Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed
BY R M BALLANTYNE
"MARTIN RATTLER" was one of, Robert Michael Ballantyne's early books.
Born at Edinburgh in 1825, he was sent to Rupert's Land as a
trading-clerk in the Hudson Bay Fur Company's service when he left
school, a boy of sixteen. There, to relieve his home-sickness, he first
practised his pen in long letters home to his mother. Soon after his
return to Scotland in 1848 he published a first book on Hudson's Bay.
Then he passed some years in a Scottish publisher's office; and in 1855 a
chance suggestion from another publisher led to his writing his first
book for boys--"Snowflakes and Sunbeams, or The Young Fur Traders." That
story showed he had found his vocation, and he poured forth its
successors to the tune in all of some fourscore volumes. "Martin Rattler"
appeared in 1858. In his "Personal Reminiscences" Ballantyne wrote: "How
many thousands of lads have an intense liking for the idea of a sailor's
life!" and he pointed out there the other side of the romantic picture:
the long watches "in dirty unromantic weather," and the hard work of
holystoning the decks, scraping down the masts and cleaning out the
coal-hole. But though his books show something of this reverse side too,
there is no doubt they have helped to set many boys dreaming of
"Wrecks, buccaneers, black flags, and desert lands
On which, alone, the second Crusoe stands."
[Footnote 1: See Note to "The Coral Island" in this series.]
Among these persuasions to the life of adventure "Martin Rattler" is
still one of the favourite among all his books. Ballantyne himself was
fated to die on foreign soil in 1894, at Rome, where he lies buried in
the English Protestant cemetery.
The following is a list of Ballantyne's chief romances, tales of
adventure, and descriptive works:--
"Hudson's Bay, or Every-day Life in the Wilds of North America," etc.,
1848; "Snowflakes and Sunbeams, or the Young Fur Traders," 1856. In 1857
and 1858 appeared, under the pseudonym of "Comus": "The Butterfly's Ball
and the Grasshopper's Feast" (in verse by Roscoe), ed. with music,
coloured illustrations, and a prose version; "Mister Fox"; "My Mother";
"The Robber Kitten" (by the author of "Three Little Kittens"). "The Coral
Island, a Tale of the Pacific Ocean" (with a preface subscribed "Ralph
Rover"), 1858 (1857); "Ungava, a Tale of Esquimaux Land," 1858 (1857);
"Martin Rattler, or a Boy's Adventures in the Forests of Brazil," 1858;
"Ships, the _Great Eastern_ and lesser Craft" (with illustrations), 1859;
"Mee-a-ow! or Good Advice to Cats and Kittens," 1859; "The World of Ice,
or Adventures in the Polar Regions," 1860 (1859); "The Dog Crusoe, a Tale
of the Western Prairies," 1861 (1860); "The Golden Dream, or Adventures
in the Far West," 1861 (1860); "The Gorilla Hunters, a Tale of the Wilds
of Africa," 1861; "The Red Eric, or the Whaler's Last Cruise," 1861; "Man
on the Ocean, a Book for Boys," 1863 (1862); "The Wild Man of the West, a
Tale of the Rocky Mountains," 1863 (1862); "Gascoyne, the Sandal-wood
Trader, a Tale of the Pacific," 1864 (1863); "The Lifeboat, a Tale of our
Coast Heroes," 1864; "Freaks on the Fells, or Three Months' Rustication,"
and "Why I did not become a Sailor," etc., 1865 (1861); "The Lighthouse,
being the Story of a Great Fight between Man and the Sea," etc., 1865;
"Shifting Winds, a Tough Yarn," etc., 1866; "Silver Lake, or Lost in the
Snow," 1867; "A Rescue in the Rocky Mountains," 1867; "Fighting the
Flames, a Tale of the London Fire Brigade," 1868; "Away in the
Wilderness, or Life among the Red Indians and Fur Traders of North
America," 1869; "Erling the Bold, a Tale of the Norse Sea-kings," with
illustrations by the author, 1869; "Deep Down, a Tale of the Cornish
Mines," 1869; "The Floating Light of the Goodwin Sands," with
illustrations by the author, 1870; "The Iron Horse, or Life on the Line,
a Tale of the Grand National Trunk Railway," 1871; "The Norsemen in the
West, or America before Columbus," 1872; "The Pioneers, a Tale of the
Western Wilderness, illustrative of the Adventures and Discoveries
of Sir A. Mackenzie," 1872; "Black Ivory, a Tale of Adventure among
the Slaves of East Africa," 1873; "Life in the Red Brigade, a Story
for Boys," 1873; "The Ocean and its Wonders," 1874; "The Pirate
City, an Algerine Tale," 1875; "Under the Waves, or Diving in Deep
Waters," 1876; "Rivers of Ice, a Tale illustrative of Alpine
Adventure and Glacier Action," 1876; "The Settler and the Savage, a
Tale of Peace and War in South Africa," 1877; "Jarwin and Cuffy"
(Incident and Adventure Library), 1878; "In the Track of the
Troops, a Tale of Modern War," 1878; "Six Months at the Cape, or
Letters to Periwinkle from South Africa," 1879 (1878); "Post
Haste, a Tale of Her Majesty's Mails," 1880 (1879); "The Red Man's
Revenge, a Tale of the Red River Flood," 1880; "Philosopher Jack, a
Tale of the Southern Seas," 1880; "The Lonely Island, or the Refuge
of the Mutineers," 1880; "The Robber Kitten" (in volume of tales by
two or three authors), 1880; "The Collected Works of Ensign Sopht,
late of the Volunteers, illustrated by himself," 1881; "My Doggie
and I," etc., 1881; "The Giant of the North, or Pokings round the
Pole," 1882 (1881); "The Kitten Pilgrims, or Great Battles and
Grand Victories," 1882; "The Madman and the Pirate," 1883; "The
Battery and the Boiler, or Adventures in the Laying of Submarine
Cables," etc., 1883; "Battles with the Sea, or Heroes of the
Lifeboat and Rocket," 1883; "Dusty Diamonds Cut and Polished, a
Tale of City-arab Life and Adventure," 1884 (1862); "Twice Bought, a Tale
of the Oregon Gold-fields," 1885 (1863); "The Island Queen, a Tale of the
Southern Hemisphere," etc., 1885; "The Rover of the Andes, a Tale of
Adventure in South America," 1885; "Red Rooney, or the Last of the Crew,"
1886; "The Big Otter, a Tale of the Great Nor'-West," 1887 (1864); "The
Middy of the Moors, an Algerine Story," 1888; "Blue Lights, or Hot Work
in the Soudan, a Tale of Soldier Life," 1888; "The Crew of the _Water
Wagtail_, a Story of Newfoundland," 1889; "A Gallant Rescue" (stories
jolly, stories new, etc.), 1889; "The Fight on the Green" (Miles'
Fifty-two Stories for Boys), 1889; "Charlie to the Rescue, a Tale of the
Sea and the Rockies," with illustrations by the author, 1890; "The Garret
and the Garden..., or the Young Coast-guardsman," 1890; "The Coxswain's
Bride, or the Rising Tide, and other Tales," with illustrations by the
author, 1891; "The Hot Swamp, a Romance of Old Albion," 1892; "Hunted and
Harried, a Tale of the Scottish Covenanters," 1892; "The Walrus Hunters,
a Romance of the Realms of Ice," 1893.
Ballantyne's Miscellany was started in 1863.
MY DEAR YOUNG READERS,
In presenting this book to you I have only to repeat what I have said in
the prefaces of my former works,--namely, that all the important points
and anecdotes are true; only the minor and unimportant ones being
mingled with fiction. With this single remark I commit my work to your
hands, and wish you a pleasant ramble, in spirit, through the romantic
forests of Brazil.
THE HERO AND HIS ONLY RELATIVE
Martin Rattler was a very bad boy. At least his aunt, Mrs. Dorothy
Grumbit, said so; and certainly she ought to have known, if anybody
should, for Martin lived with her, and was, as she herself expressed it,
"the bane of her existence,--the very torment of her life." No doubt of
it whatever, according to Aunt Dorothy Grumbit's showing, Martin Rattler
was "a remarkably bad boy."
It is a curious fact, however, that, although most of the people in the
village of Ashford seemed to agree with Mrs. Grumbit in her opinion of
Martin, there were very few of them who did not smile cheerfully on the
child when they met him, and say, "Good day, lad!" as heartily as if they
thought him the best boy in the place. No one seemed to bear Martin
Rattler ill-will, notwithstanding his alleged badness. Men laughed when
they said he was a bad boy, as if they did not quite believe their own
assertion. The vicar, an old whiteheaded man, with a kind, hearty
countenance, said that the child was full of mischief, full of mischief;
but he would improve as he grew older, he was quite certain of that. And
the vicar was a good judge, for he had five boys of his own, besides
three other boys, the sons of a distant relative, who boarded with him;
and he had lived forty years in a parish overflowing with boys, and he
was particularly fond of boys in general. Not so the doctor, a pursy
little man with a terrific frown, who hated boys, especially little ones,
with a very powerful hatred. The doctor said that Martin was a scamp.
And yet Martin had not the appearance of a scamp. He had fat rosy cheeks,
a round rosy mouth, a straight delicately-formed nose, a firm massive
chin, and a broad forehead. But the latter was seldom visible, owing to
the thickly-clustering fair curls that overhung it. When asleep Martin's
face was the perfection of gentle innocence. But the instant he opened
his dark-brown eyes, a thousand dimples and wrinkles played over his
visage, chiefly at the corners of his mouth and round his eyes; as if the
spirit of fun and the spirit of mischief had got entire possession of the
boy, and were determined to make the most of him. When deeply interested
in anything, Martin was as grave and serious as a philosopher.
Aunt Dorothy Grumbit had a turned-up nose,--a very much turned-up nose;
so much so, indeed, that it presented a front view of the nostrils! It
was an aggravating nose, too for the old lady's spectacles refused to
rest on any part of it except the extreme point. Mrs. Grumbit invariably
placed them on the right part of her nose, and they as invariably slid
down the curved slope until they were brought up by the little hillock at
the end. There they condescended to repose in peace.
Mrs. Grumbit was mild, and gentle, and little, and thin, and
old,--perhaps seventy-five; but no one knew her age for certain, not even
herself. She wore an old-fashioned, high-crowned cap, and a gown of
bed-curtain chintz, with flowers on it the size of a saucer. It was a
curious gown, and very cheap, for Mrs. Grumbit was poor. No one knew the
extent of her poverty, any more than they did her age; but she herself
knew it, and felt it deeply,--never so deeply, perhaps, as when her
orphan nephew Martin grew old enough to be put to school, and she had not
wherewithal to send him. But love is quick-witted and resolute. A
residence of six years in Germany had taught her to knit stockings at a
rate that cannot be described, neither conceived unless seen. She knitted
two dozen pairs. The vicar took one dozen, the doctor took the other. The
fact soon became known. Shops were not numerous in the village in those
days; and the wares they supplied were only second rate. Orders came
pouring in, Mrs. Grumbit's knitting wires clicked, and her little old
hands wagged with incomprehensible rapidity and unflagging
regularity,--and Martin Rattler was sent to school.
