“Story Of Philip Brusque” (from Robert Merry’s Museum, 1841-1842)
Chapter I. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, January 1841; pp. 19-21)
Philip Brusque was a young Frenchman, who engaged very heartily in the revolution that began to agitate France about the year 1789. He was young, ardent and discontented. Though he had little education, he had still read many of the papers and pamphlets of the day. These had filled his mind with a horror of kings, and the most intoxicating dreams of liberty. Knowing little of political government, except that of France, and which he saw to be corrupt and despotic, he adopted the idea that all government was bad, and to this he attributed nearly all the evils of society. With the ardor of a young but heated fancy, he looked forward to the destruction of the monarchy as certain to bring a political millennium, when every man should walk forth in freedom and happiness, restrained by no law except the moral sense of man, and the innate perception and love of human rights.
With these views, which were then common among the French people, and which artful disorganizers had disseminated, in order thereby to acquire power, Philip arrived at Paris. He was soon engaged in several of the debating clubs of that great metropolis, and being possessed of natural eloquence, he speedily became a leader. He was present at the destruction of the Bastile, and his own vigorous hand battered down more than one of the iron doors of that horrid prison. Looking upon these gloomy walls, with their dark chambers, and the chains and instruments of torture which were found there, as at once emblems and instruments of that tyranny which had cursed
his country for ages, Philip felt a high inspiration in witnessing its demolition. As one portion after another of the massy wall was hurled to the earth, he seemed to fancy that a whole nation must breathe more freely; and in seeing the pallid wretches delivered from the dungeon, where some of them had been imprisoned for years, he seemed to think that he saw the spirit of his country set at liberty.
The Bastile was soon but a heap of ruins. The whole fabric of the French monarchy, which had existed for twelve centuries, in a few brief years had shared the same fate. Louis XVI. had been beheaded, and his beautiful queen had been brought to the block. In all these scenes Brusque had taken a part. He was present at the execution of Marie Antoinette. He had no respect for majesty, but he was not yet lost to a sense of decency in respect to woman. The shocking and brutal insults offered to the queen, worse than anything ever witnessed among savages, disgusted Philip. He was indeed sick of blood, and he ventured to speak his sentiments aloud. His words were repeated to Robespierre and the rest of the bloody men who then held the sway. Philip became suspected, and he was obliged to fly to save his life. He reached the coast of France with difficulty, and entering on board a merchant ship as a sailor, set out upon a voyage to China.
Nothing remarkable happened for some time; but when the ship had doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and entered the Indian ocean, a violent storm arose. The vessel contended bravely with the waves for a time, but at length her masts were swept away, the helm was broken, and the hull of the ship rolled like a log amidst the tumbling waters. She then drifted for a time at the mercy of the winds, and at length came near a small island. She then struck on a rock, and went to pieces. All the crew were drowned ecept the hero of our story, who seized upon a plank, and, after two days of toil and suffering, reached the shore of the island.
He landed upon a pebbly beach, but he was so exhausted as only to be able to draw himself up from the waves. There he lay for a long time, almost unconscious of existence. At length, his strength returned, and he began to think over what had happened. When his reason was, at last, fully returned, he fell upon his knees, and thanked Heaven for his preservation. It was the first prayer he had uttered for years, for Philip Brusque had been told by the French revolutionists that there was no God, and that prayer was a mere mockery. But now he prayed, and felt in his heart that there was indeed a God, that claimed gratitude and thanksgiving from the lips of one who had been saved from death, while his companions had all been drowned.
Philip was soon able to look about the island and make observations. It was a lovely spot, about four miles in circuit, and pleasantly varied with hills and valleys. It was almost covered with beautiful trees, on some of which there were delicious fruits. Birds of bright feathers and joyous notes glanced through the forests, and sweet perfumes were wafted on the warm, soft breezes. Philip walked about the island, his delight and wonder increasing at every step. And what seemed to please him most of all was, that the island was without a single human inhabitant except himself.
“Now,” said Philip, in the fulness of his heart, “I shall be happy. Here I can
enjoy perfect liberty. Here is no prison like the Bastile; here is no king to make slaves of his fellow-men; here is no Robespierre to plot the murder of his fellow-citizens. Oh liberty! how have I worshipped thee, and here, in this lone island, I have now found thee. Here, I can labor or rest, eat or drink, wake or sleep, as I please. Here is no one to control my actions or my thoughts. In my native country, all the land belongs to a few persons, but here I can take as much land as I please. I can freely pick the fruit from the trees according to my choice or my wants. How different is my situation from what it was in France! There, everything belonged to somebody, and I was restrained from taking anything, unless I paid for it. Here, all is free; all is mine. Here I can enjoy perfect liberty. In France, I was under the check and control of a thousand laws; here, there is no law but my own will. Here, I have indeed found perfect liberty.”
(To be continued.)
Chapter II. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, February 1841; pp. 47-50)
Such were the thoughts of Brusque, as he stood on a little hill in the centre of the island, and looked round upon what now seemed entirely his own. Nor did anything happen to disturb his peace for a long time. There was fruit enough for his support upon the trees, and he found a cave in a rock, which served him for a house and a home. The weather was almost constantly fine, and
so mild was the temperature, that he hardly needed a shelter, even at night.
So the time slid on very pleasantly with Philip for about a year. By this time, he began to be a little tired of his own company; nor could the chattering of the macaws and parrots, of which there were many in the trees, entirely satisfy him. He caught some of the young birds, and reared them, and taught them to speak, but still he felt lonely. At last it came to be his custom every day to go upon the top of the highest hill, and look far off upon the ocean, hoping to see a ship, for he yearned in his heart to have some human being for a companion. Then the tears would fill his eyes, and flow down his rough cheeks; and then he would speak or think to himself as follows:
“Liberty is indeed a dear and beautiful thing, but still I want something beside liberty. I want to hear a human voice. I want to look into a human face. I want someone to speak to. I feel as if my very heart would wither for the want of a friend. I feel a thirst within, and I have no means of satisfying it. I feel within a voice speaking, and there is no answer. This beautiful island is becoming a desert to me, without even an echo. O! dear France! O! dear, dear home! How gladly would I give up this hollow and useless liberty for the pleasures of friendship and society. I would be willing to be restrained by the thousand meshes of the law, if I might once more enjoy the pleasure of living in the midst of my fellow-men.”
With these thoughts dwelling in his mind, Philip went to rest one night, and though it was very stormy, he slept soundly. In the morning the feelings of yesterday came back, and with a sad heart he went again to the top of the hill; for the hope of seeing a ship, and of once more being restored to human society, haunted him perpetually. Long he stood upon the hill and looked out upon the sea, now tossing from the tempest of the night, and throwing up a thousand white-caps in every direction. Having gazed upon this scene for more than an hour, he chanced to turn his eyes towards the extremity of the island, where, at the distance of about a mile, he distinctly saw a human being on the shore. He paused but a moment to assure himself that he was not mistaken, and then set off like a deer toward the stranger.
Brusque did not stop in his way, but ran with all his might. When he came near the object of his attention, he saw that it was a man, and without waiting to examine farther, ran toward him with open arms. The man was alarmed, and stooping down, he picked up a stone, and threatened to hurl it at Brusque. The latter now paused, and the parties soon came to an understanding.
The stranger said that he was a fisherman from Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, belonging to the French nation. It is inhabited chiefly by French people, and negroes, who are their slaves. The whole population is about 20,000.
It seems that the fisherman had been driven out to sea by a storm, and, the weather being cloudy and he having no compass, did not know which way to steer for home. Thus he wandered about several days, till, on the preceding night, in an attempt to land upon the island where he now found himself, his little smack was dashed in pieces, and he only saved himself by swimming.
No sooner had he told his story, than Philip put his arms around him and kissed him over and over again. He was indeed delighted, for now he had a companion, for which he had sighed so long. Now, he had a human face to look upon; now, he could listen to a human
voice; now, he had some one into whose mind he could pour his own thoughts and feelings. Now, in social intercourse, he could quench that thirst which had parched his soul in solitude.
Full of these thoughts, Philip took the stranger, and led him to his cave. He gathered for him some fresh pine-apples, and some oranges, and placed them before him. When the fisherman began to eat with a hearty appetite, Philip clapped his hands in joy. He then ran to a little spring that was near, and brought some cool water in a gourd shell, and gave it to the fisherman.
Now Philip Brusque was rather a proud man, and it was very strange to see him waiting upon the rough fisherman, as if he were a servant. But Philip was acting according to the dictates of his heart, and so, though a seeming slave, he did not feel that his liberty was violated. He was, in fact, acting according to his own pleasure, and he was seeking happiness in his own way. If Philip had been compelled to serve the fisherman, he would have hated and resisted the task: but now, doing it freely, he found pleasure in it. So true it is that we do things when we are free, with delight, which slavery would turn into bitterness and sources of discontent.
Things went on very well for a few days. The fisherman took up his abode in Philip’s cave, and there he lay a great part of the time. Brusque brought him fruit and water, and all he wanted, and he did it cheerfully for a time. But, by-and-by, the fisherman began to command Brusque to wait upon him, to do this and that, and to bring him this thing and that thing. This immediately changed the face of affairs between the parties. Brusque became angry, and told the fisherman to wait upon himself.
The fisherman made a rude reply, and high words followed. Brusque ordered the fisherman to quit his cave. The fisherman told Brusque to leave it himself. Their faces were full of red wrath. Anger begets anger. The fisherman struck Brusque a blow. Brusque retaliated and being a powerful man, he instantly stretched the fisherman on the ground. He was completely stunned, and lay without motion, seeming actually to be dead.
Brusque’s anger was too high for the immediate return of reason. He looked on the pale form with a feeling of delight, and spoke some words of triumph between his firm-set teeth. But this feeling soon passed away, and a better one returned. Believing that the fisherman was dead, he now began to feel regret and remorse. Already was that monitor within, called conscience, telling him that he had violated a universal law, a law enacted by the Maker of man, and whispered into every man’s bosom. Already Brusque felt that while a fellow-being was on the island, he was not absolutely free; that this fellow-being had rights as well as himself; that he had a right to his life, and that in taking it away he had done a great wrong to justice, to liberty, and himself.
While these thoughts were passing in his mind, the fisherman moved, and showed signs of returning life. Brusque was again full of joy, and fetching some water, sprinkled it over the man’s face. In a short time he so far recovered as to sit upright, and soon after he was able to walk about. Brusque led him to the cave, where, lying down, the fisherman fell asleep.
Brusque now left him, and walked forth by himself. He was of a reflecting turn, and from his training in the revolution, his reflections often took a political cast. On this occasion, his thoughts ran thus:—
“What a strange creature I am! A few weeks since, I was mad with joy at the arrival of this fisherman; soon he became the tyrant of my life; I then wished him dead; and when I thought I had killed him, my heart smote me, and I was more miserable than if death had stared me in the face. He is now alive again, and I am relieved of a load; and yet, in the midst of this happiness, which seems born of misery, I still feel a strange sadness at my heart.
“When I was alone, I was perfectly free, but I soon found that freedom, without society, was like the waters of the river, near which Tantalus was so chained that he could not drink, thus dying of thirst with a flood before his eyes.
“I therefore yearned for society, and then I had it by the arrival of this fisherman. But he became a torment to me. What then is the difficulty? I believe it is the want of some rules, by which we may regulate our conduct. Though there are but two of us, still we find it necessary to enter into a compact. We must form a government, we must submit to laws, rules, and regulations. We must each submit to the abridgment of some portion of our liberty, some portion of our privileges, in order to secure the rest.”
Full of these thoughts, Brusque returned to the cave, and when the fisherman awoke, he spoke to him on the subject of their quarrel, and then set forth the necessity of laying down certain rules by which the essential rights of each should be preserved, and a state of harmony ensured. To this the fisherman agreed, and the following code of laws being drawn up by Brusque, they were passed unanimously:—
Be it ordained by Philip Brusque, late of France, and Jaques Piquet, of Mauritius, to ensure harmony, establish justice, and promote the good of all parties:
1. This island shall be called Fredonia.
2. Liberty, being a great good in itself, and the right of every human being, it shall be only abridged so far as the good of society may require. But as all laws restrain liberty, we, the people of Fredonia, submit the following:
3. The cave called the Castaway’s Home, lately occupied by Philip Brusque, shall be alternately occupied for a day and night by said Philip Brusque and Jacques Piquet; the former beginning this day, and the latter taking it the next day, and so forth.
4. Each person shall have the right to build himself a house, and shall have exclusive possession of the same.
5. If two persons wish the same fruit at the same time, they shall draw lots for the first choice, if they cannot agree otherwise as to the division.
6. If any difference arises between the two parties, Philip Brusque and Jaques Piquet, they shall decide such questions by lot.
7. This code of laws shall be changed, or modified, or added to, only by the consent of the parties, Philip Brusque and Jaques Piquet.
All which is done this 27th day of June, A.D. 18—.
This was neatly cut with a penknife on a board which had come ashore from the wreck of Philip’s vessel, and it became the statute law of the island of Fredonia.
(To be continued.)
Chapter III. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, March 1841; pp. 73-79)
Our story, thus far, has shown us that absolute liberty cannot be enjoyed except by an individual in solitude, where he has no intercourse with his fellow-men. It shows us that as soon as individuals, even supposing that there are only two them, come to live together, some rules, by which they may regulate their conduct, become absolutely necessary. In other words, people cannot live together in society without government; even two persons on an island find that, to prevent quarrelling, they must define their mutual rights and privileges; or, in other words, they must enact laws; and these laws, we perceive, are restraints upon natural or absolute liberty. The farther progress of our story will show how an increasing community, with more varied interests, requires a more extended and minute code of laws.
