HotFreeBooks.com
The Swiss Family Robinson; or Adventures in a Desert Island
by Johann David Wyss
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Papa! papa! I have pierced through!"

"Not through your hand, child?" asked I.

"No, papa!" cried he; "I have pierced through the mountain! Huzza!"

Fritz ran in at the shout, and told him he had better have said at once that he had pierced through the earth! But Jack persisted that, however his brother might laugh, he was quite sure he had felt his iron bar enter an empty space behind. I now came down from my ladder, and, moving the bar, I felt there was really a hollow into which the rubbish fell, but apparently very little below the level we were working on. I took a long pole and probed the cavity, and found that it must be of considerable size. My boys wished to have the opening enlarged and to enter immediately, but this I strictly forbade; for, as I leaned forward to examine it through the opening, a rush of mephitic air gave me a sort of vertigo. "Come away, children," cried I, in terror; "the air you would breathe there is certain death." I explained to them that, under certain circumstances, carbonic acid gas was frequently accumulated in caves or grottoes, rendering the air unfit for respiration; producing giddiness of the head, fainting, and eventually death. I sent them to collect some hay, which I lighted and threw into the cave; this was immediately extinguished; we repeated the experiment several times with the same result. I now saw that more active means must be resorted to.

We had brought from the vessel a box of fireworks, intended for signals; I threw into the cave, by a cord, a quantity of rockets, grenades, &c., and scattered a train of gunpowder from them; to this I applied a long match, and we retired to a little distance. This succeeded well; a great explosion agitated the air, a torrent of the carbonic acid gas rushed through the opening, and was replaced by the pure air; we sent in a few more rockets, which flew round like fiery dragons, disclosing to us the vast extent of the cave. A shower of stars, which concluded our experiment, made us wish the duration had been longer. It seemed as if a crowd of winged genii, carrying each a lamp, were floating about in that enchanted cavern. When they vanished, I threw in some more lighted hay, which blazed in such a lively manner, that I knew all danger was over from the gas; but, for fear of deep pits, or pools of water, I would not venture in without lights. I therefore despatched Jack, on his buffalo, to report this discovery to his mother, and bring all the candles she had made. I purposely sent Jack on the errand, for his lively and poetic turn of mind would, I hoped, invest the grotto with such charms, that his mother would even abandon her wheel to come and see it.



Delighted with his commission, Jack leaped upon his buffalo, and, waving his whip, galloped off with an intrepidity that made my hair stand on end. During his absence, Fritz and I enlarged the opening, to make it easy of access, removed all the rubbish, and swept a road for mamma. We had just finished, when we heard the sound of wheels crossing the bridge, and the cart appeared, drawn by the cow and ass, led by Ernest. Jack rode before on his buffalo, blowing through his hand to imitate a horn, and whipping the lazy cow and ass. He rode up first, and alighted from his huge courser, to help his mother out.

I then lighted our candles, giving one to each, with a spare candle and flint and steel in our pockets. We took our arms, and proceeded in a solemn manner into the rock. I walked first, my sons followed, and their mother came last, with Francis. We had not gone on above a few steps, when we stopped, struck with wonder and admiration; all was glittering around us; we were in a grotto of diamonds! From the height of the lofty vaulted roof hung innumerable crystals, which, uniting with those on the walls, formed colonnades, altars, and every sort of gothic ornament of dazzling lustre, creating a fairy palace, or an illuminated temple.

When we were a little recovered from our first astonishment, we advanced with more confidence. The grotto was spacious, the floor smooth, and covered with a fine dry sand. From the appearance of these crystals, I suspected their nature, and, on breaking off a piece and tasting it, I found, to my great joy, that we were in a grotto of rock salt, which is found in large masses in the earth, usually above a bed of gypsum, and surrounded by fossils. We were charmed with this discovery, of which we could no longer have a doubt. What an advantage this was to our cattle, and to ourselves! We could now procure this precious commodity without care or labour. The acquisition was almost as valuable as this brilliant retreat was in itself, of which we were never tired of admiring the beauty. My wife was struck with our good fortune in opening the rock precisely at the right spot; but I was of opinion, that this mine was of great extent, and that we could not well have missed it. Some blocks of salt were scattered on the ground, which had apparently fallen from the vaulted roof. I was alarmed; for such an accident might destroy one of my children; but, on examination, I found the mass above too solid to be detached spontaneously, and I concluded that the explosion of the fireworks had given this shock to the subterranean palace, which had not been entered since the creation of the world. I feared there might yet be some pieces loosened; I therefore sent out my wife and younger sons. Fritz and I remained, and, after carefully examining the suspected parts, we fired our guns, and watched the effect; one or two pieces fell, but the rest remained firm, though we struck with long poles as high as we could reach. We were now satisfied of the security of our magnificent abode, and began to plan our arrangements for converting it into a convenient and pleasant habitation. The majority were for coming here immediately, but the wiser heads determined that, for this year, Falcon's Nest was to continue our home. There we went every night, and spent the day at Tent House, contriving and arranging our future winter dwelling.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXX.

