The Coral Island A Tale of the Pacific Ocean
Part 2 out of 6
"'Then do it,' and, seizing me by my trousers and the nape of my
neck, he tossed me over the side into the sea. The fellows in the
boats at the end of the pier, backed their oars on seeing this; but
observing that I could swim, they allowed me to make the best of my
way to the pier-head. So, you see, Ralph, that I really did swim
my first homeward voyage."
Jack laughed and patted Peterkin on the shoulder. "But tell us
about the candle-nut tree," said I; "you were talking about it."
"Very true," said Jack, "but I fear I can remember little about it.
I believe the nut is about the size of a walnut; and I think that
the leaves are white, but I am not sure."
"Eh! ha! hum!" exclaimed Peterkin, "I saw a tree answering to that
description this very day."
"Did you?" cried Jack. "Is it far from this?"
"No, not half a mile."
"Then lead me to it," said Jack, seizing his axe.
In a few minutes we were all three pushing through the underwood of
the forest, headed by Peterkin.
We soon came to the tree in question, which, after Jack had closely
examined it, we concluded must be the candle-nut tree. Its leaves
were of a beautiful silvery white, and formed a fine contrast to
the dark-green foliage of the surrounding trees. We immediately
filled our pockets with the nuts, after which Jack said, -
"Now, Peterkin, climb that cocoa-nut tree and cut me one of the
This was soon done, but it cost some trouble, for the stem was very
high, and as Peterkin usually pulled nuts from the younger trees,
he was not much accustomed to climbing the high ones. The leaf or
branch was a very large one, and we were surprised at its size and
strength. Viewed from a little distance, the cocoa-nut tree seems
to be a tall, straight stem, without a single branch except at the
top, where there is a tuft of feathery-looking leaves, that seem to
wave like soft plumes in the wind. But when we saw one of these
leaves or branches at our feet, we found it to be a strong stalk,
about fifteen feet long, with a number of narrow, pointed leaflets
ranged alternately on each side. But what seemed to us the most
wonderful thing about it was a curious substance resembling cloth,
which was wrapped round the thick end of the stalk, where it had
been cut from the tree. Peterkin told us that he had the greatest
difficulty in separating the branch from the stem, on account of
this substance, as it was wrapped quite round the tree, and, he
observed, round all the other branches, thus forming a strong
support to the large leaves while exposed to high winds. When I
call this substance cloth I do not exaggerate. Indeed, with regard
to all the things I saw during my eventful career in the South
Seas, I have been exceedingly careful not to exaggerate, or in any
way to mislead or deceive my readers. This cloth, I say, was
remarkably like to coarse brown cotton cloth. It had a seam or
fibre down the centre of it, from which diverged other fibres,
about the size of a bristle. There were two layers of these
fibres, very long and tough, the one layer crossing the other
obliquely, and the whole was cemented together with a still finer
fibrous and adhesive substance. When we regarded it attentively,
we could with difficulty believe that it had not been woven by
human hands. This remarkable piece of cloth we stripped carefully
off, and found it to be above two feet long, by a foot broad, and
we carried it home with us as a great prize.
Jack now took one of the leaflets, and, cutting out the central
spine or stalk, hurried back with it to our camp. Having made a
small fire, he baked the nuts slightly, and then pealed off the
husks. After this he wished to bore a hole in them, which, not
having anything better at hand at the time, he did with the point
of our useless pencil-case. Then he strung them on the cocoa-nut
spine, and on putting a light to the topmost nut, we found to our
joy that it burned with a clear, beautiful flame; upon seeing
which, Peterkin sprang up and danced round the fire for at least
five minutes in the excess of his satisfaction.
"Now lads," said Jack, extinguishing our candle, the sun will set
in an hour, so we have no time to lose. "I shall go and cut a
young tree to make my bow out of, and you had better each of you go
and select good strong sticks for clubs, and we'll set to work at
them after dark."
So saying he shouldered his axe and went off, followed by Peterkin,
while I took up the piece of newly discovered cloth, and fell to
examining its structure. So engrossed was I in this that I was
still sitting in the same attitude and occupation when my
"I told you so!" cried Peterkin, with a loud laugh. "Oh, Ralph,
you're incorrigible. See, there's a club for you. I was sure,
when we left you looking at that bit of stuff, that we would find
you poring over it when we came back, so I just cut a club for you
as well as for myself."
"Thank you, Peterkin," said I. "It was kind of you to do that,
instead of scolding me for a lazy fellow, as I confess I deserve."
"Oh! as to that," returned Peterkin, "I'll blow you up yet, if you
wish it - only it would be of no use if I did, for you're a perfect
As it was now getting dark we lighted our candle, and placing it in
a holder made of two crossing branches, inside of our bower, we
seated ourselves on our leafy beds and began to work.
"I intend to appropriate the bow for my own use," said Jack,
chipping the piece of wood he had brought with his axe. "I used to
be a pretty fair shot once. But what's that you're doing?" he
added, looking at Peterkin, who had drawn the end of a long pole
into the tent, and was endeavouring to fit a small piece of the
hoop-iron to the end of it.
"I'm going to enlist into the Lancers," answered Peterkin. "You
see, Jack, I find the club rather an unwieldy instrument for my
delicately-formed muscles, and I flatter myself I shall do more
execution with a spear."
"Well, if length constitutes power," said Jack, "you'll certainly
The pole which Peterkin had cut was full twelve feet long, being a
very strong but light and tough young tree, which merely required
thinning at the butt to be a serviceable weapon.
"That's a very good idea," said I.
"Which - this?" inquired Peterkin, pointing to the spear.
"Yes;" I replied.
"Humph!" said he; "you'd find it a pretty tough and matter-of-fact
idea, if you had it stuck through your gizzard, old boy!"
"I mean the idea of making it is a good one," said I, laughing.
"And, now I think of it, I'll change my plan, too. I don't think
much of a club, so I'll make me a sling out of this piece of cloth.
I used to be very fond of slinging, ever since I read of David
slaying Goliath the Philistine, and I was once thought to be expert
So I set to work to manufacture a sling. For a long time we all
worked very busily without speaking. At length Peterkin looked up:
"I say, Jack, I'm sorry to say I must apply to you for another
strip of your handkerchief, to tie on this rascally head with.
It's pretty well torn at any rate, so you won't miss it."
Jack proceeded to comply with this request when Peterkin suddenly
laid his hand on his arm and arrested him.
"Hist, man," said he, "be tender; you should never be needlessly
cruel if you can help it. Do try to shave past Lord Nelson's mouth
without tearing it, if possible! Thanks. There are plenty more
handkerchiefs on the cocoa-nut trees."
Poor Peterkin! with what pleasant feelings I recall and record his
jests and humorous sayings now!
While we were thus engaged, we were startled by a distant but most
strange and horrible cry. It seemed to come from the sea, but was
so far away that we could not clearly distinguish its precise
direction. Rushing out of our bower, we hastened down to the beach
and stayed to listen. Again it came quite loud and distinct on the
night air, - a prolonged, hideous cry, something like the braying
of an ass. The moon had risen, and we could see the islands in and
beyond the lagoon quite plainly, but there was no object visible to
account for such a cry. A strong gust of wind was blowing from the
point whence the sound came, but this died away while we were
gazing out to sea.
"What can it be?" said Peterkin, in a low whisper, while we all
involuntarily crept closer to each other.
"Do you know," said Jack, "I have heard that mysterious sound twice
before, but never so loud as to-night. Indeed it was so faint that
I thought I must have merely fancied it, so, as I did not wish to
alarm you, I said nothing about it."
We listened for a long time for the sound again, but as it did not
come, we returned to the bower and resumed our work.
"Very strange," said Peterkin, quite gravely. "Do you believe in
"No," I answered, "I do not. Nevertheless I must confess that
strange, unaccountable sounds, such as we have just heard, make me
feel a little uneasy."
"What say you to it, Jack?"
"I neither believe in ghosts nor feel uneasy," he replied. "I
never saw a ghost myself, and I never met with any one who had; and
I have generally found that strange and unaccountable things have
almost always been accounted for, and found to be quite simple, on
close examination. I certainly can't imagine what THAT sound is;
but I'm quite sure I shall find out before long, - and if it's a
ghost I'll - "
"Eat it," cried Peterkin.
"Yes, I'll eat it! Now, then, my bow and two arrows are finished;
so if you're ready we had better turn in."
By this time Peterkin had thinned down his spear and tied an iron
point very cleverly to the end of it; I had formed a sling, the
lines of which were composed of thin strips of the cocoa-nut cloth,
plaited; and Jack had made a stout bow, nearly five feet long, with
two arrows, feathered with two or three large plumes which some
bird had dropt. They had no barbs, but Jack said that if arrows
were well feathered, they did not require iron points, but would
fly quite well if merely sharpened at the point; which I did not
"A feathered arrow without a barb," said he, "is a good weapon, but
a barbed arrow without feathers is utterly useless."
The string of the bow was formed of our piece of whip-cord, part of
which, as he did not like to cut it, was rolled round the bow.
Although thus prepared for a start on the morrow, we thought it
wise to exercise ourselves a little in the use of our weapons
before starting, so we spent the whole of the next day in
practising. And it was well we did so, for we found that our arms
were very imperfect, and that we were far from perfect in the use
of them. First, Jack found that the bow was much too strong, and
he had to thin it. Also the spear was much too heavy, and so had
to be reduced in thickness, although nothing would induce Peterkin
to have it shortened. My sling answered very well, but I had
fallen so much out of practice that my first stone knocked off
Peterkin's hat, and narrowly missed making a second Goliath of him.
However, after having spent the whole day in diligent practice, we
began to find some of our former expertness returning - at least
Jack and I did. As for Peterkin, being naturally a neat-handed
boy, he soon handled his spear well, and could run full tilt at a
cocoa nut, and hit it with great precision once out of every five
But I feel satisfied that we owed much of our rapid success to the
unflagging energy of Jack, who insisted that, since we had made him
Captain, we should obey him; and he kept us at work from morning
till night, perseveringly, at the same thing. Peterkin wished very
much to run about and stick his spear into everything he passed;
but Jack put up a cocoa nut, and would not let him leave off
running at that for a moment, except when he wanted to rest. We
laughed at Jack for this, but we were both convinced that it did us
That night we examined and repaired our arms ere we lay down to
rest, although we were much fatigued, in order that we might be in
readiness to set out on our expedition at daylight on the following
Prepare for a journey round the island - Sagacious reflections -
Mysterious appearances and startling occurrences.