But before I proceed further, let me tell you something more of Philip Brusque’s early history. He was the son of a brickmaster of St. Addresse, a small village in France, near the flourishing seaport of Havre, which you know is situated at the mouth of the Seine. Philip was early taught to read and write, but he paid little attention to these things in his boyhood. He was more fond of action than study. He spent a great part of his time in wandering through the deep dells that surrounded his native village, or in walking along the high chalky bluff that formed the neighboring sea-shore. Here he particularly loved to spend his time, looking out over the sea for many leagues, and tracing the progress of the ships, bearing the flags of many nations, that ploughed their way upon the bosom of the Atlantic.
In this way, he formed habits of reflection: and though he loved stirring excitements, still Philip was a thinking youth. At the same time he was of a sanguine temper, ardent in his feelings, loving and hating strongly, and readily believing what his wishes and his hopes prompted. Thus he grew up to the age of twenty, without a settled profession, sometimes working at his father’s trade, and sometimes serving as mates of a small vessel that plied between Havre and Bordeaux.
About this period, the public mind in France had begun to be agitated by the coming tempest of the revolution. In every city, village, and hamlet, the people were talking about government, liberty, and the rights of man. The people of France had long been subject to kings, who had claimed a right to reign over them, even without their consent, and they had reigned in such a manner as to make the people miserable. The people were now examining into this claim of their kings, and they had already discovered that it was founded in injustice. Unhappily, they fell under the guidance of bloody and selfish men, and for many years the sufferings of France in her struggle for liberty and human rights, were greater than they had been under the despotism of her worst kings.
Philip Brusque engaged very ardently in the political discussions that resulted
in the revolution, and when Paris became the great theatre of action, he resolved to quit St. Addresse, and proceed to the metropolis, to take his share in the great drama that he felt was about to be acted. He took leave of his parents, and went to bid adieu to Emilie Bonfils, whom he had long loved, and to whom he was affiances. The parting was tender, for Emilie was well worthy of the affection of the gallant youth, and her fears were now excited for the fate of her lover. He was not only to leave her, but he was to be exposed to the convulsions, which already, like the heavings and swellings which portend the earthquake, began to be realized throughout France. But Philip’s mind was too much influenced with the spirit of the time, which, like the hot sirocco of the desert, seemed to sweep over the land, to be delayed or dissuaded. He gave his Emilie a long and ardent salute, and on foot wended his way to Paris.
I have told enough of what followed, for the purposes of my story. Philip’s active mind and devoted spirit raised him to a certain degree of power and distinction in the revolution; he rode for a time on the storm, and shared in the scenes of blood and horror. He was indeed accessory to many of the atrocious executions, which, in a spirit of madness and fury, were decreed and sanctioned by the leaders. But in all this, Philip was rather insane than selfish. Indeed, he was intoxicated by the whirl of events, and he yielded to the current. At length, he became sensible of his error, but before he had the opportunity of atoning for it, he was obliged to fly for his life. He wished to see his aged parents, and his mind turned more than once to his gentle confiding Emilie, at the village of St. Addresse. But there were many reasons for his not going to see them before his departure. The first was, that it was not safe, either for himself or them; and the next was, that he now began to consider his hands sullied with the blood of his fellow-men, in such a manner as to make him unfit for the pure affections either of his parents or his affianced Emilie. Indeed, such was the idea he had formed of the latter, and such was the true affection and reverence that he entertained towards her, and such, at the same time, was his feeling of repentance and remorse, that he shrank from the idea of attaching her to one like himself, and dragging her down from the dignity of truth and purity, to the lot of one who was sullied with crime. Accordingly, he wrote a letter to his parents and Emilie, explaining his feelings and designs, and bade farewell to his country, as we have seen. The letter he wrote did not reach its destination, but, falling into the hands of Robespierre and his associates, became the source of bitter persecution to those for whom it was intended.
We return to Brusque on the island of Fredonia. A few weeks after the adoption of the constitution as before related, a fine vessel, in full sail, appeared near the island. Brusque and Piquet saw it with a mixture of emotions. She seemed to be crowding all her sails, and sweeping before a brisk breeze. When first seen, masts and sails only were visible, but now her full hull was in view. At length, she came so near that both Brusque and his companion could distinctly see the people on board.
The scene recalled the mind of
Brusque to his home and his country. The shop bore aloft the flag of France, and stirred within him feelings that he could not well define. There are few that can forget the land of their birth, particularly if parents, and one loved more warmly than kindred, be there. Brusque’s mind touched on all these points, and tears filled his eyes. “I am an outcast,” said he, “and France rejects me. I am unworthy of my parents, and, more than all, unworthy of Emilie. I must teach my heart to forget; and yet I fear it will not forget, till it ceases to feel.” With these words he sat down upon the hill, folded his arms, and with a melancholy countenance gazed at the ship as she now seemed flying past the island.
At this moment, a new object attracted his attention; this was another vessel, of small bulk, but with a prodigious spread of canvass, pursuing the first-mentioned ship. She seemed, like the sea-eagle, to have a vast expanse of wing in proportion to her body. On she flew, and was soon near the object of her pursuit. Brusque and his companion watched the scene with interest. Both saw that the pursuing vessel was a pirate ship, and that in a few minutes a desperate conflict must follow.
The pirate had now come abreast of the island, being at the distance of not more than three miles. Brusque saw a white roll of smoke uncoil itself at her side, and in a few seconds the booming voice of the cannon broke over the island. At the same time, the ball was seen to strike the water beyond the ship, and dipping at short distances, made the spray shoot high into the air. Another and another shot followed from the pirate in quick succession. These were at length returned by the ship. The two now approached. Peal after peal rung on the air. They were both completely wrapt in smoke. Yet still the firing continued. At length there was a dreadful volley as of a broadside, a thickening of the smoke, and then a fearful silence. Slowly the coiling vapor was lifted up, and the two ships were in view. All eyes seemed directed to the larger ship. Her masts and the cloud of canvass swayed heavily from side to side. Finally, they sank lower and lower, and with a heavy crash fell into the waves.
The deck was now a scene of confusion. The pirate approached, and was soon grappled to the ship. Swiftly a few of her men leaped upon the deck. There was a short struggle, and all was still. “They have yielded like a pack of cowardly hounds!” said Brusque to his companion. “Nay,” said the fisherman, “they fought bravely. That piratical craft has five hands to her one, for she has more than a hundred men on board. The other is but a merchant vessel, and had not twenty seamen. The greater part of the men who fought are passengers, and they fought bravely. Beside, there were women among them!”
“How do you know that?” said Brusque, quickly.
“I saw them,” said Piquet, “as the vessel passed.”
“What is to be done?” said Brusque, jumping up.
“What can you do?” said the other.
“What can I do?” said Brusque; “good God, I can do nothing: and women on board! women to fall into the hands of these pirates! It is too dreadful to think of. I will go down to the shore.”
“Stay,” said the fisherman; “if you show yourself we are both lost. The ship cannot be taken away, but must remain. It is likely the pirates will come ashore before they leave. It is now near sunset. Let us wait for events.”
“You are right, you are right!” said Brusque. “We will watch till evening.
Perhaps something may turn up, by which we may aid the captives. And yet I know not what we can do. We have no weapons, no boat. Still, what we can do, we will do.”
With these resolutions, Brusque and his companion went on to their cave, and laid their plans. Considering it extremely probable that the pirates would come ashore, they concluded to watch and wait for circumstances. Agreeing to take separate stations, and meet again at midnight, they parted, it being now dark.
Brusque had not waited long before he heard the regular dipping of oars in the direction of the pirate ship, and soon saw a boat with about twenty men approaching the shore. Getting into the cover of some bushes, he waited till they reached the shore. They were soon followed by another party of an equal number. Drawing their boats upon the beach, and leaving a single sailor as a guard, the whole party moved up to a little grassy hill. Here some sat down, and others stood around. The leader of the party gave directions to six of his men to go in search of water; taking two officers with him, he stepped aside, leaving the rest to themselves. While they were talking and laughing, the captain and his two friends sat down close to the bushes where Brusque lay concealed, and began to talk over the events of the battle.
The question was soon started as to the disposal of the ship and her inmates. It was agreed by all that the vessel must be scuttled. “Shall the people go down with her?” asked one of the officers. “What think you, Jaques?” said the captain. “As to the sailors, and those rascally passengers that entered into the fight, let them die,” said Jaques. “It’s the fortune of war, and I shall care as little for their death as for the busting of so many bubbles. But the women—”
“Well, what of the women?” said the captain.
“Why,” said Jaques, “one of them is very pretty, and one of them is very old, and I do not like to be concerned in drowning either a pretty woman or an old one. They are very likely to haunt a man after death. Beside, there are thirty women in all; it will be too bad to tip them all into the sea.”
“Well,” said the captain, “what is your plan?”
“Well,” said Jaques, “I propose that we pick out the prettiest for ourselves, and send the rest ashore here to take care of themselves. They can set up a petticoat republic, or any other government they please.”
This plan occasioned a hearty laugh, but still it seemed to be approved. The party soon broke up and joined the rest. Brusque had heard the whole of their conversation, and after a short time, crept from his hiding-place, and set out to join the fisherman at the cave. On his way he fell in with one of the pirates who was in search of water. He had no chance to conceal himself, but as it was dark, he spoke to the man, as if he were one of his comrades. “Have you found any water?” said he. “Not a drop,” said the other. “Well, go with me,” said Brusque, “and I will take you to a spring. I have been on this island before. A long time ago, on a voyage we stopped here, and I remember that between these two hills there was a fine spring.”
“Indeed,” said the other, “is it you, Tom? Really, I did not know you; your voice is strangely changed.” “I’ve got a cold,” said Brusque, coughing. “But we are near the place, I think. It’s so dark we may not be able to find it. However, we can but try. Yes, here is the spot—I remember it by this tall palm-tree. I can see the shape of it against the sky, and know it is the
same. The spring is within ten feet of this place. Aye, here it is! How delightful it will be to get a drink of fresh water, just from the ground. It’s as good to drink direct from mother earth, as in infancy to draw milk from a mother’s breast.”
“Get out, you sentimental dog!” said the other. “It’s treason to remind a pirate of his mother. Good God, I never dare to think of mine.”
“Is she living?” said Brusque.
“Is she living? How dare you speak to me of my mother? Is she living? Good God, I know too well that she is living. Tell me, Tom, and tell me truly!—suppose your mother was in that ship, what would you do? Nay, more,—suppose your sister were there, pure as an angel from heaven, and as beautiful too? Yes, and suppose your aged father, bowed with toil and care and sorrow, and gray with years, were also in that ship? And suppose you were the pirate that had aided in their capture? What would you do?”
“Tell me, in the name of heaven, tell me your name!” said Brusque, in great agitation.
“You know my name is François—” The man hesitated.
“Yes, indeed, I do know your name; you are François Bonfils. You are the brother of Emilie—and here before you is Philip Brusque!”
The pirate started at this, and drawing a pistol from his belt, stood in an attitude of defiance. at the same time he said, “Am I betrayed? What means this? Are you not Tom Garson, of our ship?” Brusque hastened to explain, and in few words told his story to François. It was a scene of mutual agitation and explanation. Each had many questions to ask, but these were deferred that they might consider what was to be done. For the sake of conversing freely, they retired to Brusque’s cave, where they both agreed to attempt the rescue of the people on board the ship. Piquet soon arrived, and he joined heartily in the enterprise. Several plans were discussed, but none seemed feasible. At length, François spoke as follows:
“I am afraid that we are too sanguine. There are two hundred men belonging to the pirate. They are desperate freebooters, and armed to the teeth. Like all rogues, they are suspicious and watchful. We cannot hope to surprise or deceive them. The captured vessel is a trading ship, from St. Domingo. She is filled with people that have fled from an insurrection of the negroes there. There are about thirty females, several children, and thirty or forty men. They are guarded by ten of our marines, and are kept under the hatches. We must convey instructions to them to be on the lookout for relief, that they may exert themselves if any opportunity should offer. We must blow up the pirate ship, and I will do it, and share the fate of the rest, if need be.”
“Nay,” said Brusque, “this is a mad and desperate scheme. Let us think of something more feasible.”
“It is time,” said François, “for me to return to the captain. I shall be missed and suspected. I will take care to be in the watch of the merchant ship to-morrow night. You, Brusque, are a good swimmer. The vessel is not more than two miles out. You must come at twelve o’clock, and I will see that a rope is over the stern. You must climb up, and enter the dead-lights, which shall be prepared. You must then wait till Heaven send you some opportunity for exertion. Mention me not to my parents or Emilie, if I perish. It will be better for them to mourn over an uncertainty, than the memory of a pirate son
or brother. Farewell!” Saying this, and wringing Brusque’s hand convulsively, the pirate departed.
I shall pass over the scene of riot which took place among the pirates on the island, next day, as well as the anxiety of Brusque and his friend Piquet. Night at length came, and at the appointed hour Brusque repaired to the shore, and began to swim toward the vessel, as directed by François. It was dark, and the water was ruffled, but he could see the vessel floating like a dusky shade upon the water, and being steady of limb and stout of heart, and withal an excellent swimmer, he soon neared the vessel. Cautiously and slowly approaching the stern, he at length descried a tall sentinel standing on the deck, and thought he could make out the figure of François. He then drew close, and at length was able to find the promised rope. Climbing up by this, he swung himself to the window, which was cautiously opened from within. It was too dark to see any one, but he entered the cabin and sat down. Pretty soon a boat started from the side of the ship, and looking through the window, Brusque saw it set off toward the pirate vessel. He thought he could trace in the athletic form of the man who guided the helm of the boat the form of François, and he began to think seriously that he intended to put his plan into execution. He was the more fearful of this from having observed that all the pirates had left the island, and he suspected that the opportunity of thus blowing the whole into air was too powerful a temptation for the almost maddened mind of François. Pondering upon the awful chances of such an event, and of the action that must follow on the part of the ship’s crew and passengers for liberation, should it take place, he sat for some time in silence. At length, a hand was laid upon his arm, and he was told to follow. Being led across the cabin, he was taken into a small state-room, where there was a light. His guide left him here alone. Soon a man entered, who announced himself as the captain. He said he had received an intimation that an effort would be made for their relief, but he knew nothing more. Brusque now entered into a detail of the circumstances which we have related, and expressed his conviction that the pirate vessel would be blown up. He advised the captain quietly to apprize all the men on board of the prospect before them, and to see that they were ready to second any effort that should be made. This plan was adopted, and accordingly, about twenty-five men got together in the cabin, each having provided himself with some club, or spar, or other weapon. The captain alone had a sword and pistol, which he had found concealed in a drawer, and which had escaped the search of the pirates.