The last bed of rock, before we reached the cave which Jack had pierced, was so soft, and easy to work, that we had little difficulty in proportioning and opening the place for our door; I hoped that, being now exposed to the heat of the sun, it would soon become as hard as the original surface. The door was that we had used for the staircase at Falcon's Nest; for as we only intended to make a temporary residence of our old tree, there was no necessity for solid fittings; and, besides, I intended to close the entrance of the tree by a door of bark, more effectually to conceal it, in case savages should visit us. I then laid out the extent of the grotto at pleasure, for we had ample space. We began by dividing it into two parts; that on the right of the entrance was to be our dwelling; on the left were, first, our kitchen, then the workshop and the stables; behind these were the store-rooms and the cellar. In order to give light and air to our apartments, it was necessary to insert in the rock the windows we had brought from the ship; and this cost us many days of labour. The right-hand portion was subdivided into three rooms: the first our own bedroom; the middle, the common sitting-room, and beyond the boys' room. As we had only three windows, we appropriated one to each bedroom, and the third to the kitchen, contenting ourselves, at present, with a grating in the dining-room. I constructed a sort of chimney in the kitchen, formed of four boards, and conducted the smoke thus, through a hole made in the face of the rock. We made bur work-room spacious enough for us to carry on all our manufactures, and it served also for our cart-house. Finally, all the partition-walls were put up, communicating by doors, and completing our commodious habitation. These various labours, the removal of our effects, and arranging them again, all the confusion of a change when it was necessary to be at once workmen and directors, took us a great part of summer; but the recollection of the vexations we should escape in the rainy season gave us energy.

We passed nearly all our time at Tent House, the centre of our operations; and, besides the gardens and plantations which surrounded it, we found many advantages which we profited by. Large turtles often came to deposit their eggs in the sand, a pleasant treat for us; but we raised our desires to the possession of the turtles themselves, living, to eat when we chose. As soon as we saw one on the shore, one of my sons ran to cut off its retreat. We then hastened to assist, turned the creature on its back, passed a long cord through its shell, and tied it firmly to a post close to the water. We then placed it on its legs, when of course it made for the water, but could only ramble the length of its cord; it seemed, however, very content, and we had it in readiness when we wanted it. The lobsters, crabs, muscles, and every sort of fish which abounded on the coast, plentifully supplied our table. One morning, we were struck with an extraordinary spectacle: a large portion of the sea appeared in a state of ebullition, and immense flocks of marine birds were hovering over it, uttering piercing cries, and plunging into the waves. From time to time the surface, on which the rising sun now shone, seemed covered with little flames, which rapidly appeared and vanished. Suddenly, this extraordinary mass advanced to the bay; and we ran down, fall of curiosity. We found, on our arrival, that this strange phenomenon was caused by a shoal of herrings. These shoals are so dense, that they are often taken for sand-banks, are many leagues in extent, and several feet in depth: they spread themselves over the seas, carrying to barren shores the resources that nature has denied them.

These brilliant, scaly creatures had now entered the bay, and my wife and children were lost in admiration of the wonderful sight; but I reminded them, that when Providence sends plenty, we ought to put forth our hands to take it. I sent immediately for the necessary utensils, and organized my fishery. Fritz and Jack stood in the water, and such was the thickness of the shoal, that they filled baskets, taking them up as you would water in a pail; they threw them on the sand; my wife and Ernest cut them open, cleaned them, and rubbed them with salt; I arranged them in small barrels, a layer of herrings and a layer of salt; and when the barrel was full, the ass, led by Francis, took them up to the storehouse. This labour occupied us several days, and at the end of that time we had a dozen barrels of excellent salt provision against the winter season.

The refuse of this fishery, which we threw into the sea, attracted a number of sea-dogs; we killed several for the sake of the skin and the oil, which would be useful to burn in lamps, or even as an ingredient in soap, which I hoped to make at some future time.

At this time I greatly improved my sledge, by placing it on two small wheels belonging to the guns of the ship, making it a light and commodious carriage, and so low, that we could easily place heavy weights on it. Satisfied with our labours, we returned very happy to Falcon's Nest, to spend our Sunday, and to thank God heartily for all the blessings he had given us.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXI.

We went on with our labours but slowly, as many employments diverted us from the great work. I had discovered that the crystals of salt in our grotto had a bed of gypsum for their base, from which I hoped to obtain a great advantage. I was fortunate enough to discover, behind a projecting rock, a natural passage leading to our store-room, strewed with fragments of gypsum. I took some of it to the kitchen, and by repeated burnings calcined it, and reduced it to a fine white powder, which I put into casks, and carefully preserved for use. My intention was, to form our partition-walls of square stones, cemented with the gypsum. I employed my sons daily to collect this, till we had amassed a large quantity; using some, in the first place, effectually to cover our herring-barrels. Four barrels were salted and covered in this way; the rest my wife smoked in a little hut of reeds and branches, in the midst of which the herrings were laid on sticks, and exposed to the smoke of a fire of green moss kindled below. This dried them, and gave them the peculiar flavour so agreeable to many.

