crumb of bread or the flour of the potato."
"Let me have the telescope an instant," said Fritz; "I should like to see what the natives are like. Ah, I see a troop of them collecting on shore; some of them seem to be covered with a kind of wrought-steel armor."
"Perhaps the descendants of the Crusaders," remarked Jack, "returning from the Holy Land by way of the Pacific Ocean!"
"Others wear striped pantaloons," continued Fritz.
"That is to say," observed Willis, "the whole lot of them are as naked as posts. What you suppose to be cuirasses and pantaloons, are their tabooed breasts and legs."
"Are you sure of that, Willis?"
"Not a doubt about it."
"Such garments are both durable and economical," remarked Jack; "but I scarcely think they are suitable for stormy weather. But do you think it is safe to land amongst such a set of barebacked rascals, Willis?"
"I should not like to take the responsibility of guaranteeing our safety; but I do not see what other course we can adopt."
They had now approached within musket-shot of the shore. They could see that a venerable-looking old man stood a few paces in front of the group of natives. He held a green branch in one hand, and pressed with the other a long flowing white beard to his breast.
"According to universal grammar," said Jack, "these signs should mean peace and amity."
"Yes," replied the Pilot; "the more so that the rear-guard are pouring water on their heads, which is the greatest mark of courtesy the natives of Polynesia can show to strangers."
"Gentlemen," cried Jack, taking off his cap and making a low bow, "we are your most obedient servants."
"We must be on our guard," said Willis; "these savages are very deceitful, and sometimes let fly their arrows under a show of friendship. I will go on shore alone, whilst you keep at a little distance off, ready to fire to cover my retreat, if need be."
The young men objected to Willis incurring danger that they did not share; but on this point Willis was inexorable, so they were obliged to suffer him to depart alone. By good chance, they had shipped a small cask of glass beads on board the pinnace. The Pilot took a few of these with him, and, placing a cask and a couple of calabashes in the canoe, he rowed ashore.
The natives were evidently in great commotion; there was an immense amount of running backwards and forwards. Something important was, obviously enough, going forward; but, whether the excitement was caused by curiosity or admiration, it was hard to say. They might be preparing a friendly reception for the stranger, or they might be preparing to eat him—which of the two was an interesting question that Willis did not care about probing too deeply at that particular moment.
Fritz and Jack anxiously watched the operations of the natives from the bay. They could not with safety abandon the pinnace; but to leave Willis to the mercy of the sinister-looking people on shore was not to be thought of either. The Mary was, therefore, run in as close as possible, and Jack leaped on the sands a few minutes after the Pilot.
Willis marched boldly on towards the natives, and when he arrived beside the old man, the crowd opened up and formed an avenue through which a chief advanced, followed by a number of men, seemingly priests, who carried a grotesque-looking figure that Jack presumed to be an idol. The figure was made up of wicker-work—was of colossal height—the features, which represented nothing on earth beneath nor heaven above, were inconceivably hideous—the eyes were discs of mother-of-pearl, with a nut in the centre—the teeth were apparently those of a shark, and the body was covered with a mantle of red feathers.
At the command of the chief, some of the natives advanced and placed a quantity of bananas, bread-fruits, and other vegetables at the Pilot's feet; the priests then came forward and knelt down before him, and seemed to worship after the fashion of the ancients when they paid their devotions to the Eleusinian goddess, or the statue of Apollo. Meanwhile, Jack, on his side, was likewise surrounded by the natives, who was treated with much less ceremony than Willis. Instead of falling down on their knees, each of them, one after the other, rubbed their noses against his, and then danced round him with every demonstration of savage joy.
Jack had now an opportunity of observing the personages about him more in detail. They were mostly tall and well-formed; their features bore some resemblance to those of a negro, their nose being flat and their lips thick; on the other hand, they had the high cheek-bones of the North American Indian and the forehead of the Malay. Nearly all of them were entirely naked, but wore a necklace and bracelets of shells. They were armed with a sort of spear and an axe of hard wood edged with stone. Their skins were tattooed all over with lines and circles, and painted; these decorations, in some instances, exhibiting careful execution and no inconsiderable degree of artistic skill. These observations made, Jack pushed his way to the spot where Willis was receiving the homage of the priests.
"What! you here?" said the Pilot.
"Yes, Willis, I have come to see what detained you. By the way, is there anything the matter with my nose?"
"Nothing that I can see; but the natives of New Zealand rub their noses against each other, and probably the same usage is fashion here."
