Графични страници
PDF файл


“Cowards ! villains !” he cried, “ you have killed him! Ah, my dear, dear Jules! Help! help! Murder! murder !"

For a moment the two ruffians held colloquy together.

“ Comment faire cesser ce clarinage ?" (how shall we stop this noise ?)

“Faut faire goûter le lingre" (he must taste the steel).

It was the Norman who spoke last, and he drew a knife from his breast. The light fell on the blade, and Walter guessed his intention. To resist an armed man would have been madness; there was space between them still; his only hope of escape was in flight.

And, active as he was, he might have succeeded, bad he been familiar with the forest paths ; but he took a wrong turning, and found himself headed by the Roulant, who had separated from the Norman to intercept him. He turned again, but it was only to confront his second and most formidable pursuer. Once more he raised his voice and shouted for help

with all his might. Alas, there was no help for the unhappy boy! The fierce Norman was upon him. One moment the knife glittered in the air—the next it was buried in Walter's bosom. He reeled and fell.

“ Il ne gouale plus” (he has left off singing), said the Roulant, coming

“Non, c'est fumé!” (no, it's all up with him), replied Mercier, wiping the bloody knife.

“I think so,” said the Roulant, kneeling down. “What's to be done with the body?”

“Jette-le dans le pousse-moulin” (throw it into the river), returned the Norman, “if you like to carry it there. I must go back and secure the young God-dem.”

“ No, thank you,” said Courapied, “ the load is too heavy. I'll lighten it, however, for the next comer.

And he immediately began searching Walter's pockets. There was not much in them ; only a handkerchief and an empty purse—the last embroidered with the letter C. It was the gift of poor

Cecile. “ Au diable la marmite !" (the devil take the purse), exclaimed the disappointed rascal, “but it will sell for something;" and thrusting it with the handkerchief into his own pocket, he got up and followed the Norman.

He found him lifting Jules from the ground.
“Où est la roulotte ?" (where is the carriage?) asked Mercier.

Labago" (down there), answered the other, pointing over his shoulder.

“Laissons derrière le sabris. V'là la luisante qui paraît !" (let us get out of the forest. The moon is rising).

Making a cradle of their arms they carried Jules with stealthy steps to the edge of the forest, where the wall

, recently broken down, offered the means of exit. A patache was standing beneath a tree, to which the horse was fastened. Courapied got in, and Jules, resistless and hardly conscious, was placed beside him. The Norman then untied the animal, Jeaped quickly on the driving-seat, and freely applying the whip, took a by-way across the country till he fell into the road called “ Le chemin de Quarante Sous," which leads direct to Mantes.



On the 16th of December, 1857, I took my passage from Sydney for Buenos Ayres in an American ship of 400 tons burden. Besides myself, there were six passengers on board, one Englishman and five Americans, and a lady, the wife of one of the latter.

On reaching latitude 35 deg. south, longitude 175 deg. west, we were assailed by a hurricane. Our captain, however, was an excellent seaman, his crew composed of thorough sailors, and his ship a very taut craft. We therefore wore out the storm, without, as it was supposed, more damage to the vessel than the loss of our foretop-gallant mast and the springing of a slight leak. This last circumstance caused our worthy skipper some uneasiness, as we were, from his reckoning, very far from the nearest land. He was therefore exceedingly surprised when the look-out' man hailed us with _"Land on the larboard bow.”

" The fellow must be drunk or blind,” cried the captain, “or my sextant out of order.” With these words he proceeded to mount the rigging.

We anxiously watched him as he went aloft. As soon as he had reached the main-topmast he applied his glass to his eye, and swept the horizon to larboard, and at once hailed us with—

“The chap's right. I see the land looming about five knots off, on the lar board bow. We should have viewed it before, but it's covered with a haze.”

As may be imagined, the ship's course was at once laid in the direction of the land, and in about an hour we arrived off a low shore covered with dwarf trees. To our utter surprise, however, we perceived a large town built close to the water's edge, and presenting every appearance of civilisation. As the sea was deep all round, we came close in shore, and cast anchor in fourteen fathoms water. There was a large crowd assembled on the beach, and as soon as we had come to an anchor a small boat pushed off and made towards us. What astonished us the most was, that the inhabitants, so far from being naked savages, were all clothed, and wore wide slouching hats. Their costume appeared quite strange to us.

