She: The most famous of the ‘lost world’ novels. It was incredibly popular and is still one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold over a hundred million copies. ~ Graeme Shimmin
The Lost World: “The tone and techniques that Conan Doyle first refined in The Lost World have become standard narrative procedures in popular entertainment of the present day.” ~ Michael Crichton
Eureka: “One of the finer books of its kind, unfortunately very rare.” ~ Jessica Amanda Salmonson
The Knight of the Silver Star: “Excellent tale.” ~ Jessica Amanda Salmonson
The Phantom City, A Volcanic Romance: “Intelligently written.” ~ Everett Franklin Bleiler, Science-fiction, the Early Years
My father was a substantial merchant of Harlem, and in that town I was born, being the second son. That was the age of discovery, and the thirst for it was inherent in nearly every youth. The wonderful success of the Dutch East India Company had fired all men with enthusiasm, and as I grew towards manhood, I longed to make one of the many bands of adventurers who often left for the East. So persistent did I become that my father at last consented to my going, thinking that a voyage would probably cure me. Having some influence with several of the directors of the great company, he obtained for me a subordinate position as clerk to the supercargo on board of the Batavia, one of a fleet of eleven ships about to sail from the Texel to Java.
Jerom Cornelis was the supercargo. He had been an apothecary in Harlem, and as such I had known him for some time. He was a man of ability and education, and I had a boyish admiration for him. Now I know him to have been a man whose talents were marred by an intense, almost childish vanity, and a disposition, cruel and relentless as the tiger’s. As a lad of eighteen, I saw nothing but the wonderful fascination he exercised, and listened entranced when he dazzled my imagination with pictures of future greatness in the rich islands of the eastern seas.
Our voyage was a stormy one, and as the Batavia had over two hundred souls on board, the discomfort was great. I shared a cabin with Cornelis, and in every way that singular man strove to win my affection. Why he did so I cannot say even to this day.
We had been nearly two months at sea, when Cornelis confided to me a plan he had formed, in conjunction with the pilot and some other mutinous spirits, to seize the ship and turn pirate. I endeavoured to dissuade him, but without avail; he bound me over to secrecy and assured me that my life was safe whatever happened, as he would not allow me to take an active part in it, which I certainly had no intention of doing. The plot, however, was frustrated by the weather and other causes, and although I am certain it came to the ears of our commander, Captain Pelsart, he did not, unfortunately, hang the mutineers out of hand as one would have expected from a man of his determination.
Now one would have thought that this would have revealed to me the true character of Cornelis, but such an infatuated fool was I, and so beguiled by his specious tongue, that I still remained his friend and admirer.
We had now doubled the great southern cape, and storm after storm burst upon us with relentless fury. One by one we lost sight of our consorts and at last found ourselves alone; driven out of our course into an unknown sea.
To add to our distress, Captain Pelsart was confined to his berth with sickness and the vessel was in charge of the pilot, who apparently lost all reckoning. It was on the morning of the 4th June, 1629, for the date is indelibly engraven on my memory, that our voyage was brought to a fatal termination by the vessel striking on a reef of rocks. When I got on deck there was nothing visible but white surf and foam everywhere, and we had to wait until daylight, the ship bumping heavily meanwhile.
Daybreak showed us to be in the neighbourhood of a group of rocky islands, one of which was close to us. Finding that the ship was irretrievably damaged Captain Pelsart proceeded to land the passengers and crew on the nearest island. Great confusion ensued and many of the sailors broached some casks of wine in the cargo and got drunk. Provisions were landed, but very little water, and as none could be found on the island, our captain, after two days, started with a boat’s crew to the mainland, which we could see in the distance and which was supposed to be the mysterious continent known as Terra Australis.
I had been separated from Cornelis in the turmoil of the wreck, and indeed it was not until the Batavia was utterly broken up that he came ashore almost dead. He had been floating for two days on the topmast of the ship, carried backwards and forwards by the current, until at last he drifted near enough to gain the land.
On regaining strength he assumed command, in the absence of the captain, and in spite of all the bloody deeds of that guilty man I will say that he restored some sort of order amongst the demoralized crew and passengers. One of the petty officers named Weberhayes was despatched with some thirty men or more, including some French soldiers in the pay of the Company, to a large island visible to the eastward. If successful in finding water he was to light two fires. The water supply consisting only of rain in the holes in the rock, another smaller party were conveyed to a neighbouring islet.
All this was done in furtherance of a plan maturing in the mind of Cornelis. He retained about him all the ruffians on whom he could rely when the time came to act. This soon arrived. For Pelsart not returning Cornelis threw off the mask. He assembled all his followers at a meeting at which I was forced to attend, and here they all swore a solemn oath to stand by each other, and if Pelsart had gone on to Java and returned with a ship they would endeavour to capture it, if not they would build one out of the remains of the Batavia, and start north on a piratical cruise. But first, the mouths of those who could not be trusted had to be silenced for ever.
That night I was awakened by shrieks, groans, and cries for mercy. Cornelis and his myrmidons were butchering in cold blood the helpless people whom they had not admitted to the conspiracy.