While occupied with her knitting, she sat in a high-backed chair in a
very small deep window, through which the sun streamed nearly the whole
day; and out of which there was the most charming imaginable view of the
gardens and orchards of the villagers, with a little dancing brook in the
midst, and the green fields of the farmers beyond, studded with sheep and
cattle and knolls of woodland, and bounded in the far distance by the
bright blue sea. It was a lovely scene, such an one as causes the eye to
brighten and the heart to melt as we gaze upon it, and think, perchance,
of its Creator.
Yes, it was a scene worth looking at; but Mrs. Grumbit never looked at
it, for the simple reason that she could not have seen it if she had.
Half way across her own little parlour was the extent of her natural
vision. By the aid of spectacles and a steady concentrated effort, she
could see the fire-place at the other end of the room; and the portrait
of her deceased husband, who had been a sea-captain; and the white kitten
that usually sat on the rug before the fire. To be sure she saw them very
indistinctly. The picture was a hazy blue patch, which was the captain's
coat; with a white patch down the middle of it, which was his waistcoat;
and a yellow ball on the top of it, which was his head. It was rather an
indistinct and generalized view, no doubt; but she _saw_ it, and that was
a great comfort.
Fire was the cause of Martin's getting into disgrace at school for the
first time; and this is how it happened.
"Go and poke the fire, Martin Rattler," said the school-master, "and put
on a bit of coal, and see that you don't send the sparks flying about
Martin sprang with alacrity to obey; for he was standing up with the
class at the time, and was glad of the temporary relaxation. He stirred
the fire with great care, and put on several pieces of coal very slowly,
and rearranged them two or three times; after which he stirred the fire a
little more, and examined it carefully to see that it was all right; but
he did not seem quite satisfied, and was proceeding to re-adjust the
coals when Bob Croaker, one of the big boys, who was a bullying,
ill-tempered fellow, and had a spite against Martin, called out,--
"Please, sir, Rattler's playin' at the fire."
"Come back to your place, sir!" cried the master, sternly.
Martin returned in haste, and resumed his position in the class. As he
did so he observed that his fore-finger was covered with soot.
Immediately a smile of glee overspread his features; and, while the
master was busy with one of the boys, he drew his black finger gently
down the forehead and nose of the boy next to him.
"What part of the earth was peopled by the descendants of Ham?" cried the
master, pointing to the dux.
"Shem!" shrieked a small boy near the foot of the class.
"Silence!" thundered the master, with a frown that caused the small boy
to quake down to the points of his toes.
"Asia!" answered dux.
"Next, next, next? Hallo! John Ward," cried the master, starting up in
anger from his seat, "what do you mean by that, sir?"
"What, sir?" said John Ward, tremulously, while a suppressed titter ran
round the class.
"Your face, sir! Who blacked your face, eh?"
"I--I--don't know," said the boy, drawing his sleeve across his face,
which had the effect of covering it with sooty streaks.
An uncontrollable shout of laughter burst from the whole school, which
was instantly followed by a silence so awful and profound that a pin
might have been heard to fall.
"Martin Rattler, you did that! I know you did,--I see the marks on your
fingers. Come here, sir! Now tell me; _did_ you do it?"
Martin Rattler never told falsehoods. His old aunt had laboured to
impress upon him from infancy that to lie was to commit a sin which is
abhorred by God and scorned by man; and her teaching had not been in
vain. The child would have suffered any punishment rather than have told
a deliberate lie. He looked straight in the master's face and said, "Yes,
sir, I did it."
"Very well, go to your seat, and remain in school during the play-hour."
With a heavy heart Martin obeyed; and soon after the school was
"I say, Rattler," whispered Bob Croaker, as he passed, "I'm going to
teach your white kitten to swim just now. Won't you come and see it?"
The malicious laugh with which the boy accompanied this remark convinced
Martin that he intended to put his threat in execution. For a moment he
thought of rushing out after him to protect his pet kitten; but a glance
at the stern brow of the master, as he sat at his desk reading,
restrained him; so, crushing down his feelings of mingled fear and anger,
he endeavoured to while away the time by watching the boys as they played
in the fields before the windows of the school.
THE GREAT FIGHT
"Martin!" said the school-master, in a severe tone, looking up from the
book with which he was engaged, "don't look out at the window, sir; turn
your back to it."
"Please, sir, I can't help it," replied the boy, trembling with eagerness
as he stared across the fields.
"Turn your back on it, I say!" reiterated the master in a loud tone, at
the same time striking the desk violently with his cane.
"Oh, sir, let me out! There's Bob Croaker with my kitten. He's going to
drown it. I know he is,--he said he would; and if he does aunty will die,
for she loves it next to me; and I _must_ save it, and--and, if you
_don't_ let me out--you'll be a murderer!"
At this concluding burst, Martin sprang forward and stood before his
master with clenched fists and a face blazing with excitement. The
schoolmaster's gaze of astonishment gradually gave place to a dark frown
strangely mingled with a smile, and, when the boy concluded, he said
quietly--"You may go."
No second bidding was needed. The door flew open with a bang; and the
gravel of the play-ground, spurned right and left, dashed against the
window panes as Martin flew across it. The paling that fenced it off from
the fields beyond was low, but too high for a jump. Never a boy in all
the school had crossed that paling at a spring, without laying his hands
upon it; but Martin did. We do not mean to say that he did anything
superhuman; but he rushed at it like a charge of cavalry, sprang from the
ground like a deer, kicked away the top bar, tumbled completely over,
landed on his head, and rolled down the slope on the other side as fast
as he could have run down,--perhaps faster.
It would have required sharper eyes than yours or mine to have observed
how Martin got on his legs again, but he did it in a twinkling, and was
half across the field almost before you could wink, and panting on the
heels of Bob Croaker. Bob saw him coming and instantly started off at a
hard run, followed by the whole school. A few minutes brought them to the
banks of the stream, where Bob Croaker halted, and, turning round, held
the white kitten up by the nape of the neck.
"O spare it! spare it, Bob!--don't do it--please don't, don't do it!"
gasped Martin, as he strove in vain to run faster.
"There you go!" shouted Bob, with a coarse laugh, sending the kitten high
into the air, whence it fell with a loud splash into the water.
It was a dreadful shock to feline nerves, no doubt, but that white kitten
was no ordinary animal. Its little heart beat bravely when it rose to the
surface, and, before its young master came up, it had regained the bank.
But, alas! what a change! It went into the stream a fat, round,
comfortable ball of eider-down. It came out--a scraggy blotch of white
paint, with its black eyes glaring like two great glass beads! No sooner
did it crawl out of the water than Bob Croaker seized it, and whirled it
round his head, amid suppressed cries of "Shame!" intending to throw it
in again; but at that instant Martin Rattler seized Bob by the collar of
his coat with both hands, and, letting himself drop suddenly, dragged the
cruel boy to the ground, while the kitten crept humbly away and hid
itself in a thick tuft of grass.
A moment sufficed to enable Bob Croaker, who was nearly twice Martin's
weight, to free himself from the grasp of his panting antagonist, whom he
threw on his back, and doubled his fist, intending to strike Martin on
the face; but a general rush of the boys prevented this.
"Shame, shame, fair play!" cried several; "don't hit him when he's down!"
"Then let him rise up and come on!" cried Bob, fiercely, as he sprang up
and released Martin.
"Ay, that's fair. Now then, Martin, remember the kitten!"
"Strike men of your own size!" cried several of the bigger boys, as they
interposed to prevent Martin from rushing into the unequal contest.
"So I will," cried Bob Croaker, glaring round with passion. "Come on any
of you that likes. I don't care a button for the biggest of you."
No one accepted this challenge, for Bob was the oldest and the strongest
boy in the school, although, as is usually the case with bullies, by no
means the bravest.
Seeing that no one intended to fight with him, and that a crowd of boys
strove to hold Martin Rattler back, while they assured him that he had
not the smallest chance in the world, Bob turned towards the kitten,
which was quietly and busily employed in licking itself dry, and said,
"Now, Martin, you coward, I'll give it another swim for your impudence."
"Stop, stop!" cried Martin earnestly. "Bob Croaker, I would rather do
anything than fight. I would give you everything I have to save my
kitten; but if you won't spare it unless I fight, I'll do it. If you
throw it in before you fight me, you're the greatest coward that ever
walked. Just give me five minutes to breathe and a drink of water, and
I'll fight you as long as I can stand."
Bob looked at his little foe in surprise. "Well, that's fair. I'm your
man; but if you don't lick me I'll drown the kitten, that's all." Having
said this, he quietly divested himself of his jacket and neckcloth, while
several boys assisted Martin to do the same, and brought him a draught of
water in the crown of one of their caps. In five minutes all was ready,
and the two boys stood face to face and foot to foot, with their fists
doubled and revolving, and a ring of boys around them.
Just at this moment the kitten, having found the process of licking
itself dry more fatiguing than it had expected, gave vent to a faint mew
of distress. It was all that was wanting to set Martin's indignant heart
into a blaze of inexpressible fury. Bob Croaker's visage instantly
received a shower of sharp, stinging blows, that had the double effect of
taking that youth by surprise and throwing him down upon the green sward.
But Martin could not hope to do this a second time. Bob now knew the
vigour of his assailant, and braced himself warily to the combat,
commencing operations by giving Martin a tremendous blow on the point of
his nose, and another on the chest. These had the effect of tempering
Martin's rage with a salutary degree of caution, and of eliciting from
the spectators sundry cries of warning on the one hand, and admiration on
the other, while the young champions revolved warily round each other,
and panted vehemently.
The battle that was fought that day was one of a thousand. It created as
great a sensation in the village school as did the battle of Waterloo in
England. It was a notable fight; such as had not taken place within the
memory of the oldest boy in the village, and from which, in after years,
events of juvenile history were dated,--especially pugilistic events, of
which, when a good one came off, it used to be said that "such a battle
had not taken place since the year of the _Great Fight_" Bob Croaker was
a noted fighter. Martin Rattler was, up to this date, an untried hero.
Although fond of rough play and boisterous mischief, he had an
unconquerable aversion to _earnest_ fighting, and very rarely indeed
returned home with a black eye,--much to the satisfaction of Aunt Dorothy
Grumbit, who objected to all fighting from principle, and frequently
asserted, in gentle tones, that there should be no soldiers or sailors
(fighting sailors, she meant) at all, but that people ought all to settle
everything the best way they could without fighting, and live peaceably
with one another, as the Bible told them to do. They would be far happier
and better off, she was sure of that; and if everybody was of her way of
thinking, there would be neither swords, nor guns, nor pistols, nor
squibs, nor anything else at all! Dear old lady. It would indeed be a
blessing if her principles could be carried out in this warring and
jarring world. But as this is rather difficult, what we ought to be
careful about is, that we never fight except in a good cause and with a
It was well for Martin Rattler, on that great day, that the formation of
the ground favoured him. The spot on which the fight took place was
uneven, and covered with little hillocks and hollows, over which Bob
Croaker stumbled, and into which he fell,--being a clumsy boy on his
legs,--and did himself considerable damage; while Martin, who was firmly
knit and active as a kitten, scarcely ever fell, or, if he did, sprang up
again like an India-rubber ball. Fair-play was embedded deep in the
centre of Martin's heart, so that he scorned to hit his adversary when he
was down or in the act of rising; but the thought of the fate that
awaited the white kitten if he were conquered, acted like lightning in
his veins, and scarcely had Bob time to double his fists after a fall,
when he was knocked back again into the hollow out of which he had risen.