The boat which had left the shore soon came alongside, and a man in the bows hailed us in a language we did not understand.

“I must be wrong in my reckoning," observed our skipper, “but may I be 'tarnally flammergasted if I know where we have got to."

A tall, fair man now came on board. He wore an immense slouched hat, and had a short beard cut to a point, and long flowing hair. He was dressed in a sort of doublet, made of blue silk. Having

set his foot on deck, he advanced and spoke some words which nobody understood, but from the signs he made it was evident that he was asking whence we came. The captain pointed to the west, when our visitor uttered the words “ Vaut Nauteeõné ?”

“Hang me if his lingo be not something like ours," said the skipper; "the chap evidently means to ask what nation we belong to. America !” he continued, in answer to the question.

Our visitor uttered the word after him, and said, “ Note Aingleès ?" VOL. XLIV.

2 G

may I be

“ How the deuce can the fellow know anything about England ?" said the captain, “and where could he have picked up those few words of our talk ?-oddly enough pronounced, notwithstanding."

The whole boat's crew were now invited down into the cabin, and some excellent brandy placed on the table. Our skipper mixed several glasses of grog, hot with, and handed them to his guests, who with one accord, after having tasted the liquor, exclaimed, “ Vairee gohôd.”

“ If that does not mean "very good,” said the captain, mastheaded until the day of judgment."

After a while, as we became used to their pronunciation, we discovered that the language of our new friends was neither more nor less than a corrupt sort of English, and before half an hour had elapsed we could make each other out.

As may be expected, we were all anxiety to go ashore, and the captain's gig having been got ready, we followed in the wake of the native boat until we reached a sort of pier, on which were assembled a crowd of people, with astonishment and curiosity expressively depicted on their countenances. On landing, we were accosted by several dignified-looking persons, dressed in the same fashion as their countryman who had boarded our vessel, the predominating colour of their doublets being blue. “ Vailcomè hairè,” was the observation of a portly man of fifty, who shook us all by the hands. We replied, speaking as distinctly as possible, " that we were most happy at making his acquaintance;" but it was evident that no one understood our way of speaking.

We were now invited to enter a nondescript sort of vehicle, drawn by four animals resembling sheep, with long necks and legs, and proceeded through the town, the streets of which were not paved, but well and cleanly kept. The ground floor of the houses on either side, which generally consisted of a ground and first-floor, were composed of shops, or rather booths. We remarked names over them which were in large Latin capitals, painted blue. We at length drove up to the door of a house much larger than the rest, when our host, alighting, signed to us to do the same, and then conducted us through a spacious court, in which was playing a small fountain, into a large room not inelegantly furnished. On the floor was a carpet made of a mixture of silk and wool; a diran, covered with silk damask, encircled the apartment, in the midst of which were tables and arm-chairs. Our host left us for a few minutes here, and returned with a lady and two children. He introduced the former to us as his spóoðse. The lady was dressed in a costume of blue silk of a most peculiar form. She was a very handsome woman, with auburn hair, dressed in a fashion resembling that of Englishwomen in the days of James I. Round her throat she wore a necklace of small diamonds and rubies, and on her fingers several large silver rings, set with the same kind of stones.

Our host shortly afterwards conducted us into another chamber, which was evidently the dining-room, as upon a large table was spread a white linen cloth, covered with plates and dishes containing roast and boiled meats, puddings, pastry, and some magnificent pineapples and other fruits. The plates and dishes were all made of silver, at the side of each cover were laid a knife and fork, also of silver, with blades of polished sea-shell. There were no glasses on the table, but by each cover was a mug of silver.

Having seated ourselves, we partook of a most elegant repast, the

liquor we drank consisting of the fermented juice of the pineapple, and it was delicious.

I must here observe, that in the year 1627 the island, which was then uninhabited, had been peopled by the survivors of an English ship wrecked on the coast. As far as we co learn, there were now about twenty-five thousand people in the island, being the descendants of ten persons—four men, four women, a boy and a girl.

Before the conclusion of the meal we had begun to understand each other, the language spoken by our new friends being a sort of corrupt English, chiefly differing from our way of speaking by its pronunciation and accent.

It appeared that our host was the chief of the island. He informed us that since the wreck, from which the original settlers had landed, no communication had taken place with any other part of the world, and from the timber on the island not being of a size large enough to build any other craft than small boats, it had been impossible to venture any great distance from the land. A few attempts to make voyages of discovery had indeed been made, but neither the boats nor their crews had ever been seen again. The only sort of craft belonging to the inhabitants are very small fishing-boats, which never lose sight of land.