We were visited by another shoal of fish a month after that of the herrings. Jack first discovered them at the mouth of Jackal River, where they had apparently come to deposit their eggs among the scattered stones. They were so large, that he was sure they must be whales. I found them to be pretty large sturgeons, besides salmon, large trout, and many other fishes. Jack immediately ran for his bow and arrows, and told me he would kill them all. He fastened the end of a ball of string to an arrow, with a hook at the end of it; he tied the bladders of the dog-fish at certain distances to the string; he then placed the ball safe on the shore, took his bow, fixed the arrow in it, and aiming at the largest salmon, shot it in the side; the fish tried to escape; I assisted him to draw the cord; it was no easy task, for he struggled tremendously; but at length, weakened by loss of blood, we drew him to land, and despatched him.

The other boys came running up to congratulate the young fisherman on his invention, and as it was to be feared that the rest, alarmed by this attack, might take their departure, we determined to abandon everything for the fishery. Fritz threw his harpoon, and landed, by means of the reel, some large salmon; Ernest took his rod, and caught trout; and I, armed like Neptune with an iron trident, succeeded in striking, amongst the stones, some enormous fish. The greatest difficulty was to land our booty; Fritz had struck a sturgeon at least eight feet long, which resisted our united efforts, till my wife brought the buffalo, which we harnessed to the line, and made ourselves masters of this immense prize.

We had a great deal of labour in opening and cleaning all our fish: some we dried and salted; some my wife boiled in oil, as they preserve the tunny. The spawn of the sturgeon, a huge mass, weighing not less than thirty pounds, I laid aside to prepare as caviare, a favourite dish in Holland and Russia. I carefully cleansed the eggs from the skin and fibres that were mixed with them, washed them thoroughly in sea-water, slightly sprinkled them with salt, then put them in a gourd pierced with small holes to let the water escape, and placed weights on them to press them completely for twenty-four hours. We then removed the caviare in solid masses, like cheeses, took it to the smoking-hut to dry, and in a few days had this large addition to our winter provision.

My next employment was the preparation of the valuable isinglass. I took the air-bladder and sounds of the fish, cut them in strips, twisted them in rolls, and dried them in the sun. This is all that is necessary to prepare this excellent glue. It becomes very hard, and, when wanted for use, is cut up in small pieces, and dissolved over a slow fire. The glue was so white and transparent, that I hoped to make window-panes from it instead of glass.

After this work was finished, we began to plan a boat to replace our tub raft. I wished to try to make one of bark, as the savage nations do, and I proposed to make an expedition in search of a tree for our purpose. All those in our own neighbourhood were too precious to destroy; some for their fruits, others for their shade. We resolved to search at a distance for trees fit for our purpose, taking in our road a survey of our plantations and fields. Our garden at Tent House produced abundantly continual successions of vegetables in that virgin soil, and in a climate which recognized no change of season. The peas, beans, lentils, and lettuces were flourishing, and only required water, and our channels from the river brought this plentifully to us. We had delicious cucumbers and melons; the maize was already a foot high, the sugar-canes were prospering, and the pine-apples on the high ground promised us a rich treat.

We hoped our distant plantations were going on as well, and all set out one fine morning to Falcon's Nest, to examine the state of things there. We found my wife's corn-fields were luxuriant in appearance, and for the most part ready for cutting. There were barley, wheat, oats, beans, millet, and lentils. We cut such of these as were ready, sufficient to give us seeds for another year. The richest crop was the maize, which suited the soil. But there were a quantity of gatherers more eager to taste these new productions than we were; these were birds of every kind, from the bustard to the quail, and from the various establishments they had formed round, it might be presumed they would not leave much for us.

After our first shock at the sight of these robbers, we used some measures to lessen the number of them. Fritz unhooded his eagle, and pointed out the dispersing bustards. The well-trained bird immediately soared, and pounced on a superb bustard, and laid it at the feet of its master. The jackal, too, who was a capital pointer, brought to his master about a dozen little fat quails, which furnished us with an excellent repast; to which my wife added a liquor of her own invention, made of the green maize crushed in water, and mingled with the juice of the sugar-cane; a most agreeable beverage, white as milk, sweet and refreshing.

We found the bustard, which the eagle had struck down, but slightly wounded; we washed his hurts with a balsam made of wine, butter, and water, and tied him by the leg in the poultry-yard, as a companion to our tame bustard.

We passed the remainder of the day at Falcon's Nest, putting our summer abode into order, and thrashing out our grain, to save the precious seed for another year. The Turkey wheat was laid by in sheaves, till we should have time to thrash and winnow it; and then I told Fritz that it would be necessary to put the hand-mill in order, that we had brought from the wreck. Fritz thought we could build a mill ourselves on the river; but this bold scheme was, at present, impracticable.