SCARCELY had the sun shot its first ray across the bosom of the
broad Pacific, when Jack sprang to his feet, and, hallooing in
Peterkin's ear to awaken him, ran down the beach to take his
customary dip in the sea. We did not, as was our wont, bathe that
morning in our Water Garden, but, in order to save time, refreshed
ourselves in the shallow water just opposite the bower. Our
breakfast was also despatched without loss of time, and in less
than an hour afterwards all our preparations for the journey were
In addition to his ordinary dress, Jack tied a belt of cocoa-nut
cloth round his waist, into which he thrust the axe. I was also
advised to put on a belt and carry a short cudgel or bludgeon in
it; for, as Jack truly remarked, the sling would be of little use
if we should chance to come to close quarters with any wild animal.
As for Peterkin, notwithstanding that he carried such a long, and I
must add, frightful-looking spear over his shoulder, we could not
prevail on him to leave his club behind; "for," said he, "a spear
at close quarters is not worth a button." I must say that it
seemed to me that the club was, to use his own style of language,
not worth a button-hole; for it was all knotted over at the head,
something like the club which I remember to have observed in
picture-books of Jack the Giant Killer, besides being so heavy that
he required to grasp it with both hands in order to wield it at
all. However, he took it with him, and, in this manner we set out
upon our travels.
We did not consider it necessary to carry any food with us, as we
knew that wherever we went we should be certain to fall in with
cocoa-nut trees; having which, we were amply supplied, as Peterkin
said, with meat and drink and pocket-handkerchiefs! I took the
precaution, however, to put the burning-glass into my pocket, lest
we should want fire.
The morning was exceeding lovely. It was one of that very still
and peaceful sort which made the few noises that we heard seem to
be QUIET noises. I know no other way of expressing this idea.
Noises which so far from interrupting the universal tranquillity of
earth, sea, and sky - rather tended to reveal to us how quiet the
world around us really was. Such sounds as I refer to were, the
peculiarly melancholy - yet, it seemed to me, cheerful - plaint of
sea-birds floating on the glassy water, or sailing in the sky, also
the subdued twittering of little birds among the bushes, the faint
ripples on the beach, and the solemn boom of the surf upon the
distant coral reef. We felt very glad in our hearts as we walked
along the sands side by side. For my part, I felt so deeply
overjoyed, that I was surprised at my own sensations, and fell into
a reverie upon the causes of happiness. I came to the conclusion
that a state of profound peace and repose, both in regard to
outward objects and within the soul, is the happiest condition in
which man can be placed; for, although I had many a time been most
joyful and happy when engaged in bustling, energetic, active
pursuits or amusements, I never found that such joy or satisfaction
was so deep or so pleasant to reflect upon as that which I now
experienced. And I was the more confirmed in this opinion when I
observed, and, indeed, was told by himself, that Peterkin's
happiness was also very great; yet he did not express this by
dancing, as was his wont, nor did he give so much as a single
shout, but walked quietly between us with his eye sparkling, and a
joyful smile upon his countenance. My reader must not suppose that
I thought all this in the clear and methodical manner in which I
have set it down here. These thoughts did, indeed, pass through my
mind, but they did so in a very confused and indefinite manner, for
I was young at that time, and not much given to deep reflections.
Neither did I consider that the peace whereof I write is not to be
found in this world - at least in its perfection, although I have
since learned that by religion a man may attain to a very great
degree of it.
I have said that Peterkin walked along the sands between us. We
had two ways of walking together about our island. When we
travelled through the woods, we always did so in single file, as by
this method we advanced with greater facility, the one treading in
the other's footsteps. In such cases Jack always took the lead,
Peterkin followed, and I brought up the rear. But when we
travelled along the sands, which extended almost in an unbroken
line of glistening white round the island, we marched abreast, as
we found this method more sociable, and every way more pleasant.
Jack, being the tallest, walked next the sea, and Peterkin marched
between us, as by this arrangement either of us could talk to him
or he to us, while if Jack and I happened to wish to converse
together, we could conveniently do so over Peterkin's head.
Peterkin used to say, in reference to this arrangement, that had he
been as tall as either of us, our order of march might have been
the same, for, as Jack often used to scold him for letting
everything we said to him pass in at one ear and out at the other,
his head could of course form no interruption to our discourse.
We were now fairly started. Half a mile's walk conveyed us round a
bend in the land which shut out our bower from view, and for some
time we advanced at a brisk pace without speaking, though our eyes
were not idle, but noted everything, in the woods, on the shore, or
in the sea, that was interesting. After passing the ridge of land
that formed one side of our valley - the Valley of the Wreck - we
beheld another small vale lying before us in all the luxuriant
loveliness of tropical vegetation. We had, indeed, seen it before
from the mountain-top, but we had no idea that it would turn out to
be so much more lovely when we were close to it. We were about to
commence the exploration of this valley, when Peterkin stopped us,
and directed our attention to a very remarkable appearance in
advance along the shore.
"What's yon, think you?" said he, levelling his spear, as if he
expected an immediate attack from the object in question, though it
was full half a mile distant.
As he spoke, there appeared a white column above the rocks, as if
of steam or spray. It rose upwards to a height of several feet,
and then disappeared. Had this been near the sea, we would not
have been so greatly surprised, as it might in that case have been
the surf, for at this part of the coast the coral reef approached
so near to the island that in some parts it almost joined it.
There was therefore no lagoon between, and the heavy surf of the
ocean beat almost up to the rocks. But this white column appeared
about fifty yards inland. The rocks at the place were rugged, and
they stretched across the sandy beach into the sea. Scarce had we
ceased expressing our surprise at this sight, when another column
flew upwards for a few seconds, not far from the spot where the
first had been seen, and disappeared; and so, at long irregular
intervals, these strange sights recurred. We were now quite sure
that the columns were watery or composed of spray, but what caused
them we could not guess, so we determined to go and see.
In a few minutes we gained the spot, which was very rugged and
precipitous, and, moreover, quite damp with the falling of the
spray. We had much ado to pass over dry-shod. The ground also was
full of holes here and there. Now, while we stood anxiously
waiting for the re-appearance of these water-spouts, we heard a
low, rumbling sound near us, which quickly increased to a gargling
and hissing noise, and a moment afterwards a thick spout of water
burst upwards from a hole in the rock, and spouted into the air
with much violence, and so close to where Jack and I were standing
that it nearly touched us. We sprang to one side, but not before a
cloud of spray descended, and drenched us both to the skin.
Peterkin, who was standing farther off, escaped with a few drops,
and burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter on beholding our
"Mind your eye!" he shouted eagerly, "there goes another!" The
words were scarcely out of his mouth when there came up a spout
from another hole, which served us exactly in the same manner as
Peterkin now shrieked with laughter; but his merriment was abruptly
put a stop to by the gurgling noise occurring close to where he
"Where'll it spout this time, I wonder?" he said, looking about
with some anxiety, and preparing to run. Suddenly there came a
loud hiss or snort; a fierce spout of water burst up between
Peterkin's legs, blew him off his feet, enveloped him in its spray,
and hurled him to the ground. He fell with so much violence that
we feared he must have broken some of his bones, and ran anxiously
to his assistance; but fortunately he had fallen on a clump of
tangled herbage, in which he lay sprawling in a most deplorable
It was now our turn to laugh; but as we were not yet quite sure
that he was unhurt, and as we knew not when or where the next spout
might arise, we assisted him hastily to jump up and hurry from the
I may here add, that although I am quite certain that the spout of
water was very strong, and that it blew Peterkin completely off his
legs, I am not quite certain of the exact height to which it lifted
him, being somewhat startled by the event, and blinded partially by
the spray, so that my power of observation was somewhat impaired
for the moment.
"What's to be done now?" inquired Peterkin ruefully.
"Make a fire, lad, and dry ourselves," replied Jack.
"And here is material ready to our hand," said I, picking up a
dried branch of a tree, as we hurried up to the woods.
In about an hour after this mishap our clothes were again dried.
While they were hanging up before the fire, we walked down to the
beach, and soon observed that these curious spouts took place
immediately after the fall of a huge wave, never before it; and,
moreover, that the spouts did not take place excepting when the
billow was an extremely large one. From this we concluded that
there must be a subterraneous channel in the rock into which the
water was driven by the larger waves, and finding no way of escape
except through these small holes, was thus forced up violently
through them. At any rate, we could not conceive any other reason
for these strange water-spouts, and as this seemed a very simple
and probable one, we forthwith adopted it.
"I say, Ralph, what's that in the water? is it a shark?" said Jack,
just as we were about to quit the place.
I immediately ran to the overhanging ledge of rock, from which he
was looking down into the sea, and bent over it. There I saw a
very faint pale object of a greenish colour, which seemed to move
slightly while I looked at it.
"It's like a fish of some sort," said I.
"Hallo, Peterkin!" cried Jack, "fetch your spear; here's work for
But when we tried to reach the object, the spear proved to be too
"There, now," said Peterkin with a sneer, "you were always telling
me it was too long."
Jack now drove the spear forcibly towards the object, and let go
his hold; but, although it seemed to be well aimed, he must have
missed, for the handle soon rose again; and when the spear was
drawn up, there was the pale green object in exactly the same spot,
slowly moving its tail.
"Very odd," said Jack.
But although it was undoubtedly very odd, and, although Jack and
all of us plunged the spear at it repeatedly, we could neither hit
it nor drive it away, so we were compelled to continue our journey
without discovering what it was. I was very much perplexed at this
strange appearance in the water, and could not get it out of my
mind for a long time afterwards. However, I quieted myself by
resolving that I would pay a visit to it again at some more
Make discovery of many excellent roots and fruits - The resources
of the Coral Island gradually unfolded - The banian-tree - Another
tree which is supported by natural planks - Water-fowl found - A
very remarkable discovery, and a very peculiar murder - We
luxuriate on the fat of the land.
OUR examination of the little valley proved to be altogether most
satisfactory. We found in it not only similar trees to those we
had already seen in our own valley, but also one or two others of a
different species. We had also the satisfaction of discovering a
peculiar vegetable, which Jack concluded must certainly be that of
which he had read as being very common among the South Sea
islanders, and which was named TARO. Also we found a large supply
of yams, and another root like a potato in appearance. As these
were all quite new to us, we regarded our lot as a most fortunate
one, in being thus cast on an island which was so prolific and so
well stored with all the necessaries of life. Long afterwards we
found out that this island of ours was no better in these respects
than thousands of other islands in those seas. Indeed, many of
them were much richer and more productive; but that did not render
us the less grateful for our present good fortune. We each put one
of these roots in our pocket, intending to use them for our supper;
of which more hereafter. We also saw many beautiful birds here,
and traces of some four-footed animal again. Meanwhile the sun
began to descend, so we returned to the shore, and pushed on round
the spouting rocks into the next valley. This was that valley of
which I have spoken as running across the entire island. It was by
far the largest and most beautiful that we had yet looked upon.