Brusque now took his place on the transom of the vessel, where he could have a full view of the pirate ship. He sat long, earnestly watching the object of his attention. He hardly knew whether to fear or hope for the awful explosion that he anticipated. The sudden transition of two hundred breathing men from life to death, from the full flush of riotous passion and crime into the presence of their God, was a thought too horrible to be dwelt upon. yet, here were other men, and helpless women and children, whose only chance for life or escape from a fate worse than death, seemed to depend upon that fearful catastrophe. Dwelling upon these agitating topics, Brusque sat in the darkness, gazing upon the pirate ship. In his anxiety, seconds seemed to lengthen into minutes, and minutes into hours. His impatience almost mastered him. His heart beat audibly, and his brain seemed swelled to bursting. He was on the
point of starting up to relieve his feelings, when he saw a stream of light like a rocket shoot out from the side of the pirate vessel. In an instant, another and another followed, and then one wide flash enveloped the whole firmament. In the midst of the sea of fire that seemed thrown into the sky, were the fragments of the ship, the wheels of cannon, and the mangled forms of men, seeming like demons, lit up in the red and ghastly glare.
This mighty blaze was almost instantly followed by total darkness, by a heavy sound, and by a rocking of the ship, as if struck by a gale. In an instant, the men within, rushed against the hatches, and with one united effort threw them open. Starting to the deck, they soon levelled four of the sentinels with their weapons, and the rest, in the sudden panic, leaped into the sea.
The inmates of the ship now found themselves restored to liberty, as if by the hand of enchantment. Passing from the deepest despondency, they indulged in the most violent transports of joy. Brusque made himself known to his parents, and he and Emilie found out each other in the darkness. I need not tell the rest, till we get into another chapter; and that must be deferred to our next number.
(To be continued.)
Chapter V. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, April 1841; pp. 97-101)
When the morning came, it showed upon the bosom of the sea a few blackened fragments of the pirate ship, but beside these not a trace of it was seen. Her whole crew had apparently perished in the awful explosion.
The people on board the merchant ship were soon called from rejoicing to the consideration of their situation and the course to be pursued. Brusque endeavored to persuade them to quit the ship, and take up their abode on the island. Most of them were refugees from France in the first place, and recently from St. Domingo; in both cases flying from the perils which attended the convulsions of civilized society. Brusque urged them to seek an asylum from their cares and anxieties in the quiet retreat of Fredonia. Whether he would have succeeded in persuading them to adopt this course or not, we cannot tell, had not his arguments been enforced by the condition of the ship: she was found to be in a leaky condition, and the necessity of abandoning her became apparent; no time was indeed to be lost. Preparations therefore were immediately made for landing the people, and for taking to the shore all the articles that could be saved from the vessel.
In a few days this task was over. All the inmates of the vessel had been transferred to the island, as well as a great variety of articles, either of furniture, food, or merchandise. The vessel
gradually sank in the water, and finally disappeared. Thus, about seventy persons were landed upon the island, without the means of leaving it. So soft was the climate, so beautiful the little hills and valleys, so delicious the fruits—that all seemed to forget their various plans and disappointments in the prospect of spending the remainder of their lives there.
Nothing could exceed the efforts of Brusque and Piquet to make their new friends comfortable and happy. men, women, and children, all seemed for a time to emulate each other in helping forward the preparations for mutual comfort. Tents were erected, sleeping apartments with beds or mats were provided, and in less than a week all the necessaries of life were distributed to every member of their little colony.
The reflective mind of Brusque had already suggested the necessity of adopting some system of government, for even this small colony he knew could not get along without it. Under the pressure of calamity or emergency, a spirit of mutual accommodation might exist, and for a time might enable the little society to proceed without disturbance. But he foresaw that a state of quiet and comfort would bring occasions of discontent and disorder, which must result in violence, if all could not be subjected to the sway of some just system of laws. These views he suggested to the captain of the vessel, to Emilie’s father, and to several others. It was at length agreed by some of the principal men that the people should be assembled, and the adoption of a form of government be proposed. This was done, and Brusque, the captain, and Emilie’s father were appointed a committee to draw up a constitution. They attended to this duty, and in a few days the people were called together to hear the report of the committee.
Brusque proceeded to read the document, and then he made some remarks in explanation of it. He said that the plan of a constitution which had just been read was partly copied from that of the United States of America—a nation which had recently risen among mankind, and promised soon to be the most flourishing and happy people upon the face of the earth. He then went on to say that the constitution just read contained the following principles:
1. All mankind are born with equal rights and privileges; all are entitled to the same degree of liberty; all are equally entitled to the protection and benefit of the laws.
2. All government should spring from the people, and have the good of the people for its object.
3. That all government implies the abridgment of natural liberty, and that the people ought to submit to such abridgments, so far as the good of society required.
The constitution then proceeded to prescribe a form of government, consisting of three branches: 1st, of a President, who should see to the general affairs of the colony, and to the execution of the laws, who should be called the Executive; 2d, of three judges, who should decide all disputes, to be called the Judiciary; and 3d, of an assembly, chosen by the people every year to make laws, called the Legislature. It also established the following principles:
1. Every man of the age of twenty-one years should be a citizen, and be permitted to vote for members of the legislature and other officers.
2. A majority of votes shall be necessary for a choice.
3. The land of the island shall be divided between the families, in proportion to their numbers, by the judges, and then each person shall be protected in his possessions, and the property he acquires.
4. Any citizen shall be competent to fill any office to which he is chosen.
Such were the outlines of the constitution, as set forth by Brusque in presence of all the men of the colony. A profound silence followed the remarks of the orator. But, at length, a man named Rogere rose, and said that he did not like the proposed constitution. For his part, he did not see the necessity of any government. He had, in France only seen iniquity, and folly, and crime, following the footsteps of government, whether admitted by kings or citizens, and he believed that the best way was to get along without it. “For my part,” said he, “I believe that liberty is the greatest political good, and the moment you begin to make laws, you put fetters upon it. As soon as you establish a government, you prepare to smother or strangle it. Of what use is liberty to the eagle when you have broken his wing, or to the mountain deer when you have cut the sinews of his limbs, or to man when it is doled out by magistrates, who may say how much we shall have, and how we may exercise it? Take from man his liberty, and you sink him as far as you can to the standard of the brute! Give him liberty, and he is but little lower than the angels! Then why restrain liberty? Why take it for granted that the first step in society is to fetter human freedom and trench upon human rights? Let us be wiser than to be guided by a prejudice; let us venture to depart from the beaten path, and strike out something new. I close by moving that we dispense with government altogether; that we rely upon the moral sense of mankind, which rests upon an innate perception of justice. This is sufficient for our safety and our happiness.”
Brusque was not a little disappointed to observe, as Rogere sat down, that there was a pervading feeling of approbation of what he had said. In vain did he oppose the views of Rogere; in vain did he show that it was impossible for society to have order without laws, to maintain justice, peace and security without government. In vain did he appeal to history and the past experience of mankind. The idea of perfect freedom was too fascinating to the majority; and the assembly finally decided, by an overwhelming vote, to reject the proposed constitution, and to make the experiment of living without laws or government.
The subject, however, became a matter of discussion among the people, and they were soon divided into two parties, called the Brusqueites and the Rogereites; the former being in favor of a government, and the latter in favor of unlimited freedom. Things went on quietly for a time, for the people were all French, and their good breeding seemed to render the restraints and obligations of enacted statues, less important. Beside, the island abounded in fruit, and there seemed such a supply of food, as to afford little ground for dispute as to the possession of property. As for shelter, the climate was so mild as to render the covering of a tent sufficient for comfort.
but occasions of collision soon arose. Some articles brought from the ship had been claimed and taken into use by one of the sailors as his own; but now another sailor insisted that they were his. An altercation of words followed between the two, and at last they came to blows. In the struggle, one of them was killed. This event cast a cloud over the little colony, but it was transient. It was forgotten in a few days. Other quarrels, however, soon followed; and finally the whole society was in a state of anarchy and confusion. It was now obvious that reason had lost its power, and that the weak were exposed to violence and injustice from the strong.
Among the people of the colony were several rude men, who, finding that there was no punishment to be feared, began to be very insolent; and it was not a little remarkable that Rogere usually associated with these persons, and seemed even to countenance their injustice and their tyranny. At last, he was evidently considered their leader, and being much more intelligent than his followers, he was soon able to govern them as he pleased. In order to secure his ascendancy over their minds, he flattered them by holding forth the prospect of unbounded liberty. He encouraged them in their acts of licentiousness, and pretended that this was freedom. He sought to prejudice their minds against Brusque and the other members of the community who were in favor of a government of equal laws, by insisting that they were aristocrats or monarchists, who wished to enslave the people. Thus, by playing upon the passions of his party, Rogere soon made them subservient to his will. While he pretended to be a friend of freedom he was now actually a despot; and while his followers were made to believe that they were enjoying liberty, they were in fact the slaves of a cunning tyrant. Nor was this all. While claiming to be the liberal party, the party that favored human rights and human freedom, they were daily guilty of acts of injustice, violence and wrong, toward some of the people of the island.
It was in this state of things that, one pleasant evening, Emilie walked to the sea-shore, which was at no great distance from the tend in which she lived. The moon occasionally shone out from the clouds that were drifting across the sky, and threw its silver light upon the waves that came with a gentle swell and broke upon the pebbly beach. The scene was tranquil, but it could not soothe the heart of Emilie, who had now many causes of anxiety. The disturbed state of the little community upon the island, the brawls and riots that were occurring almost every day, and a general feeling of fear and insecurity which she shared with her friends, had cast a deep gloom over her mind. The conduct of Rogere had been offensive to her on several occasions, but that which caused her most vexation and sorrow was the strange demeanor of Brusque, her former lover. On the night of their deliverance from the pirates on board the ship, he had made himself known to her, and their meeting was marked with all the fondness and confidence of former times. But from that period, he had treated her only with common civility. He had indeed been most careful to provide for her comfort and that of her parents. Though he had been very industrious in promoting the general welfare of the colony, it was apparent that he felt a special interest in contributing to the peace and happiness of Emilie and her aged parents. By his care their tent was so contrived as to afford a perfect shelter, and it was supplied with everything which circumstances permitted, that could minister to the pleasure of its inmates. It was daily provided with the finest oranges, the freshest figs, and the choicest pine-apples. And it was evident that this was all done either by Brusque himself, or by some one at his bidding. But still, he seldom came to the tent; he never sought any private conversation with Emilie; and sometimes, when he looked upon her, she could perceive that his countenance bespoke a deep but melancholy interest; and no sooner was his feeling noticed, than he hastened to disguise it.
While Emilie was walking upon the beach, she thought of all these things: of the unsettled state of the colony, the uncertainty of their fate, and of the rude
manner in which she had been addressed by Rogere. But her mind dwelt longest and with the deepest interest upon the mysterious demeanor of Brusque. It was while she was pursuing this train of thought that she was startled at perceiving the figure of a man partly hidden in the shadow of a high rock which stood close to the water’s edge, and which she was now approaching. But we must reserve the scene which followed for another chapter.
(To be continued.)
Chapter VI. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, September 1841; pp. 85-88)
It might seem that, under the circumstances described, Emilie would have been surprised and alarmed as the dark figure emerged from the shadow of the rock, and stood forth in the full light of the moon; but she betrayed no such emotion. On the contrary, she proceeded directly towards the person, and was soon cla[sp]ed in his arms. The meeting was evidently one of affection; yet apparently there was more of grief than joy—for sobs and sighs seemed to choke the utterance of both. When at last they spoke, it was in broken sentences, yet in a low and subdued voice, as if they were apprehensive of discovery.
After remaining here for nearly half an hour, Emilie bade her companion a hasty farewell, and climbing up the rock, with a light and hurried step proceeded toward the tent which had now become her home. She was still at some distance, however, and as she was passing through a thicket of orange trees, she was abruptly accosted by a man, who placed himself in her path, and calling her by name, took hold of her arm, as if to arrest her progress. Emilie saw at a glance that it was Rogere, and her eye did not fail to remark, at a little distance, a dark group of men, whom she readily conjectured to be his companions.
Emilie felt that she was in danger, but she lost not her self-possession. Shaking off the grasp of Rogere, and standing aloof, she said—“Is it possible that this rudeness is offered by M. Rogere? It is a poor occupation for a gentleman to insult a woman, because she is alone and unprotected!”
“A gentleman!” said Rogere, sneeringly. “I am no gentleman, thanks to the gods—no, no, fair Emilie—I am something better—I am a freeman and a lover!”
“Indeed!” said Emilie. “Is he a freeman who takes advantage of the strength that nature has given him, to injure and distress one who is weaker than himself? Is he a lover, who wounds and insults the pretended object of his regard?”
“Nay, fair lady,” said Rogere; “this sounds mighty pretty, and in France would be heroic; but remember that we are not now under the tyranny of artificial laws and despotic fashion. We are now restored to the rights and privileges of nature. There is no government here, save that which is established by the God of nature.”
“I will not stay to hear you,” said the young lady, indignantly. “Every word you utter is an insult, every moment you detain me you are guilty of insolence and wrong. Shame, shame upon a Frenchman who can forget to be woman’s protector, and become woman’s tyrant!”
