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- The Little Savage - 1/51 -







There is a reference, in _The Life and Letters of Captain Marryat_ by his daughter Florence Marryat, to "_The Little Savage_, only two chapters of the second volume of which were written by himself."

This sentence may be variously interpreted, but most probably implies that Marryat wrote all Part I (of the first edition) and two chapters of Part II, that is--as far as the end of Chapter xxiv. The remaining pages may be the work of his son Frank S. Marryat, who _edited_ the first edition, supplying a brief preface to Part II:--

"I cannot publish this last work of my late father without some prefatory remarks, as, in justice to the public, as well as to himself, I should state, that his lamented decease prevented his concluding the second volume."

"The present volume has been for some time at press, but the long-protracted illness of the author delayed its publication."

_The Little Savage_ opens well. The picture of a lad, who was born on a desert island--though of English parents--and really deserves to be called a savage, growing up with no other companionship than that of his father's murderer, is boldly conceived and executed with some power. The man Jackson is a thoroughly human ruffian, who naturally detests the boy he has so terribly injured, and bullies him brutally. Under this treatment Frank's animal passions are inevitably aroused, and when the lightning had struck his tyrant blind, he turns upon him with a quiet savagery that is narrated with admirable detachment.

This original situation arrests the reader's attention and secures his interest in Frank Henniker's development towards civilisation and virtue. His experience of absolute solitude after Jackson's death serves to bring out his sympathies with animals and flowers; while, on the arrival of Mrs Reichardt, he proves himself a loyal comrade under kind treatment.

It is much to be regretted that Marryat did not live to finish his work.

R. B. J.

_The Little Savage_ originally appeared in 1848-49. Marryat, who was born in 1792, died at Langham, Norfolk, August 9, 1848.

The following is the list of his published works:--

Suggestions for the Abolition of the Present System of Impressment in the Naval Service, 1822; The Naval Officer, or Scenes and Adventures in the Life of Frank Mildmay, 1829; The King's Own, 1830; Newton Forster (from the _Metropolitan Magazine_), 1832; Jacob Faithful (from the _Metropolitan Magazine_), 1834; Peter Simple, 1834; The Pacha of Many Tales, 1835; Midshipman Easy (from the _Metropolitan Magazine_), 1836; Japhet in Search of a Father (from the _Metropolitan Magazine_), 1836; The Pirate and The Three Cutters, 1836; A Code of Signals for the Use of Vessels employed in the Merchant Service, 1837; Snarleyyow, or The Dog Fiend, 1837; A Diary in America, with Remarks on its Institutions, 1839; The Phantom Ship, 1839; Poor Jack, 1840; Olla Podrida (articles from the _Metropolitan Magazine_), 1840; Joseph Rushbrook, or The Poacher, 1841; Masterman Ready, or The Wreck of the _Pacific_, 1841; Percival Keene, 1842; Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of Monsieur Violet in California, Sonora, and Western Texas, 1843; The Settlers in Canada, 1844; The Mission, or Scenes in Africa, 1845; The Privateer's Man, 1846; The Children of the New Forest, 1847; The Little Savage (posthumous), 1848-49; Valerie (posthumous), 1849; Life and Letters, Florence Marryat, 1872.


Chapter I

I am about to write a very curious history, as the reader will agree with me when he has read this book. We have more than one narrative of people being cast away upon desolate islands, and being left to their own resources, and no works are perhaps read with more interest; but I believe I am the first instance of a boy being left alone upon an uninhabited island. Such was, however, the case; and now I shall tell my own story.