Here were trees of every shape and size and hue which it is
possible to conceive of, many of which we had not seen in the other
valleys; for, the stream in this valley being larger, and the mould
much richer than in the Valley of the Wreck, it was clothed with a
more luxuriant growth of trees and plants. Some trees were dark
glossy green, others of a rich and warm hue, contrasting well with
those of a pale light green, which were everywhere abundant. Among
these we recognised the broad dark heads of the bread-fruit, with
its golden fruit; the pure, silvery foliage of the candle-nut, and
several species which bore a strong resemblance to the pine; while
here and there, in groups and in single trees, rose the tall forms
of the cocoa-nut palms, spreading abroad, and waving their graceful
plumes high above all the rest, as if they were a superior race of
stately giants keeping guard over these luxuriant forests. Oh! it
was a most enchanting scene, and I thanked God for having created
such delightful spots for the use of man.
Now, while we were gazing around us in silent admiration, Jack
uttered an exclamation of surprise, and, pointing to an object a
little to one side of us, said, -
"That's a banian-tree."
"And what's a banian-tree?" inquired Peterkin, as we walked towards
"A very curious one, as you shall see presently," replied Jack.
"It is called the AOA here, if I recollect rightly, and has a
wonderful peculiarity about it. What an enormous one it is, to be
"IT!" repeated Peterkin; "why, there are dozens of banians here!
What do you mean by talking bad grammar? Is your philosophy
deserting you, Jack?"
"There is but one tree here of this kind," returned Jack, "as you
will perceive if you will examine it." And, sure enough, we did
find that what we had supposed was a forest of trees was in reality
only one. Its bark was of a light colour, and had a shining
appearance, the leaves being lance-shaped, small, and of a
beautiful pea-green. But the wonderful thing about it was, that
the branches, which grew out from the stem horizontally, sent down
long shoots or fibres to the ground, which, taking root, had
themselves become trees, and were covered with bark like the tree
itself. Many of these fibres had descended from the branches at
various distances, and thus supported them on natural pillars, some
of which were so large and strong, that it was not easy at first to
distinguish the offspring from the parent stem. The fibres were of
all sizes and in all states of advancement, from the pillars we
have just mentioned to small cords which hung down and were about
to take root, and thin brown threads still far from the ground,
which swayed about with every motion of wind. In short, it seemed
to us that, if there were only space afforded to it, this single
tree would at length cover the whole island.
Shortly after this we came upon another remarkable tree, which, as
its peculiar formation afterwards proved extremely useful to us,
merits description. It was a splendid chestnut, but its proper
name Jack did not know. However, there were quantities of fine
nuts upon it, some of which we put in our pockets. But its stem
was the wonderful part of it. It rose to about twelve feet without
a branch, and was not of great thickness; on the contrary, it was
remarkably slender for the size of the tree; but, to make up for
this, there were four or five wonderful projections in this stem,
which I cannot better describe than by asking the reader to suppose
that five planks of two inches thick and three feet broad had been
placed round the trunk of the tree, with their EDGES closely fixed
to it, from the ground up to the branches, and that these planks
bad been covered over with the bark of the tree and incorporated
with it. In short, they were just natural buttresses, without
which the stem could not have supported its heavy and umbrageous
top. We found these chestnuts to be very numerous. They grew
chiefly on the banks of the stream, and were of all sizes.
While we were examining a small tree of this kind, Jack chipped a
piece off a buttress with his axe, and found the wood to be firm
and easily cut. He then struck the axe into it with all his force,
and very soon split it off close to the tree, first, however,
having cut it across transversely above and below. By this means
he satisfied himself that we could now obtain short planks, as it
were all ready sawn, of any size and thickness that we desired;
which was a very great discovery indeed, perhaps the most important
we had yet made.
We now wended our way back to the coast, intending to encamp near
the beach, as we found that the mosquitoes were troublesome in the
forest. On our way we could not help admiring the birds which flew
and chirped around us. Among them we observed a pretty kind of
paroquet, with a green body, a blue head, and a red breast; also a
few beautiful turtledoves, and several flocks of wood-pigeons. The
hues of many of these birds were extremely vivid, - bright green,
blue, and scarlet, being the prevailing tints. We made several
attempts throughout the day to bring down one of these, both with
the bow and the sling, - not for mere sport, but to ascertain
whether they were good for food. But we invariably missed,
although once or twice we were very near hitting. As evening drew
on, however, a flock of pigeons flew past. I slung a stone into
the midst of them at a venture, and had the good fortune to kill
one. We were startled, soon after, by a loud whistling noise above
our heads; and on looking up, saw a flock of wild ducks making for
the coast. We watched these, and, observing where they alighted,
followed them up until we came upon a most lovely blue lake, not
more than two hundred yards long, imbosomed in verdant trees. Its
placid surface, which reflected every leaf and stem, as if in a
mirror, was covered with various species of wild ducks, feeding
among the sedges and broad-leaved water-plants which floated on it,
while numerous birds like water-hens ran to and fro most busily on
its margin. These all with one accord flew tumultuously away the
instant we made our appearance. While walking along the margin we
observed fish in the water, but of what sort we could not tell.
Now, as we neared the shore, Jack and I said we would go a little
out of our way to see if we could procure one of those ducks; so,
directing Peterkin to go straight to the shore and kindle a fire,
we separated, promising to rejoin him speedily. But we did not
find the ducks, although we made a diligent search for half an
hour. We were about to retrace our steps, when we were arrested by
one of the strangest sights that we had yet beheld.
Just in front of us, at the distance of about ten yards, grew a
superb tree, which certainly was the largest we had yet seen on the
island. Its trunk was at least five feet in diameter, with a
smooth gray bark; above this the spreading branches were clothed
with light green leaves, amid which were clusters of bright yellow
fruit, so numerous as to weigh down the boughs with their great
weight. This fruit seemed to be of the plum species, of an oblong
form, and a good deal larger than the magnum bonum plum. The
ground at the foot of this tree was thickly strewn with the fallen
fruit, in the midst of which lay sleeping, in every possible
attitude, at least twenty hogs of all ages and sizes, apparently
quite surfeited with a recent banquet.
Jack and I could scarce restrain our laughter as we gazed at these
coarse, fat, ill-looking animals, while they lay groaning and
snoring heavily amid the remains of their supper.
"Now, Ralph," said Jack, in a low whisper, "put a stone in your
sling, - a good big one, - and let fly at that fat fellow with his
back toward you. I'll try to put an arrow into yon little pig."
"Don't you think we had better put them up first?" I whispered; "it
seems cruel to kill them while asleep."
"If I wanted SPORT, Ralph, I would certainly set them up; but as we
only want PORK, we'll let them lie. Besides, we're not sure of
killing them; so, fire away."
Thus admonished, I slung my stone with so good aim that it went
bang against the hog's flank as if against the head of a drum; but
it had no other effect than that of causing the animal to start to
its feet, with a frightful yell of surprise, and scamper away. At
the same instant Jack's bow twanged, and the arrow pinned the
little pig to the ground by the ear.
"I've missed, after all," cried Jack, darting forward with uplifted
axe, while the little pig uttered a loud squeal, tore the arrow
from the ground, and ran away with it, along with the whole drove,
into the bushes and disappeared, though we heard them screaming
long afterwards in the distance.
"That's very provoking, now," said Jack, rubbing the point of his
"Very," I replied, stroking my chin.
"Well, we must make haste and rejoin Peterkin," said Jack. "It's
getting late." And, without further remark, we threaded our way
quickly through the woods towards the shore.
When we reached it, we found wood laid out, the fire lighted and
beginning to kindle up, with other signs of preparation for our
encampment, but Peterkin was nowhere to be found. We wondered very
much at this; but Jack suggested that he might have gone to fetch
water; so he gave a shout to let him know that we had arrived, and
sat down upon a rock, while I threw off my jacket and seized the
axe, intending to split up one or two billets of wood. But I had
scarce moved from the spot when, in the distance, we heard a most
appalling shriek, which was followed up by a chorus of yells from
the hogs, and a loud "hurrah!"
"I do believe," said I, "that Peterkin has met with the hogs."
"When Greek meets Greek," said Jack, soliloquizing, "then comes the
tug of - "
"Hurrah!" shouted Peterkin in the distance.
We turned hastily towards the direction whence the sound came, and
soon descried Peterkin walking along the beach towards us with a
little pig transfixed on the end of his long spear!
"Well done, my boy!" exclaimed Jack, slapping him on the shoulder
when he came up, "you're the best shot amongst us."
"Look here Jack!" cried Peterkin, as he disengaged the animal from
his spear. "Do you recognise that hole?" said he, pointing to the
pig's ear; "and are you familiar with this arrow, eh?"
"Well, I declare!" said Jack.
"Of course you do," interrupted Peterkin; "but, pray, restrain your
declarations at this time, and let's have supper, for I'm
uncommonly hungry, I can tell you; and it's no joke to charge a
whole herd of swine with their great-grandmother bristling like a
giant porcupine at the head of them!"
We now set about preparing supper; and, truly, a good display of
viands we made, when all was laid out on a flat rock in the light
of the blazing fire. There was, first of all, the little pig; then
there was the taro-root, and the yam, and the potato, and six
plums; and, lastly, the wood-pigeon. To these Peterkin added a bit
of sugar-cane, which he had cut from a little patch of that plant
which he had found not long after separating from us; "and," said
he, "the patch was somewhat in a square form, which convinces me it
must have been planted by man."
"Very likely," replied Jack. "From all we have seen, I'm inclined
to think that some of the savages must have dwelt here long ago."
We found no small difficulty in making up our minds how we were to
cook the pig. None of us had ever cut up one before, and we did
not know exactly how to begin; besides, we had nothing but the axe
to do it with, our knife having been forgotten. At last Jack
started up and said, -
"Don't let us waste more time talking about it, boys. Hold it up,
Peterkin. There, lay the hind leg on this block of wood, so;" and
he cut it off, with a large portion of the haunch, at a single blow
of the axe. "Now the other, - that's it." And having thus cut off
the two hind legs, he made several deep gashes in them, thrust a
sharp-pointed stick through each, and stuck them up before the
blaze to roast. The wood-pigeon was then split open, quite flat,
washed clean in salt water, and treated in a similar manner. While
these were cooking, we scraped a hole in the sand and ashes under
the fire, into which we put our vegetables, and covered them up.