“Mighty fine all this, certainly; but remember that I repudiate France and the name of Frenchman: I am a man, that is enough, and I shall assert man’s privileges. You must listen; you shall hear me. Look around, and everywhere you see that in the dynasty of nature all is regulated by force. There
is a power of gravitation, which controls matter, and bids the earth roll round in its orbit. Even matter, then, the very soil, the inanimate clod, the senseless stones, obey the law of force. And it is so with the animal tribes: among birds, the eagle is master of the raven; with quadrupeds, the lion is lord of the forest; with fishes, the whale is monarch of the deep.
“Then, in communities of animals, we see that everything is regulated by power; even among a band of wolves, the strongest has the first choice: privileges are exactly proportioned to power. It is so throughout nature—might is right. It is on this universal principle that I claim you as my own. I am the strongest man on the island; I have therefore a right to whatever I desire. Nay, lady, start not! you must, you shall listen! I have those near at hand who can and will aid me, if I do but utter the word. You shall listen—you shall obey! Why is woman made weaker than man, but that she is to be the servant of man?”
“M. Rogere,” said Emilie, sternly, “it is humiliation for me to be obliged to remain for one moment in your presence; it is degradation to be obliged to speak with you. for all this you will be made to answer.”
“By whom, pray? Who is there that can call me to account? There is no law here, remember, that can restrain or punish me. Nature has given me power, and I shall use it for my own pleasure.”
“I fear not that power; I fear neither you nor your menaces; and if I remain a moment here, it is not from respect to your strength. You dare not lay your hand upon me, for there is another power than that of limbs and muscles. If you are a man, you have a soul, and that soul has power over the body. Before you can, like the wolf, become a mere creature of selfishness, before you can act upon the principle that might is right, you must rid yourself of that soul, that thing within called conscience. Even now it is at work; it is this which makes you resort to false philosophy and shallow argument to justify an act that your humor dictates, but which your soul and conscience condemn. The wolf stops not to reason, but M. Rogere, who pleads the example of the wolf, cannot wholly shake off reason. He cannot imitate the brute, without offering an apology. the wolf is no coward, but M. Rogere is a coward; there is something within that tells him that he must not, shall not, dare not exert his strength against a woman!”
As Emilie uttered these words, she rose to her full height, her eye flashing with indignation. Rogere looked upon her with astonishment. As she moved to depart, his feet seemed riveted to the ground, and it was not till she had already proceeded a considerable distance towards her home, that he recovered his self-possession. He then set out in pursuit, and had no difficulty in soon overtaking the fugitive; but at the moment he was about to lay his hand upon her shoulder, his arm was arrested, and the well-known form of Brusque stood before him. “Hold!” said the latter, fierce; “touch not that gentle being, or, by heaven, your audacity shall be punished. I have been near, watching over the safety of this lady, and I have heard your unmanly words to her. I now know your designs. Beware, or even your boasted strength shall be insufficient to protect you from the chastisement which an insolent coward deserves!”
Brusque waited not for reply. Leaving Rogere fixed to the spot and overwhelmed with confusion, he hastened forward, drew Emilie’s arm within his own, and proceeded with her to her
house. The poor girl was almost fainting with agitation, and Brusque could do no less than enter the tent. After leaving her in her mother’s charge, and giving a few words of explanation, he departed. On the morrow he called to see her, but he found her feverish, and unable to leave her bed.
The next day, Emilie sent for Brusque, and the two friends had a long interview. She thanked him tenderly for his protection from the rudeness of Rogere; and although something seemed to weigh heavily upon his mind, he still seemed cheered and softened by her tenderness. “It is indeed most welcome to me, Emilie,” said he, “to hear you say these things—would that I were more worthy of your esteem.”
“Nay, dear Philip,” said Emilie, “do not be forever indulging such a feeling of humility—I might almost say of self-abasement. What is it that oppresses you? Why are you always speaking in such terms? It was not so once, my dear friend.”
“It was not indeed,” said Brusque. “Let me speak out, Emilie, and unburthen my bosom. I was at St. Adresse your happy lover. I then dared not only to love you, but to speak of my affection, and seek its return and reward. But I am changed.”
“Changed! how? when? what is it? changed? Yes, you are changed; for you are distant and reserved, and once you were all confidence and truth.”
“Listen, Emilie, for I will make you my confessor. I left our village home and went to Paris, and engaged with the ardor of youth in the Revolution; so much you know. But you do not know that I shared in the blood and violence of that fearful frenzy, and which I now look back upon as a horrid dream. You do not know that I was familiar with the deeds of Robespierre, and Danton, and Marat. Yet so I was. These hands have not indeed been dyed in the blood of my fellow-men, but yet I assisted in many of those executions, which now seem to me little better than murders. It is in your presence, Emilie, that I most deeply realize my delusion. There is something your innocence and purity, which rebukes and reproaches my folly, and makes it appear as unpardonable wickedness. I once loved—nay, I love you still, Heaven only knows how truly; but I should ill act the part of a friend by allying your innocence to my degradation.”
Emilie was now in tears, and Brusque became much agitated. “Speak to me, my friend,” said he; “dry up those tears, and let your sense and reason come to our aid. I will be guided in all things by you; if you banish me, I will depart forever.”
“No, no indeed,” said the weeping girl. “You must stay—you must stay and protect my poor parents; you must stay and be my protector also, for Heaven only can tell how soon I shall stand in need of protection from violence and wrong.”
Brusque was evidently touched by this appeal, but the gleam that seemed to light up his face for a moment was instantly followed by a cloud upon his brow. Emilie saw it, and said, “Why this doubt? Why this concealment? What is it, Philip, that disturbs you?”
“I will be frank,” said he. “Since we have been upon this island, I may have seemed distant and indifferent towards you; but my heart has ever been with you, and indeed often, when you knew it not, I have been near you;—this night, I was on the rocks by the sea-shore, and witnessed your meeting with some one there. Tell me, Emilie, who was that person?”
Emilie was evidently disconcerted, but still she replied, firmly, “That is a secret, and must remain so for the pres-
ent. It shall be explained in due time; but i pray you, do not seek to penetrate the mystery now.”
“Well, Emilie, it is not for one like me to dictate terms. My confidence in you is so complete, that I believe you are right, however strange it may seem, that, on this lone island, you are in the habit of meeting a man, and a stranger, upon the solitary sea-shore, and with marks of affection that seem only due to a brother!” Emilie started at these words, but she made no reply. Brusque went on: “I submit to your law of silence; but, my dear Emilie, as you have appointed me your protector, and given me a right to consider myself as such, let me tell you that events are approaching which will demand all our courage, as well as our wisdom; and I cannot but feel the most anxious fears as to the result.”
“You allude to the state of the island.”
“I do. The anarchy is now at its height. Rogere has rallied round him the rough and the ignorant, and taught them that license is liberty. While he cajoles them with dreams of freedom, he is seeking his own object, which is to become sole master and despot of this island; and I fear these deluded men will be his dupes and instruments. It is always the case that the ignorant and degraded portion of the community are disposed to run after those who flatter, only to cheat them.
“The condition of the island is in every respect becoming alarming. The fruits, that were lately so abundant, are fast diminishing, because they belong to no one in particular; and no one has any power or interest to preserve them. We have no fields tilled, for the lands are common to all. If a man were to cultivate a field, he has no right to it, and if he had, there is no government which can secure to him the product of his toil. Everything is therefore going to waste and ruin. We shall soon be in danger of starving if this state of things continues. Nor is this the worst. Rogere will soon bright matters to a crisis, and try the law of force.”
“And what is your plan?”
“I intend to procure, if possible, a meeting of all the men of the island to-morrow, and after showing them the actual state of things, and the absolute necessity of established laws to save us from famine and from cutting each other’s throats, I shall appeal to them once more in behalf of settled government. I have hopes as to the result—but still, my fears outweigh them. It is impossible to yield to the demands of Rogere. Nothing but giving up all to him and his brutal followers, will satisfy him. If we cannot obtain the consent of a majority to the formation of some settled laws, we must come to the question of necessity and determine it by blows. If it comes, it will be a struggle of life and death.”
“I know it, dear Philip; I have long foreseen it.”
“I am glad that you take it so calmly. I should be flattered if your quiet were the result of confidence in me.”
“Well, well, but you are fishing for a compliment, and I will not tell you that I depend on you alone! I may have hopes from another source.”
“Will you tell me from whom?”
“Nay—I shall keep my secret; but be assured that in the hour of danger, should it come, Heaven will send us succor. Good night.”
“Good night, dear Emilie—good night.” And so the lovers parted.
Brusque sought his home, but with mingled feelings of pleasure and pain. the restoration of former relations between him and Emilie, was a source of the deepest satisfaction; but many circumstances combined to cloud his brow, and agitate his heart with anxiety.
Chapter VII. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, October 1841; pp. 100-103)
The morning after the events detailed in the last chapter, was one of deep interest to the people of Fredonia. Brusque, in connection with others, had taken pains to call a meeting of all the men, to consult once more upon events of common importance, and to make another effort to form some kind of government, that might establish order, protect life, and ensure freedom. There were none whose feelings were more deeply enlisted than those of the women; and, as is usual with this sex in matters of a public nature, they were on the right side. They felt their own weakness and dependence, and appreciated the necessity of government and law to protect them from brutality and violence. Nor did they feel alone for themselves; they perceived that where there is no government, there can be no safe and comfortable home; that children cannot live quietly and securely with their parents; that everything we cherish in life is insecure, and liable to be taken away by the wicked and the violent.
The several dwellings of the settlement being near together, on the occasion of which we are speaking, the women were gathering in groups, with anxious faces; those who had young children, were seen hugging them to their bosoms, as if, before night, these innocent and helpless things might have no other protection than a mother’s arm could give. There was much passing to ad from among them, and they spoke with their heads close together, and in whispers, as if fearful of being overheard.
At nine o’clock in the morning, persons began to assemble upon the southern slope of the beautiful hill on which the cave called the “Castaway’s Home” was situated. It was a lovely spot, covered with a thick clump of palm-trees, and commanding, through the openings of the branches, a wide prospect of the surrounding ocean. All the men of the island were soon there, and as they gathered under the trees, they were divided into two groups, by their sympathies, feelings, and purposes, though not by design. In one group was the father of Emilie, M. Bonfils, a man of more than seventy years, whose locks were as white as the snow, and whose face beamed at once with benevolence and spirit. There was, however, in his countenance, at this time, a mingled look of grief and anxiety by no means usual to him. By his side sat all the oldest men of the company, together with Brusque, and most of the educated and intelligent men of the island.
The other group was composed of Rogere, most of the sailors, and several other men. They were generally young persons, whose education had been neglected, and whose course of life had left them to the indulgence of their passions. There were two or three of them who were kind-hearted, though ignorant and simple men.
The two parties consisted of about equal numbers, some twenty of each. They sat for some time, looking each other in the face, but saying little. The Rogereites looked gloomy and scowling; the Brusqueites had an air of anxiety, but still of resolution. It was apparent to all, that, if something could not be done for the cause of good order on the present occasion, riot and bloodshed were likely to be the inevitable and immediate consequence.
After a long period of silence, M. Bonfils, being the oldest man in the assembly, arose, and proposed that they
should come to order by choosing a moderate to preside over the assembly. There was instantly a shout of “M. Bonfils! M. Bonfils!” and as Rogere’s people took no part, one of the men put it to vote whether M. Bonfils should preside, and it was decided in the affirmative. The old man, therefore, taking off his broad-brimmed palm-leaf hat, his long white hair floating down upon his shoulders, stood before the company. His lip quivered, and for a moment he seemed hardly able to utter a word; but at length, in a tone tremulous and faint, and exceedingly touching from its thrill of feeling, he spoke as follows:
“My friends and compatriots; we are all members of the great human family, companions in the misfortunes that have borne us hither, and the mercy which has saved us from a horrible fate. We should then have a common feeling; we certainly have the same interests.
“I ask you to come to the consideration of the great question to be proposed here to-day, with a sense of our responsibility, and a due regard to these considerations. The question to be here proposed is, I believe, whether this little community shall be delivered from that state of lawless anarchy and violence which now afflicts it, and be blessed with a government that shall at once secure liberty and peace. The real questions are these: Shall our lives be secure? Shall our homes be safe? Shall our wives and children live in quiet? Shall right, and not might, be the governing principle of society?
“It is to decide questions thus vital to our happiness and that of those who are dependent upon us, that we have now met; and I beg you as fellow-men, as brothers, as friends and neighbors, as you value life, and liberty, and justice, and a good conscience, to come to their consideration ready and determined to act for the best good of the greatest number. Let no man act for himself alone; let no man indulge prejudices of private feelings. Let us look to the good of all—the best interests of society, and proceed accordingly.”
Having uttered these words, the aged moderator sat down upon a little elevation that was near. There was then a deep silence around. At last Rogere arose, and every eye was fixed upon him, while he spoke as follows:
“Mr. Moderator; I respect the feelings that have dictated the speech just uttered by yourself. I acknowledge the obligation to cast aside selfishness, and look only to the public good. But in reasoning according to my sense of duty, I come to a very different conclusion from what some others do. We are all bound to consult the greatest good of the whole; but how shall we do it? That is the question. We have already met once before, and the persons here present, after mature deliberation, have decided that they will have no other government than such as is founded i nature; they have decided that an artificial system of government and laws only tends to mischief, to enslave the many and favor the few. Then why this meeting? Are we a parcel of boys or silly women, as fickle as the winds, undoing one day what we have done another?
“Sir, I am opposed to a constitution; I am opposed to enacted statues and laws. I am opposed to kings, presidents, judges, legislators, and magistrates. What are these but public blood-suckers, living upon the toil and sacrifices of the rest of the community? Away with them, and let every man do what seemeth good in his own eyes. Things will all get adjusted to this system in good time. There is an instinct in the animal tribes which is thought to be borrowed from divine wisdom. The heron and the bittern are astronomers and
navigators by nature; they know by instinct what man learns with difficulty. They are legislators too, but that divine instinct bids them leave things to their natural course. The strongest, by necessity and the laws of nature, become the leaders, and the rest have only to follow and obey. This is the great system of the universe; and man, by adopting an artificial scheme of government, is only sinning against nature, history and experience. I move you, therefore, that this assembly do now adjourn.”