The next day we set out on an excursion in the neighbourhood. My wife wished to establish colonies of our animals at some distance from Falcon's Nest, at a convenient spot, where they would be secure, and might find subsistence. She selected from her poultry-yard twelve young fowls; I took four young pigs, two couple of sheep, and two goats. These animals were placed in the cart, in which we had previously placed our provisions of every kind, and the tools and utensils we might need, not forgetting the rope ladder and the portable tent; we then harnessed the buffalo, the cow, and the ass, and departed on our tour.

Fritz rode before on Lightfoot, to reconnoitre the ground, that we might not plunge into any difficulties; as, this time, we went in a new direction, exactly in the midst between the rocks and the shore, that we might get acquainted with the whole of the country that stretched to Cape Disappointment. We had the usual difficulty, at first, in getting through the high grass, and the underwood embarrassed our road, till we were compelled to use the axe frequently. I made some trifling discoveries that were useful, while engaged in this labour; amongst others, some roots of trees curved like saddles, and yokes for beasts of draught. I cut away several of these, and placed them on the cart. When we had nearly passed the wood, we were struck with the singular appearance of a little thicket of low bushes, apparently covered with snow. Francis clapped his hands with joy, and begged to get out of the cart that he might make some snowballs. Fritz galloped forward, and returned, bringing me a branch loaded with this beautiful white down, which, to my great joy, I recognized to be cotton. It was a discovery of inestimable value to us, and my wife began immediately to enumerate all the advantages we should derive from it, when I should have constructed for her the machines for spinning and weaving the cotton. We soon gathered as much as filled three bags, intending afterwards to collect the seeds of this marvellous plant, to sow in the neighbourhood of Tent House.

After crossing the plain of the cotton-trees, we reached the summit of a hill, from which the eye rested on a terrestrial paradise. Trees of every sort covered the sides of the hill, and a murmuring stream crossed the plain, adding to its beauty and fertility. The wood we had just crossed formed a shelter against the north winds, and the rich pasture offered food for our cattle. We decided at once that this should be the site of our farm.

We erected our tent, made a fireplace, and set about cooking our dinner. While this was going on, Fritz and I sought a convenient spot for our structure; and we met with a group of beautiful trees, at such a distance one from another, as to form natural pillars for our dwelling; we carried all our tools here; but as the day was far advanced, we delayed commencing our work till next day. We returned to the tent, and found my wife and her boys picking cotton, with which they made some very comfortable beds, and we slept peacefully under our canvass roof.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXII.

The trees which I had chosen for my farmhouse were about a foot in diameter in the trunk. They formed a long square; the long side facing the sea. The dimensions of the whole were about twenty-four feet by sixteen. I cut deep mortices in the trees, about ten feet distant from the ground, and again ten feet higher, to form a second story; I then placed in them strong poles: this was the skeleton of my house—solid, if not elegant; I placed over this a rude roof of bark, cut in squares, and placed sloping, that the rain might run off. We fastened these with the thorn of the acacia, as our nails were too precious to be lavished. While procuring the bark, we made many discoveries. The first was that of two remarkable trees,—the Pistacia terebinthus and the Pistacia atlantica; the next, the thorny acacia, from which we got the substitute for nails.

The instinct of my goats led us also to find out, among the pieces of bark, that of the cinnamon, not perhaps equal to that of Ceylon, but very fragrant and agreeable. But this was of little value, compared to the turpentine and mastic I hoped to procure from the pistachios, to compose a sort of pitch to complete our intended boat.

We continued our work at the house, which occupied us several days. We formed the walls of thin laths interwoven with long pliant reeds for about six feet from the ground; the rest was merely a sort of light trellis-work, to admit light and air. The door opened on the front to the sea. The interior consisted simply of a series of compartments, proportioned to the guests they were to contain. One small apartment was for ourselves, when we chose to visit our colony. On the upper story was a sort of hayloft for the fodder. We projected plastering the walls with clay; but these finishing touches we deferred to a future time, contented that we had provided a shelter for our cattle and fowls. To accustom them to come to this shelter of themselves, we took care to fill their racks with the food they liked best, mingled with salt; and this we proposed to renew at intervals, till the habit of coming to their houses was fixed. We all laboured ardently, but the work proceeded slowly, from our inexperience; and the provisions we had brought were nearly exhausted. I did not wish to return to Falcon's Nest till I had completed my new establishment, and therefore determined to send Fritz and Jack to look after the animals at home, and bring back a fresh stock of provisions. Our two young couriers set out, each on his favourite steed, Fritz leading the ass to bring back the load, and Jack urging the indolent animal forward with his whip.

During their absence, Ernest and I made a little excursion, to add to our provision—if we could meet with them, some potatoes and cocoa-nuts. We ascended the stream for some time, which led us to a large marsh, beyond which we discovered a lake abounding with water-fowl. This lake was surrounded by tall, thick grass, with ears of a grain, which I found to be a very good, though small, sort of rice. As to the lake itself, it is only a Swiss, accustomed from his infancy to look on such smooth, tranquil waters, that can comprehend the happiness we felt on looking upon this. We fancied we were once more in Switzerland, our own dear land; but the majestic trees and luxuriant vegetation soon reminded us we were no longer in Europe, and that the ocean separated us from our native home.