"Why, then, do they make you an exception?"
"I have not the remotest idea."
The priests at length rose, and the chief advanced. This dignitary addressed a long discourse to Willis in a sing-song tone, which lasted nearly half an hour. After this, he stood aside, and looked at Willis, as if he expected a reply.
"Illustrious chief, king, prince, or nabob," said Willis, "I am highly flattered by all the fine things you have just said to me. It is true, I have not understood a single word, but the fruits you have placed before me speak a language that I can understand. Howsomever, most mighty potentate, we are not in want of provisions; but if you can show us a spring of good water, you will confer upon us an everlasting favor."
"You might just as well ask him to show you what o'clock it is by the dial of his cathedral," said Jack.
"They would only point to the sun if I did."
"But suppose the sun invisible."
"Then they would be in the same position as we are when we forget to wind up our watches. Gentlemen savages," he said, turning to the natives and handing them the glass beads, "accept these trifles as a token of our esteem."
The natives required no pressing, but accepted the proffered gifts with great good-will. The dancing and singing then recommenced with redoubled fury, and poor Jack's nose was almost obliterated by the constant rubbing it underwent.
Suddenly the hubbub ceased, and a profound silence reigned throughout the assembly. The oldest of the priests brought a mantle of red feathers, similar to the one that covered the idol. This was thrown over the Pilot's shoulders; a tuft of feathers, something resembling a funeral plume, was placed upon his head, and a large semi-circular fan was thrust into his hand. Thus equipped, a procession was formed, one half before and the other half behind him. The cortege began to move slowly in the direction of the interior, but the operation was disconcerted by Willis, who remained stock-still.
"Thank you," he said, "I would rather not go far away from the shore."
As soon as the natives saw clearly that Willis was not disposed to move, the chief issued a mandate, and four stout fellows immediately removed the idol from its position, and Willis was placed upon the vacant pedestal.
The kind of adoration with which all these proceedings were accompanied greatly perplexed the voyagers. What could it all mean? Was this a common mode of welcoming strangers? It occurred to Jack that the Romans were accustomed to decorate with flowers the victims they designed as sacrifices to the altars of their gods before immolating them. This reminiscence made his flesh creep with horror, and filled him with the utmost dismay.
"Willis!" he cried to the Pilot, whom they were now leading off in triumph, "let us try the effects of our rifles on this rabble; you jump over the heads of your worshippers, and we will charge through them to shore. I will shoot the first man that pursues us, and signal Fritz to discharge the four-pounder amongst them."
"Impossible," replied Willis; "we should both be stuck all over with arrows and lances before we could reach the pinnace. Did I not tell you not to come ashore?"
"True, Willis, but did you suppose I had no heart? How could I look on quietly whilst you were surrounded by a mob of ferocious-looking men?"
"Well, well, Master Jack, say no more about it; I do not suppose they mean to do me any harm; but there would be danger in rousing the passions of such a multitude of people. They seem, luckily, to direct their attentions exclusively to me, so you had better go back and look after the canoe."
"No; I shall follow you wherever you go, Willis, even into the soup-kettles of the wretches."
"In that case," said Willis, "the wine is poured out, and, such as it is, 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 OCEANIA—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—MARIUS—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!
Was he on his way to the Capitol or to the Gemoniae? The solution of this question became, for the moment, of greater importance to Willis than the "to be or not to be" of Hamlet to the State of Denmark. This incertitude was all the more painful, that it was accompanied by myriads of insects, created by the recent rains; these swarmed in the air to such an extent, that it was utterly impossible to inhale the one without swallowing the other. The sailor, notwithstanding his elevated and somewhat perilous position, true to his instincts and tormented by the flies, took out his pipe, filled it, and struck a light. As soon as the first column of smoke issued from his mouth, the cavalcade halted spontaneously, the natives fell on their faces, their noses touching the ground, and in an attitude of the profoundest fear and apprehension. Jupiter thundering never created such a sensation as Willis smoking. The savages seemed glued to the earth with terror. If the Pilot had thought it advisable to escape, he might have walked over the prostrate bodies of his captors, not one of whom would have been bold enough to follow what appeared to be a human volcano, vomiting fire and smoke,—the fire of course being understood.
Willis, however, now saw that he possessed in his pipe a ready means of awing them. Besides, it was clear that, through some fortunate coincidence, the natives had mistaken him for a divinity. There was, consequently, no immediate danger to be apprehended; he therefore became himself again, and began to enjoy the novelty of his new dignity.