There were no _rounds_ in this fight,--no pausing to recover breath.
Martin's anger rose with every blow, whether given or received; and
although he was knocked down flat four or five times, he rose again, and,
without a second's delay, rushed headlong at his enemy. Feeling that he
was too little and light to make much impression on Bob Croaker by means
of mere blows, he endeavoured as much as possible to throw his weight
against him at each assault; but Bob stood his ground well, and after a
time seemed even to be recovering strength a little.
Suddenly he made a rush at Martin, and, dealing him a successful blow on
the forehead, knocked him down; at the same time he himself tripped over
a molehill and fell upon his face. Both were on their legs in an instant.
Martin grew desperate. The white kitten swimming for its life seemed to
rise before him, and new energy was infused into his frame. He retreated
a step or two, and then darted forward like an arrow from a bow. Uttering
a loud cry, he sprang completely in the air and plunged--head and fists
together, as if he were taking a dive--into Bob Croaker's bosom! The
effect was tremendous. Bob went down like a shock of grain before the
sickle; and having, in their prolonged movements, approached close to the
brink of the stream, both he and Martin went with a sounding splash into
the deep pool and disappeared. It was but for a moment, however, Martin's
head emerged first, with eyes and mouth distended to the utmost.
Instantly, on finding bottom, he turned to deal his opponent another
blow; but it was not needed. When Bob Croaker's head rose to the surface
there was no motion in the features, and the eyes were closed. The
intended blow was changed into a friendly grasp; and, exerting himself to
the utmost, Martin dragged his insensible school-fellow to the bank,
where, in a few minutes, he recovered sufficiently to declare in a sulky
tone that he would fight no more!
"Bob Croaker," said Martin, holding out his hand, "I'm sorry we've had to
fight. I wouldn't have done it, but to save my kitten. You compelled me
to do it, you know that. Come, let's be friends again."
Bob made no reply, but slowly and with some difficulty put on his vest
"I'm sure," continued Martin, "there's no reason in bearing me ill-will.
I've done nothing unfair, and I'm very sorry we've had to fight. Won't
you shake hands?"
Bob was silent.
"Come, come, Bob!" cried several of the bigger boys, "don't be sulky,
man; shake hands and be friends. Martin has licked you this time, and
you'll lick him next time, no doubt, and that's all about it."
"Arrah, then, ye're out there, intirely. Bob Croaker'll niver lick Martin
Rattler though he wos to live to the age of the great M'Thuselah!'" said
a deep-toned voice close to the spot where the fight had taken place.
All eyes were instantly turned in the direction whence it proceeded, and
the boys now became aware, for the first time, that the combat had been
witnessed by a sailor, who, with a smile of approval beaming on his
good-humoured countenance, sat under the shade of a neighbouring tree
smoking a pipe of that excessive shortness and blackness that seems to be
peculiarly beloved by Irishmen in the humbler ranks of life. The man was
very tall and broad-shouldered, and carried himself with a free-and-easy
swagger, as he rose and approached the group of boys.
"He'll niver bate ye, Martin, avic, as long as there's two timbers of ye
The seaman patted Martin on the head as he spoke; and, turning to Bob
Croaker, continued: "Ye ought to be proud, ye spalpeen, o' bein' wopped
by sich a young hero as this. Come here and shake hands with him: d'ye
hear? Troth an' it's besmearin' ye with too much honour that same. There,
that'll do. Don't say ye're sorry now, for it's lies ye'd be tellin' if
ye did. Come along, Martin, an' I'll convarse with ye as ye go home.
Ye'll be a man yet, as sure as my name is Barney O'Flannagan."
Martin took the white kitten in his arms and thrust its wet little body
into his equally wet bosom, where the warmth began soon to exercise a
soothing influence on the kitten's depressed spirits, so that, ere long,
it began to purr. He then walked with the sailor towards the village,
with his face black and blue, and swelled and covered with blood, while
Bob Croaker and his companions returned to the school.
The distance to Martin's residence was not great, but it was sufficient
to enable the voluble Irishman to recount a series of the most wonderful
adventures and stories of foreign lands, that set Martin's heart on fire
with desire to go to sea,--a desire which was by no means new to him, and
which recurred violently every time he paid a visit to the small sea-port
of Bilton, which lay about five miles to the southward of his native
village. Moreover, Barney suggested that it was time Martin should be
doing for himself (he was now ten years old), and said that if he would
join his ship, he could get him a berth, for he was much in want of an
active lad to help him with the coppers. But Martin Rattler sighed
deeply, and said that, although his heart was set upon going to sea, he
did not see how it was to be managed, for his aunt would not let him go.
Before they separated, however, it was arranged that Martin should pay
the sailor's ship a visit, when he would hear a good deal more about
foreign lands; and that, in the meantime, he should make another attempt
to induce Aunt Dorothy Grumbit to give her consent to his going to sea.
A LESSON TO ALL STOCKING-KNITTERS--MARTIN'S PROSPECTS BEGIN TO OPEN UP
In the small sea-port of Bilton, before mentioned, there dwelt an old and
wealthy merchant and ship-owner, who devoted a small portion of his time
to business, and a very large portion of it to what is usually termed
"doing good," This old gentleman was short, and stout, and rosy, and
bald, and active, and sharp as a needle.
In the short time that Mr. Arthur Jollyboy devoted to business, he
accomplished as much as most men do in the course of a long day. There
was not a benevolent society in the town, of which Arthur Jollyboy,
Esquire, of the Old Hulk (as he styled his cottage), was not a member,
director, secretary, and treasurer, all in one, and all at once! If it
had been possible for man to be ubiquitous, Mr. Jollyboy would have been
so naturally; or, if not naturally, he would have made himself so by
force of will. Yet he made no talk about it. His step was quiet, though
quick; and his voice was gentle, though rapid; and he was chiefly famous
for _talking_ little and _doing_ much.
Some time after the opening of our tale, Mr. Jollyboy had received
information of Mrs. Grumbit's stocking movement. That same afternoon he
put on his broad-brimmed white hat, and, walking out to the village in
which she lived, called upon the vicar, who was a particular and intimate
friend of his. Having ascertained from the vicar that Mrs. Grumbit would
not accept of charity, he said abruptly,--
"And why not,--is she too proud?"
"By no means," replied the vicar. "She says that she would think shame to
take money from friends as long as she can work, because every penny that
she would thus get would be so much less to go to the helpless poor; of
whom, she says, with much truth, there are enough and to spare. And I
quite agree with her as regards her principle; but it does not apply
fully to her, for she cannot work so as to procure a sufficient
livelihood without injury to her health."
"Is she clever?" inquired Mr. Jollyboy.
"Why, no, not particularly. In fact, she does not often exert her
reasoning faculties, except in the common-place matters of ordinary and
"Then she's cleverer than most people," said Mr. Jollyboy, shortly. "Is
"No, not in the least," returned the vicar with a puzzled smile.
"Ah, well, good-bye, good-bye; that's all I want to know."
Mr. Jollyboy rose, and hurrying through the village, tapped at the
cottage door, and was soon closeted with Mrs. Dorothy Grumbit. In the
course of half an hour, Mr. Jollyboy drew from Mrs. Grumbit as much about
her private affairs as he could, without appearing rude. But he found the
old lady very close and sensitive on that point. Not so, however, when he
got her upon the subject of her nephew. She had enough, and more than
enough, to say about him. It is true she began by remarking, sadly, that
he was a very bad boy; but, as she continued to talk about him, she
somehow or other gave her visitor the impression that he was a very
_good_ boy! They had a wonderfully long and confidential talk about
Martin, during which Mr. Jollyboy struck Mrs. Grumbit nearly dumb with
horror by stating positively what he would do for the boy,--he would send
him to sea! Then, seeing that he had hit the wrongest possible nail on
the head, he said that he would make the lad a clerk in his office, where
he would be sure to rise to a place of trust; whereat Mrs. Grumbit
danced, if we may so speak, into herself for joy.
"And now, ma'am, about these stockings. I want two thousand pairs as soon
as I can get them!"
"Sir?" said Mrs. Grumbit.
"Of course, not for my own use, ma'am; nor for the use of my family, for
I have no family; and if I had, that would be an unnecessarily large
supply. The fact is, Mrs. Grumbit, I am a merchant, and I send very large
supplies of home-made articles to foreign lands, and two thousand pairs
of socks are a mere driblet. Of course I do not expect you to make them
all for me, but I wish you to make as many pairs as you can."
"I shall be very happy--" began Mrs. Grumbit.
"But, Mrs. Grumbit, there is a peculiar formation which I require in my
socks that will give you extra trouble, I fear; but I must have it,
whatever the additional expense may be. What is your charge for the pair
you are now making?"
"Three shillings," said Mrs. Grumbit.
"Ah! very good. Now, take up the wires if you please, ma'am, and do what
I tell you. Now, drop that stitch,--good; and take up this one,--capital;
and pull this one across that way,--so; and that one across this
way,--exactly. Now, what is the result?"
The result was a complicated knot; and Mrs. Grumbit, after staring a few
seconds at the old gentleman in surprise, said so, and begged to know
what use it was of.
"Oh, never mind, never mind. We merchants have strange fancies, and
foreigners have curious tastes now and then. Please to make all my
socks with a hitch like that in them all round, just above the ankle.
It will form an ornamental ring. I'm sorry to put you to the trouble,
but of course I pay extra for fancy-work. Will six shillings a pair do
"My dear sir," said Mrs. Grumbit, "it is no additional--"
"Well, well, never mind," said Mr. Jollyboy. "Two thousand pairs,
remember, as soon as possible,--close knitted, plain stitch, rather
coarse worsted; and don't forget the hitch, Mrs. Grumbit, don't forget
Ah! reader, there are many Mrs. Grumbits in this world, requiring
_hitches_ to be made in their stockings!
At this moment the door burst open. Mrs. Dorothy Grumbit uttered a
piercing scream, Mr. Jollyboy dropped his spectacles and sat down on
his hat, and Martin Rattler stood before them with the white kitten
in his arms.
For a few seconds there was a dead silence, while an expression of
puzzled disappointment passed over Mr. Jollyboy's ruddy countenance. At
last he said,--
"Is this, madam, the nephew who, you told me a little ago, is not
addicted to fighting?"
"Yes," answered the old lady faintly, and covering her eyes with her
hands, "that is Martin."
"If my aunt told you that, sir, she told you the truth," said Martin,
setting down the blood-stained white kitten, which forthwith began to
stretch its limbs and lick itself dry. "I don't ever fight if I can help
it, but I couldn't help it to-day."
With a great deal of energy, and a revival of much of his former
indignation, when he spoke of the kitten's sufferings, Martin recounted
all the circumstances of the fight; during the recital of which Mrs.