In the mean time, Ernest had brought down several birds, with a skill and success that surprised me. A little after, we saw Knips leap off the back of his usual palfrey, Flora, and, making his way through the rich grass, collect and carry rapidly to his mouth something that seemed particularly to please his palate. We followed him, and, to our great comfort, were able to refresh ourselves with that delicious strawberry called in Europe the Chili or pineapple strawberry. We ate plentifully of this fruit, which was of enormous size; Ernest especially enjoyed them, but did not forget the absent; he filled Knips's little pannier with them, and I covered them with large leaves, which I fastened down with reeds, lest he should take a fancy to help himself as we went home. I took, also, a specimen of rice, for the inspection of our good housekeeper, who would, I knew, rejoice in such an acquisition.

We proceeded round the lake, which presented a different scene on every side. This was one of the most lovely and fertile parts we had yet seen of this country. Birds of all kinds abounded; but we were particularly struck with a pair of black swans, sailing majestically on the water. Their plumage was perfectly black and glossy, except the extremity of the wings, which was white. Ernest would have tried his skill again, but I forbade him to disturb the profound tranquillity of this charming region.

But Flora, who probably had not the same taste for the beauties of nature that I had, suddenly darted forward like an arrow, pounced upon a creature that was swimming quietly at the edge of the water, and brought it to us. It was a most curious animal. It resembled an otter in form, but was web-footed, had an erect bushy tail like the squirrel, small head, eyes and ears almost invisible. A long, flat bill, like that of a duck, completed its strange appearance. We were completely puzzled—even Ernest, the naturalist, could not give its name. I boldly gave it the name of the beast with a bill. I told Ernest to take it, as I wished to stuff and preserve it.

"It will be," said the little philosopher, "the first natural object for our museum."

"Exactly," replied I; "and, when the establishment is fully arranged, we will appoint you curator."

But, thinking my wife would grow uneasy at our protracted absence, we returned by a direct road to the tent. Our two messengers arrived about the same time, and we all sat down together to a cheerful repast. Every one related his feats. Ernest dwelt on his discoveries, and was very pompous in his descriptions, and I was obliged to promise to take Fritz another time. I learnt, with pleasure, that all was going on well at Falcon's Nest, and that the boys had had the forethought to leave the animals with provisions for ten days. This enabled me to complete my farmhouse. We remained four days longer, in which time I finished the interior, and my wife arranged in our own apartment the cotton mattresses, to be ready for our visits, and put into the houses the fodder and grain for their respective tenants. We then loaded our cart, and began our march. The animals wished to follow us, but Fritz, on Lightfoot, covered our retreat, and kept them at the farm till we were out of sight.

We did not proceed directly, but went towards the wood of monkeys. These mischievous creatures assaulted us with showers of the fir-apples; but a few shots dispersed our assailants.

Fritz collected some of these new fruits they had flung at us, and I recognized them as those of the stone Pine, the kernel of which is good to eat, and produces an excellent oil. We gathered a bag of these, and continued our journey till we reached the neighbourhood of Cape Disappointment. There we ascended a little hill, from the summit of which we looked upon rich plains, rivers, and woods clothed with verdure and brilliant flowers, and gay birds that fluttered among the bushes. "Here, my children," cried I, "here we will build our summer house. This is truly Arcadia." Here we placed our tent, and immediately began to erect a new building, formed in the same manner as the Farm House, but now executed more quickly. We raised the roof in the middle, and made four sloped sides. The interior was divided into eating and sleeping apartments, stables, and a store-room for provisions; the whole was completed and provisioned in ten days; and we had now another mansion for ourselves, and a shelter for new colonies of animals. This new erection received the name of Prospect Hill, to gratify Ernest, who thought it had an English appearance.

However, the end for which our expedition was planned was not yet fulfilled. I had not yet met with a tree likely to suit me for a boat. We returned then to inspect the trees, and I fixed on a sort of oak, the bark of which was closer than that of the European oak, resembling more that of the cork-tree. The trunk was at least five feet in diameter, and I fancied its coating, if I could obtain it whole, would perfectly answer my purpose. I traced a circle at the foot, and with a small saw cut the bark entirely through; Fritz, by means of the rope ladder we had brought with us, and attached to the lower branches of the tree, ascended, and cut a similar circle eighteen feet above mine. We then cut out, perpendicularly, a slip the whole length, and, removing it, we had room to insert the necessary tools, and, with wedges, we finally succeeded in loosening the whole. The first part was easy enough, but there was greater difficulty as we advanced. We sustained it as we proceeded with ropes, and then gently let it down on the grass. I immediately began to form my boat while the bark was fresh and flexible. My sons, in their impatience, thought it would do very well if we nailed a board at each end of the roll; but this would have been merely a heavy trough, inelegant and unserviceable; I wished to have one that would look well by the side of the pinnace; and this idea at once rendered my boys patient and obedient. We began by cutting out at each end of the roll of bark a triangular piece of about five feet long; then, placing the sloping parts one over the other, I united them with pegs and strong glue, and thus finished the ends of my boat in a pointed form. This operation having widened it too much in the middle, we passed strong ropes round it, and drew it into the form we required. We then exposed it to the sun, which dried and fixed it in the proper shape.