Scarcely had Rogere finished, when his party shouted in the most animated manner, and there was a look of satisfaction and triumph in their faces that seemed to say that their leader had settled the whole question. When the applause had subsided, the moderator stated that there was a motion to adjourn, and asked if any one had anything to say against it. Upon this, Brusque rose, and spoke as follows:
“Mr. Moderator; you have already state the high and solemn purposes of this meeting. We are to decide, in the first place, whether we will adopt some form of government, and if so, what system shall be established? At the very outset, and before the subject has been discussed, a motion is offered that we adjourn. It is moved that we separate, and leave this little colony to that anarchy which is now desolating the island. We are asked to adjourn, and follow the bittern and the heron as our examples in legislation. Man is to be the pupil of the bird; the brute is to be the lawgiver of human beings!
“What, sir, is the state of things? Riot, crime, and violence are now the order of the day. One murder has already been committed, and the man whose hand is stained with his brother’s blood is here, as free as the rest; and that murderer’s hand is lifted up in an assembly, as if entitled to all the privileges of citizenship. Sir, look at the fruits of the island, lately so abundant; they are fast disappearing, for no one has any interest to preserve or increase them. Not only are we in a state of confusion and fear, not only are the women and children in the community in distress from apprehension, but, sir, our means of living are wasting away,—starvation is at our very doors.
“And what is the remedy for all these evils? A good government, that shall parcel out these lands to the people, and secure to each man his own; a good government, that shall protect a man in his home, his earnings, his property; a good government, that will enforce right and restrain might; a good government, that will punish murder, theft, violence, and crime. This, and this alone, will bring peace to the island; this, and this alone, will give security and happiness to all. Let us have a government, to secure the rights of the people and punish injustice, and this island may become a paradise. Its rich hillsides and lovely valleys will be cultivated, and will produce the greatest abundance of comforts and luxuries. Let us have protection to life, home, and property, and commerce will spring up, and we can get from other lands all that they produce which can minister to our enjoyment.
“Who will till the soil, if any man stronger than himself can drive the laborer away and take the produce? Who will toil, if the violent, and selfish, and powerful man may take away the result of that toil? Sir, we are told to follow nature, to look to the instinct of animals for a guide. And is man, gifted with reason, to throw that reason aside and follow instinct? The proposition is absurd. If we follow animals, we must adopt their modes of life. If you adopt the government of wolves, you must live in rocks and dens, feast
upon blood, and have no other covering than nature provides. If you allow the strong to take what they can grasp, we go back at once to the savage state.
“Let us then be more wise, more reasonable, more just. Let us remember that we en act not only for ourselves, but for others. I beseech you to look upon the anxious groups of wives, mothers, and daughters in that little valley, whose hearts are now palpitating with anxiety; they are waiting the result of our deliberations, as involving interests more dear than life to them. Let them know that you have this day resolved to establish a good government, and they will ask ten thousand blessings on your heads. Let them know that this state of anarchy is to continue, and they will mourn the day that saved them from the billows to which the relentless pirate had doomed them.”
This speech of Brusque’s had an evident effect, and when the question of adjournment was put, there was a majority against it. Brusque, greatly encouraged, then rose, and moved, that it was the sense of the assembly that the best good of the people required the immediate adoption of some form of government. No sooner was this motion put, than Rogere, fearing that it might be carried, brandished it in the air, at the same time addressing his party as follows:
“My friends, are you not sick of this folly, this hypocrisy, this child’s play? Away with it all! let us be men—let us be free. Down with that hoary fool, and this false-hearted knave!” Saying this, and pointing to M. Bonfils and Brusque, he led the way, and rushed upon them. His men followed as with one impulse. The aged moderator was struck to the ground by a single blow, and Brusque, taken by surprise, was thrown down, and two stout men, seizing upon him, tied his hands and feet fast. The rest of Brusque’s party, after a short skirmish, fled down the hill to village, where they were received with cries of consternation and despair.
M. Bonfils and Brusque were taken to the “Castaway’s Cave,” which Rogere now made his head-quarters, and where his party soon assembled. After a brief interval, it was proposed by one of the men that Rogere should be chief of the island, with full power in his hands to govern as he pleased. His motion was carried by acclamation, and M. Bonfils and Brusque were required to give their consent. Refusing to do this, they were bound and taken into one of the lower apartments of the cave, and, totally unable to move, they were left to themselves.
(To be continued.)
Chapter VIII. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, November 1841; pp. 129-132)
Scarcely had these events transpired when Rogere issued an order for all the men of the island to come forthwith before him, and acknowledge their allegiance to him; that is, to own him as chief of the island, and promise obedience to his government. About half of them came, but nearly a dozen men of brave hearts resolved to die rather than submit. They were roused to resistance by the women, among whom Emily was first and foremost. This young lady was small of stature, of a light and graceful form, and bearing a general aspect rather of gentleness than spirit; and her general character conformed to this. But now she was greatly changed; her dark blue eye was lighted with unwonted fire, her brow was arched, her lip compressed, and all who looked upon her were struck with the calm, yet determined and resolute bearing of the once tender and timid girl.
The remainder of the day was spent in the village in making such preparations for defence as the case admitted; but when evening came it was seen that it would be impossible to hope to make effectual resistance. It was with expectations of attack, and the gloomiest forbodings, therefore, that the villagers, of whom by far the largest part were women and children, saw the night approach. In spite of these apprehensions Emily made preparations to go forth alone. Her design was at first resisted by the leaders, but she whispered something to one or two of them, and they permitted her to depart.
She took her course toward the rocky cliff along the sea-shore which has been before described. This was in the rear of the hill upon which Rogere’s party was posted; the cliff was, indeed, but the base of the hill, and at a very short distance from the cave where Emily knew that her father and lover were confined; but she knew also, that they were guarded by Rogere and his men.
The direct course from the tents to the cave was by an open lawn, terminating in a steep ascent up a grassy hill-side. On either hand was a thick mass of shrubbery and trees, enclosing the space in front of the cave, forming it into a sort of natural court. Standing in the middle of this, you could look over the whole island, which lay outspread before you. The place was, therefore, a sort of castle, giving its possessor a complete command of the island.
In the rear of this court, the hill terminated in a rocky precipice of considerable elevation, at the foot of which the surf chafed, foamed and wrestled in ceaseless thunders. It was here that on one occasion we have described Emily as meeting with a stranger, and it
was to this point she now bent her steps. Avoiding, however, the open lawn that led to the cave, she struck off in a different direction, and involved herself in a labyrinth of trees, through which she glided like a spirit of the air. The night was calm, and the moon was shining fair, and therefore she felt the necessity of the utmost caution in order to escape the observation of Rogere’s party. This necessity was increasing, by her knowledge that, as she approached the cliff, she must pass near them, and could only hope to avoid detection by keeping in the shelter of the trees that skirted the hill, or of the rocks that beetled along the shore. With a foot, however, as fearless and light as that of the plover, she threaded her way along the dizzy edges of the cliffs, keeping an attentive eye to the two enemies between which she was now making her passage—the wave that thundered below, and the ruthless men that watched above. At last she reached it projecting angle of the rock, behind which she passed, and was soon lost in the deep shadows beyond.
Leaving her to her fate, we must now return to the unhappy and anxious party at the tents. The women and children had been gathered within the dwellings, and the mothers had sat down to watch by their offspring. It is one of the beautiful things in life that children lose their fears and their cares, and sink into sweet repose, when they know that their mothers are at the bedside. There is not, perhaps, in the compass of human experience so blessed a feeling as that of the child going to sleep in a situation of peril, under the guardianship of its mother. It is a feeling of bliss which can only be compared to that of the Christian, who, knowing the uncertainty of life, lays himself down upon a peaceful pillow at night, trusting in his God.
Such were the scenes within the tent. Without, there were about a dozen men, either sitting or standing, and armed with such weapons as they had been able to provide. No fire-arms of any kind had been brought from the ship, owing to the forecast of Brusque, who dreaded their introduction into the island. Neither party, therefore, had in their possession a musket or a pistol. Rogere had a cutlass, and most of most of his men were provided with daggers. The party in the tent were similarly armed: they relied, however, chiefly upon clubs, if an assault should be made, which various circumstances led them to expect in the course of the night.
About two hours after Emily had departed, a bustle was heard in the direction of the cave, and soon a dark mass was seen descending the hill. This gradually approached the tents, and at last it was seen to consist of Rogere’s entire force, saving only one man, who had been left to guard the tent and watch over the prisoners, Brusque and M. Bonfils. They were not only armed, for the most part, with daggers, but with heavy clubs, thus presenting a very formidable array.
Rogere was at the head of his force, and marching near to the tents, which were defended by a rude and slender barricade of boxes, planks, timber aud trees, summoned the party within to surrender. After a short pause, the leader, who was the captain of the vessel, mentioned in the early part of our story, replied as follows:—
“M. Rogere, we are here to defend women and children; and you know the duty of men in such a case. You may succeed, for you have five-and-twenty men, and we have but twelve; but we shall each man sell his life as dearly as he can. I say to you, and to the men with you, that we are here to lay down our lives if it be necessary. I warn
you, therefore, that you provide a struggle of life and death; and though you may prevail, some of you, at least, can hardly fail to fall. And, I ask you, is the object you have in view such as men can consent to lay down their lives for? Is it such as men are willing to kill their fellow-beings in order to obtain?”
To this Rogere replied, “You are fools—madmen; surrender to me, acknowledge my government, and you shall all be free; I will secure to you your rights and possessions.”
“It is in vain,” said the captain, “for the wolf to preach freedom and security to the lamb. Sir, we know you better; we know that you are a ruthless man, bent upon the gratification of your passions. If you prevail to-night, this island is thenceforth but a scene of cruelty and oppression. These poor women will become the slaves of one who is cruel himself, and who will teach his subjects to become little better than brutes, and these children will be without protection. We have no chance but to do our duty, and, if heaven so decree, to die.”
“This is sheer madness,” said Rogere; “I am not the brute you take me for. Grant me one request, and I will leave you in safety, at least for to-night.”
“And what is that request?” said the captain.
“That you deliver the young lady, Emily Bonfils, up to me,” was the reply.
“She is not here,” said the leader, “and were she here, she should not be given up. You must pass through twelve stout hearts before you can touch one hair of that young lady’s head.”
“We will see,” said Rogere; and ordering his men to advance, they rushed upon the barricadoes at several points. The captain’s party met them, and a desperate struggle ensued. There was a fierce clashing of clubs, with shouts, and cries, and groans. In the midst of the confusion, Rogere, backed by two of his party, sprung over the bulwark, and being familiarly acquainted with the arrangement of the tents, entered that in which Emily’s parents dwelt. It was now only occupied by her aged mother, who sat upon the ground, with a lamp at her side. Her countenance bore the marks of anxiety, but not of terror. When Rogere entered, she arose, knowing him well, and with dignity and calmness she said, “Why, M. Rogere, is this intrusion into a woman’s apartment, and at this hour?”
“I beg your pardon,” said Rogere, respectfully; “I was seeking your daughter—where is she?”
“She is not here,” said the mother.
“Tell me where she is, then!” said Rogere, his passion rising into rage.
“I cannot,” was the calm reply.
“Tell me where she is,” said Rogere, in tones of thunder, “or by heaven your gray hairs shall not save you!”
“As you please,” said the lady.
“Nay, madam,” said Rogere, his fury rebuked by the calmness of the lady, “it is vain to resist my power; and why attempt it? Why not yield your daughter to my care and protection? I am now master of this island; I am its ruler and its sovereign. I will make Emily my companion; nay, I will be her slave. Tell me where she is; give her up to me, and I will treat her tenderly.”
“M. Rogere, do you think me so foolish as to be beguiled by words which are belied by actions? You came here with force, and, threatening to take the life of the mother, talk of tenderness to the child! Telling me that my gray hairs shall not save me, you promise to be kind to my daughter, if I will give her up to you! Shall not the brooding dove believe the hawk when he asks for her young ones, even though he swears to
protect them? Shall she believe him and give them up? Nay, sir, you came here to use force, and you will have your way. Yet I fear you not! Ruthless as you are, you dare not lay your hand upon an aged and unprotected woman. The blood of a French heart will gush out, every drop of it will leave his breast, before it will nerve a man’s arm to such a dastardly deed!”
“Listen to reason,” said Rogere.
“Listen, yourself!” said the lady; “leave this place, withdraw your men, restore us all to liberty and peace—then come and ask my daughter; aud if she, in the free exercise of a woman’s choice, will give you her hand, I will not oppose it.”
“This cannot be; I know her heart is set upon that dreamer, Brusque.”
“And you, then, are to play the tyrant; force her to forego her wishes, compel her to give up the man she loves, and become the plaything of the man she must abhor! And you call this treating her tenderly! O, God, is there a being on this earth that can be guilty of such tyranny? Yes! man, lordly man, is such a creature when the restraints of government and law are withdrawn.”
“This passes all patience,” said Rogere, fiercely. “I say, old woman, as you value your life, tell me where your daughter is, or I will strike you to the earth this instant.”
“Here! here I am!,” was heard from the opposite side of the tent, and Emily, entering at the instant, stood before Rogere. But she was not alone; a youth of a commanding figure, with pistols in his belt and a sword in his hand, was at her side. Placing himself before Rogere, he said briefly, “What means this?”
Rogere was evidently astonished; he gazed at the stranger for a moment, and satisfying himself that he had never seen him before, replied, “Who are you? By what right do you meet and question me here?”
“By the best right in the world! I am the brother of this fair girl, I am the son of this aged and insulted lady.”
“There is some mistake,” said Rogere.
