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The Pirate Of Masafuero
by [?]

CHAPTER I.

Gonzalo.

Had I a plantation of this isle, my lord, And were the king of it, what would I do?

Sebastian.‘Scape getting drunk, for want of wine.

TEMPEST.

In the Pacific Ocean, and within two days’ sail of the coast of Chili, lies the little island of Masafuero, or, as the word is generally divided by the Spaniards who discovered it, Mas-a-fuero–that is, the farthest–to distinguish it from Juan Fernandez, which lies nearer the main land, and in sight of Masafuero. Juan Fernandez is well known to all the reading community as having once been the temporary residence of Alexander Selkirk, the original, or, as grammarians would call it, the root, of De Foe’s bewitching romance of Robinson Crusoe.

Masafuero is, on the contrary, remarkable for nothing more, that I know of, than being very difficult of access, and overrun with wild goats. It is situated in the latitude of thirty-three degrees and forty-five minutes, south, and eighty degrees and thirty-six minutes, west longitude; for I love to be particular in all such cases–not that I suppose my readers care a pin if I had told them it was in the south-west horn of the new moon; but all authors, when they put pen to paper, seem actuated by the kind and neighborly spirit of the sagacious Dogberry–namely, to “bestow all their tediousness” upon their readers; and I do not know that I have any prescriptive right–I am sure I have no intention–to depart from so well-worn a track, or to fly in the face of so many illustrious precedents.

This island is covered, from the water’s edge to the summit, with trees, and it is only for the sake of wood that it is ever visited by our whalemen, who fell the trees on the brink of steep cliffs, and tumble them down, by which process they are broken up into sufficiently short pieces to render their carriage convenient. There are evident traces of most tremendous earthquakes visible throughout the island; huge fissures and rents from the tops of the highest hills to unknown and unexplorable depths, vast scattered masses of rock that have been shaken down from the cliffs, and many other similar appearances, announce that the most terrific convulsions of nature have rendered Masafuero a very unquiet residence, even to the poor goats, at different times. In its external appearance, and when seen at some distance, it bears considerable resemblance to the celebrated Isle of St. Helena, and is, like it, exceeding precipitous, and has but one approachable, and not always accessible, landing-place. Of this last trait in its character I can speak from experience and most feelingly, having visited the island in the year 1821, in a small brig, with the intention of getting off nine men, who had been left there some time previous for the purpose of collecting seal-skins, with which the island abounds, as well as with goats. Our attempt was rendered fruitless by the violence of the wind, which, for the time it lasted, exceeded any thing I had ever seen, except a typhon in the China seas, and one north-wester off Nantucket shoals.

Some of the men, whom I afterwards saw, informed me that they had, during their abode there, planted sundry garden seeds, such as beans, pumpkin, squash, and onion seeds; but this item of intelligence I look upon to be somewhat apocryphal; at any rate, I would not recommend to any one, who may chance to visit said island, to save his stomach for any pumpkin pies or baked beans he may obtain from it. There is undoubtedly fertile soil enough for a garden–but then the goats.

The island also enjoys the reputation of having once been the rendezvous of a gang of pirates, as a house, that has stood untenanted for any length of time, is sure to be peopled with ghosts. People seem to think it a pity that a tenement should remain unoccupied, so, out of sheer compassion for the proprietor, they stock it with unearthly tenants from roof to cellar, or like–for, now I am in the humor for comparisons, I might as well go on–it was like a man who keeps his business to himself and troubles nobody; his neighbors, knowing nothing about his occupations and habits, take it for granted that they are both bad and “contrary to the peace of the commonwealth.”