The taro-root was of an oval shape, about ten inches long and four
or five thick. It was of a mottled-gray colour, and had a thick
rind. We found it somewhat like an Irish potato, and exceedingly
good. The yam was roundish, and had a rough brown skin. It was
very sweet and well-flavoured. The potato, we were surprised to
find, was quite sweet and exceedingly palatable, as also were the
plums; and, indeed, the pork and pigeon too, when we came to taste
them. Altogether this was decidedly the most luxurious supper we
had enjoyed for many a day; and Jack said it was out-of-sight
better than we ever got on board ship; and Peterkin said he feared
that if we should remain long on the island he would infallibly
become a glutton or an epicure: whereat Jack remarked that he need
not fear that, for he was BOTH already! And so, having eaten our
fill, not forgetting to finish off with a plum, we laid ourselves
comfortably down to sleep upon a couch of branches under the
overhanging ledge of a coral rock.
Effects of over-eating, and reflections thereon - Humble advice
regarding cold water - The "horrible cry" accounted for - The
curious birds called penguins - Peculiarity of the cocoa nut palm -
Questions on the formation of coral islands - Mysterious footsteps
- Strange discoveries and sad sights.
WHEN we awoke on the following morning, we found that the sun was
already a good way above the horizon, so I came to the conclusion
that a heavy supper is not conducive to early rising.
Nevertheless, we felt remarkably strong and well, and much disposed
to have our breakfast. First, however, we had our customary
morning bathe, which refreshed us greatly.
I have often wondered very much in after years that the inhabitants
of my own dear land did not make more frequent use of this most
charming element, water. I mean in the way of cold bathing. Of
course, I have perceived that it is not convenient for them to go
into the sea or the rivers in winter, as we used to do on the Coral
Island; but then, I knew from experience that a large washing-tub
and a sponge do form a most pleasant substitute. The feelings of
freshness, of cleanliness, of vigour, and extreme hilarity, that
always followed my bathes in the sea, and even, when in England, my
ablutions in the wash-tub, were so delightful, that I would sooner
have gone without my breakfast than without my bathe in cold water.
My readers will forgive me for asking whether they are in the habit
of bathing thus every morning; and if they answer "No," they will
pardon me for recommending them to begin at once. Of late years,
since retiring from the stirring life of adventure which I have led
so long in foreign climes, I have heard of a system called the
cold-water-cure. Now, I do not know much about that system, so I
do not mean to uphold it, neither do I intend to run it down.
Perhaps, in reference to it, I may just hint that there may be too
much of a good thing. I know not; but of this I am quite certain,
that there may also be too little of a good thing; and the great
delight I have had in cold bathing during the course of my
adventurous career inclines me to think that it is better to risk
taking too much than to content one's self with too little. Such
is my opinion, derived from much experience; but I put it before my
readers with the utmost diffidence and with profound modesty,
knowing that it may possibly jar with their feelings of confidence
in their own ability to know and judge as to what is best and
fittest in reference to their own affairs. But, to return from
this digression, for which I humbly crave forgiveness.
We had not advanced on our journey much above a mile or so, and
were just beginning to feel the pleasant glow that usually
accompanies vigorous exercise, when, on turning a point that
revealed to us a new and beautiful cluster of islands, we were
suddenly arrested by the appalling cry which had so alarmed us a
few nights before. But this time we were by no means so much
alarmed as on the previous occasion, because, whereas at that time
it was night, now it was day; and I have always found, though I am
unable to account for it, that daylight banishes many of the fears
that are apt to assail us in the dark.
On hearing the sound, Peterkin instantly threw forward his spear.
"Now, what can it be?" said he, looking round at Jack. "I tell you
what it is, if we are to go on being pulled up in a constant state
of horror and astonishment, as we have been for the last week, the
sooner we're out o' this island the better, notwithstanding the
yams and lemonade, and pork and plums!"
Peterkin's remark was followed by a repetition of the cry, louder
"It comes from one of these islands," said Jack.
"It must be the ghost of a jackass, then," said Peterkin, "for I
never heard anything so like."
We all turned our eyes towards the cluster of islands, where, on
the largest, we observed curious objects moving on the shore.
"Soldiers they are, - that's flat!" cried Peterkin, gazing at them
in the utmost amazement.
And, in truth, Peterkin's remark seemed to me to be correct; for,
at the distance from which we saw them, they appeared to be an army
of soldiers. There they stood, rank and file, in lines and in
squares, marching and countermarching, with blue coats and white
trousers. While we were looking at them, the dreadful cry came
again over the water, and Peterkin suggested that it must be a
regiment sent out to massacre the natives in cold blood. At this
remark Jack laughed and said, -
"Why, Peterkin, they are penguins!"
"Penguins?" repeated Peterkin.
"Ay, penguins, Peterkin, penguins, - nothing more or less than big
sea-birds, as you shall see one of these days, when we pay them a
visit in our boat, which I mean to set about building the moment we
return to our bower."
"So, then, our dreadful yelling ghosts and our murdering army of
soldiers," remarked Peterkin, "have dwindled down to penguins, -
big sea-birds! Very good. Then I propose that we continue our
journey as fast as possible, lest our island should be converted
into a dream before we get completely round it."
Now, as we continued on our way, I pondered much over this new
discovery, and the singular appearance of these birds, of which
Jack could only give us a very slight and vague account; and I
began to long to commence to our boat, in order that we might go
and inspect them more narrowly. But by degrees these thoughts left
me, and I began to be much taken up again with the interesting
peculiarities of the country which we were passing through.
The second night we passed in a manner somewhat similar to the
first, at about two-thirds of the way round the island, as we
calculated, and we hoped to sleep on the night following at our
bower. I will not here note so particularly all that we said and
saw during the course of this second day, as we did not make any
further discoveries of great importance. The shore along which we
travelled, and the various parts of the woods through which we
passed, were similar to those which have been already treated of.
There were one or two observations that we made, however, and these
were as follows:-
We saw that, while many of the large fruit-bearing trees grew only
in the valleys, and some of them only near the banks of the
streams, where the soil was peculiarly rich, the cocoa-nut palm
grew in every place whatsoever, - not only on the hill sides, but
also on the sea shore, and even, as has been already stated, on the
coral reef itself, where the soil, if we may use the name, was
nothing better than loose sand mingled with broken shells and coral
rock. So near to the sea, too, did this useful tree grow, that in
many places its roots were washed by the spray from the breakers.
Yet we found the trees growing thus on the sands to be quite as
luxuriant as those growing in the valleys, and the fruit as good
and refreshing also. Besides this, I noticed that, on the summit
of the high mountain, which we once more ascended at a different
point from our first ascent, were found abundance of shells and
broken coral formations, which Jack and I agreed proved either that
this island must have once been under the sea, or that the sea must
once have been above the island. In other words, that as shells
and coral could not possibly climb to the mountain top, they must
have been washed upon it while the mountain top was on a level with
the sea. We pondered this very much; and we put to ourselves the
question, "What raised the island to its present height above the
sea?" But to this we could by no means give to ourselves a
satisfactory reply. Jack thought it might have been blown up by a
volcano; and Peterkin said he thought it must have jumped up of its
own accord! We also noticed, what had escaped us before, that the
solid rocks of which the island was formed were quite different
from the live coral rocks on the shore, where the wonderful little
insects were continually working. They seemed, indeed, to be of
the sauce material, - a substance like limestone; but, while the
coral rocks were quite full of minute cells in which the insects
lived, the other rocks inland were hard and solid, without the
appearance of cells at all. Our thoughts and conversations on this
subject were sometimes so profound that Peterkin said we should
certainly get drowned in them at last, even although we were such
good divers! Nevertheless we did not allow his pleasantry on this
and similar points to deter us from making our notes and
observations as we went along.
We found several more droves of hogs in the woods, but abstained
from killing any of them, having more than sufficient for our
present necessities. We saw also many of their foot-prints in this
neighbourhood. Among these we also observed the footprints of a
smaller animal, which we examined with much care, but could form no
certain opinion as to them. Peterkin thought they were those of a
little dog, but Jack and I thought differently. We became very
curious on this matter, the more so that we observed these foot-
prints to lie scattered about in one locality, as if the animal
which had made them was wandering round about in a very irregular
manner, and without any object in view. Early in the forenoon of
our third day we observed these footprints to be much more numerous
than ever, and in one particular spot they diverged off into the
woods in a regular beaten track, which was, however, so closely
beset with bushes, that we pushed through it with difficulty. We
had now become so anxious to find out what animal this was, and
where it went to, that we determined to follow the track, and, if
possible, clear up the mystery. Peterkin said, in a bantering
tone, that he was sure it would be cleared up as usual in some
frightfully simple way, and prove to be no mystery at all!
The beaten track seemed much too large to have been formed by the
animal itself, and we concluded that some larger animal had made
it, and that the smaller one made use of it. But everywhere the
creeping plants and tangled bushes crossed our path, so that we
forced our way along with some difficulty. Suddenly, as we came
upon an open space, we heard a faint cry, and observed a black
animal standing in the track before us.
"A wild-cat!" cried Jack, fitting an arrow to his bow, and
discharging it so hastily that he missed the animal, and hit the
earth about half a foot to one side of it. To our surprise the
wild-cat did not fly, but walked slowly towards the arrow, and
snuffed at it.
"That's the most comical wild-cat I ever saw!" cried Jack.
"It's a tame wild-cat, I think," said Peterkin, levelling his spear
to make a charge.
"Stop!" cried I, laying my hand on his shoulder; "I do believe the
poor beast is blind. See, it strikes against the branches as it
walks along. It must be a very old one;" and I hastened towards
"Only think," said Peterkin, with a suppressed laugh, "of a
We now found that the poor cat was not only blind, or nearly so,
but extremely deaf, as it did not hear our footsteps until we were
quite close behind it. Then it sprang round, and, putting up its
back and tail, while the black hair stood all on end, uttered a
hoarse mew and a fuff.
"Poor thing," said Peterkin, gently extending his hand, and
endeavouring to pat the cat's head. "Poor pussy; chee, chee, chee;
puss, puss, puss; cheetie pussy!"
No sooner did the cat hear these sounds than all signs of anger
fled, and, advancing eagerly to Peterkin, it allowed itself to be
stroked, and rubbed itself against his legs, purring loudly all the
time, and showing every symptom of the most extreme delight.
"It's no more a wild cat than I am!" cried Peterkin, taking it in
his arms. "It's quite tame. Poor pussy, cheetie pussy!"