As many things were necessary to complete my work, I sent Fritz and Jack to Tent House for the sledge, to convey it there, that we might finish it more conveniently. I had the good fortune to meet with some very hard, crooked wood, the natural curve of which would be admirably suitable for supporting the sides of the boat. We found also a resinous tree, which distilled a sort of pitch, easy to manage, and which soon hardened in the sun. My wife and Francis collected sufficient of it for my work. It was almost night when our two messengers returned. We had only time to sup and retire to our rest.

We were all early at work next morning. We loaded the sledge, placing on it the canoe, the wood for the sides, the pitch, and some young trees, which I had transplanted for our plantation at Tent House, and which we put into the boat. But, before we set out, I wished to erect a sort of fortification at the pass of the rock, for the double purpose of securing us against the attacks of wild beasts or of savages, and for keeping enclosed, in the savannah beyond the rocks, some young pigs, that we wished to multiply there, out of the way of our fields and plantations.

As we crossed the sugar-cane plantation, I saw some bamboos larger than any I had ever met with, and we cut down one for a mast to our canoe. We now had the river to our left, and the chain of rocks to our right, which here approached the river, leaving only a narrow pass. At the narrowest part of this we raised a rampart before a deep ditch, which could only be crossed by a drawbridge we placed there. Beyond the bridge, we put a narrow gate of woven bamboos, to enable us to enter the country beyond, when we wished. We planted the side of the rampart with dwarf palms, India fig, and other thorny shrubs, making a winding path through the plantation, and digging in the midst a hidden pitfall, known to ourselves by four low posts, intended to support a plank bridge when we wished to cross it. After this was completed, we built a little chalet of bark in that part of the plantation that faced the stream, and gave it the name of the Hermitage, intending it for a resting-place. After several days of hard labour, we returned to Prospect Hill, and took a little relaxation. The only work we did was to prepare the mast, and lay it on the sledge with the rest.

The next morning we returned to Tent House, where we immediately set to work on our canoe with such diligence that it was soon completed. It was solid and elegant, lined through with wood, and furnished with a keel. We provided it with brass rings for the oars, and stays for the mast. Instead of ballast, I laid at the bottom a layer of stones covered with clay, and over this a flooring of boards. The benches for the rowers were laid across, and in the midst the bamboo mast rose majestically, with a triangular sail. Behind I fixed the rudder, worked by a tiller; and I could boast now of having built a capital canoe.

Our fleet was now in good condition. For distant excursions we could take the pinnace, but the canoe would be invaluable for the coasting service.

Our cow had, in the mean time, given us a young male calf, which I undertook to train for service, as I had done the buffalo, beginning by piercing its nostrils; and the calf promised to be docile and useful; and, as each of the other boys had his favourite animal to ride, I bestowed the bull on Francis, and intrusted him with its education, to encourage him to habits of boldness and activity. He was delighted with his new charger, and chose to give him the name of Valiant.

We had still two months before the rainy season, and this time we devoted to completing the comforts of our grotto. We made all the partitions of wood, except those which divided us from the stables, which we built of stone, to exclude any smell from the animals. We soon acquired skill in our works; we had a plentiful supply of beams and planks from the ship; and by practice we became very good plasterers. We covered the floors with a sort of well-beaten mud, smoothed it, and it dried perfectly hard. We then contrived a sort of felt carpet. We first covered the floor with sailcloth; we spread over this wool and goats' hair mixed, and poured over it isinglass dissolved, rolling up the carpet, and beating it well. When this was dry, we repeated the process, and in the end had a felt carpet. We made one of these for each room, to guard against any damp that we might be subject to in the rainy season.

The privations we had suffered the preceding winter increased the enjoyment of our present comforts. The rainy season came on; we had now a warm, well-lighted, convenient habitation, and abundance of excellent provision for ourselves and our cattle. In the morning, we could attend to their wants without trouble, for the rain-water, carefully collected in clean vessels, prevented the necessity of going to the river. We then assembled in the dining-room to prayers. After that we went to our work-room. My wife took her wheel, or her loom, which was a rude construction of mine, but in which she had contrived to weave some useful cloth of wool and cotton, and also some linen, which she had made up for us. Everybody worked; the workshop was never empty. I contrived, with the wheel of a gun, to arrange a sort of lathe, by means of which I and my sons produced some neat furniture and utensils. Ernest surpassed us all in this art, and made some elegant little things for his mother.

After dinner, our evening occupations commenced; our room was lighted up brilliantly; we did not spare our candles, which were so easily procured, and we enjoyed the reflection in the elegant crystals above us. We had partitioned off a little chapel in one corner of the grotto, which we had left untouched, and nothing could be more magnificent than this chapel lighted up, with its colonnades, portico, and altars. We had divine service here every Sunday. I had erected a sort of pulpit, from which I delivered a short sermon to my congregation, which I endeavoured to render as simple and as instructive as possible.