My first recollections are, that I was in company with a man upon this island, and that we walked often along the sea-shore. It was rocky and difficult to climb in many parts, and the man used to drag or pull me over the dangerous places. He was very unkind to me, which may appear strange, as I was the only companion that he had; but he was of a morose and gloomy disposition. He would sit down squatted in the corner of our cabin, and sometimes not speak for hours--or he would remain the whole day looking out at the sea, as if watching for something, but what I never could tell; for if I spoke, he would not reply; and if near to him, I was sure to receive a cuff or a heavy blow. I should imagine that I was about five years old at the time that I first recollect clearly what passed. I may have been younger. I may as well here state what I gathered from him at different times, relative to our being left upon this desolate spot. It was with difficulty that I did so; for, generally speaking, he would throw a stone at me if I asked questions, that is, if I repeatedly asked them after he had refused to answer. It was on one occasion, when he was lying sick, that I gained the information, and that only by refusing to attend him or bring him food and water. He would be very angry, and say, that when he got well again, he would make me smart for it; but I cared not, for I was then getting strong, whilst he was getting weaker every day, and I had no love for him, for he had never shown any to me, but always treated me with great severity.

He told me, that about twelve years before (not that I knew what he meant by a year, for I had never heard the term used by him), an English ship (I did not know what a ship was) had been swamped near the island, in a heavy gale, and that seven men and one woman had been saved, and all the other people lost. That the ship had been broken into pieces, and that they had saved nothing--that they had picked up among the rocks pieces of the wood with which it had been made, and had built the cabin in which we lived. That one had died after another, and had been buried (what death or burial meant, I had no idea at the time), and that I had been born on the island; (How was I born? thought I)--that most of them had died before I was two years old; and that then, he and my mother were the only two left besides me. My mother had died a few months afterwards. I was obliged to ask him many questions to understand all this; indeed, I did not understand it till long afterwards, although I had an idea of what he would say. Had I been left with any other person, I should, of course, by conversation, have learnt much; but he never would converse, still less explain. He called me, Boy, and I called him, Master. His inveterate silence was the occasion of my language being composed of very few words; for, except to order me to do this or that, to procure what was required, he never would converse. He did however mutter to himself, and talk in his sleep, and I used to lie awake and listen, that I might gain information; not at first, but when I grew older. He used to cry out in his sleep constantly.--"A judgment, a judgment on me for my sins, my heavy sins--God be merciful!" But what judgment, or what sin was, or what was God, I did not then know, although I mused on words repeated so often.

I will now describe the island, and the way in which we lived. The island was very small, perhaps not three miles round; it was of rock, and there was no beach nor landing place, the sea washing its sides with deep water. It was, as I afterwards discovered, one of the group of islands to which the Peruvians despatch vessels every year to collect the guano, or refuse of the sea birds which resort to the islands; but the one on which we were was small, and detached some distance from the others, on which the guano was found in great profusion; so that hitherto it had been neglected, and no vessel had ever come near it. Indeed, the other islands were not to be seen from it except on a very clear day, when they appeared like a cloud or mist on the horizon. The shores of the island were, moreover, so precipitous, that there was no landing place, and the eternal wash of the ocean would have made it almost impossible for a vessel to have taken off a cargo. Such was the island upon which I found myself in company with this man. Our cabin was built of ship-plank and timber, under the shelter of a cliff, about fifty yards from the water; there was a flat of about thirty yards square in front of it, and from the cliff there trickled down a rill of water, which fell into a hole dug out to collect it, and then found its way over the flat to the rocks beneath. The cabin itself was large, and capable of holding many more people than had ever lived in it; but it was not too large, as we had to secure in it our provisions for many months. There were several bed-places level with the floor, which were rendered soft enough to lie on, by being filled with the feathers of birds. Furniture there was none, except two or three old axes, blunted with long use, a tin pannikin, a mess kid and some rude vessels to hold water, cut out of wood. On the summit of the island there was a forest of underwood, and the bushes extended some distance down the ravines which led from the summit to the shore. One of my most arduous tasks was to climb these ravines and collect wood, but fortunately a fire was not often required. The climate was warm all the year round, and there seldom was a fall of rain; when it did fall, it was generally expended on the summit of the island, and did not reach us. At a certain period of the year, the birds came to the island in numberless quantities to breed, and their chief resort was some tolerably level ground-- indeed, in many places, it was quite level with the accumulation of guano--which ground was divided from the spot where our cabin was built by a deep ravine. On this spot, which might perhaps contain about twenty acres or more, the sea birds would sit upon their eggs,

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