It was certainly a curious contrast. Willis, seated on a sort of throne, crowned with a waving plume of feathers, shrouded in a fiery mantle, and surrounded by a crowd of prostrate figures, was quietly puffing ribbons of smoke from the tips of his lips. There he sat, for all the world like a crane in a duck-pond. From time to time the more daring of the worshippers slightly raised their heads to see whether Jupiter was still thundering; but when their eye caught a whiff of smoke, they speedily resumed their former posture. Some of them even thrust their heads into holes, or behind stones, as if more effectually to shelter themselves from the fury of the fiery furnace. At last the eruption ceased, Willis knocked the ashes out of his pipe, replaced it in his pocket, and the convoy resumed its route. After half an hour's march, the procession halted near a clump of plantains, in front of a structure more ambitious than any of those in the neighborhood. A female, laden with rude ornaments, was standing at the door. This lady, who rivalled the celebrated Daniel Lambert in dimensions, would have created quite a furore at Bartholomew Fair; according to Jack, she was so amazingly fat, that it would have taken full five minutes to walk round her. She took the Pilot respectfully by the hand, and led him into the interior of the building, which was crowded with images of various forms, and was evidently a temple. Willis, at a sign from his conductress, seated himself in a chair, raised on a dais, and surmounted by a terrific figure similar to the one already described, but draped in white feathers instead of red.
The fat lady, or rather the high priestess—for she was the reigning potentate in this magazine of idols—took a sucking pig that was held by one of the priests. After muttering a prayer or homily of some sort, she strangled the poor animal, and returned it to the priest. By and by, the pig was brought in again cooked, and presented with great ceremony to Willis. There were likewise sundry dishes of fruit, nuts, and several small cups containing some kind of liquid. One of the priests cut up the pig, and lifted pieces of it to Willis's mouth; these, however, he refused to eat. The fat priestess, observing this, chewed one or two mouthfuls, which she afterwards handed to the Pilot. This was putting the sailor's gallantry to rather a rude test. He was equal to the emergency, and did not refuse the offering. But he must have felt at the time, that being a divinity was not entirely without its attendant inconveniences.
Nor was this the only infliction of the kind he was doomed to withstand. One of the priests took up a piece of kava-root, put it into his mouth, chewed it, and then dropped a bit into each of the cups already noticed. One of these, containing this nectar, was presented to Willis by the fat Hebe who presided at the feast, and he had the fortitude to taste it. Another of the cups was handed to Jack.
"No, I thank you," said he, shaking his head; "I breakfasted rather late this morning."
Meantime, another personage had entered upon the scene. After having performed an obeisance to Willis like the rest, this individual backed himself to where Jack was standing, by this means adroitly avoiding both the kava and the nose-rubbings. He was distinguished from the other natives by an ornament round his waist, which fell to his knees. His skin seemed a trifle less dark, his features less marked; but his body was tattooed and stained after the common fashion.
The new comer turned out to be a Portuguese deserter, who had abandoned his ship twenty years before, and had married the daughter of a chief of the island on which he now was. At the present moment, he filled the part of prime minister to the king, an office be could not have held in his own ungrateful country, since he could neither read nor write. These accomplishments, it appeared, were not, however, absolutely indispensable in Polynesia. It has been found that when a savage is transferred to Europe, he readily acquires the habits of civilized life. By a similar adaptation of things to circumstances, this European had identified himself with the savages. He had adopted their manners, their customs, and their costume. When he thought of his own country, it was only to wonder why he ever submitted to the constraint of a coat, or put himself to the trouble of handling a fork and spoon. He had not, however, entirely forgotten his mother tongue, and, moreover, still retained in his memory a few English words. He was likewise very communicative, and told Jack that they were in the Island of Hawai; that the name of the king was Toubowrai Tamaidi, who, he added, intended visiting the pinnace with the queen next day, to pay his respects in person to the great Rono. "His Majesty," said the Portuguese, "would have been amongst the first to throw himself at his feet, but unfortunately the royal residence is a good way off; and though both the king and the queen are on the way, running as fast as they can, it may take them some time yet to reach the shore."
"But who is the great Rono?" inquired Jack.
"Well," replied the prime minister, "you ought to know best, since you arrived with him."
Jack felt that he was touching on delicate ground, and saw that it was necessary to diplomatise a little.