Dorothy Grumbit took his hand in hers and patted it, gazing the while
into his swelled visage, and weeping plentifully, but very silently. When
he had finished, Mr. Jollyboy shook hands with him, and said he was a
trump, at the same time recommending him to go and wash his face. Then he
whispered a few words in Mrs. Grumbit's ear, which seemed to give that
excellent lady much pleasure; after which he endeavoured to straighten
his crushed hat; in which attempt he failed, took his leave, promised to
call again very soon, and went back to the Old Hulk--chuckling.
MARTIN, BEING WILLING TO GO TO SEA, GOES TO SEA AGAINST HIS WILL
Four years rolled away, casting chequered light and shadow over the
little village of Ashford in their silent passage,--whitening the
forelocks of the aged, and strengthening the muscles of the young. Death,
too, touched a hearth here and there, and carried desolation to a home;
for four years cannot wing their flight without enforcing on us the
lesson--which we are so often taught, and yet take so long to learn--that
this is not our rest,--that here we have no abiding city. Did we but
ponder this lesson more frequently and earnestly, instead of making us
sad, it would nerve our hearts and hands to fight and work more
diligently,--to work in the cause of our Redeemer,--the only cause that
is worth the life-long energy of immortal beings,--the great cause that
includes all others; and it would teach us to remember that our little
day of opportunity will soon be spent, and that the night is at hand in
which no man can work.
Four years rolled away, and during this time Martin, having failed to
obtain his aunt's consent to his going to sea, continued at school, doing
his best to curb the roving spirit that strove within him. Martin was not
particularly bright at the dead languages; to the rules of grammar he
entertained a rooted aversion; and at history he was inclined to yawn,
except when it happened to touch upon the names and deeds of such men as
Vasco di Gama and Columbus. But in geography he was perfect; and in
arithmetic and book-keeping he was quite a proficient, to the delight of
Mrs. Dorothy Grumbit, whose household books he summed up; and to the
satisfaction of his fast friend, Mr. Arthur Jollyboy, whose ledgers he
was--in that old gentleman's secret resolves--destined to keep.
Martin was now fourteen, broad and strong, and tall for his age. He was
the idol of the school,--dashing, daring, reckless, and good-natured.
There was almost nothing that he would not attempt, and there were very
few things that he could not do. He never fought, however--from
principle; and his strength and size often saved him from the necessity.
But he often prevented other boys from fighting, except when he thought
there was good reason for it; then he stood by and saw fair play. There
was a strange mixture of philosophical gravity, too, in Martin. As he
grew older he became more enthusiastic and less boisterous.
Bob Croaker was still at the school, and was, from prudential motives, a
fast friend of Martin. But he bore him a secret grudge, for he could not
forget the great fight.
One day Bob took Martin by the arm, and said, "I say, Rattler, come with
me to Bilton, and have some fun among the shipping."
"Well, I don't mind if I do," said Martin. "I'm just in the mood for a
ramble, and I'm not expected home till bed-time."
In little more than an hour the two boys were wandering about the
dock-yards of the sea-port town, and deeply engaged in examining the
complicated rigging of the ships. While thus occupied, the clanking of a
windlass and the merry "Yo heave O! and away she goes," of the sailors,
attracted their attention.
"Hallo! there goes the _Firefly_, bound for the South Seas," cried Bob
Croaker; "come, let's see her start. I say, Martin, isn't your friend,
Barney O'Flannagan, on board?"
"Yes, he is. He tries to get me to go out every voyage, and I wish I
could. Come quickly; I want to say good-bye to him before he starts."
"Why don't you run away, Rattler?" inquired Bob, as they hurried round
the docks to where the vessel was warping out.
"Because I don't need to. My aunt has given me leave to go if I like; but
she says it would break her heart if I do; and I would rather be screwed
down to a desk for ever than do that, Bob Croaker."
The vessel, upon the deck of which the two boys now leaped, was a large,
heavy-built barque. Her sails were hanging loose, and the captain was
giving orders to the men, who had their attention divided between their
duties on board and their mothers, wives, and sisters, who still lingered
to take a last farewell.
"Now, then, those who don't want to go to sea had better go ashore,"
roared the captain.
There was an immediate rush to the side.
"I say, Martin," whispered Barney, as he hurried past, "jump down below
for'ard; you can go out o' the harbour mouth with us and get ashore in
one o' the shore-boats alongside. They'll not cast off till we're well
out. I want to speak to you--"
"Man the fore top-sail halyards," shouted the first mate.
"Ay ay, sir-r-r," and the men sprang to obey. Just then the ship
touched on the bar at the mouth of the harbour, and in another moment
she was aground.
"There, now, she's hard and fast!" roared the captain, as he stormed
about the deck in a paroxysm of rage. But man's rage could avail nothing.
They had missed the passage by a few feet, and now they had to wait the
fall and rise again of the tide ere they could hope to get off.
In the confusion that followed, Bob Croaker suggested that Martin and he
should take one of the punts, or small boats which hovered round the
vessel, and put out to sea, where they might spend the day pleasantly in
rowing and fishing.
"Capital!" exclaimed Martin. "Let's go at once. Yonder's a little fellow
who will let us have his punt for a few pence. I know him. Hallo, Tom!"
"Ay, ay," squeaked a boy who was so small that he could scarcely lift the
oar, light though it was, with which he sculled his punt cleverly along.
"Shove alongside, like a good fellow; we want your boat for a little to
row out a bit."
"It's a-blowin' too hard," squeaked the small boy, as he ranged
alongside. "I'm afeared you'll be blowed out."
"Nonsense!" cried Bob Croaker, grasping the rope which the boy threw to
him. "Jump on board, younker; we don't want you to help us, and you're
too heavy for ballast. Slip down the side, Martin, and get in while I
hold on to the rope. All right? now I'll follow. Here, shrimp, hold the
rope till I'm in, and then cast off. Look alive!"
As Bob spoke, he handed the rope to the little boy; but, in doing so, let
it accidentally slip out of his hand.
"Catch hold o' the main chains, Martin,--quick!"
But Martin was too late. The current that swept out of the harbour
whirled the light punt away from the ship's side, and carried it out
seaward. Martin instantly sprang to the oar, and turned the boat's head
round. He was a stout and expert rower, and would soon have regained the
ship; but the wind increased at the moment, and blew in a squall off
shore, which carried him further out despite his utmost efforts. Seeing
that all further attempts were useless, Martin stood up and waved his
hand to Bob Croaker, shouting as he did so, "Never mind, Bob, I'll make
for the South Point. Run round and meet me, and we'll row back together."
The South Point was a low cape of land which stretched a considerable
distance out to sea, about three miles to the southward of Bilton
harbour. It formed a large bay, across which, in ordinary weather, a
small boat might be rowed in safety. Martin Rattler was well known at the
sea-port as a strong and fearless boy, so that no apprehension was
entertained for his safety by those who saw him blown away. Bob Croaker
immediately started for the Point on foot, a distance of about four miles
by land; and the crew of the _Firefly_ were so busied with their stranded
vessel that they took no notice of the doings of the boys.
But the weather now became more and more stormy. Thick clouds gathered on
the horizon. The wind began to blow with steady violence, and shifted a
couple of points to the southward; so that Martin found it impossible to
keep straight for the Point. Still he worked perseveringly at his single
oar, and sculled rapidly over the sea; but, as he approached the Point,
he soon perceived that no effort of which he was capable could enable him
to gain it. But Martin's heart was stout. He strove with all the energy
of hope, until the Point was passed; and then, turning the head of his
little boat towards it, he strove with all the energy of despair, until
he fell down exhausted. The wind and tide swept him rapidly out to sea;
and when his terrified comrade reached the Point, the little boat was but
a speck on the seaward horizon.
Well was it then for Martin Rattler that a friendly heart beat for him on
board the _Firefly_, Bob Croaker carried the news to the town; but no one
was found daring enough to risk his life out in a boat on that stormy
evening. The little punt had been long out of sight ere the news reached
them, and the wind had increased to a gale. But Barney O'Flannagan
questioned Bob Croaker closely, and took particular note of the point of
the compass at which Martin had disappeared; and when the _Firefly_ at
length got under weigh, he climbed to the fore-top cross-trees, and stood
there scanning the horizon with an anxious eye.
It was getting dark, and a feeling of despair began to creep over
the seaman's heart as he gazed round the wide expanse of water, on
which nothing was to be seen except the white foam that crested the
"Starboard, hard!" he shouted suddenly.
"Starboard it is!" replied the man at the wheel, with prompt obedience.
In another moment Barney slid down the back-stay and stood on the deck,
while the ship rounded to and narrowly missed striking a small boat that
floated keel up on the water. There was no cry from the boat; and it
might have been passed as a mere wreck, had not the lynx eye of Barney
noticed a dark object clinging to it.
"Lower away a boat, lads," cried the Irishman, springing overboard;
and the words had scarcely passed his lips when the water closed
over his head.
The _Firefly_ was hove to, a boat was lowered and rowed towards Barney,
whose strong voice guided his shipmates towards him. In less than a
quarter of an hour the bold sailor and his young friend Martin Rattler
were safe on board, and the ship's head was again turned out to sea.
It was full half an hour before Martin was restored to consciousness in
the forecastle, to which his deliverer had conveyed him.
"Musha, lad, but ye're booked for the blue wather now, an' no mistake!"
said Barney, looking with an expression of deep sympathy at the poor boy,
who sat staring before him quite speechless. "The capting'll not let ye
out o' this ship till ye git to the gould coast, or some sich place. He
couldn't turn back av he wanted iver so much; but he doesn't want to, for
he needs a smart lad like you, an' he'll keep you now, for sartin."
Barney sat down by Martin's side and stroked his fair curls, as he sought
in his own quaint fashion to console him. But in vain. Martin grew quite
desperate as he thought of the misery into which poor Aunt Dorothy
Grumbit would be plunged, on learning that he had been swept out to sea
in a little boat, and drowned, as she would naturally suppose. In his
frenzy he entreated and implored the captain to send him back in the
boat, and even threatened to knock out his brains with a handspike if he
did not; but the captain smiled and told him that it was his own fault.
He had no business to be putting to sea in a small boat in rough weather,
and he might be thankful he wasn't drowned. He wouldn't turn back now for
fifty pounds twice told.
At length Martin became convinced that all hope of returning home was
gone. He went quietly below, threw himself into one of the sailor's
berths, turned his face to the wall, and wept long and bitterly.
THE VOYAGE, A PIRATE, CHASE, WRECK, AND ESCAPE
Time reconciles a man to almost anything. In the course of time Martin
Rattler became reconciled to his fate, and went about the ordinary duties
of a cabin-boy on board the _Firefly_ just as if he had been appointed to
that office in the ordinary way,--with the consent of the owners and by
the advice of his friends. The captain, Skinflint by name, and as surly
an old fellow as ever walked a quarter-deck, agreed to pay him wages "if
he behaved well." The steward, under whose immediate authority he was
placed, turned out to be a hearty, good-natured young fellow, and was
very kind to him. But Martin's great friend was Barney O'Flannagan, the
cook, with whom he spent many an hour in the night watches, talking over
plans, and prospects, and retrospects, and foreign lands.
As Martin had no clothes except those on his back, which fortunately
happened to be new and good, Barney gave him a couple of blue striped
shirts, and made him a jacket, pantaloons, and slippers of canvas; and,
what was of much greater importance, taught him how to make and mend the
same for himself.