Jack and Francis had a natural taste for music. I made them flageolets of reeds, on which they acquired considerable skill. They accompanied their mother, who had a very good voice; and this music in our lofty grotto had a charming effect.

We had thus made great steps towards civilization; and, though condemned, perhaps, to pass our lives alone on this unknown shore, we might yet be happy. We were placed in the midst of abundance. We were active, industrious, and content; blessed with health, and united by affection, our minds seemed to enlarge and improve every day. We saw around us on every side traces of the Divine wisdom and beneficence; and our hearts overflowed with love and veneration for that Almighty hand which had so miraculously saved, and continued to protect us. I humbly trusted in Him, either to restore us to the world, or send some beings to join us in this beloved island, where for two years we had seen no trace of man. To Him we committed our fate. We were happy and tranquil, looking with resignation to the future.

END OF THE FIRST PART OF THE JOURNAL.

* * * * *

POSTSCRIPT BY THE EDITOR.

It is necessary to explain how this first part of the journal of the Swiss pastor came into my hands.

Three or four years after the family had been cast on this desert coast, where, as we see, they lived a happy and contented life, an English transport was driven by a storm upon the same shore. This vessel was the Adventurer, Captain Johnson, and was returning from New Zealand to the eastern coast of North America, by Otaheite, to fetch a cargo of furs for China, and then to proceed from Canton to England. A violent storm, which lasted several days, drove them out of their course. For many days they wandered in unknown seas, and the ship was so injured by the storm, that the captain looked out for some port to repair it. They discovered a rocky coast, and, as the violence of the wind was lulled, ventured to approach the shore. At a short distance they anchored, and sent a boat to examine the coast. Lieutenant Bell, who went with the boat, knew a little German. They were some time before they could venture to land among the rocks which guarded the island, but, turning the promontory, they saw Safety Bay, and entering it, were astonished to see a handsome pinnace and boat at anchor, near the strand a tent, and in the rock doors and windows, like those of a European house.

They landed, and saw a middle-aged man coming to meet them, clothed in European fashion, and well armed. After a friendly salutation, they first spoke in German and then in English. This was the good father; the family were at Falcon's Nest, where they were spending the summer. He had seen the vessel in the morning through his telescope, but, unwilling to alarm, or to encourage hopes that might be vain, he had not spoken of it, but come alone towards the coast.

After much friendly conference, the party were regaled with all hospitality at Tent House, the good Swiss gave the Lieutenant this first part of his journal for the perusal of Captain Johnson, and, after an hour's conversation, they separated, hoping to have a pleasant meeting next day.

But Heaven decreed it otherwise. During the night, another fearful storm arose; the Adventurer lost its anchor, and was driven out to sea; and, after several days of anxiety and danger, found itself so far from the island, and so much shattered, that all thoughts of returning were given up for that time, and Captain Johnson reluctantly relinquished the hope of rescuing the interesting family.

Thus it happened that the first part of this journal was brought to England, and from thence sent to me, a friend of the family, in Switzerland, accompanied by a letter from the Captain, declaring, that he could have no rest till he found, and became acquainted with, this happy family; that he would search for the island in his future voyages, and either bring away the family, or, if they preferred to remain, he would send out from England some colonists, and everything that might be necessary to promote their comfort. A rough map of the island is added to the journal, executed by Fritz, the eldest son.

* * * * *

CONTINUATION OF THE JOURNAL.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

I left the reader at the moment in which I had placed the first part of my journal in the hands of Lieutenant Bell, to deliver to Captain Johnson, of the English vessel the Adventurer, expecting him to return the next day with Lieutenant Bell. We separated in this hope, and I thought it necessary to inform my family of this expected visit, which might decide their future lot. My wife and elder sons might wish to seize this only occasion that might occur to revisit their native country—to quit their beloved island, which would doubtless cost them much sorrow at the last moment, but was necessary to their future comfort. I could not help feeling distressed at the prospect of my dear children's solitary old age, and I determined, if they did not wish to return with Captain Johnson, to request him to send some colonists out to people our island.

It will be remembered that I had left home alone, and at an early hour, having perceived a vessel from the top of our tree with my telescope. I had set out without breakfast, without giving my sons their tasks, or making any arrangements for the labours of the day. My conference with Lieutenant Bell had been long; it was now past noon, and knowing how prompt my wife was to alarm herself, I was surprised that I did not meet her, nor any of my sons. I began to be uneasy, and on my arrival I hastily mounted the tree, and found my faithful partner extended on her bed, surrounded by her four sons, and apparently in great pain. I demanded, with a cry of grief, what had happened; all wished to speak at once, and it was with some difficulty I learned, that my dear wife, in descending the staircase, had been seized with a giddiness in her head, and had fallen down and injured herself so much, that she was unable to rise without assistance; she was now enduring great pain in her right leg and in her left foot. "Ernest and I," added Fritz, "carried her without delay to her bed, though not without difficulty, for the staircase is so narrow; but she continued to get worse, and we did not know what to do."