“There is no mistake,” said François; for it was indeed he, François Bonfils, who has figured in the earlier part of our story; “leave this place instantly.”
“I go,” said Rogere, “but follow me.”
François followed him out. The battle was raging around, and its issue was still doubtful. Brusque was at the head of the tent party, and among them could be seen the aged form of M. Bonfils. Rogere took in these facts at a glance. His mind seemed for a moment to be bewildered, and his resolution to falter; but in an instant he rallied, and turning upon François struck at him with his dagger. This was returned by a pistol shot, and the ball passing through Rogere’s heart, he fell senseless upon the ground.
The two companions of Rogere now fled, and François, rushing to the point where his father and Brusque were engaged in desperate conflict, and nearly overpowered, fired his other pistol in the midst of the assailants. One of them fell, and François, rushing in among them, dealing blows thickly around, soon turned the fortune of the fight. Rogere’s two assistants now came up, and saying to the men that their leader was dead, communicated such a panic to his party that they drew back, and after a little hesitation retreated, leaving the tent party in undisputed possession of the field.
(from Robert Merry’s Museum, January 1842; pp. 21-24)
We left our colonists of Fredonia at the moment that the struggle was over which resulted in the death of Rogere. The scenes which immediately followed are full of interest, but we can only give them a passing notice.
The defeated party sullenly retired to their quarters at the outcast’s cave; and those at the tents were left to rejoice over their deliverance. Their present joy was equal to the anxiety and despair which had brooded over them before. The mothers clasped their children again and again to their bosoms, in the fulness of their hearts; and the little creatures, catching the sympathy of the occasion, returned the caresses with laughter and exultation. The men shook hands in congratulation, and the women mingled tears and smiles and thanksgivings, in the outburst of their rejoicing.
During these displays of feeling, Brusque and Emilie had withdrawn from the bustle, and, walking a part, held discourse together. “Forgive me, Emilie,” said Brusque, “I pray you forgive me for my foolish jealousy respecting the man you were wont to meet by moonlight, at the foot of the rocks. I
now know that it was your brother, and I also know that we all owe our deliverance and present safety to you and him. I can easily guess his story. When the ship was blown up, he had departed, and thus saved his life.”
“Yes,” said Emilie; “but do you know that this weighs upon his spirit like a millstone? He says, that he had voluntarily joined the pirates, and for him to be the instrument of blowing up their ship, and sending them into eternity, while he provided for his own safety, was at once treacherous and datstardly.”
“But we must look at the motive,” said Brusque. “He found that his father, his mother, his sister, were in the hands of those desperate men: it was to save them from insult and death that he took the fearful step. It was by this means alone that he could provide escape for those to whom we was bound by the closest of human ties.”
“I have suggested these thoughts to him,” replied Emilie; “and thus far he might be reconciled to himself; but that he saved his own life is what haunts him; he thinks it mean and cowardly. He is so far affected by this consideration, that he has resolved never to indulge in the pleasures of society, but to dwell apart in the cave, where you know I have been accustomed to meet him. Even now he has departed; and I fear that nothing can persuade him to leave his dreary abode, and attach himself to our community.”
“This is sheer madness,” said Brusque. “Let us go to your father, and get his commands for François to come to the tents. He will not refuse to obey his parent; and when we get him here, we can, perhaps, reason him out of his determination.”
Brusque and Emilie went to the tent of M. Bonfils, and, opening the folds of the canvass, were about to enter, when, seeing the aged man and his wife on their knees, they paused and listened. They were side by side. The wife was bent over a chest, upon which her face rested, clasped in her hands; the husband,—with his hands uplifted, his white and dishevelled hair lying upon his shoulders, his countenance turned to heaven,—was pouring out a fervent thanksgiving for the deliverance of themselves and their friends from the awful peril that had threatened them. It was a thanksgiving, not for themselves alone, but for their children, their friends and companions. The voice of the old man trembled, yet its tones were clear, peaceful, confiding. He spoke as if in the very ear of his God, who yet was his benefactor and his friend. As he alluded to François, his voice faltered, the tears gushed down his cheeks, and the sobs of the mother were audible.
The suppliant paused for a moment for his voice seemed choked; but soon recovering, he went on. Although François was a man, the aged father seemed to think of him as yet a boy—his wayward, erring boy—his only son. He pleaded for him as a parent only could plead for a child. Emilie and Brusque were incited into tears; and sighs, which they could not suppress, broke from their bosoms. At length the prayer was finished, and the young couple, presenting themselves to M. Bonfils, told him their errand. “Go, my children,” said he, “go and tell François to come to me. Tell him that I have much to say to him.” The mother joined her wishes to this request, and the lovers departed for the cave where François had made made his abode.
As they approached the place, they saw the object of their search, sitting upon a projecting rock that hung over the sea. He did not perceive them at first, and they paused a moment to look at him. He was gazing over the water,
which was lighted by the full moon, and he seemed to catch something of the holy tranquility which marked the scene. Not a wave, not a ripple, was visible upon the placid face of the deep. There was a slight undulation, and the tide seemed to play with the image of the moon, yet so smooth and mirror-like was its surface as to leave that image unbroken.
After a little time, the two companions approached their moody friend, who instantly rose and began to descend the rocks toward his retreat; but Brusque called to him, and, climbing up the cliff; he soon joined them. They then stated their errand, and begged François to return with them. “Come,” said Brusque, “your father wishes, nay, commands you to return!”
“His wish is more than his command,” said François. “I know not how it is, but it seems to me that my nature is changed: I fear not, I regard not power—nay, I have a feeling within which spruns it; but my heart is like a woman’s if a wish is uttered. I will go with you, though it may be to hear my father’s curse. I have briefly told him my story. I have told him that I have been a pirate, and that I have basely betrayed my companions: but I will go with you, as my father wishes it.”
“Nay, dear François!” said Emilie, throwing her arms around his neck, “do not feel thus. Could you have heard what we have just heard, you would not speak or feel as you do.”
“And what have you heard?” was the reply. Emilie then told him of the scene they lead witnessed in the tent, and the fervent prayer which had been uttered in his behalf. “Dear, dear sister!” said François, throwing his powerful arm around her waist, and clasping her light form to his rugged bosom,—“You are indeed an angel of light! Did my father pray for me? Will he forgive me? Will he forgive such a wretch as I am? Will my mother forgive me? Shall I, can I, be once more the object of their regard, their affection, their confidence?”
“Oh, my brother!” said Emilie, “doubt it not—doubt it not. They will forgive you indeed; and Heaven will forgive you. We shall all be happy in your restoration to us; and however much you may have erred, we shall feel that your present repentance, and the good deeds you have done this night, in saving this little community, your father, your mother, your sister, from insult and butchery, is at once atonement and compensation.”
“Oh, speak not, Emilie, of compensation—speak not of what I have done as atonement. I cannot think of myself but as an object of reproach; I have no account of good deeds to offer as an offset to my crimes. One thing only can I plead as excuse or apology, and that is, that I was misled by evil company, and enlisted in the expedition of that horrid ship while I was in a state of intoxication. This, I know, is a poor plea—to offer one crime as an excuse for another; yet it is all I can give in extenuation of my guilt.”
“How was it, brother? Tell us the story,” said Emilie.
“Well,” said François. “You know that I sailed from Havre, for the West Indies. Our vessel lay for some time at St. Domingo, and I was often ashore. Here I fell in with the captain of the pirate vessel. He was a man of talents, and of various accomplishments. We used often to meet at a tavern, and he took particular pains to insinuate himself into my confidence. We at last became friends, and then he hinted to me his design of fitting out a vessel to cruise for plunder upon the high seas. I rejected the proposal with indignation. My companion sneered at my scruples,
and attempted to reason me into his views. ‘Look at the state of the world,’ said he, ‘and you will remark that all are doing what I propose to do. At Paris they are cutting each other’s throats, just to see which shall have the largest share of the spoils of society—wealth, pleasure, and power. England is sending her ships forth on every ocean: and what are they better than pirates? They have, indeed, the commission of the king—but still it is a commission to burn, slay, and plunder all who do not bow to the mistress of the seas. And why shall not we play our part in the great game of life, as well as these potentates and powers? Why should we not be men—instead of women?
“ ‘Look at the state of this island—St. Domingo. Already is it heaving and swelling with the tempest of coming revolution. I know secrets worth knowing. Ere a month has rolled by, this place will be deluged in blood. The vast wealth of Port au Prince is now secretly being carried on board the ships, to take flight, with its owners, for places of safety from the coming storm. Let us be on the sea, with a light craft, and we will cut and carve, among them, as we please!’
“Such were the inducements held out to me by the arch-pirate: but it was all in vain, while my mind was clear. I shrunk from the proposal with horror. But now a new scheme was played off. I was led, on one occasion, to drink more deeply than my wont; and being already nearly intoxicated, I was plied with more liquor. My reason was soon lost—but my passions were inflamed. It is the nature of drunkenness to kill all that is good in a man, and leave in full force all that is evil. Under this seduction, I yielded my assent, and was hastened on board the pirate ship, which lay at a little distance from the harbor. Care was taken that my intoxication should be continued; and when I was again sober, our canvass was spread, and our vessel dancing over the waves. There was no retreat; and, finding myself in the gulf, I sought to support my relenting and revolting bosom by drink. At last I partially drowned my remorse; and but for meeting with Brusque on the island, I had been a pirate still.”
By the time this story was done, the party had reached the hut. They entered, and being kindly received by the aged parents, they sat down. Alter sitting in silence for a few moments, François arose, went to his father, and kneeling before him, asked for his forgiveness. He was yet a yong man—but his stature was almost gigantic. His hair was black as jet, and hung in long-neglected ringlets over his shoulders. His countenance was pale as death; but still his thick, black eyebrows, his bushy beard, and his manly features, gave him an aspect at once commanding and striking. When erect and animated, he was an object to arrest the attention and fix the gaze of every beholder. In general, his aspect was stern, but now it was so marked with humiliation and contrition, as to be exceedingly touching. The aged parent laid his hand upon his head, and looking to heaven, said, in a tone of deep pathos, “Father, forgive him!” He could say no more—his heart was too full.
We need not dwell upon the scene. It is sufficient to say, that from that day, François lived with his parents. His character was thoroughly changed: the haughty and passionate bearing, which had characterized him before, had given place to humility and gentleness; and the features that once befitted the pirate, might now have been chosen to set forth the image of a saint. Such is the influence of the soul, in giving character and expression to the features.
(To be continued.)
Chapter XI. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, March 1842; pp. 87-89)
The time for the meeting of the people to take measures for the establishment of a government for the island of Fredonia, was fixed for the day which followed the events narrated in the last chapter. This meeting was looked forward to with intense interest, by all parties. The men, who knew that there could be no peace or safety in society, without government, regarded the event as likely to decide whether the inhabitants of the island were to be happy or miserable.
The women, who were perhaps not apt to reflect upon these things, had also learned from their experience that a government, establishing and enforcing laws, was indispensable to the quiet and security of society: they saw that their own lives, their freedom, their homes, were not secure, without the protection of law. Even the children had found that government was necessary, and these as well as the women, were now rejoicing at the prospect of having this great blessing bestowed upon the little community of Fredonia.
The day for the meeting arrived, and the men of the island assembled, agreeably to the appointment. First came the men of the tent party and then, those from the Outcast’s cave. The latter were greeted by a shout of welcome, and mingling with the rest, a kind shaking of hands took place between those, who so lately were arrayed against each other in deadly conflict.
After a short time, Mr. Bonfils, being the oldest man of the company, called the assembly to order, and he being chosen chairman, went on to state the objects of the assembly, in the following words:
“My dear friends; it has been the will of Providence to cast us together upon this lonely, but beautiful island. It would seem that so small a community, regulated by mutual respect and mutual good will, might dwell together in peace and amity, without the restraints of law, or the requisitions of government. But history has told us, that in all lands, and in all ages, peace, order, justice, are only to be secured by established laws, and the means of carrying them into effect. There must be government, even in a family; there must be some power to check error, to punish crime, to command obedience to the rule of right. Where there is no government, there the violent, the unjust, the selfish, have sway, and become tyrants over the rest of the community. Our own unhappy experience teaches us this.
“Now we have met together, with a knowledge, a conviction of these truths. We know, we feel, we see that law is necessary, and that there must be a government to enforce it. Without this, there is no peace, no security, no quiet fireside, no happy home, no pleasant
society. Without this, all is fear, anxiety, and anarchy.
“Let us then enter upon the duties of this occasion, with a proper sense of the obligation that rests upon us; of the serious duty which is imposed on every man present. We are about to decide questions which are of vital interest, not only to each actor in this scene, but to these wives and sisters and children, whom we see gathered at a little distance, watching our proceedings, as if their very lives were at stake.”
This speech was followed by a burst of applause; but soon a man by the name of Maurice arose—one who had been a leading supporter of Rogere—and addressed the assembly as follows:
“Mr. Chairman; it is well known that I am one of the persons who have followed him from a conviction that his views were right. The fact is, that I have seen so much selfishness in the officers of the law, that I have learned to despise the law itself. Perhaps, however, I have been wrong. I wish to ask two questions—the first is this: Is not liberty a good thing? You will answer that it is. It is admitted, all the world over, that liberty is one of the greatest enjoyments of life. My second question then is—Why restrain liberty by laws? Every law is a cord put around the limbs of liberty. If you pass a law that I shall not steal, it is restraint of my freedom; it limits my liberty; it takes away a part of that, which all agree is one of the greatest benefits of life. And thus, as you proceed to pass one law after another, do you not at last bind every member of society by such a multiplied web of restraints, as to make him the slave of law? And is not a member of a society where you have a system of laws, like a fly in the hands of the spider, wound round and round by a bondage that he cannot burst, and which only renders him a slave of that power which has thus entangled him?”