"Ye see, Martin, lad," he said, while thus employed one day, many weeks
after leaving port, "it's a great thing, intirely, to be able to help
yerself. For my part, I niver travel without my work-box in my pocket."
"Your work-box!" said Martin, laughing.
"Jist so. An' it consists of wan sail-maker's needle, a ball o' twine,
and a clasp-knife. Set me down with these before a roll o' canvas and
I'll make you a'most anything."
"You seem to have a turn for everything, Barney," said Martin. "How came
you to be a cook?"
"That's more nor I can tell ye, lad. As far as I remimber, I began with
murphies, when I was two feet high, in my father's cabin in ould Ireland.
But that was on my own account intirely, and not as a purfession; and a
sorrowful time I had of it, too, for I was for iver burnin' my fingers
promiskiously, and fallin' into the fire ivery day more or less--"
"Stand by to hoist top-gallant-sails," shouted the captain. "How's
"South and by east, sir," answered the man at the wheel.
"Keep her away two points. Look alive lads. Hand me the glass, Martin."
The ship was close hauled when these abrupt orders were given, battling
in the teeth of a stiff breeze, off the coast of South America. About
this time, several piratical vessels had succeeded in cutting off a
number of merchantmen near the coast of Brazil. They had not only taken
the valuable parts of their cargoes, but had murdered the crews under
circumstances of great cruelty; and ships trading to these regions were,
consequently, exceedingly careful to avoid all suspicious craft as much
as possible. It was, therefore, with some anxiety that the men watched
the captain's face as he examined the strange sail through the telescope.
"A Spanish schooner," muttered the captain, as he shut up the glass with
a bang. "I won't trust her. Up with the royals and rig out stun'-sails,
Mr. Wilson, (to the mate). Let her fall away, keep her head nor'-west,
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Let go the lee braces and square the yards. Look sharp, now, lads. If
that blackguard gets hold of us ye'll have to walk the plank, every
man of ye."
In a few minutes the ship's course was completely altered; a cloud of
canvas spread out from the yards, and the _Firefly_ bounded on her course
like a fresh race-horse. But it soon became evident that the heavy barque
was no match for the schooner, which crowded sail and bore down at a rate
that bade fair to overhaul them in a few hours. The chase continued till
evening, when suddenly the look-out at the mast-head shouted, "Land, ho!"
"Where away?" cried the captain.
"Right ahead," sang out the man.
"I'll run her ashore sooner than be taken," muttered the captain, with an
angry scowl at the schooner, which was now almost within range on the
weather quarter, with the dreaded black flag flying at her peak. In a few
minutes breakers were descried ahead.
"D'ye see anything like a passage?" shouted the captain.
"Yes, sir; two points on the weather bow."
At this moment a white cloud burst from the schooner's bow, and a shot,
evidently from a heavy gun, came ricochetting over the sea. It was well
aimed, for it cut right through the barque's main-mast, just below the
yard, and brought the main-top-mast, with all the yards, sails, and
gearing above it, down upon the deck. The weight of the wreck, also,
carried away the fore-top-mast, and, in a single instant, the _Firefly_
was completely disabled.
"Lower away the boats," cried the captain; "look alive, now; we'll give
them the slip yet. It'll be dark in two minutes."
The captain was right. In tropical regions there is little or no
twilight. Night succeeds day almost instantaneously. Before the boats
were lowered and the men embarked it was becoming quite dark. The
schooner observed the movement, however, and, as she did not dare to
venture through the reef in the dark, her boats were also lowered and the
chase was recommenced.
The reef was passed in safety, and now a hard struggle took place, for
the shore was still far distant. As it chanced to be cloudy weather the
darkness became intense, and progress could only be guessed at by the
sound of the oars; but these soon told too plainly that the boats of the
schooner were overtaking those of the barque.
"Pull with a will, lads," cried the captain; "we can't be more than half
a mile from shore; give way, my hearties."
"Surely, captain, we can fight them, we've most of us got pistols and
cutlasses," said one of the men in a sulky tone.
"Fight them!" cried the captain, "they're four times our number, and
every man armed to the teeth. If ye don't fancy walking the plank or
dancing on nothing at the yard-arm, ye'd better pull away and hold
By this time they could just see the schooner's boats in the dim light,
about half-musket range astern.
"Back you' oars," shouted a stern voice in broken English, "or I blow you
out de watter in one oder moment,--black-yards!"
This order was enforced by a musket shot, which whizzed over the boat
within an inch of the captain's head. The men ceased rowing and the boats
of the pirate ranged close up.
"Now then, Martin," whispered Barney O'Flannagan, who sat at the bow oar,
"I'm goin' to swim ashore; jist you slip arter me as quiet as ye can."
"But the sharks!" suggested Martin.
"Bad luck to them," said Barney as he slipped over the side, "they're
welcome to me. Til take my chance. They'll find me mortial tough, anyhow.
Come along, lad, look sharp!"
Without a moment's hesitation Martin slid over the gunwale into the sea,
and, just as the pirate boats grappled with those of the barque, he and
Barney found themselves gliding as silently as otters towards the shore.
So quietly had the manoeuvre been accomplished, that the men in their own
boat were ignorant of their absence. In a few minutes they were beyond
the chance of detection.
"Keep close to me, lad," whispered the Irishman. "If we separate in the
darkness we'll niver forgather again. Catch hould o; my shoulder if ye
get blowed, and splutter as much as ye like. They can't hear us now, and
it'll help to frighten the sharks."
"All right," replied Martin; "I can swim like a cork in such warm water
as this. Just go a little slower and I'll do famously."
Thus encouraging each other, and keeping close together, lest they should
get separated in the thick darkness of the night, the two friends struck
out bravely for the shore.
MARTIN AND BARNEY GET LOST IN A GREAT FOREST, WHERE THEY SEE STRANGE AND
On gaining the beach, the first thing that Barney did, after shaking
himself like a huge Newfoundland dog, was to ascertain that his pistol
and cutlass were safe; for, although the former could be of no use in its
present condition, still, as he sagaciously remarked, "it was a good
thing to have, for they might chance to git powder wan day or other, and
the flint would make fire, anyhow." Fortunately the weather was extremely
warm; so they were enabled to take off and wring their clothes without
much inconvenience, except that in a short time a few adventurous
mosquitoes--probably sea-faring ones--came down out of the woods and
attacked their bare bodies so vigorously that they were fain to hurry on
their clothes again before they were quite dry.
The clouds began to clear away soon after they landed, and the brilliant
light of the southern constellations revealed to them dimly the
appearance of the coast. It was a low sandy beach skirting the sea and
extending back for about a quarter of a mile in the form of a grassy
plain, dotted here and there with scrubby underwood. Beyond this was a
dark line of forest. The light was not sufficient to enable them to
ascertain the appearance of the interior. Barney and Martin now cast
about in their minds how they were to spend the night.
"Ye see," said the Irishman, "it's of no use goin' to look for houses,
because there's maybe none at all on this coast; an' there's no sayin'
but we may fall in with savages--for them parts swarms with them; so we'd
better go into the woods an'--"
Barney was interrupted here by a low howl, which proceeded from the woods
referred to, and was most unlike any cry they had ever heard before.
"Och, but I'll think better of it. P'raps it'll be as well _not_ to go
into the woods, but to camp where we are."
"I think so too," said Martin, searching about for small twigs and
drift-wood with which to make a fire. "There is no saying what sort of
wild beasts may be in the forest, so we had better wait till daylight."
A fire was quickly lighted by means of the pistol-flint and a little dry
grass, which, when well bruised and put into the pan, caught a spark
after one or two attempts, and was soon blown into a flame. But no wood
large enough to keep the fire burning for any length of time could be
found; so Barney said he would go up to the forest and fetch some. "I'll
lave my shoes and socks, Martin, to dry at the fire. See ye don't let
Traversing the meadow with hasty strides, the bold sailor quickly reached
the edge of the forest, where he began to lop off several dead branches
from the trees with his cutlass. While thus engaged the howl which had
formerly startled him was repeated. "Av I only knowed what ye was,"
muttered Barney in a serious tone, "it would be some sort o' comfort."
A loud cry of a different kind here interrupted his soliloquy, and soon
after the first cry was repeated louder than before.
Clenching his teeth and knitting his brows the perplexed Irishman resumed
his work with a desperate resolve not to be again interrupted. But he had
miscalculated the strength of his nerves. Albeit as brave a man as ever
stepped, when his enemy was before him, Barney was, nevertheless,
strongly imbued with superstitious feelings; and the conflict between his
physical courage and his mental cowardice produced a species of wild
exasperation, which, he often asserted, was very hard to bear. Scarcely
had he resumed his work when a bat of enormous size brushed past his nose
so noiselessly that it seemed more like a phantom than a reality. Barney
had never seen anything of the sort before, and a cold perspiration broke
out upon him, when he fancied it might be a ghost. Again the bat swept
past close to his eyes.
"Musha, but I'll kill ye, ghost or no ghost," he ejaculated, gazing all
round into the gloomy depths of the woods with his cutlass uplifted.
Instead of flying again in front of him, as he had expected, the bat flew
with a whirring noise past his ear. Down came the cutlass with a sudden
thwack, cutting deep into the trunk of a small tree, which trembled under
the shock and sent a shower of ripe nuts of a large size down upon the
sailor's head. Startled as he was, he sprang backward with a wild cry;
then, half ashamed of his groundless fears, he collected the wood he had
cut, threw it hastily on his shoulder and went with a quick step out of
the woods. In doing so he put his foot upon the head of a small snake,
which wriggled up round his ankle and leg. If there was anything on earth
that Barney abhorred and dreaded it was a snake. No sooner did he feel
its cold form writhing under his foot, than he uttered a tremendous yell
of terror, dropped his bundle of sticks, and fled precipitately to the
beach, where he did not hall till he found himself knee-deep in the sea.
"Och, Martin, boy," gasped the affrighted sailor, "it's my belafe that
all the evil spirits on arth live in yonder wood; indeed I do."
"Nonsense, Barney," said Martin, laughing; "there are no such things as
ghosts; at any rate I'm resolved to face them, for if we don't get some
sticks the fire will go out and leave us very comfortless. Come, I'll go
up with you."
"Put on yer shoes then, avic, for the sarpints are no ghosts, anyhow, and
I'm tould they're pisonous sometimes."
They soon found the bundle of dry sticks that Barney had thrown down, and
returning with it to the beach, they speedily kindled a roaring fire,
which made them feel quite cheerful. True, they had nothing to eat; but
having had a good dinner on board the barque late that afternoon, they
were not much in want of food. While they sat thus on the sand of the
sea-shore, spreading their hands before the blaze and talking over their
strange position, a low rumbling of distant thunder was heard. Barney's
countenance instantly fell.
"What's the matter, Barney?" inquired Martin, as he observed his
companion gaze anxiously up at the sky.
"Och, it's comin', sure enough."
"And what though it does come?" returned Martin; "we can creep under one
of these thick bushes till the shower is past."
"Did ye iver see a thunder-storm in the tropics?" inquired Barney.
"No, never," replied Martin.
"Then if ye don't want to feel and see it both at wance, come with me as
quick as iver ye can."