I could do nothing during that night of horror, but try and close my ears to the piteous cries of the victims. Next morning, with their lust for murder still unsated, they went over to the small island and recommenced their fiendish work on the defenceless people. Unfortunately for Cornelis, however, some few escaped and during the night succeeded in making a raft and crossing to the large island, where Weberhayes and his party were. They informed him of the butchery that had taken place and put him on his guard.
The vanity of Cornelis now got the ascendency of him. He had himself proclaimed Governor-general of the barren, rocky islet we were on, which was christened “Batavia’s Grave”. He had the merchants’ chests broken open, and from the stuffs contained therein uniforms were made for a chosen body-guard. This being done, it was determined to exterminate Weberhayes and his men.
Not knowing of the escape of some of the victims, they rowed up confidently, expecting to take the party by surprise, but were surprised themselves. Weberhayes and his followers, armed only with such rude weapons as clubs and stones, fell upon them suddenly, killed some, and forced the others to make a hasty retreat.
Incensed at this repulse, Cornelis led a fresh assault in person and I was ordered into the boat. I had no stomach for the fight, and did not feel particularly sorry when we got more soundly beaten than before.
Weberhayes’ party now had arms, taken from the dead mutineers, and Cornelis resorted to treachery. He sent the chaplain, whose life had been spared, to negotiate; and meanwhile he tried to bribe the French soldiers with some of the treasure of the Batavia, but they were loyal and at once reported the matter to Weberhayes. A truce was then agreed on. Cornelis was to send over some provisions and receive water in return, of which there was a permanent supply on the island. Weberhayes, however, rightly mistrusted Cornelis and was on his guard; so when a sudden attack was made he was prepared, and not only beat them off with loss, but captured Cornelis.
This was the end of the rebel Governor-general. I never saw Cornelis again until the rope was round his neck.
Now commenced on the island I was on, called “Batavia’s Grave”, a wild pandemonium. There were still some casks of wine left, and the ruffians drank and quarrelled, and fought with knives over useless pieces of silver. With the capture of Cornelis every semblance of a plan seemed to have vanished. Never shall I forget the horror of that time, although I have seen blood flow like water since. Five wretched women who had been spared from the massacre, two of them being the daughters of the chaplain, were stabbed to death by these devils, and how I escaped a knife through my heart I know not.
At last one morning a sail was in sight, and aided by a fair wind a large ship came swiftly on and soon dropped anchor halfway between the island of Weberhayes and “Batavia’s Grave”. Hastily arming themselves a large boat’s crew from our island started to board the ship. Weberhayes was, however, before them. As Pelsart—for it was he with the Sardam frigate—left the ship, intending to land, he was intercepted by Weberhayes who told him the true state of the case. They returned on board and awaited the coming of the other boat. The mutineers, in their gaudy uniforms, were allowed to come well within range. They were then hailed and ordered to drop their weapons overboard and come on board; which they did, and were at once put in irons. Pelsart then landed, but the rest made no resistance and were secured, I being amongst them.
We were kept close prisoners on the island for many days whilst the sailors of the Sardam tried to recover the treasure lost in the Batavia. Then one day we were taken on board. Some of us were interrogated, some not. I had to confess that I had accompanied one of the armed boats which attacked Weberhayes. There was a short consultation in the cabin, then the deadly work of retribution commenced. One after another the murderers were run up to the yard-arm, and then their bodies were thrown into the sea. Cornelis was hung from a higher yard than the others, in acknowledgment of his leadership. They all died sullenly and defiantly.
As I expected a like death, and had now become used to scenes of bloodshed, I looked on in apathetic despair. At last when it seemed that my turn had come, for there was nobody but myself and a sailor named Paul left, the executions ended; for the ropes were unreeved from the blocks, the anchor raised, some sails set, and the ship stood in for the mainland. Not a word was said to either of us. Paul was an old sailor, and one who had kept his hands as free from bloodshed as possible. He looked inquiringly at me, but I could only do the same to him. Neither of us knew what this meant.
When within a short distance of the land the ship hove to, and a boat was lowered. Our irons were struck off, and we were ordered to get in. A short row took us to a spot where there was easy landing on a beach, sheltered by a rocky reef which broke the surf. When the boat grounded we were ordered out; a couple of bags of biscuit, a breaker of fresh water, a tomahawk, and a cutlass were passed on to the beach. As the sailor who placed these things down stooped near me he whispered something that gave me a clue to our fate. He was one of Pelsart’s men and came from my native town of Harlem. The boat’s crew shipped their oars and pulled rapidly back to the Sardam.
Paul muttered a terrible curse and looked at me. There was no longer any doubt. We were marooned on the coast of the great unknown South Land. To die at the hands of the giant savages said to inhabit it, or the more dreadful strange beasts. What the friendly sailor had whispered to me was, “Keep your heart up. Ships may be round here soon.”
So far as I know they never came; when the Sardam’s masts sank beneath the horizon, both Paul and I had looked our last upon an European sail for many long years.