When Maurice had done, Brusque arose, and spoke as follows:
“Mr. Chairman; I am happy that Mr. Maurice has thus stated a difficulty which ahs arisen in my own mind: he has stated it fairly, and it ought to be fairly answered. Liberty is certainly a good thing; without it, man cannot enjoy the highest happiness of which he is capable. All useless restraints of liberty are therefore wrong; all unnecessary restraints of liberty are wrong. But the true state of the case is this: we can enjoy no liberty, but by submitting to certain restraints. It is true that every law is an abridgment of liberty; but it is better to have some abridgment of it, than to lose it all.
“I wish to possess my life in safety; accordingly I submit to a law which forbids murder: I wish to possess my property in security; and therefore I submit to a law which forbids theft and violence: I wish to possess my house without intrusion; I therefore submit to a law which forbids one man to trespass upon the premises of another: I wish to go and come, without hindrance, and without fear; I therefore submit to a law which forbids highway robbery, and all interference with a man’s pursuit of his lawful business.
“Now, if we reflect a little, we shall readily see that by submitting to certain restraints, we do actually increase the amount of practical, available, useful liberty. By submitting to laws, therefore, we get more freedom than we lose. That this is the fact, may be easily tested by observation. Go to any civilized country, where there is a settled government and a complete system of laws, and you will find, in general, that a man enjoys his house, his home, his lands, his time, his thoughts, his pro-
perty, without fear: whereas, if you go to a savage land, where there is no government and no law, there you will find your life, property, and liberty, exposed every moment to destruction. Who, then, can fail to see that the very laws which abridge liberty in some respects, actually increase the amount of liberty enjoyed by the community.”
Maurice professed himself satisfied with this solution of his difficulties; and the meeting proceeded to appoint a committee, to go out and prepare some plan, to be submitted to the meeting. This committee returned, and after a short space, brought in a resolution, that Mr. Bonfils be for one year placed at the head of the little community, with absolute power; and that, at the end of that period, such plan of government as the people might decree, should be established.
This resolution was adopted unanimously. The men threw up their hats in joy, and the air rang with acclamations. The women and children heard the cheerful sounds, and ran toward the men, who met them half way. It was a scene of unmixed joy. Brusque and Emilie met, and the tears of satisfaction fell down their cheeks. François went to his aged mother, and even her dimmed eye was lighted with pleasure at the joyful issue of the meeting.
We must now take leave of the island of Fredonia—at least for a time— and whether we ever return to it, must depend upon the wishes of our young readers. If they are anxious to see how the people flourished under the reign of their aged old chief, and how they proceeded in after years, perchance we may lift the curtain and show them the scene that lies behind it. But I hope that our readers have learnt, that not only men and women, but children, have an interest in government, and therefore that it is a thing they should try to understand.
Chapter XII. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, September 1842; pp. 80-84)
It is natural for mankind to love power; a child loves it, and always seeks to govern his parents and his playmates. Men seek also to govern their fellow-men. This desire is stronger in some than in others; there are persons who are always striving and contriving, for the purpose of acquiring authority over those around them.
Now when several people unite for a certain object, we call them a society; if they unite for religious purposes, we call them a religious society; if for charity, we call them a charitable society; if for government, we call them a political society, because politics is the business of government.
Wherever there is society, we see this love of power; we there find persons who are seeking, by all sorts of means, to acquire authority, so that they may rule. We find it even in school—for there we meet with girls and boys, who strive not only to sway the teacher, but the other scholars; we find it in villages—for there we meet with men who are plotting to gain an ascendency; in short, we find it everywhere, in towns and cities, in states, countries, and kingdoms.
Now this love of power is a selfish thing, and though it may lead to good, yet it is very apt to lead to evil. It is this which has caused conquerors to murder millions of their fellow-men; it is this which has led politicians to practise every sort of fraud and deception. And one thing is to be remarked here, that when a person desires power, so much s to take dishonest or trickish means to obtain it, he is not fit to possess it. Such a person will only use it selfishly, and not for the good of those who may come under his authority.
It was fortunate for the little society of Fredonia, that in choosing Mr. Bonfils for a governor, they selected one who did not desire power for any selfish reason, and who accepted the office bestowed upon him only in the hope of benefiting the people. He felt like a father to his children, and his thoughts were, therefore, bent upon the means by which their happiness could be promoted. If he had been a selfish person, he would have turned his mind to consider how he might best promote his own ambition; how he might acquire more power; and how he might secure and perpetuate his sway.
You have heard of Washington, who was president of the United States: now he never strove to get that high office, and he only accepted it, in the hope that his government might bless the nation. You have heard of Bonaparte; he became the emperor of France; but he did it by his own efforts. He did not wait to be chosen a ruler; but he seized the reins of power. He commanded the people to make a crown, and then he commanded them to put it on his head, and call him emperor: and they obeyed. Having thus acquired vast power, having command of the army and the navy; having all the money of the government—he put them in requisition to carry on wars of conquest. His love of power was so great that he was not content with ruling over the thirty millions of people in France; he yearned to reign over all Europe—over all the world. His ambition was so boundless and grasping, that the nations of Europe rose against him, hurled him from his throne, and caused him to be confined to the rocky island of St. Helena, where he died.
Now Mr. Bonfils was like Washington, and not like Bonaparte. He took the office of governor, only to do good to his people. His first thought, upon becoming the ruler, was to discover what could be done to make the little nation of Fedonia, peaceful and happy. In looking around, he saw many things to give him anxiety. In the first place, the clothes of the people were fast wearing out, and the tents in which they lived, being covered with the sails of the ship, were small and uncomfortable. They might do pretty well for the dry season, but what was to be done when the autumn rains should set in? And, in addition to all this, the people had only a very few articles of furniture, and in this respect, they were exceedingly uncomfortable.
While, therefore, clothes, dwellings, and furniture, were needed, there was another still more pressing want, and this was food. The flour, bread, and biscuit, brought from the ship, were entirely gone; the meat was all devoured; the salt, pepper, and spices were entirely used up. The island, as I have said, produced many fruits, particularly oranges; it also yielded pine-apples, a few melons, grapes, and pomegranates. Upon these fruits the people had now subsisted for several weeks; but Mr. Bonfils saw, that long before another season could return, the fruits of the island must be exhausted, unless something could be done to furnish food from other sources, and protect what there was from waste.
On making inquiries, he ascertained that there were no cows, sheep, deer, or hogs upon the island; and, saving a few wild goats tat lived around the cliffs, there were no animals of considerable size. There were a few monkeys, a considerable number of lemurs, and a great variety of macaws, paroquets, and other birds of gay plumage. It was clear, therefore, that the animals did not afford the means of subsistence, and even if they were sufficient, how could they be taken, for, excepting the pistols of François, there were no fire-arms upon the island.
Mr. Bonfils reflected upon all these things, and he saw that unless something could be done, poverty and misery must be the lot of the people of Fredonia. If they had no clothing, no good houses, no good furniture, no proper food, they would sink into a state of nature; they would lose their refinement, their sense of propriety, their love of neatness and order; they would, in short, cease to be civilized, and become savages.
“How are these things to be remedied?” said one of the old men to the governor. “I will tell you my views upon this subject,” said the latter.
“It is by the labor of the hands alone that mankind can live, in a civilized state. It is the labor of the hands that produces hats, shoes, shirts, coats, gowns, handkerchiefs; the things we want to wear. It is the labor of the hands that produces houses, and the furniture with which we supply them. It is the labor of the hands that produces wheat, rye, oats, barley, maize, potatoes, peas, and other things, as food for man and beast.
“Now where the people are industrious, all these things which we want for dress, for shelter, for furniture, for food, become abundant; where the people are industrious, therefore, they are not only supplied with the comforts and luxuries of life, but they adopt good and virtuous habits, and are therefore happy. Where they are indolent they are poor, vicious and unhappy. The great thing in government, then, is to make people industrious. And now how is this to be done?
“I do not know of any other way than to set before them inducements to labor; we must see that those who work are well rewarded for it. Here lies the
great difficulty of our condition; we shall soon be in want of food and shelter, and we shall all work hard before we starve or go without houses. But when these pressing necessities are supplied, shall we not relapse into indolence, vice and barbarism?
“The first thing to be done is, no doubt, to look out for food and for shelter; but we must go farther; we must try to keep up the tastes of the people; we must try to preserve their love of good clothing; their love of good houses; their love of good food, and the other comforts and luxuries of home; the refinements and enjoyments which flow from neatness and order. We must preserve these tastes, because the people will toil to gratify them; they will become industrious to gratify them; they will become industrious to gratify them. Without these tastes people will only work for food; they will live like mere animals, being content with satisfying animal wants; they will become savages.
“Refined tastes constitute what we call civilization; they raise men above savages; they are the source of that industry which makes a nation rich and happy. I repeat, we must preserve these tastes, we must preserve our civilization.
“Now, in order to preserve these tastes, we must have the means of gratifying them; we must have MANUFACTORIES, to make bonnets, shoes, and dresses; we must have AGRICULTURE, that is we must cultivate the lands, in order to have bread and rear cattle; we must have vessels to carry on COMMERCE, by means of which, we may exchange our products for tea, coffee, spices and things which do not grow among us, but are produced in other lands. Thus manufactures, agriculture, and commerce, are the three great sources of prosperity; and these must be made to flourish, in order to make people happy. How is all this to be done?
“The first step is this, to divide the lands and other property, giving to each man his share, and making him secure in the possession of it; and also making him secure in the possession of all he earns by his industry or skill.”
Here the man broke in and said—“Pray excuse me, Mr. Governor, but I differ with you there. I think it is better to hold the land and everything else, in common. If you divide the land and property, some persons who are greedy, sharp-witted and industrious, will constantly increase their lands and property and become rich; while others, who are simple, and careless, will gradually become poor. Thus we shall soon see those odious distinctions of rich and poor in society. I am opposed to all this!”
“I am well aware, my friend,” said the governor, “that such ideas as you entertain, have often been indulged, and by very good people too; but let me tell you that all attempts to put them in practice, have resulted in disappointment and failure. No society that has held property in common, has ever been happy; no society has ever advanced in virtue, or civilization, or peace, that has been founded upon this principle. Man loves to call things ‘mine,’ and ‘thine.’ Man is made by his Creator to identify things with himself, and to love them from such identity. Why, if all things are to be held in common, why does the mother, why does the father, love the child? It is not because it is more beautiful than other children, but because it is theirs? Why is man made to love that place which goes by the dear title of home? Why do we love our birth-place above all others, even though a cottage or a hut? Why, even if we reach the palace in after-life, is that birth-place the dearest spot on earth?
“Why do the people of every land love their particular country better than all other lands? Why does the Laplander prefer his climate of snows, and
bless Heaven that has sent him such a happy lot? Why does the Swiss, upon the shaggy sides of his mountains, where scarce the wild goat can find footing, delight in his rugged home, and, looking down upon the people of the luxurious valley beneath, lift his soul in thanksgiving to God, who has preferred him thus? All this shows, that man is made to love his children, his home, his country—to love the things which belong to himself.
“Now I admit that selfishness is to have its boundaries; selfishness which is at variance with the good of others is vicious, and deserves rebuke. But the self-love, which makes a man love things belonging to himself, is the foundation of that affection which parents bear to children—which we all bear to home—which we all feel for our country. If you undertake to blot out the ideas of mine and thine—if you seek to make all things common, then you war against man’s very nature; you seek to overturn the design of our Creator; you would deprive the child of the love of the parent; you would have no such things as home; you would annihilate that noble sentiment, which we call patriotism. In short, you would deprive life of its greatest charms; you would take out of man’s bosom his noblest sentiments, and annihilate some of the msot powerful springs of human action, effort and industry.
“No—no! my dear sir: man is made to possess things, to call them his, and to desire, by his own efforts, to accumulate things to himself. To resist this principle, is to resist Heaven and nature, and common sense. Destroy this principle, and you make man either a reluctant drudge, or an indolent savage. So the world has ever found it. The only way is to establish society upon this principle—if a man, by this toil, builds himself a house, let him have it and keep it, and let no man disturb him in the possession of it. If it is his, and he knows that it will continue so, he will take pains to build it well, to make it convenient, and to make it pleasant. But if he feels that it may be taken away by some stronger man, or by society, he will do as little to it as possible.
“Thus it is that men will work, if the fruits of their toil are to be theirs; they will labor industriously, they will put forth their best efforts, they will surround themselves with comforts and luxuries, if they are to be secured in the possession of what they produce. You will see, then, that according to my view, industry is the great source of national happiness: it is the great producing power, and it is the great moral regulator of society. And the most potent stimulus to industry, is to allow a man to have what he earns, and to keep it, use it, or dispose of it, as he pleases. These are the fundamental principles of government, and they are indispensable to civilization; without them, society tends, necessarily, to barbarism, or to the savage state.”
It was by such conversations as these, that Mr. Bonfils imparted his views to the people. Many of them, who had shared in the turmoil of the French Revolution, had got their ideas unsettled: some believed that no government was necessary; others thought that some new system, better than any yet tried, might be adopted. But, by degrees, they assented to the views of their governor.
Agreeably to his plan, the lands were now divided among the men, reserving about one half, as belonging to the government. Each had enough; and the good effects of this were immediately visible, for every one set about building himself a house. The change in the island was wonderful; for, everybody had been idle before; but now, all was activity, energy and industry.
While the men were at work in build-
ing the houses, the women were equally industrious in providing such articles of furniture as they could. They gathered leaves for beds; made curtains for windows of the leaves of the palm, for they had no glass; they made dishes of shells and wild gourds, and even fashioned a variety of articles of earthenware, from clay.
The scene was really delightful. All were busy—all seemed happy. there was no quarrelling—no grumbling—no idleness. And one curious thing was this: that trade began to spring up, as soon as the division of property was made, and each had received his share. One person found that he had more of a certain article than he wanted, and less of another; so he went round to the neighbors to exchange, or swap, the superfluous articles for such as he needed. This was the beginning of trade.