Barney started up as he spoke, stuck his cutlass and pistol into his
belt, and set off towards the woods at a sharp run, followed closely by
his wondering companion.
Their haste was by no means unnecessary. Great black clouds rushed up
towards the zenith from all points of the compass, and, just as they
reached the woods, darkness so thick that it might almost be felt
overspread the scene. Then there was a flash of lightning so vivid that
it seemed as if a bright day had been created and extinguished in a
moment, leaving the darkness ten times more oppressive. It was followed
instantaneously by a crash and a prolonged rattle, that sounded as if a
universe of solid worlds were rushing into contact overhead and bursting
into atoms. The flash was so far useful to the fugitives, that it enabled
them to observe a many-stemmed tree with dense and heavy foliage, under
which they darted. They were just in time, and had scarcely seated
themselves among its branches when the rain came down in a way not only
that Martin had never seen, but that he had never conceived of before. It
fell, as it were, in broad heavy sheets, and its sound was a loud,
The wind soon after burst upon the forest and added to the hideous shriek
of elements. The trees bent before it; the rain was whirled and dashed
about in water-spouts; and huge limbs were rent from some of the larger
trees with a crash like thunder, and swept far away into the forest. The
very earth trembled and seemed terrified at the dreadful conflict going
on above. It seemed to the two friends as if the end of the world were
come; and they could do nothing but cower among the branches of the tree
and watch the storm in silence; while they felt, in a way they had never
before experienced, how utterly helpless they were and unable to foresee
or avert the many dangers by which they were surrounded, and how
absolutely dependent they were on God for protection.
For several hours the storm continued. Then it ceased as suddenly as it
had begun, and the bright stars again shone down upon a peaceful scene.
When it was over, Martin and his comrade descended the tree and
endeavoured to find their way back to the beach. But this was no easy
matter. The haste with which they had run into the woods, and the
confusion of the storm, had made them uncertain in which direction it
lay; and the more they tried to get out, the deeper they penetrated into
the forest. At length, wearied with fruitless wandering and stumbling
about in the dark, they resolved to spend the night where they were.
Coming to a place which was more open than usual, and where they could
see a portion of the starry sky overhead, they sat down on a dry spot
under the shelter of a spreading tree, and, leaning their backs against
the trunk, very soon fell sound asleep.
AN ENCHANTING LAND--AN UNCOMFORTABLE BED AND A QUEER BREAKFAST--MANY
SURPRISES AND A FEW FRIGHTS, TOGETHER WITH A NOTABLE DISCOVERY
"I've woked in paradise!"
Such was the exclamation that aroused Martin Rattler on the morning after
his landing on the coast of South America. It was uttered by Barney
O'Flannagan, who lay at full length on his back, his head propped up by a
root of the tree under which they had slept, and his eyes staring right
before him with an expression of concentrated amazement. When Martin
opened his eyes, he too was struck dumb with surprise. And well might
they gaze with astonishment; for the last ray of departing daylight on
the night before had flickered over the open sea, and now the first gleam
of returning sunshine revealed to them the magnificent forests of Brazil.
Yes, well might they gaze and gaze again in boundless admiration; for
the tropical sun shone down on a scene of dazzling and luxuriant
vegetation, so resplendent that it seemed to them the realization of a
fairy tale. Plants and shrubs and flowers were there, of the most
curious and brilliant description, and of which they neither knew the
uses nor the names. Majestic trees were there, with foliage of every
shape and size and hue; some with stems twenty feet in circumference;
others more slender in form, straight and tall; and some twisted in a
bunch together and rising upwards like fluted pillars: a few had
buttresses, or natural planks, several feet broad, ranged all round
their trunks, as if to support them; while many bent gracefully beneath
the load of their clustering fruit and heavy foliage. Orange-trees with
their ripe fruit shone in the sunbeams like gold. Stately palms rose
above the surrounding trees and waved their feathery plumes in the air,
and bananas with broad enormous leaves rustled in the breeze and cast a
cool shadow on the ground.
Well might they gaze in great surprise; for all these curious and
beautiful trees were surrounded by and entwined in the embrace of
luxuriant and remarkable climbing plants. The parasitic vanilla with its
star-like blossoms crept up their trunks and along their branches, where
it hung in graceful festoons, or drooped back again almost to the ground.
So rich and numerous were these creepers, that in many cases they killed
the strong giants whom they embraced so lovingly. Some of them hung from
the tree-tops like stays from the masts of a ship, and many of them
mingled their brilliant flowers so closely with the leaves, that the
climbing-plants and their supporters could not be distinguished from each
other, and it seemed as though the trees themselves had become gigantic
Birds, too, were there in myriads,--and such birds! Their feathers were
green and gold and scarlet and yellow and blue--fresh and bright and
brilliant as the sky beneath which they were nurtured. The great toucan,
with a beak nearly as big as his body, flew clumsily from stem to stem.
The tiny, delicate humming-birds, scarce larger than bees, fluttered from
flower to flower and spray to spray, like points of brilliant green. But
they were irritable, passionate little creatures, these lovely things,
and quarrelled with each other and fought like very wasps! Enormous
butterflies, with wings of deep metallic blue, shot past or hovered in
the air like gleams of light; and green paroquets swooped from tree to
tree and chattered joyfully over their morning meal.
Well might they gaze with wonder, and smile too with extreme merriment,
for monkeys stared at them from between the leaves with expressions of
undisguised amazement, and bounded away shrieking and chattering in
consternation, swinging from branch to branch with incredible speed, and
not scrupling to use each other's tails to swing by when occasion
offered. Some were big and red and ugly,--as ugly as you can possibly
imagine, with blue faces and fiercely grinning teeth; others were
delicately formed and sad of countenance, as if they were for ever
bewailing the loss of near and dear relations, and could by no means come
at consolation; and some were small and pretty, with faces no bigger than
a halfpenny. As a general rule, it seemed to Barney, the smaller the
monkey the longer the tail.
Yes, well might they gaze and gaze again in surprise and in excessive
admiration; and well might Barney O'Flannagan--under the circumstances,
with such sights and sounds around him, and the delightful odours of
myrtle trees arid orange blossoms and the Cape jessamine stealing up his
nostrils--deem himself the tenant of another world, and evince his
conviction of the fact in that memorable expression--"I've woked in
But Barney began to find "paradise" not quite so comfortable as it ought
to be; for when he tried to get up he found his bones pained and stiff
from sleeping in damp clothes; and moreover, his face was very much
swelled, owing to the myriads of mosquitoes which had supped of it during
"Arrah, then, _won't_ ye be done!" he cried, angrily, giving his face a
slap that killed at least two or three hundred of his tormentors. But
thousands more attacked him instantly, and he soon found out,--what every
one finds out sooner or later in hot climates,--that _patience_ is one of
the best remedies for mosquito bites. He also discovered shortly
afterwards that smoke is not a bad remedy, in connection with patience.
"What are we to have for breakfast, Barney?" inquired Martin as he rose
and yawned and stretched his limbs.
"Help yersilf to what ye plase," said Barney, with a polite bow, waving
his hand round him, as if the forest were his private property and Martin
Rattler his honoured guest.
"Well, I vote for oranges," said Martin, going towards a tree which was
laden with ripe fruit.
"An' I'll try plums, by way of variety," added his companion.
In a few minutes several kinds of fruit and nuts were gathered and
spread at the foot of the tree under which they had reposed. Then
Barney proceeded to kindle a fire,--not that he had anything to cook,
but he said it looked sociable-like, and the smoke would keep off the
flies. The operation, however, was by no means easy. Everything had
been soaked by the rain of the previous night, and a bit of dry grass
could scarcely be found. At length he procured a little; and by rubbing
it in the damp gunpowder which he had extracted from his pistol, and
drying it in the sun, he formed a sort of tinder that caught fire after
much persevering effort.
Some of the fruits they found to be good,--others bad. The good they
ate,--the bad they threw away. After their frugal fare they felt much
refreshed, and then began to talk of what they should do.
"We can't live here with parrots and monkeys, you know," said Martin; "we
must try to find a village or town of some sort; or get to the coast, and
then we shall perhaps meet with a ship."
"True, lad," replied Barney, knitting his brows and looking extremely
sagacious; "the fact is, since neither of us knows nothing about
anything, or the way to any place, my advice is to walk straight for'ard
till we come to something."
"So think I," replied Martin; "therefore the sooner we set off the
Having no luggage to pack and no arrangements of any kind to make, the
two friends rose from their primitive breakfast-table, and walked away
straight before them into the forest.
All that day they travelled patiently forward, conversing pleasantly
about the various and wonderful trees, and flowers, and animals they met
with by the way; but no signs were discovered that indicated the presence
of man. Towards evening, however, they fell upon a track or
foot-path,--which discovery rejoiced them much; and here, before
proceeding further, they sat down to eat a little more fruit,--which,
indeed, they had done several times during the day. They walked nearly
thirty miles that day without seeing a human being; but they met with
many strange and beautiful birds and beasts,--some of which were of so
fierce an aspect that they would have been very glad to have had guns to
defend themselves with. Fortunately, however, all the animals seemed to
be much more afraid of them than they were of the animals; so they
travelled in safety. Several times during the course of the day they saw
snakes and serpents, which glided away into the jungle on their approach,
and could not be overtaken, although Barney made repeated darts at them,
intending to attack them with his cutlass; which assaults always proved
Once they were charged by a herd of peccaries,--a species of pig or wild
hog,--from which they escaped by jumping actively to one side; but the
peccaries turned and rushed at them again, and it was only by springing
up the branches of a neighbouring tree that they escaped their fury.
These peccaries are the fiercest and most dauntless animals in the
forests of Brazil. They do not know what fear is,--they will rush in the
face of anything; and, unlike all other animals, are quite indifferent to
the report of fire-arms. Their bodies are covered with long bristles,
resembling very much the quills of the porcupine.
As the evening drew on, the birds and beasts and the innumerable insects,
that had kept up a perpetual noise during the day, retired to rest; and
then the nocturnal animals began to creep out of their holes and go
about. Huge vampire-bats, one of which had given Barney such a fright the
night before, flew silently past them; and the wild howlings commenced
again. They now discovered that one of the most dismal of the howls
proceeded from a species of monkey: at which discovery Martin laughed
very much, and rallied his companion on being so easily frightened; but
Barney gladly joined in the laugh against himself, for, to say truth, he
felt quite relieved and light-hearted at discovering that his ghosts were
converted into bats and monkeys!
There was one roar, however, which, when they heard it ever and anon,
gave them considerable uneasiness.
"D'ye think there's lions in them parts?" inquired Barney, glancing with
an expression of regret at his empty pistol, and laying his hand on the
hilt of his cutlass.