We now crowded around Peterkin, and were not a little surprised,
and, to say truth, a good deal affected, by the sight of the poor
animal's excessive joy. It rubbed its head against Peterkin's
cheek, licked his chin, and thrust its head almost violently into
his neck, while it purred more loudly than I ever heard a cat purr
before, and appeared to be so much overpowered by its feelings,
that it occasionally mewed and purred almost in the same breath.
Such demonstrations of joy and affection led us at once to conclude
that this poor cat must have known man before, and we conjectured
that it had been left either accidentally or by design on the
island many years ago, and was now evincing its extreme joy at
meeting once more with human beings. While we were fondling the
cat and talking about it, Jack glanced round the open space in the
midst of which we stood.
"Hallo!" exclaimed he; "this looks something like a clearing. The
axe has been at work here. Just look at these tree-stumps."
We now turned to examine these, and, without doubt, we found trees
that had been cut down here and there, also stumps and broken
branches; all of which, however, were completely covered over with
moss, and bore evidence of having been in this condition for some
years. No human foot-prints were to be seen, either on the track
or among the bushes; but those of the cat were found everywhere.
We now determined to follow up the track as far as it went, and
Peterkin put the cat down; but it seemed to be so weak, and mewed
so very pitifully, that he took it up again and carried it in his
arms, where, in a few minutes, it fell sound asleep.
About ten yards farther on, the felled trees became more numerous,
and the track, diverging to the right, followed for a short space
the banks of a stream. Suddenly we came to a spot where once must
have been a rude bridge, the stones of which were scattered in the
stream, and those on each bank entirely covered over with moss. In
silent surprise and expectancy we continued to advance, and, a few
yards farther on, beheld, under the shelter of some bread-fruit
trees, a small hut or cottage. I cannot hope to convey to my
readers a very correct idea of the feelings that affected us on
witnessing this unexpected sight. We stood for a long time in
silent wonder, for there was a deep and most melancholy stillness
about the place that quite overpowered us; and when we did at
length speak, it was in subdued whispers, as if we were surrounded
by some awful or supernatural influence. Even Peterkin's voice,
usually so quick and lively on all occasions, was hushed now; for
there was a dreariness about this silent, lonely, uninhabited
cottage, - so strange in its appearance, so far away from the usual
dwellings of man, so old, decayed, and deserted in its aspect, -
that fell upon our spirits like a thick cloud, and blotted out as
with a pall the cheerful sunshine that had filled us since the
commencement of our tour round the island.
The hut or cottage was rude and simple in its construction. It was
not more than twelve feet long by ten feet broad, and about seven
or eight feet high. It had one window, or rather a small frame in
which a window might, perhaps, once have been, but which was now
empty. The door was exceedingly low, and formed of rough boards,
and the roof was covered with broad cocoa-nut and plantain leaves.
But every part of it was in a state of the utmost decay. Moss and
green matter grew in spots all over it. The woodwork was quite
perforated with holes; the roof had nearly fallen in, and appeared
to be prevented from doing so altogether by the thick matting of
creeping-plants and the interlaced branches which years of neglect
had allowed to cover it almost entirely; while the thick, luxuriant
branches of the bread-fruit and other trees spread above it, and
flung a deep, sombre shadow over the spot, as if to guard it from
the heat and the light of day. We conversed long and in whispers
about this strange habitation ere we ventured to approach it; and
when at length we did so it was, at least on my part, with feelings
At first Jack endeavoured to peep in at the window, but from the
deep shadow of the trees already mentioned, and the gloom within,
he could not clearly discern objects; so we lifted the latch and
pushed open the door. We observed that the latch was made of iron,
and almost eaten away with rust. In the like condition were also
the hinges, which creaked as the door swung back. On entering, we
stood still and gazed around us, while we were much impressed with
the dreary stillness of the room. But what we saw there surprised
and shocked us not a little. There was no furniture in the
apartment save a little wooden stool and an iron pot, the latter
almost eaten through with rust. In the corner farthest from the
door was a low bedstead, on which lay two skeletons, imbedded in a
little heap of dry dust. With beating hearts we went forward to
examine them. One was the skeleton of a man, the other that of a
dog, which was extended close beside that of the man, with its head
resting on his bosom
Now we were very much concerned about this discovery, and could
scarce refrain from tears on beholding these sad remains. After
some time, we began to talk about what we had seen, and to examine
in and around the hut, in order to discover some clue to the name
or history of this poor man, who had thus died in solitude, with
none to mourn his loss save his cat and his faithful dog. But we
found nothing, - neither a book nor a scrap of paper. We found,
however, the decayed remnants of what appeared to have been
clothing, and an old axe. But none of these things bore marks of
any kind; and, indeed, they were so much decayed as to convince us
that they had lain in the condition in which we found them for many
This discovery now accounted to us for the tree stump at the top of
the mountain with the initials cut on it; also for the patch of
sugar-cane and other traces of man which we had met with in the
course of our rambles over the island. And we were much saddened
by the reflection that the lot of this poor wanderer might possibly
be our own, after many years' residence on the island, unless we
should be rescued by the visit of some vessel or the arrival of
natives. Having no clue whatever to account for the presence of
this poor human being in such a lonely spot, we fell to
conjecturing what could have brought him there. I was inclined to
think that he must have been a shipwrecked sailor, whose vessel had
been lost here, and all the crew been drowned except himself and
his dog and cat. But Jack thought it more likely that he had run
away from his vessel, and had taken the dog and cat to keep him
company. We were also much occupied in our minds with the
wonderful difference between the cat and the dog. For here we saw
that while the one perished, like a loving friend, by its master's
side, with its head resting on his bosom, the other had sought to
sustain itself by prowling abroad in the forest, and had lived in
solitude to a good old age. However, we did not conclude from this
that the cat was destitute of affection, for we could not forget
its emotions on first meeting with us; but we saw from this, that
the dog had a great deal more of generous love in its nature than
the cat, because it not only found it impossible to live after the
death of its master, but it must needs, when it came to die, crawl
to his side and rest its head upon his lifeless breast.
While we were thinking on these things, and examining into
everything about the room, we were attracted by an exclamation from
"I say, Jack," said he, "here is something that will be of use to
"What is it?" said Jack, hastening across the room.
"An old pistol," replied Peterkin, holding up the weapon, which he
had just pulled from under a heap of broken wood and rubbish that
lay in a corner.
"That, indeed, might have been useful," said Jack, examining it,
"if we had any powder; but I suspect the bow and the sling will
prove more serviceable."
"True, I forgot that," said Peterkin; "but we may as well take it
with us, for the flint will serve to strike fire with when the sun
does not shine."
After having spent more than an hour at this place without
discovering anything of further interest, Peterkin took up the old
cat, which had lain very contentedly asleep on the stool whereon he
had placed it, and we prepared to take our departure. In leaving
the hut, Jack stumbled heavily against the door-post, which was so
much decayed as to break across, and the whole fabric of the hut
seemed ready to tumble about our ears. This put into our heads
that we might as well pull it down, and so form a mound over the
skeleton. Jack, therefore, with his axe, cut down the other door-
post, which, when it was done, brought the whole hut in ruins to
the ground, and thus formed a grave to the bones of the poor
recluse and his dog. Then we left the spot, having brought away
the iron pot, the pistol, and the old axe, as they might be of much
use to us hereafter.
During the rest of this day we pursued our journey, and examined
the other end of the large valley, which we found to be so much
alike to the parts already described, that I shall not recount the
particulars of what we saw in this place. I may, however, remark,
that we did not quite recover our former cheerful spirits until we
arrived at our bower, which we did late in the evening, and found
everything just in the same condition as we had left it three days
Something wrong with the tank - Jack's wisdom and Peterkin's
impertinence - Wonderful behaviour of a crab - Good wishes for
those who dwell far from the sea - Jack commences to build a little
REST is sweet as well for the body as for the mind. During my long
experience, amid the vicissitudes of a chequered life, I have found
that periods of profound rest at certain intervals, in addition to
the ordinary hours of repose, are necessary to the wellbeing of
man. And the nature as well as the period of this rest varies,
according to the different temperaments of individuals, and the
peculiar circumstances in which they may chance to be placed. To
those who work with their minds, bodily labour is rest. To those
who labour with the body, deep sleep is rest. To the downcast, the
weary, and the sorrowful, joy and peace are rest. Nay, further, I
think that to the gay, the frivolous, the reckless, when sated with
pleasures that cannot last, even sorrow proves to be rest of a
kind, although, perchance, it were better that I should call it
relief than rest. There is, indeed, but one class of men to whom
rest is denied. There is no rest to the wicked. At this I do but
hint, however, as I treat not of that rest which is spiritual, but,
more particularly, of that which applies to the mind and to the
Of this rest we stood much in need on our return home, and we found
it exceedingly sweet, when we indulged in it, after completing the
journey just related. It had not, indeed, been a very long
journey, nevertheless we had pursued it so diligently that our
frames were not a little prostrated. Our minds were also very much
exhausted in consequence of the many surprises, frequent alarms,
and much profound thought, to which they had been subjected; so
that when we lay down on the night of our return under the shelter
of the bower, we fell immediately into very deep repose. I can
state this with much certainty, for Jack afterwards admitted the
fact, and Peterkin, although he stoutly denied it, I heard snoring
loudly at least two minutes after lying down. In this condition we
remained all night and the whole of the following day without
awaking once, or so much as moving our positions. When we did
awake it was near sunset, and we were all in such a state of
lassitude that we merely rose to swallow a mouthful of food. As
Peterkin remarked, in the midst of a yawn, we took breakfast at
tea-time, and then went to bed again, where we lay till the
After this we arose very greatly refreshed, but much alarmed lest
we had lost count of a day. I say we were much alarmed on this
head, for we had carefully kept count of the days since we were
cast upon our island, in order that we might remember the Sabbath-
day, which day we had hitherto with one accord kept as a day of
rest, and refrained from all work whatsoever. However, on
considering the subject, we all three entertained the same opinion
as to how long we had slept, and so our minds were put at ease.
We now hastened to our Water Garden to enjoy a bathe, and to see
how did the animals which I had placed in the tank. We found the
garden more charming, pelucid, and inviting than ever, and Jack and
I plunged into its depth, and gambolled among its radiant coral
groves; while Peterkin wallowed at the surface, and tried
occasionally to kick us as we passed below. Having dressed, I then
hastened to the tank; but what was my surprise and grief to find
nearly all the animals dead, and the water in a putrid condition!
I was greatly distressed at this, and wondered what could be the
cause of it.
"Why, you precious humbug," said Peterkin, coming up to me, "how
could you expect it to be otherwise? When fishes are accustomed to
live in the Pacific Ocean, how can you expect them to exist in a
hole like that?"