There was another thing that seemed to promote this: Mr. Bonfils requested Piqué, the fisherman, who had been cast away on the island, to go round and see if he could not find some place where fish could be caught. In this he succeeded. He made hooks and lines with considerable labor, and, with one other person, spent his time in fishing. François undertook to supply the people with goat.’s flesh and birds, which he accomplished easily, by means of his pistols. Thus fish, flesh, and fowl were supplied, though scantily at first; and those who supplied them, received such things in exchange as they wanted.
But this mode of bartering soon grew inconvenient. Some of the people wanted fish and meat, but they had nothing to give in exchange, that either François or the fisherman needed. How, then, could they get fish and meat? Mr. Bonfils now saw the necessity of money; but there was none upon the island. No one had brought any thither, and none had been discovered. What then was to be done?
The governor knew that money must consist of something that has value in itself; something that is wanted by all. He knew that salt was used for money in some countries, because all desired it; he therefore requested Brusque to set about manufacturing salt from seawater. This was soon done, and thus the people had salt—and the lumps actually came into use, as money. When a man bought a fish, or a piece of goat.’s flesh, he paid so much salt, instead of so much silver.
Chapter XIII. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, November 1842; pp. 151-154)
The little nation of Fredonia, was now in a happy and prosperous condition. It is true that they had not the means of living luxuriously, but still they possessed all that was necessary to comfort. It must be remembered that they had no such things as axes, saws, knives, nor any of those tools made of iron, which are so common with us, and which are so useful in many ways. It is with iron tools that we cut down trees for fuel, for houses, and furniture: it is with tools of iron that we make all the machines by which we cultivate the earth, and weave cloths of every kind. It is, therefore, by means of iron, that we, in civilized society, obtain furniture, food and dwellings. So important is this metal in the affairs of life, that one of the greatest distinctions between civilized and savage nations, is that the former possess it and know its use, while the latter are generally destitute of it. Iron is therefore much more important than gold or silver—for nations may possess the latter, while they are yet barbarous. The Indians of Mexico and Peru had abundance of gold and silver, when discovered three hundred and fifty years ago; yet they had no iron, and therefore no good cutting tools. Accordingly, they had no very fine or perfect manufactures.
Some circumstances occurred at Fredonia, which made the use of iron very apparent. In building their houses, and making their furniture the people of the island often wished they had saws, and axes, and planes. How much time these tools would have saved! They were obliged to use sharp stones for cutting down trees and shaping them, as they desired. It, therefore, often took a man a week to do a job, which he might have performed much better in an hour, with a carpenter’s axe.
Well, after a time, as Piquet was fishing one day, he saw a piece of timber floating in the sea at some distance. Being curious to know what it might be, he swam out to it, a distance of near a mile, and you may guess his surprise to find that it was a log of wood, in the end of which was stuck a carpenter’s axe! It had evidently fallen from the deck of some vessel; and as the axe was exceedingly rusty, it must have been in the water for several months.
Piquet managed, with a great deal of labor, to push the log, with the axe, to the shore. He then carried the latter to the village, and it is not easy to tell what an excitement the event produced. “Piquet has found an axe!”—was shouted from house to house: “an axe! an axe!” was echoed from hill to hill. The inhabitants came running together—men[,] women and children,—and there stood Piquet, holding up his trophy, more
proudly than did David the head of Goliah!
It was indeed an affair of national importance, and for two or three days after, Piquet was called upon, again and again, to tell the story of the axe. He grew indeed to be a hero, not only among the people, but especially in the fancies of the children and in his own conceit. His narrative, became more and more marvellous every time he told it, and in the space of a couple of years, the wonderful tale of the “Fisherman and the axe,” was at least equal to our legend of old Blue Beard.
When the first excitement had a little subsided, the question arose, as to who should be the owner of the axe. Some persons insisted that it belonged to Piquet—he found it, and he was entitled to the fruits of his good luck. Beside, he swam out a mile into the sea, and by risking his life, and making great exertions, he brought it to the shore. It was, therefore, due to him as a reward for his sacrifices and exertions. On the other hand, it was maintained that it ought to belong to the state or the nation, inasmuch as it was found upon the waters near the island, which were said to belong to the people at large. This question produced a good deal of discussion; but finally it was put at rest by the governor, who decided, reasons suggested, that the axe belonged to its finder.
From this time Piquet came a great man. He ground up his axe, and such was the demand for it, that he could get a great deal more money, or more pieces of salt, merely for the use of it, than by fishing all day. In the space of a year he had more salt than any other man on the island, and was in fact the richest of the whole society. But it is curious and interesting to remark, that what seemed his good fortune, came near proving his ruin. Finding it unnecessary to work for his support, he grew idle, and then discontented. Some persons suggested that as he was the richest man on the island, he ought to be the governor. This idea having entered into his head, he set about endeavoring to carry the scheme into effect. He gathered around him several partisans, whom he paid liberally in salt, and pretty soon these persons set up quite a clamor against M. Bonfils. They insisted that the latter was despotic, haughty and aristocratic. They found fault with all he had done: and even where his conduct admitted of no reproach, they impugned his motives, and said he had done good only to get honor and glory in the eyes of the people, that he might thus rivet firmly the chains of that despotism which he exercised! They also started a thousand false stories about him, and if one was proved to be untrue, another was immediately invented to take its place.
M. Bonfils did not heed all this, but pursued the even tenor of his way, devoting himself, with all the energy his great age permitted, to the promotion of the public good. But his patriotism was not sufficient to ensure tranquility. Intoxicated by the flattery of his partisans, and deceived as to the state of opinion among the people, Piquet, at the head of his followers, took forcible possession or the Outcast.’s Cave, and thence issued a command for all the people to come before him, and acknowledge him as their governor. This summons was so far obeyed that in a few hours all the men of the island were gathered at the cave, and after a while Piquet appeared, and commanded them to acknowledge him as their governor.
This was followed by a general burst of laughter—and Piquet, stung with shame, to find himself thus an object of ridicule, slunk back into the cave. His partisans, finding their position to be
anything but respectable, deserted their leader, and left him alone. Piquet remained in the cave till it was night; then creeping out, he went straight to his hut, took the axe which ahd been the source of all his trouble, and ascending a high rock on the border of the ocean, hurled it as far as he could into the sea. The next morning he again took to his hooks and lines, and from that day he quietly pursued the life of a fisherman, declaring that the intoxication of riches was by no means so pleasant as the content attending a career of humble but useful toil.
As I am telling this story chiefly to show how necessary it is to have some established government, and how this contributes to the happiness of society, I cannot detail very minutely the history of individuals. I must not forget to say, however, that Brusque was married to Emilie, and, notwithstanding the part he had taken in the French Revolution, he became a very kind, honest and useful man. He devoted his time to the manufacture of salt, and was thus able to procure all the articles produced on the island, which he needed.
François continued to pursue the life of a huntsman, and supplied the market with goat.’s flesh and wild game. He had also tamed several of the goats, and some families were beginning to get milk from them. He had also tamed some wild ducks and geese, and from these eggs were now obtained.
Two years soon passed away in Fredonia, aud the people were, on the whole, prosperous and happy. Every family had a house, and sufficient land—but now a difference began to appear between their several situations. Some of the houses seemed constantly to grow better; instead of looking old and shabby, they had, month by month, a more agreeable and comfortable look. The furniture also became better, the lands around them grew more and more productive; the gardens were not only more fruitful, but they were stocked with a greater variety of fruits aud vegetables.
There were other estates, where a totally opposite state of things was to be remarked. Here the houses were going to decay; they were dirty, and ill-furnished, and the lands were but poorly tilled. All around wore and aspect rather of poverty than thrift.
The causes of these differences were easily to be traced. Those people who were industrious and frugal, had good houses and good farms; every year they advanced a little, and gradually they became rich, comfortable, and happy. On the other hand, those who were idle, had comfortless houses, poor furniture, poor farms and poor gardens.
About this period an event occurred which excited great interest in Fredonia, and served eventually to change the prospects of the island in no small degree. Vessels had frequently passed within sight of the place, but never had come near enough to be hailed. But now, on a fine summer morning, a vessel was seen under full sail, passing close to the shore. A signal was immediately raised, and the vessel heaving to, sent her boat ashore.
The captain, who was an Englishman, was greatly astonished at finding such a society on the island, which was generally regarded as uninhabited. He spent two or three days at the place, and supplied the people with a number of articles which they particularly wanted. Among them were a saw, hatchet, hammer, auger, several gimblets, a quantity of nails, some knives, and other similar instruments. He furnished them also with two or three books, and several newspapers, which were objects of great interest; for there was nothing of the
kind on the island. But that which gave the greatest satisfaction, was about a pint of wheat, which happened to be on board the ship, and which was taken by the islanders for the purpose of sowing, so as to obtain the means of making flour bread. After staying at the island a few days, the captain departed on his voyage to China, whither he was bound.
The iron tools were put into the hands of a man who had been brought up a carpenter, and he began to make various articles of furniture, such as chairs, bedsteads and other things, which the Fredonians had been obliged hitherto to do without—or if they had them, they were of a very rude kind. The carpenter was also called upon to make doors and windows to the houses, which before consisted only of rough openings, fastened with a frame-work thatched with palm leaves. In this way a great improvement in the comfort of the people speedily took place.
But that which now became the source of the greatest interest was the building of a little vessel, which was undertaken by Brusque and François. The latter had been brought up on the sea-shore, and was familiar with the construction of vessels of all kinds, from the keel to the top-gallant-mast. Brusque, by his industry aud skill, had laid up salt enough to pay the cost of the enterprise. The vessel which they undertook to build was of about seventy tons burthen, to be rigged schooner-fashion— that is, with two masts.
You may well believe that it was no small job to build a vessel, under such circumstances. The want of iron, for making spikes and nails, was the greatest difficulty, but industry aud ingenuity can conquer all obstacles. Instead of spikes, pins of hard wood were used. Tar for filling up the seams between the boards, so as to keep out the water, was made from fir trees found on the island and paint was made of yellow and red earth found on one of the hills, mixed with grease obtained from the goats. Every obstacle was at last overcome, and in about a year from its commencement, the vessel was launched, amid the shouts and rejoicing of the whole nation—men, women and children.
In six months more, the vessel was rigged, and named the Hope. François took command of her, and lifting his broad sail, woven of the fibrous bark of the palm tree, sailed forth upon the sea, in the presence of all the people. You may have seen a more splendid ship—but never did one appear half so beautiful and so wonderful as did the Hope of Fredonia, in the eyes of the admiring spectators, as she scudded before the breeze, on the occasion we describe.
Chapter XIV. The Conclusion. (from Robert Merry’s Museum, December 1842; pp. 181-182)
After the little community of Fredonia had provided for their first wants,—houses, clothes, and food,—they began to think of other things. There were several children among them, and for them they required a school. Accordingly they employed a young woman, who had been well educated; and a place being provided, the children were assembled together, and she taught them as well as she could. She had few books, however; for neither the works of Peter Parley or Robert Merry had then been written. Nor were there any bookstores or printing-offices. There was one copy of a Bible, and in this the children were, one after another, taught to read.
In all that could make the people happy, M. Bonfils, the good old governor, took a lively interest. He did not confine himself merely to a routine of official acts, but he was constantly considering how he could influence the people in such a way as to make them live better, more comfortably, and more happily. Being a wise man, he thus exercised a great influence; and I beg my young readers to remember, that in this way—by the exercise of wisdom and patriotism—rulers may be great blessings to their country.
The governor had a notion, which you may think strange, but I will mention it to you. His idea was, that no person can be happy without religion. He was a Catholic himself, but he did not insist that all should think exactly as he did on this subject. What he desired, was, that every person should love and fear God with sincerity. He maintained that no nation could be honest, virtuous, industrious, or patriotic, without religion; and that an enemy to religion was always an enemy to good government; always an enemy to the true interests of mankind, even if we only regard the affairs of human society in this world.
He therefore was desirous of sustaining the institutions of religion, and for this purpose it was his custom, every Sabbath, to get the people together, and offer up prayers, and make some kind of address. It was a beautiful thing to see the people gathered beneath a group of palm trees, and all kneeling in prayer, or listening to the exhortations of the gray-haired patriarch who addressed them. It was also a beautiful thing to hear them joining in their hymns, of which they were able to sing a few from recollection.
Thus it was that society advanced one step after another, and no doubt their improvement arose from the happy guidance of their governor. How different was the state of the people from what it would have been if Rogére had succeeded in making himself king! He was perfectly selfish, and he would have subjected his own personal wishes and interests. Even if he had suppressed riot and turmoil and anarchy by a strong hand, still the people would gradually have sunk lower in the scale of civilization: a few would have been lords and the rest slaves. But now, under the government of M. Bonfils, they enjoyed equal rights and privileges; each one was secure of his house, his home, and his lands, and the produce of his labor. Justice was also duly administered; morality and religion were cherished; education encouraged; peace, industry, and good neighborhood became the established and habitual virtues of society. These are the results, in a great degree, of the conduct and character of the ruler of the little kingdom; and it ought to teach us the importance of having good, wise, and religious rulers.
Thus affairs went on, till the good old governor became very feeble, and was unable longer to attend to the affairs of government. He had drawn up a plan for a constitution, and upon resigning his office, submitted it to the people for their ratification or rejection. It was another pleasing consequence of the virtues of the good old sage, that what he recommended, came with the force of a command, and was immediately adopted by the people. Thus, without agitation or disturbance, the nation adopted a free constitution, and thenceforward, they enjoyed that greatest of blessings—the privilege of self-government.
It is not my purpose to extend this story further, nor have I indeed the means. About a year after François had completed his little vessel, he made a trip to the Isle of France, where he obtained a great variety of articles needed by the Fredonians. During his stay there, which however was brief, he related the events which we have been detailing. He soon set out on his return, from which time we have not heard from the little island which has so long occupied the attention of our readers. If we get any news from them, it shall be immediately laid before our friends of the blue and black eyes.