"True," said he; "but I am not acquainted with the position that illustrious person holds in relation to Hawai." The Portuguese then made a very long, rambling, and not very lucid statement, from which Jack gleaned the following details. About a hundred years before, during the reign of one of the first kings, there lived a great warrior, whose name was Rono. This chief was very popular, but he was very jealous. In a moment of anger he killed his wife, of whom he was passionately fond. The regret and grief that resulted from this act drove him out of his senses; he wandered disconsolately about the island, fought and quarrelled with every one that came near him. At last, in a fit of despair, he embarked in a large canoe, and, after promising to return at the expiration of twelve hundred moons, with a white face and on a floating island, he put out to sea, and was never heard of more.
This tradition, it appears, had been piously handed down from family to family. The natives of Hawai—who are not more extravagant in the matter of idols than some nations who boast a larger amount of civilization, but who do not destroy them so often—enrolled Rono amongst the list of their divinities. An image of him was set up, sacrifices were instituted in his honor. Every year the day of his departure was kept sacred, and devoted to religious ceremonies. The twelfth hundred moon had just set, when a large boat appeared in the bay, and a man came ashore. The high priest of the temple, Raou, and his daughter, On La, priestess of Rono, solemnly declared that the man in question was Rono himself, who had returned at the precise time named, and in the manner he promised.
It was, therefore, clear from this statement that Willis was to be henceforward Rono the Great.
Jack was rather pleased than otherwise to learn that he was the companion of a real live divinity. It assured him, in the first place, that the danger of his being converted into a stew or a fricassee was not imminent. He did not forget, however, that the consequences might be perilous if, by any chance, the illusion ceased; for he knew that the greater the height from which a man falls, the less the mercy shown to him when he is down. As soon, therefore, as the ceremonies had a little relaxed, and Willis was left some freedom of action, Jack went forward, and knelt before him in his turn.
"O sublime Rono," said he, "I know now why your nose has escaped all the rubbings that mine has had to undergo."
"Do you?" said Willis; "glad to hear it, for I am as much in the dark as ever."
Jack then related to him the fabulous legend he had just heard.
After a while, Willis shook off his entourage as gently as possible, and succeeded in getting out of the temple. Accompanied by Jack, he proceeded towards the shore, receiving, as he went, the adoration of the people. The route was strewn with fruit, cocoa-nuts, and pigs, and the natives were highly delighted when any of their offerings were accepted by the deified Rono.
The islanders appeared mild, docile, and intelligent, notwithstanding the singular delusion that possessed them. Living from day to day, they were, doubtless, ignorant of those continual cares and calculations for the future that in the old world pursue us even into the hours of sleep. Were they happier in consequence? Yes, if the child is happier than the man, and if we admit that we often loose in tranquillity and happiness what we gain in knowledge and perfection: yes, if happiness is not exclusively attached to certain peoples and certain climates; yes, if it is true that, with contentment, happiness is everywhere to be found.
The houses of the Hawaians are singular structures, and scarcely can be called dwellings. They consist of three rows of posts, two on each side and one in the middle, the whole covered with a slanting roof, but without any kind of wall whatever.
They do not bury their dead, but swing them up in a sort of hammock, abundantly supplied with provisions. It is supposed that this is done with a view to enable the souls of the departed to take their flight more readily to heaven. The practice, consequently, seems to indicate that the natives possess a confused idea of a future state. When a child dies, flowers are placed in the hammock along with the provisions—a touch of the nature common to us all. They express deep grief by inflicting wounds upon their faces with a shark's tooth; and, when they feel themselves in danger of dying, they cut off a joint of the little finger to appease the anger of the Divinity. There was scarcely one of the adult islanders who was not mutilated in this way.
Though the worshippers of the great Rono appeared gentle and peaceable enough, there were to be seen here and there a human jaw-bone, seemingly fresh, with the teeth entire, suspended over the entrances to the huts. These ghastly objects sent a shudder quivering through Jack's frame, and made Willis aware that it would not be advisable rashly to throw off his sacred character.
As it was now late, and as they knew that Fritz would be uneasy about them, they put off laying in their stock of water till next day. Jack told the prime minister that the great Rono would be prepared to receive their majesties whenever they chose to visit him. This done, Willis and his companion seated themselves in the canoe, and rowed out to the pinnace.
"God be thanked, you have returned in safety!" cried Fritz; "I never was so uneasy in the whole course of my life."
"Well, brother, we have not been without our anxieties as well, and had we not happened to have had a divinity amongst us, we might not have come off scathless."