"Indeed, Peterkin," I replied, "there seems to be truth in what you
say. Nevertheless, now I think of it, there must be some error in
your reasoning; for, if I put in but a few very small animals, they
will bear the same proportion to this pond that the millions of
fish bear to the ocean."
"I say, Jack," cried Peterkin, waving his hand, "come here, like a
good fellow. Ralph is actually talking philosophy. Do come to our
assistance, for he's out o' sight beyond me already!"
"What's the matter?" inquired Jack, coming up, while he endeavoured
to scrub his long hair dry with a towel of cocoa-nut cloth.
I repeated my thoughts to Jack, who, I was happy to find, quite
agreed with me. "Your best plan," he said, "will be to put very
few animals at first into your tank, and add more as you find it
will bear them. And look here," he added, pointing to the sides of
the tank, which, for the space of two inches above the water-level,
were incrusted with salt, "you must carry your philosophy a little
farther, Ralph. That water has evaporated so much that it is too
salt for anything to live in. You will require to add FRESH water
now and then, in order to keep it at the same degree of saltness as
"Very true, Jack, that never struck me before," said I.
"And, now I think of it," continued Jack, "it seems to me that the
surest way of arranging your tank so as to get it to keep pure and
in good condition, will be to imitate the ocean in it. In fact
make it a miniature Pacific. I don't see how you can hope to
succeed unless you do that."
"Most true," said I, pondering what my companion said. "But I fear
that that will be very difficult."
"Not at all," cried Jack, rolling his towel up into a ball, and
throwing it into the face of Peterkin, who had been grinning and
winking at him during the last five minutes. "Not at all. Look
here. There is water of a certain saltness in the sea; well, fill
your tank with sea water, and keep it at that saltness by marking
the height at which the water stands on the sides. When it
evaporates a little, pour in FRESH water from the brook till it
comes up to the mark, and then it will be right, for the salt does
not evaporate with the water. Then, there's lots of sea-weed in
the sea; - well, go and get one or two bits of sea-weed, and put
them into your tank. Of course the weed must be alive, and growing
to little stones; or you can chip a bit off the rocks with the weed
sticking to it. Then, if you like, you can throw a little sand and
gravel into your tank, and the thing's complete."
"Nay, not quite," said Peterkin, who had been gravely attentive to
this off-hand advice, "not quite; you must first make three little
men to dive in it before it can be said to be perfect, and that
would be rather difficult, I fear, for two of them would require to
be philosophers. But hallo! what's this? I say, Ralph, look here.
There's one o' your crabs up to something uncommon. It's
performing the most remarkable operation for a crab I ever saw, -
taking off its coat, I do believe, before going to bed!"
We hastily stooped over the tank, and certainly were not a little
amused at the conduct of one of the crabs which still survived it
companions. It was one of the common small crabs, like to those
that are found running about everywhere on the coasts of England.
While we gazed at it, we observed its back to split away from the
lower part of its body, and out of the gap thus formed came a soft
lump which moved and writhed unceasingly. This lump continued to
increase in size until it appeared like a bunch of crab's legs:
and, indeed, such it proved in a very few minutes to be; for the
points of the toes were at length extricated from this hole in its
back, the legs spread out, the body followed, and the crab walked
away quite entire, even to the points of its nipper-claws, leaving
a perfectly entire shell behind it, so that, when we looked, it
seemed as though there were two complete crabs instead of one!
"Well!" exclaimed Peterkin, drawing a long breath, "I've HEARD of a
man jumping out of his skin and sitting down in his skeleton in
order to cool himself, but I never expected to SEE a crab do it!"
We were, in truth, much amazed at this spectacle, and the more so
when we observed that the new crab was larger than the crab that it
came out of. It was also quite soft, but by next morning its skin
had hardened into a good shell. We came thus to know that crabs
grow in this way, and not by the growing of their shells, as we had
always thought before we saw this wonderful operation.
Now I considered well the advice which Jack had given me about
preparing my tank, and the more I thought of it, the more I came to
regard it as very sound and worthy of being acted on. So I
forthwith put his plan in execution, and found it to answer
excellently well, indeed much beyond my expectation; for I found
that after a little experience had taught me the proper proportion
of sea-weed and animals to put into a certain amount of water, the
tank needed no farther attendance; and, moreover, I did not require
ever afterwards to renew or change the sea-water, but only to add a
very little fresh water from the brook, now and then, as the other
evaporated. I therefore concluded that if I had been suddenly
conveyed, along with my tank, into some region where there was no
salt sea at all, my little sea and my sea-fish would have continued
to thrive and to prosper notwithstanding. This made me greatly to
desire that those people in the world who live far inland might
know of my wonderful tank, and, by having materials like to those
of which it was made conveyed to them, thus be enabled to watch the
habits of those most mysterious animals that reside in the sea, and
examine with their own eyes the wonders of the great deep.
For many days after this, while Peterkin and Jack were busily
employed in building a little boat out of the curious natural
planks of the chestnut tree, I spent much of my time in examining
with the burning-glass the marvellous operations that were
constantly going on in my tank. Here I saw those anemones which
cling, like little red, yellow, and green blobs of jelly, to the
rocks, put forth, as it were, a multitude of arms and wait till
little fish or other small animalcules unwarily touched them, when
they would instantly seize them, fold arm after arm around their
victims, and so engulf them in their stomachs. Here I saw the
ceaseless working of those little coral insects whose efforts have
encrusted the islands of the Pacific with vast rocks, and
surrounded them with enormous reefs. And I observed that many of
these insects, though extremely minute, were very beautiful, coming
out of their holes in a circle of fine threads, and having the form
of a shuttle-cock. Here I saw curious little barnacles opening a
hole in their backs and constantly putting out a thin feathery
hand, with which, I doubt not, they dragged their food into their
mouths. Here, also, I saw those crabs which have shells only on
the front of their bodies, but no shell whatever on their
remarkably tender tails, so that, in order to find a protection to
them, they thrust them into the empty shells of wilks, or some such
fish, and when they grow too big for one, change into another.
But, most curious of all, I saw an animal which had the wonderful
power, when it became ill, of casting its stomach and its teeth
away from it, and getting an entirely new set in the course of a
few months! All this I saw, and a great deal more, by means of my
tank and my burning-glass, but I refrain from setting down more
particulars here, as I have still much to tell of the adventures
that befell us while we remained on this island.
Notable discovery at the spouting cliffs - The mysterious green
monster explained - We are thrown into unutterable terror by the
idea that Jack is drowned - The Diamond Cave.
"COME, Jack," cried Peterkin, one morning about three weeks after
our return from our long excursion, "let's be jolly to-day, and do
something vigorous. I'm quite tired of hammering and hammering,
hewing and screwing, cutting and butting, at that little boat of
ours, that seems as hard to build as Noah's ark; let us go on an
excursion to the mountain top, or have a hunt after the wild ducks,
or make a dash at the pigs. I'm quite flat - flat as bad ginger-
beer - flat as a pancake; in fact, I want something to rouse me, to
toss me up, as it were. Eh! what do you say to it?"
"Well," answered Jack, throwing down the axe with which he was just
about to proceed towards the boat, "if that's what you want, I
would recommend you to make an excursion to the water-spouts; the
last one we had to do with tossed you up a considerable height,
perhaps the next will send you higher, who knows, if you're at all
reasonable or moderate in your expectations!"
"Jack, my dear boy," said Peterkin, gravely, "you are really
becoming too fond of jesting. It's a thing I don't at all approve
of, and if you don't give it up, I fear that, for our mutual good,
we shall have to part."
"Well, then, Peterkin," replied Jack, with a smile, "what would you
"Have?" said Peterkin, "I would HAVE nothing. I didn't say I
wanted to HAVE; I said that I wanted to DO."
"By the by," said I, interrupting their conversation, "I am
reminded by this that we have not yet discovered the nature of yon
curious appearance that we saw near the water-spouts, on our
journey round the island. Perhaps it would be well to go for that
"Humph!" ejaculated Peterkin, "I know the nature of it well
"What was it?" said I.
"It was of a MYSTERIOUS nature to be sure!" said he, with a wave of
his hand, while he rose from the log on which he had been sitting,
and buckled on his belt, into which he thrust his enormous club.
"Well then, let us away to the water-spouts," cried Jack, going up
to the bower for his bow and arrows; "and bring your spear,
Peterkin. It may be useful."
We now, having made up our minds to examine into this matter,
sallied forth eagerly in the direction of the water-spout rocks,
which, as I have before mentioned, were not far from our present
place of abode. On arriving there we hastened down to the edge of
the rocks, and gazed over into the sea, where we observed the pale-
green object still distinctly visible, moving its tail slowly to
and fro in the water.
"Most remarkable!" said Jack.
"Exceedingly curious," said I.
"Beats everything!" said Peterkin.
"Now, Jack," he added, "you made such a poor figure in your last
attempt to stick that object, that I would advise you to let me try
it. If it has got a heart at all, I'll engage to send my spear
right through the core of it; if it hasn't got a heart, I'll send
it through the spot where its heart ought to be."
"Fire away, then, my boy," replied Jack with a laugh.
Peterkin immediately took the spear, poised it for a second or two
above his head, then darted it like an arrow into the sea. Down it
went straight into the centre of the green object, passed quite
through it, and came up immediately afterwards, pure and unsullied,
while the mysterious tail moved quietly as before!
"Now," said Peterkin, gravely, "that brute is a heartless monster;
I'll have nothing more to do with it."
"I'm pretty sure now," said Jack, "that it is merely a phosphoric
light; but I must say I'm puzzled at its staying always in that
I also was much puzzled, and inclined to think with Jack that it
must be phosphoric light; of which luminous appearance we had seen
much while on our voyage to these seas. "But," said I, "there is
nothing to hinder us from diving down to it, now that we are sure
it is not a shark."
"True," returned Jack, stripping off his clothes; "I'll go down,
Ralph, as I'm better at diving than you are. Now then, Peterkin,
out o' the road!" Jack stepped forward, joined his hands above his
head, bent over the rocks, and plunged into the sea. For a second
or two the spray caused by his dive hid him from view, then the
water became still, and we saw him swimming far down in the midst
of the green object. Suddenly he sank below it, and vanished
altogether from our sight! We gazed anxiously down at the spot
where he had disappeared, for nearly a minute, expecting every
moment to see him rise again for breath; but fully a minute passed,
and still he did not reappear. Two minutes passed! and then a
flood of alarm rushed in upon my soul, when I considered that
during all my acquaintance with him, Jack had never stayed
underwater more than a minute at a time; indeed seldom so long.