"I think not," replied Martin, in a low tone of voice. "I have read in
my school geography that there are tigers of some sort,--jaguars, or
ounces, I think they are called,--but there are no--"
Martin's speech was cut short by a terrific roar, which rang through the
woods, and the next instant a magnificent jaguar, or South American
tiger, bounded on to the track a few yards in advance, and, wheeling
round, glared fiercely at the travellers. It seemed, in the uncertain
light, as if his eyes were two balls of living fire. Though not so large
as the royal Bengal tiger of India, this animal was nevertheless of
immense size, and had a very ferocious aspect. His roar was so sudden and
awful, and his appearance so unexpected, that the blood was sent
thrilling back into the hearts of the travellers, who stood rooted to the
spot, absolutely unable to move. This was the first large animal of the
cat kind that either of them had seen in all the terrible majesty of its
wild condition; and, for the first time, Martin and his friend felt that
awful sensation of dread that will assail even the bravest heart when a
new species of imminent danger is suddenly presented. It is said that no
animal can withstand the steady gaze of a human eye; and many travellers
in wild countries have proved this to be a fact. On the present occasion
our adventurers stared long and steadily at the wild creature before
them, from a mingled feeling of surprise and horror. In a few seconds the
jaguar showed signs of being disconcerted. It turned its head from side
to side slightly, and dropped its eyes, as if to avoid their gaze. Then
turning slowly and stealthily round, it sprang with a magnificent bound
into the jungle, and disappeared.
Both Martin and Barney heaved a deep sigh of relief.
"What a mercy it did not attack us!" said the former, wiping the cold
perspiration from his forehead. "We should have had no chance against
such a terrible beast with a cutlass, I fear."
"True, boy, true," replied his friend, gravely; "it would have been
little better than a penknife in the ribs o' sich a cratur. I niver
thought that it was in the power o' man or baste to put me in sich a
fright; but the longer we live we learn, boy."
Barney's disposition to make light of everything was thoroughly subdued
by this incident, and he felt none of his usual inclination to regard all
that he saw in the Brazilian forests with a comical eye. The danger they
had escaped was too real and terrible, and their almost unarmed condition
too serious, to be lightly esteemed. For the next hour or two he
continued to walk by Martin's side either in total silence, or in
earnest, grave conversation; but by degrees these feelings wore off, and
his buoyant spirits gradually returned.
The country over which they had passed during the day was of a mingled
character. At one time they traversed a portion of dark forest, heavy and
choked up with the dense and gigantic foliage peculiar to those countries
that lie near to the equator; then they emerged from this upon what to
their eyes seemed most beautiful scenery,--mingled plain and
woodland,--where the excessive brilliancy and beauty of the tropical
vegetation was brought to perfection by exposure to the light of the blue
sky and the warm rays of the sun. In such lovely spots they travelled
more slowly and rested more frequently, enjoying to the full the sight of
the gaily-coloured birds and insects that fluttered busily around them,
and the delicious perfume of the flowers that decked the ground and
clambered up the trees. At other times they came to plains, or _campos_,
as they are termed, where there were no trees at all, and few shrubs, and
where the grass was burned brown and dry by the sun. Over such they
hurried as quickly as they could; and fortunately, where they chanced to
travel, such places were neither numerous nor extensive, although in some
districts of Brazil there are campos hundreds of miles in extent.
A small stream meandered through the forest, and enabled them to refresh
themselves frequently; which was very fortunate, for the heat, especially
towards noon, became extremely intense, and they could not have existed
without water. So great, indeed, was the heat about mid-day, that, by
mutual consent, they resolved to seek the cool shade of a spreading tree,
and try to sleep if possible. At this time they learned, to their
surprise, that all animated nature did likewise, and sought repose at
noon. God had implanted in the breast of every bird and insect in that
mighty forest an instinct which taught it to rest and find refreshment
during the excessive heat of mid-day; so that, during the space of two or
three hours, not a thing with life was seen, and not a sound was heard.
Even the troublesome mosquitoes, so active at all other times, day and
night, were silent now. The change was very great and striking, and
difficult for those who have not observed it to comprehend. All the
forenoon, screams, and cries, and croaks, and grunts, and whistles, ring
out through the woods incessantly; while, if you listen attentively, you
hear the low, deep, and never-ending buzz and hum of millions upon
millions of insects, that dance in the air and creep on every leaf and
blade upon the ground. About noon all this is hushed. The hot rays of the
sun beat perpendicularly down upon what seems a vast untenanted solitude,
and not a single chirp breaks the death-like stillness of the great
forest, with the solitary exception of the metallic note of the uruponga,
or bell-bird, which seems to mount guard when all the rest of the world
has gone to sleep. As the afternoon approaches they all wake up,
refreshed by their siesta, active and lively as fairies, and ready for
another spell of work and another deep-toned noisy chorus.
The country through which our adventurers travelled, as evening
approached, became gradually more hilly, and their march consequently
more toilsome. They were just about to give up all thought of proceeding
further that night, when, on reaching the summit of a little hill, they
beheld a bright red light shining at a considerable distance in the
valley beyond. With light steps and hearts full of hope they descended
the hill and hastened towards it.
It was now quite dark, and the whole country seemed alive with
fire-flies. These beautiful little insects sat upon the trees and bushes,
spangling them as with living diamonds, and flew about in the air like
little wandering stars. Barney had seen them before, in the West Indies,
but Martin had only heard of them; and his delight and amazement at their
extreme brilliancy were very great. Although he was naturally anxious to
reach the light in the valley, in the hope that it might prove to proceed
from some cottage, he could not refrain from stopping once or twice to
catch these lovely creatures; and when he succeeded in doing so, and
placed one on the palm of his hand, the light emitted from it was more
brilliant than that of a small taper, and much more beautiful, for it was
of a bluish colour, and very intense,--more like the light reflected from
a jewel than a flame of fire. He could have read a book by means of it
In half an hour they drew near to the light, which they found proceeded
from the window of a small cottage or hut.
"Whist, Martin," whispered Barney, as they approached the hut on tiptoe;
"there may be savages into it, an' there's no sayin' what sort o' craturs
they are in them parts."
When about fifty yards distant, they could see through the open window
into the room where the light burned; and what they beheld there was well
calculated to fill them with surprise. On a rude wooden chair, at a rough
unpainted table, a man was seated, with his head resting on his hand, and
his eyes fixed intently on a book. Owing to the distance, and the few
leaves and branches that intervened between them and the hut, they could
not observe him very distinctly. But it was evident that he was a large
and strong man, a little past the prime of life. The hair of his head and
beard was black and bushy, and streaked with silver-grey. His face was
massive, and of a dark olive complexion, with an expression of sadness on
it, strangely mingled with stern gravity. His broad shoulders--and,
indeed, his whole person--were enveloped in the coarse folds of a long
gown or robe, gathered in at the waist with a broad band of leather.
The room in which he sat--or rather the hut, for there was but one room
in it--was destitute of all furniture, except that already mentioned,
besides one or two roughly-formed stools; but the walls were completely
covered with strange-looking implements and trophies of the chase; and
in a corner lay a confused pile of books, some of which were, from
their appearance, extremely ancient. All this the benighted wanderers
observed as they continued to approach cautiously on tiptoe. So
cautious did they become as they drew near, and came within the light
of the lamp, that Barney at length attempted to step over his own
shadow for fear of making a noise; and, in doing so, tripped and fell
with considerable noise through a hedge of prickly shrubs that
encircled the strange man's dwelling.
The hermit--for such he appeared to be--betrayed no symptom of surprise
or fear at the sudden sound; but, rising quietly though quickly from his
seat, took down a musket that hung on the wall, and, stepping to the open
door, demanded sternly, in the Portuguese language, "Who goes there?"
"Arrah, then, if ye'd help a fellow-cratur to rise, instead o' talkin'
gibberish like that, it would be more to your credit!" exclaimed the
Irishman, as he scrambled to his feet and presented himself, along with
Martin, at the hermit's door.
A peculiar smile lighted up the man's features as he retreated into the
hut, and invited the strangers to enter.
"Come in," said he, in good English, although with a slightly foreign
accent. "I am most happy to see you. You are English. I know the voice
and the language very well. Lived among them once, but long time past
now--very long. Have not seen one of you for many years."
With many such speeches, and much expression of good-will, the hospitable
hermit invited Martin and his companion to sit down at his rude table, on
which he quickly spread several plates of ripe and dried fruits, a few
cakes, and a jar of excellent honey, with a stone bottle of cool water.
When they were busily engaged with these viands, he began to make
inquiries as to where his visitors had come from.
"We've comed from the sae," replied Barney, as he devoted himself to a
magnificent pineapple. "Och but yer victuals is mighty good,
Mister--what's yer name?--'ticklerly to them that's a'most starvin'."
"The fact is," said Martin, "our ship has been taken by pirates, and we
two swam ashore, and lost ourselves in the woods; and now we have
stumbled upon your dwelling, friend, which is a great comfort."
"Hoigh, an' that's true," sighed Barney, as he finished the last slice of
They now explained to their entertainer all the circumstances attending
the capture of the _Firefly_, and their subsequent adventures and
vicissitudes in the forest; all of which Barney detailed in a most
graphic manner, and to all of which their new friend listened with grave
attention and unbroken silence. When they had concluded he said,--
"Very good. You have seen much in very short time. Perhaps you shall see
more by-and-by. For the present you will go to rest, for you must be
fatigued. I will _think_ to-night,--to-morrow I will _speak_"
"An', if I may make so bould," said Barney, glancing with a somewhat
rueful expression round the hard earthen floor of the hut, "where-abouts
may I take the liberty of sleepin'?"
The hermit replied by going to a corner, whence, from beneath a heap of
rubbish, he dragged two hammocks, curiously wrought in a sort of light
net-work. These he slung across the hut, at one end, from wall to wall,
and, throwing a sheet or coverlet into each, he turned with a smile to
"Behold your beds! I wish you a very good sleep,--adios!"
So saying, this strange individual sat down at the table, and was soon as
deeply engaged with his large book as if he had suffered no interruption;
while Martin and Barney, having gazed gravely and abstractedly at him for
five minutes, turned and smiled to each other, jumped into their
hammocks, and were soon buried in deep slumber.
AN ENEMY IN THE NIGHT--THE VAMPIRE BAT--THE HERMIT DISCOURSES ON STRANGE,
AND CURIOUS, AND INTERESTING THINGS
Next morning Martin Rattler awoke with a feeling of lightness in his
head, and a sensation of extreme weakness pervading his entire frame.
Turning his head round to the right he observed that a third hammock was
slung across the further end of the hut; which was, no doubt, that in
which the hermit had passed the night. But it was empty now. Martin did
not require to turn his head to the other side to see if Barney
O'Flannagan was there, for that worthy individual made his presence
known, for a distance of at least sixty yards all round the outside of
the hut, by means of his nose, which he was in the habit of using as a
trumpet when asleep. It was as well that Martin did not require to look
round; for he found, to his surprise, that he had scarcely strength to do
so. While he was wondering in a dreamy sort of manner what could be the
matter with him, the hermit entered the hut bearing a small deer upon his
shoulders. Resting his gun in a corner of the room, he advanced to
"My boy," he exclaimed, in surprise, "what is wrong with you?"
"I'm sure I don't know," said Martin, faintly; "I think there is
something wet about my feet."
Turning up the sheet, he found that Martin's feet were covered with
blood! For a few seconds the hermit growled forth a number of apparently
very pithy sentences in Portuguese, in a deep guttural voice, which
awakened Barney with a start. Springing from his hammock with a bound
like a tiger, he exclaimed, "Och! ye blackguard, would ye murther the boy
before me very nose?" and seizing the hermit in his powerful grasp, he
would infallibly have hurled him, big though he was, through his own
doorway, had not Martin cried out, "Stop, stop, Barney. It's all right;
he's done nothing:" on hearing which the Irishman loosened his hold, and
turned towards his friend.