We were hospitably invited to take up our abode in the house of our host, and to remain as long as we might wish, and, as it eventually appeared that our vessel had suffered more damage than was imagined, and there being no large timber on the island, it became evident, as our skipper informed us, that we should be obliged to make a stay of at least four months. We did not, however, regret the delay, as we felt we were among friends, and that nothing would be spared to render our sojourn as comfortable as possible.

Before proceeding with my narrative, I will relate how it happened that we found an English colony on an island which had hitherto escaped the researches of all the navigators of these seas.

As far as was known by the present inhabitants, an English ship was wrecked during a violent storm upon the northern coast, which is very dangerous on account of the numerous reefs that surround it. The greater portion of the crew had taken to their boats, but were seen to perish by those left on board. These persons, who remained on deck until the water had become calm, were ten in number. They consisted, as I have before observed, of ten persons—four men, four women, a boy and a girl. Fortunately for them, the ship remained for several months firmly wedged upon the reef on which she had struck, and they were enabled to bring off many things that proved of inestimable service to them. From these ten persons were descended the twenty-five thousand present inhabitants of Salvation Island, such being the name given to it by the first settlers. For about a hundred and fifty years a regular journal had been kept by the first colonists and their successors, but unfortunately it had been destroyed, about seventy years before our arrival, by the house in which it was deposited having been consumed by fire. In consequence, the history of the first settlers was a matter of tradition. There must, however, have been among them persons of genius and practical talent, as by their means a desert island had become not only a populous but a civilised country.

The island, which is about the size of Guernsey, contains one town and several flourishing villages. The land being low, and appearing from the ocean constantly covered with haze, it cannot be perceived from any great distance from the shore, which accounts for its having remained undiscovered for so long 2 period. The soil is very fertile, and the greater portion of it is under cultivation, the chief productions being corn, sugar, fruit, silk, and cotton. Pineapples are so abundant that the wine of the country is made from the juice of the fruit. There are no ferocious beasts ; a few venomous snakes and scorpions being the only obnoxious animals remaining. There is still some game to be met with, consisting of golden and silver pheasants, partridges, and hares. The domesticated animals consist of a large species of lama. In the interior of the country is an extinct volcano, which supplies the natives with sulphur. Silver and copper ore are plentiful. A little gold and lead are to be met with, but no iron.

The government of the island consists of a chief (pronounced "sheeàif”), elected for life, and an assembly composed of, at present, twenty representatives, termed “tousànts,” from there being always one for every thousand inhabitants. They are all elected for life, by every male and female of nineteen years of age and upwards. For the last eighty years the dignity of chief has remained in one family, the greatgrandfather, the grandfather, and the father of the present chief having been all in turn elected.

It was at the house of the chief that we were lodged, there being no establishment worthy of the name of inn in the town; and had there been, such was the hospitable nature of our host that we should not have been suffered to take up our abode in it.

It was evident to me that one of the first settlers must have been a Presbyterian minister, as the religion of the island was Presbyterian, differing very slightly from the rites of the Scottish Church. There were no less than four places of worship in the town, and every village possessed at least one.

The island is traversed by very good roads, the vehicles being rude cars, hung upon leathern straps ; the leather is made from the skins of the lama, which is a most useful quadruped. It gives abundant milk, its flesh is good, its wool is made into very tolerable cloth, and the animal is used to draw light carriages; it can also be mounted, provided the rider be of light weight. Innumerable flocks of these inestimable ani. mals pervade the surface of the island, and form the chief riches of its inhabitants. There are several kinds of precious stones to be met with, the most valuable being diamonds, rubies, and topazes. The two former, however, are of small size, while the latter are large and brilliant.

The principal manufacture of the country is silk; mulberry-trees of small size being abundant. A beautiful blue dye is procured from a flower, the name and genus of which I forget.

The inhabitants of Salvation Island are of a most gentle nature, and possess very handsome forms and figures, particularly the women, many of whom are beautiful. I presume they owe their charms to their simple mode of life and the climate, the latter being the most delicious that can be conceived, for, although the island is situated almost within the tropics, a constant cool sea-breeze from the south-east by east prevents

« ПредишнаНапред »