"Oh, Peterkin!" I said, in a voice that trembled with increasing
anxiety, "something has happened. It is more than three minutes
now!" But Peterkin did not answer and I observed that he was
gazing down into the water with a look of intense fear mingled with
anxiety, while his face was overspread with a deadly paleness.
Suddenly he sprang to his feet and rushed about in a frantic state,
wringing his hands, and exclaiming, "Oh, Jack, Jack! he is gone!
It must have been a shark, and he is gone for ever!"
For the next five minutes I know not what I did. The intensity of
my feelings almost bereft me of my senses. But I was recalled to
myself by Peterkin seizing me by the shoulder and staring wildly
into my face, while he exclaimed, "Ralph! Ralph! perhaps he has
only fainted. Dive for him, Ralph!"
It seemed strange that this did not occur to me sooner. In a
moment I rushed to the edge of the rocks, and, without waiting to
throw off my garments, was on the point to spring into the waves,
when I observed something black rising up through the green object.
In another moment Jack's head rose to the surface, and he gave a
wild shout, flinging back the spray from his locks, as was his wont
after a dive. Now we were almost as much amazed at seeing him re-
appear, well and strong, as we had been at first at his non-
appearance; for, to the best of our judgment, he had been nearly
ten minutes under water, perhaps longer, and it required no
exertion of our reason to convince us that this was utterly
impossible for mortal man to do and retain his strength and
faculties. It was therefore with a feeling akin to superstitious
awe that I held down my hand and assisted him to clamber up the
steep rocks. But no such feeling affected Peterkin. No sooner did
Jack gain the rocks and seat himself on one, panting for breath,
than he threw his arms round his neck, and burst into a flood of
tears. "Oh, Jack, Jack!" said he, "where were you? What kept you
After a few moments Peterkin became composed enough to sit still
and listen to Jack's explanation, although he could not restrain
himself from attempting to wink every two minutes at me, in order
to express his joy at Jack's safety. I say he attempted to wink,
but I am bound to add that he did not succeed, for his eyes were so
much swollen with weeping, that his frequent attempts only resulted
in a series of violent and altogether idiotical contortions of the
face, that were very far from expressing what he intended.
However, I knew what the poor fellow meant by it, so I smiled to
him in return, and endeavoured to make believe that he was winking.
"Now, lads," said Jack, when we were composed enough to listen to
him, "yon green object is not a shark; it is a stream of light
issuing from a cave in the rocks. Just after I made my dive, I
observed that this light came from the side of the rock above which
we are now sitting; so I struck out for it, and saw an opening into
some place or other that appeared to be luminous within. For one
instant I paused to think whether I ought to venture. Then I made
up my mind, and dashed into it. For you see, Peterkin, although I
take some time to tell this, it happened in the space of a few
seconds, so that I knew I had wind enough in me to serve to bring
me out o' the hole and up to the surface again. Well, I was just
on the point of turning, - for I began to feel a little
uncomfortable in such a place, - when it seemed to me as if there
was a faint light right above me. I darted upwards, and found my
head out of water. This relieved me greatly, for I now felt that I
could take in air enough to enable me to return the way I came.
Then it all at once occurred to me that I might not be able to find
the way out again; but, on glancing downwards, my mind was put
quite at rest by seeing the green light below me streaming into the
cave, just like the light that we had seen streaming out of it,
only what I now saw was much brighter.
"At first I could scarcely see anything as I gazed around me, it
was so dark; but gradually my eyes became accustomed to it, and I
found that I was in a huge cave, part of the walls of which I
observed on each side of me. The ceiling just above me was also
visible, and I fancied that I could perceive beautiful glittering
objects there, but the farther end of the cave was shrouded in
darkness. While I was looking around me in great wonder, it came
into my head that you two would think I was drowned; so I plunged
down through the passage again in a great hurry, rose to the
surface, and - here I am!"
When Jack concluded his recital of what he had seen in this
remarkable cave, I could not rest satisfied till I had dived down
to see it; which I did, but found it so dark, as Jack had said,
that I could scarcely see anything. When I returned, we had a long
conversation about it, during which I observed that Peterkin had a
most lugubrious expression on his countenance.
"What's the matter, Peterkin?" said I.
"The matter?" he replied. "It's all very well for you two to be
talking away like mermaids about the wonders of this cave, but you
know I must be content to hear about it, while you are enjoying
yourselves down there like mad dolphins. It's really too bad."
"I'm very sorry for you, Peterkin, indeed I am," said Jack, "but we
cannot help you. If you would only learn to dive - "
"Learn to fly, you might as well say!" retorted Peterkin, in a very
"If you would only consent to keep still," said I, "we would take
you down with us in ten seconds."
"Hum!" returned Peterkin; "suppose a salamander was to propose to
you 'only to keep still,' and he would carry you through a blazing
fire in a few seconds, what would you say?"
We both laughed and shook our heads, for it was evident that
nothing was to be made of Peterkin in the water. But we could not
rest satisfied till we had seen more of this cave; so, after
further consultation, Jack and I determined to try if we could take
down a torch with us, and set fire to it in the cavern. This we
found to be an undertaking of no small difficulty; but we
accomplished it at last by the following means:- First, we made a
torch of a very inflammable nature out of the bark of a certain
tree, which we cut into strips, and, after twisting, cemented
together with a kind of resin or gum, which we also obtained from
another tree; neither of which trees, however, was known by name to
Jack. This, when prepared, we wrapped up in a great number of
plies of cocoa-nut cloth, so that we were confident it could not
get wet during the short time it should be under water. Then we
took a small piece of the tinder, which we had carefully treasured
up lest we should require it, as before said, when the sun should
fail us; also, we rolled up some dry grass and a few chips, which,
with a little bow and drill, like those described before, we made
into another bundle, and wrapped it up in cocoa-nut cloth. When
all was ready we laid aside our garments, with the exception of our
trousers, which, as we did not know what rough scraping against the
rocks we might be subjected to, we kept on.
Then we advanced to the edge of the rocks, Jack carrying one
bundle, with the torch; I the other, with the things for producing
"Now don't weary for us, Peterkin, should we be gone some time,"
said Jack; "we'll be sure to return in half-an-hour at the very
latest, however interesting the cave should be, that we may relieve
"Farewell!" said Peterkin, coming up to us with a look of deep but
pretended solemnity, while he shook hands and kissed each of us on
the cheek. "Farewell! and while you are gone I shall repose my
weary limbs under the shelter of this bush, and meditate on the
changefulness of all things earthly, with special reference to the
forsaken condition of a poor ship-wrecked sailor boy!" So saying,
Peterkin waved his hand, turned from us, and cast himself upon the
ground with a look of melancholy resignation, which was so well
feigned, that I would have thought it genuine had he not
accompanied it with a gentle wink. We both laughed, and, springing
from the rocks together, plunged head first into the sea.
We gained the interior of the submarine cave without difficulty,
and, on emerging from the waves, supported ourselves for some time
by treading-water, while we held the two bundles above our heads.
This we did in order to let our eyes become accustomed to the
obscurity. Then, when we could see sufficiently, we swam to a
shelving rock, and landed in safety. Having wrung the water from
our trousers, and dried ourselves as well as we could under the
circumstances, we proceeded to ignite the torch. This we
accomplished without difficulty in a few minutes; and no sooner did
it flare up than we were struck dumb with the wonderful objects
that were revealed to our gaze. The roof of the cavern just above
us seemed to be about ten feet high, but grew higher as it receded
into the distance, until it was lost in darkness. It seemed to be
made of coral, and was supported by massive columns of the same
material. Immense icicles (as they appeared to us) hung from it in
various places. These, however, were formed, not of ice, but of a
species of limestone, which seemed to flow in a liquid form towards
the point of each, where it became solid. A good many drops fell,
however, to the rock below, and these formed little cones, which
rose to meet the points above. Some of them had already met, and
thus we saw how the pillars were formed, which at first seemed to
us as if they had been placed there by some human architect to
support the roof. As we advanced farther in, we saw that the floor
was composed of the same material as the pillars; and it presented
the curious appearance of ripples, such as are formed on water when
gently ruffled by the wind. There were several openings on either
hand in the walls, that seemed to lead into other caverns; but
these we did not explore at this time. We also observed that the
ceiling was curiously marked in many places, as if it were the
fret-work of a noble cathedral; and the walls, as well as the roof,
sparkled in the light of our torch, and threw back gleams and
flashes, as if they were covered with precious stones. Although we
proceeded far into this cavern, we did not come to the end of it;
and we were obliged to return more speedily than we would otherwise
have done, as our torch was nearly expended. We did not observe
any openings in the roof, or any indications of places whereby
light might enter; but near the entrance to the cavern stood an
immense mass of pure white coral rock, which caught and threw back
the little light that found an entrance through the cave's mouth,
and thus produced, we conjectured, the pale-green object which had
first attracted our attention. We concluded, also, that the
reflecting power of this rock was that which gave forth the dim
light that faintly illumined the first part of the cave.
Before diving through the passage again we extinguished the small
piece of our torch that remained, and left it in a dry spot;
conceiving that we might possibly stand in need of it, if at any
future time we should chance to wet our torch while diving into the
cavern. As we stood for a few minutes after it was out, waiting
till our eyes became accustomed to the gloom, we could not help
remarking the deep, intense stillness and the unutterable gloom of
all around us; and, as I thought of the stupendous dome above, and
the countless gems that had sparkled in the torch-light a few
minutes before, it came into my mind to consider how strange it is
that God should make such wonderful and extremely-beautiful works
never to be seen at all, except, indeed, by chance visitors such as
I afterwards found that there were many such caverns among the
islands of the South Seas, some of them larger and more beautiful
than the one I have just described.
"Now, Ralph, are you ready?" said Jack, in a low voice, that seemed
to echo up into the dome above.
"Come along, then," said he; and, plunging off the ledge of the
rock into the water, we dived through the narrow entrance. In a
few seconds we were panting on the rocks above, and receiving the
congratulations of our friend Peterkin.
Strange peculiarity of the tides - Also of the twilight -
Peterkin's remarkable conduct in embracing a little pig and killing
a big sow - Sage remarks on jesting - Also on love.
IT was quite a relief to us to breathe the pure air and to enjoy
the glad sunshine after our long ramble in the Diamond Cave, as we
named it; for, although we did not stay more than half an hour
away, it seemed to us much longer. While we were dressing, and
during our walk home, we did our best to satisfy the curiosity of
poor Peterkin, who seemed to regret, with lively sincerity, his
inability to dive.