"What's the matter, honey?" said Barney, in a soothing tone of voice, as
a mother might address her infant son. The hermit, whose composure had
not been in the slightest degree disturbed, here said--
"The poor child has been sucked by a vampire bat."
"Ochone!" groaned Barney, sitting down on the table, and looking at his
host with a face of horror.
"Yes, these are the worst animals in Brazil for sucking the blood of
men and cattle. I find it quite impossible to keep my mules alive, they
are so bad."
"They have killed two cows which I tried to keep here, and one young
horse--a foal you call him, I think; and now I have no cattle remaining,
they are so bad."
Barney groaned again, and the hermit went on to enumerate the wicked
deeds of the vampire bats, while he applied poultices of certain herbs to
Martin's toe, in order to check the bleeding, and then bandaged it up;
after which he sat down to relate to his visitors the manner in which the
bat carries on its bloody operations. He explained, first of all, that
the vampire bats are so large and ferocious that they often kill horses
and cattle by sucking their blood out. Of course they cannot do this at
one meal, but they attack the poor animals again and again, and the blood
continues to flow from the wounds they make long afterwards, so that the
creatures attacked soon grow weak and die. They attack men, too,--as
Martin knew to his cost; and they usually fix upon the toes and other
extremities. So gentle are they in their operations, that sleepers
frequently do not feel the puncture, which they make, it is supposed,
with the sharp hooked nail of their thumb; and the unconscious victim
knows nothing of the enemy who has been draining his blood until he
awakens, faint and exhausted, in the morning.
Moreover, the hermit told them that these vampire bats have very sharp,
carnivorous teeth, besides a tongue which is furnished with the curious
organs by which they suck the life-blood of their fellow-creatures; that
they have a peculiar, leaf-like, overhanging lip; and that he had a
stuffed specimen of a bat that measured no less than two feet across the
expanded wings, from tip to tip,
"Och, the blood-thirsty spalpeen!" exclaimed Barney, as he rose and
crossed the room to examine the bat in question, which was nailed against
the wall. "Bad luck to them, they've ruined Martin intirely."
"O no," remarked the hermit with a smile. "It will do the boy much good
the loss of the blood; much good, and he will not be sick at all
"I'm glad to hear you say so," said Martin, "for it would be a great bore
to be obliged to lie here when I've so many things to see. In fact I feel
better already, and if you will be so kind as to give me a little
breakfast I shall be quite well,"
While Martin was speaking, the obliging hermit,--who, by the way, was now
habited in a loose short hunting-coat of brown cotton,--spread a
plentiful repast upon his table; to which, having assisted Martin to get
out of his hammock, they all proceeded to do ample justice: for the
travellers were very hungry after the fatigue of the previous day; and as
for the hermit, he looked like a man whose appetite was always sharp set
and whose food agreed with him.
They had cold meat of several kinds, and a hot steak of venison just
killed that morning, which the hermit cooked while his guests were
engaged with the other viands. There was also excellent coffee, and
superb cream, besides cakes made of a species of coarse flour or meal,
fruits of various kinds, arid very fine honey.
"Arrah! ye've the hoith o' livin' here!" cried Barney, smacking his lips
as he held out his plate for another supply of a species of meat which
resembled chicken in tenderness and flavour. "What sort o' bird or baste
may that be, now, av' I may ask ye, Mister--what's yer name?"
"My name is Carlos," replied the hermit, gravely; "and this is the flesh
of the Armadillo."
"Arma--what--o?" inquired Barney.
"Arma_dillo_," repeated the hermit. "He is very good to eat, but very
difficult to catch. He digs down so fast we cannot catch him, and must
smoke him out of his hole."
"Have you many cows?" inquired Martin, as he replenished his cup
"Cows?" echoed the hermit, "I have got no cows."
"Where do you get such capital cream, then?" asked Martin in surprise.
The hermit smiled. "Ah! my friends, that cream has come from a very
curious cow. It is from a cow that grows in the ground."
"Grows!" ejaculated his guests.
"Yes, he grows. I will show him to you one day."
The hermit's broad shoulders shook with a quiet internal laugh. "I will
explain a little of that you behold on my table.
"The coffee I get from the trees. There are plenty of them here. Much
money is made in Brazil by the export of coffee,--very much. The cakes
are made from the mandioca-root, which I grow near my house. The root is
dried and ground into flour, which, under the general _name farina_, is
used all over the country. It is almost the only food used by the Indians
"Then there are Injins and Niggers here, are there?" inquired Barney.
"Yes, a great many. Most of the Negroes are slaves; some of the Indians
too; and the people who are descended from the Portuguese who came and
took the country long ago, they are the masters.--Well, the honey I get
in holes in the trees. There are different kinds of honey here; some of
it is _sour_ honey. And the fruits and roots, the plantains, and
bananas, and yams, and cocoa-nuts, and oranges, and plums, all grow in
the forest, and much more besides, which you will see for yourselves if
you stay long here."
"It's a quare country, intirely," remarked Barney, as he wiped his mouth
and heaved a sigh of contentment. Then, drawing his hand over his chin,
he looked earnestly in the hermit's face, and, with a peculiar twinkle in
his eye, said--
"I s'pose ye couldn't favour me with the lind of a raazor, could ye?"
"No, my friend; I never use that foolish weapon."
"Ah, well, as there's only monkeys and jaguars, and sich like to see me,
it don't much signify; but my mustaches is gitin' mighty long, for I've
been two weeks already without a shave."
Martin laughed heartily at the grave, anxious expression of his
comrade's face. "Never mind, Barney," he said, "a beard and moustache
will improve you vastly. Besides, they will be a great protection
against mosquitoes; for you are such a hairy monster, that when they
grow nothing of your face will be exposed except your eyes and
cheek-bones. And now," continued Martin, climbing into his hammock again
and addressing the hermit, "since you won't allow me to go out a-hunting
to-day, I would like very much if you would tell me something more about
this strange country."
"An' may be," suggested Barney, modestly, "ye won't object to tell us
something about yersilf,--how you came for to live in this quare,
solitary kind of a way."
The hermit looked gravely from one to the other, and stroked his beard.
Drawing his rude chair towards the door of the hut, he folded his arms,
and crossed his legs, and gazed dreamily forth upon the rich landscape.
Then, glancing again at his guests, he said, slowly: "Yes, I will do what
you ask,--I will tell you my story."
"An', if I might make so bould as to inquire," said Barney, with a
deprecatory smile, while he drew a short black pipe from his pocket,
"have ye got such a thing as 'baccy in them parts?"
The hermit rose, and going to a small box which stood in a corner,
returned with a quantity of cut tobacco in one hand, and a cigar not far
short of a foot long in the other! In a few seconds the cigar was going
in full force, like a factory chimney; and the short black pipe glowed
like a miniature furnace, while its owner seated himself on a low stool,
crossed his arms on his breast, leaned his back against the door-post,
and smiled,--as only an Irishman can smile under such circumstances. The
smoke soon formed a thick cloud, which effectually drove the mosquitoes
out of the hut, and through which Martin, lying in his hammock, gazed out
upon the sunlit orange and coffee trees, and tall palms with their rich
festoons of creeping plants, and sweet-scented flowers, that clambered
over and round the hut and peeped in at the open door and windows, while
he listened to the hermit, who continued for at least ten minutes to
murmur slowly, between the puffs of his cigar, "Yes, I will do it; I will
tell you my story."
THE HERMIT'S STORY
"My ancestors," began the hermit, "were among the first to land upon
Brazil, after the country was taken possession of in the name of the King
of Portugal, in the year 1500. In the first year of the century, Vincent
Yanez Pinšon, a companion of the famed Columbus, discovered Brazil; and
in the next year, Pedro Alvarez Cabral, a Portuguese commander, took
possession of it in the name of the King of Portugal. In 1503, Americus
Vespucius discovered the Bay of All Saints, and took home a cargo of
Brazil-wood, monkeys and parrots; but no permanent settlement was
effected upon the shores of the new continent, and the rich treasures of
this great country remained for some years longer buried and unknown to
man,--for the wild Indians who lived here knew not their value.
"It was on a dark and stormy night in the year 1510. A group of swarthy
and naked savages encircled a small fire on the edge of the forest on the
east coast of Brazil. The spot where their watchfire was kindled is now
covered by the flourishing city of Bahia. At that time it was a
wilderness. Before them stretched the noble bay which is now termed
_Bahia de Todos Santos,_--All Saints' Bay.
"The savages talked earnestly and with excited looks as they stood upon
the shore, for the memory of the wondrous ships of the white men that
had visited them a few years before was deeply engraven on their minds;
and now, in the midst of the howling storm, another ship was seen
approaching their land. It was a small vessel, shattered and
tempest-tossed, that drove into the Bahia de Todos Santos on that stormy
night. Long had it battled with the waves of the Atlantic, and the brave
hearts that manned it had remained stanch to duty and strong in hope,
remembering the recent glorious example of Columbus. But the storm was
fierce and the bark was frail. The top-masts were broken and the sails
rent; and worst of all, just as land hove in sight and cheered the
drooping spirits of the crew, a tremendous wave dashed upon the ship's
stern and carried away the rudder.
"As they drove helplessly before the gale towards the shore, the naked
savages crowded down upon the beach and gazed in awe and astonishment at
the mysterious ship. A few of them had seen the vessels of Americus
Vespucius and Cabral. The rumour of the white men and their floating
castle had been wafted far and wide along the coast and into the interior
of Brazil, and with breathless wonder the natives had listened to the
strange account. But now the vision was before them in reality. On came
the floating castle, the white foam dashing from her bows and the torn
sails and ropes flying from her masts as she surged over the billows and
loomed through the driving spray.
"It was a grand sight to see that ship dashing straight towards the shore
at fearful speed; and those who looked on seemed to be impressed with a
vague feeling that she had power to spring upon the strand and continue
her swift career through the forest, as she had hitherto cleft her
passage through the sea. As she approached, the savages shrank back in
fear. Suddenly her frame trembled with a mighty shock. A terrible cry was
borne to land by the gale, and all her masts went overboard. A huge wave
lifted the vessel on its crest and flung her further on the shore, where
she remained firmly fixed, while the waves dashed in foam around her and
soon began to break her up. Ere this happened, however, a rope was thrown
ashore and fastened to a rock by the natives. By means of this the crew
were saved. But it would have been well for these bold navigators of
Portugal if they had perished in the stormy sea, for they were spared by
the ocean only to be murdered by the wild savages on whose shore they had
"All were slain save one,--Diego Alvarez Carreo, the captain of the ship.
Before grasping the rope by which he reached the shore, he thrust several
cartridges into his bosom and caught up a loaded musket. Wrapping the
lock in several folds of cloth to keep it dry, he slid along the rope and
gained the beach in safety. Here he was seized by the natives, and would
no doubt have been barbarously slain with his unfortunate companions;
but, being a very powerful man, he dashed aside the foremost, and,
breaking through their ranks, rushed towards the wood. The fleet savages,