There was no help for it, however, so we condoled with him as we
best could. Had there been any great rise or fall in the tide of
these seas, we might perhaps have found it possible to take him
down with us at low water; but as the tide never rose or fell more
than eighteen inches or two feet, this was impossible.
This peculiarity of the tide - its slight rise and fall - had not
attracted our observation till some time after our residence on the
island. Neither had we observed another curious circumstance until
we had been some time there. This was the fact, that the tide rose
and fell with constant regularity, instead of being affected by the
changes of the moon as in our own country, and as it is in most
other parts of the world, - at least in all those parts with which
I am acquainted. Every day and every night, at twelve o'clock
precisely, the tide is at the full; and at six o'clock every
morning and evening it is ebb. I can speak with much confidence on
this singular circumstance, as we took particular note of it, and
never found it to alter. Of course, I must admit, we had to guess
the hour of twelve midnight, and I think we could do this pretty
correctly; but in regard to twelve noon we are quite positive,
because we easily found the highest point that the sun reached in
the sky by placing ourselves at a certain spot whence we observed
the sharp summit of a cliff resting against the sky, just where the
Jack and I were surprised that we had not noticed this the first
few days of our residence here, and could only account for it by
our being so much taken up with the more obvious wonders of our
novel situation. I have since learned, however, that this want of
observation is a sad and very common infirmity of human nature,
there being hundreds of persons before whose eyes the most
wonderful things are passing every day, who nevertheless are
totally ignorant of them. I therefore have to record my sympathy
with such persons, and to recommend to them a course of conduct
which I have now for a long time myself adopted, - namely, the
habit of forcing my attention upon ALL things that go on around me,
and of taking some degree of interest in them, whether I feel it
naturally or not. I suggest this the more earnestly, though
humbly, because I have very frequently come to know that my
indifference to a thing has generally been caused by my ignorance
in regard to it.
We had much serious conversation on this subject of the tides; and
Jack told us, in his own quiet, philosophical way, that these tides
did great good to the world in many ways, particularly in the way
of cleansing the shores of the land, and carrying off the filth
that was constantly poured into the sea there-from; which, Peterkin
suggested, was remarkably TIDY of it to do. Poor Peterkin could
never let slip an opportunity to joke, however inopportune it might
be: which at first we found rather a disagreeable propensity, as
it often interrupted the flow of very agreeable conversation; and,
indeed, I cannot too strongly record my disapprobation of this
tendency in general: but we became so used to it at last that we
found it no interruption whatever; indeed, strange to say, we came
to feel that it was a necessary part of our enjoyment (such is the
force of habit), and found the sudden outbursts of mirth, resulting
from his humorous disposition, quite natural and refreshing to us
in the midst of our more serious conversations. But I must not
misrepresent Peterkin. We often found, to our surprise, that he
knew many things which we did not; and I also observed that those
things which he learned from experience were never forgotten. From
all these things I came at length to understand that things very
opposite and dissimilar in themselves, when united, do make an
agreeable whole; as, for example, we three on this our island,
although most unlike in many things, when united, made a trio so
harmonious that I question if there ever met before such an
agreeable triumvirate. There was, indeed, no note of discord
whatever in the symphony we played together on that sweet Coral
Island; and I am now persuaded that this was owing to our having
been all tuned to the same key, namely, that of LOVE! Yes, we
loved one another with much fervency while we lived on that island;
and, for the matter of that, we love each other still.
And while I am on this subject, or rather the subject that just
preceded it - namely, the tides - I may here remark on another
curious natural phenomenon. We found that there was little or no
twilight in this island. We had a distinct remembrance of the
charming long twilight at home, which some people think the most
delightful part of the day, though for my part I have always
preferred sunrise; and when we first landed, we used to sit down on
some rocky point or eminence, at the close of our day's work, to
enjoy the evening breeze; but no sooner had the sun sunk below the
horizon than all became suddenly dark. This rendered it necessary
that we should watch the sun when we happened to be out hunting,
for to be suddenly left in the dark while in the woods was very
perplexing, as, although the stars shone with great beauty and
brilliancy, they could not pierce through the thick umbrageous
boughs that interlaced above our heads.
But, to return: After having told all we could to Peterkin about
the Diamond Cave under Spouting Cliff, as we named the locality, we
were wending our way rapidly homewards, when a grunt and a squeal
were borne down by the land breeze to our ears.
"That's the ticket!" was Peterkin's remarkable exclamation, as he
started convulsively, and levelled his spear.
"Hist!" cried Jack; "these are your friends, Peterkin. They must
have come over expressly to pay you a friendly visit, for it is the
first time we have seen them on this side the island."
"Come along!" cried Peterkin, hurrying towards the wood, while Jack
and I followed, smiling at his impatience.
Another grunt and half a dozen squeals, much louder than before,
came down the valley. At this time we were just opposite the small
vale which lay between the Valley of the Wreck and Spouting Cliff.
"I say, Peterkin," cried Jack, in a hoarse whisper.
"Well, what is't?"
"Stay a bit, man. These grunters are just up there on the hill
side. If you go and stand with Ralph in the lee of yon cliff, I'll
cut round behind and drive them through the gorge, so that you'll
have a better chance of picking out a good one. Now, mind you
pitch into a fat young pig, Peterkin," added Jack, as he sprang
into the bushes.
"Won't I, just!" said Peterkin, licking his lips, as we took our
station beside the cliff. "I feel quite a tender affection for
young pigs in my heart. Perhaps it would be more correct to say in
"There they come!" cried I, as a terrific yell from Jack sent the
whole herd screaming down the hill. Now, Peterkin, being unable to
hold back, crept a short way up a very steep grassy mound, in order
to get a better view of the hogs before they came up; and just as
he raised his head above its summit, two little pigs, which had
outrun their companions, rushed over the top with the utmost
precipitation. One of these brushed close past Peterkin's ear; the
other, unable to arrest its headlong flight, went, as Peterkin
himself afterwards expressed it, "bash" into his arms with a sudden
squeal, which was caused more by the force of the blow than the
will of the animal, and both of them rolled violently down to the
foot of the mound. No sooner was this reached than the little pig
recovered its feet, tossed up its tail, and fled shrieking from the
spot. But I slang a large stone after it, which, being fortunately
well aimed, hit it behind the ear, and felled it to the earth.
"Capital, Ralph! that's your sort!" cried Peterkin, who, to my
surprise and great relief, had risen to his feet. Apparently
unhurt, though much dishevelled, he rushed franticly towards the
gorge, which the yells of the hogs told us they were now
approaching. I had made up my mind that I would abstain from
killing another, as, if Peterkin should be successful, two were
more than sufficient for our wants at the present time. Suddenly
they all burst forth, - two or three little round ones in advance,
and an enormous old sow with a drove of hogs at her heels.
"Now, Peterkin," said I, "there's a nice little fat one; just spear
But Peterkin did not move; he allowed it to pass unharmed. I
looked at him in surprise, and saw that his lips were compressed
and his eyebrows knitted, as if he were about to fight with some
"What is it?" I inquired, with some trepidation.
Suddenly he levelled his spear, darted forward, and, with a yell
that nearly froze the blood in my veins, stabbed the old sow to the
heart. Nay, so vigorously was it done that the spear went in at
one side and came out at the other!
"Oh, Peterkin!" said I, going up to him, "what have you done?"
"Done? I've killed their great-great-grandmother, that's all,"
said he, looking with a somewhat awe-struck expression at the
"Hallo! what's this?" said Jack, as he came up. "Why, Peterkin,
you must be fond of a tough chop. If you mean to eat this old hog,
she'll try your jaws, I warrant. What possessed you to stick HER,
"Why, the fact is I want a pair of shoes."
"What have your shoes to do with the old hog?' said I, smiling.
"My present shoes have certainly nothing to do with her," replied
Peterkin; "nevertheless she will have a good deal to do with my
future shoes. The fact is, when I saw you floor that pig so
neatly, Ralph, it struck me that there was little use in killing
another. Then I remembered all at once that I had long wanted some
leather or tough substance to make shoes of, and this old
grandmother seemed so tough that I just made up my mind to stick
her, and you see I've done it!"
"That you certainly have, Peterkin," said Jack, as he was examining
the transfixed animal.
We now considered how we were to carry our game home, for, although
the distance was short, the hog was very heavy. At length we hit
on the plan of tying its four feet together, and passing the spear
handle between them. Jack took one end on his shoulder, I took the
other on mine, and Peterkin carried the small pig.
Thus we returned in triumph to our bower, laden, as Peterkin
remarked, with the glorious spoils of a noble hunt. As he
afterwards spoke in similarly glowing terms in reference to the
supper that followed, there is every reason to believe that we
retired that night to our leafy beds in a high state of
Boat-building extraordinary - Peterkin tries his hand at cookery
and fails most signally - The boat finished - Curious conversation
with the cat, and other matters.
FOR many days after this Jack applied himself with unremitting
assiduity to the construction of our boat, which at length began to
look somewhat like one. But those only who have had the thing to
do can entertain a right idea of the difficulty involved in such an
undertaking, with no other implements than an axe, a bit of hoop-
iron, a sail-needle, and a broken pen-knife. But Jack did it. He
was of, that disposition which WILL not be conquered. When he
believed himself to be acting rightly, he overcame all obstacles.
I have seen Jack, when doubtful whether what he was about to do
were right or wrong, as timid and vacillating as a little girl, -
and I honour him for it!
As this boat was a curiosity in its way, a few words here relative
to the manner of its construction may not be amiss.
I have already mentioned the chestnut tree with its wonderful
buttresses or planks. This tree, then, furnished us with the chief
part of our material. First of all Jack sought out a limb of a
tree of such a form and size as, while it should form the keel a
bend at either end should form the stem and stern posts. Such a
piece, however, was not easy to obtain, but at last he procured it,
by rooting up a small tree which had a branch growing at the proper
angle about ten feet up its stem, with two strong roots growing in
such a form as enabled him to make a flat-sterned boat. This
placed, he procured three branching roots of suitable size, which
he fitted to the keel at equal distances, thus forming three strong
ribs. Now, the squaring and shaping of these, and the cutting of
the grooves in the keel, was an easy enough matter, as it was all
work for the axe, in the use of which Jack was become wonderfully
expert; but it was quite a different affair when he came to nailing
the ribs to the keel, for we had no instrument capable of boring a
large hole, and no nails to fasten them with. We were, indeed,
much perplexed here; but Jack at length devised an instrument that
served very well. He took the remainder of our hoop-iron and beat
it into the form of a pipe or cylinder, about as thick as a man's
finger. This he did by means of our axe and the old rusty axe we
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