Jack. I have rubbed her foot continually, but it swells more and more, as well as her leg, which I dare not touch, it hurts her so much.

Ernest. I remember, father, that of the chests that we brought from the ship there is one unopened, which is marked "medicines,"—may it not contain something that will relieve mamma?

Father. Perhaps it may, my son. You did well to remember it; we will go to Tent House for it. Fritz, you shall accompany me to assist in bringing it.

I wished to be alone with Fritz, to consult him about the English vessel, and was glad of this opportunity. Before I left my wife, I intended to examine her leg and foot, which were exceedingly painful. When I was preparing to enter the Church, I had studied medicine and practical surgery, in order to be able to administer to the bodily afflictions of my poor parishioners, as well as to their spiritual sorrows. I knew how to bleed, and could replace a dislocated limb. I had often made cures; but since my arrival at the island I had neglected my medical studies, which happily had not been needed. I hoped now, however, to recall as much of my knowledge as would be sufficient to cure my poor wife. I examined her foot first, which I found to be violently sprained. She begged me then to look at her leg, and what was my distress when I saw it was fractured above the ancle; however, the fracture appeared simple, without splinters, and easy to cure. I sent Fritz without delay to procure me two pieces of the bark of a tree, between which I placed the leg, after having, with the assistance of my son, stretched it till the two pieces of broken bone united; I then bound it with bandages of linen, and tied the pieces of bark round the leg, so that it might not be moved. I bound the sprained foot very tightly, till I could procure the balsam which I expected to find in the chest. I felt assured, that the giddiness of the head, which had caused her fall, proceeded from some existing cause, which I suspected, from the pulse and the complexion, must be a fulness of blood; and it appeared to be necessary to take away some ounces, which I persuaded her to allow me to do, when I should have brought my medicine-chest and instruments from Tent House. I left her, with many charges, to the care of my three younger sons, and proceeded to Tent House with Fritz, to whom I now related my morning adventure, and consulted him how we should mention it to his mother. Fritz was astonished. I saw how his mind was employed; he looked round on our fields and plantations, increasing and prospering.

"We must not tell her, father," said he. "I will be at Tent House early in the morning; you must give me some commission to execute; I will await the arrival of the Captain, and tell him that my dear mother is ill,—and that he may return as he came."

"You speak rashly, Fritz," answered I. "I have told you that this ship has suffered much from the storm, and needs repairs. Have you not often read the golden rule of our divine Master, Do unto others as you would have others do unto you? Our duty is to receive the Captain into our island, and to assist him in repairing and refitting his vessel."

"And he will find," said he, "we know something of that kind of work. Did you show him our beautiful pinnace and canoe? But can such a large vessel enter our Bay of Safety?"

"No," replied I; "I fear there will not be sufficient water; but we will show the captain the large bay at the other end of the island, formed by Cape Disappointment; he will find there a beautiful harbour."

"And he and his officers may live at the farm, and we can go over every day to assist in repairing their vessel," continued Fritz.

"Very well," said I; "and when it is finished, he will, in return, give us a place in it to return to Europe."

"To return to Europe, father!" cried he; "to leave our beautiful winter dwelling, Tent House, and our charming summer residence, Falcon's Nest; our dear, good animals; our crystals of salt; our farms; so much that is our own, and which nobody covets, to return into Europe to poverty, to war, to those wicked soldiers who have banished us! We want nothing. Dear father, can you consent to leave our beloved island?"

"You are right, my dear son," said I. "Would to God we might always remain here happily together; but we are of different ages, and by the law of nature we must one day be separated. Consider, my dear son, if you should survive your brothers, how cheerless it would be to live quite alone on this desert island, without any one to close your eyes. But let us look at these trees; I see they are tamarind-trees; their fruit contains a pulp which is very useful in medicine, and which will suit your mother, I think, as well as the juice of the orange or lemon. We shall find some of the latter at our plantation near Tent House; but, in the mean time, do you climb the tamarind-tree, and gather some of those pods which resemble those of beans, fill one side of the bag with them, the other we will reserve for the oranges and lemons. Not to lose any time, I will go on to Tent House to seek for the two chests, and you can follow me."

Fritz was up the tamarind-tree in a moment. I crossed Family Bridge, and soon reached the grotto. I lighted a candle, which I always kept ready, entered the magazine, and found the two chests, labelled.

They were neither large nor heavy, and, having tied cords round them for the convenience of carrying them, I proceeded to visit the orange and lemon trees, where I found the fruit sufficiently ripe for lemonade. Fritz came to meet me, with a good supply of tamarinds. We filled the other end of his sack with oranges and lemons. He threw it over his shoulder, and, neither of us being overloaded, we pursued our way homewards very quickly, notwithstanding the heat, which was excessively oppressive, though the sun was hidden under the thick clouds, which entirely concealed the sea from us. Nothing was to be seen but the waves breaking against the rocks. Fritz expressed his fears that a storm was coming on, which might prove fatal to the vessel, and wished to take out the pinnace and endeavour to assist Captain Johnson. Delighted as I felt with his fearless humanity, I could not consent; I reminded him of the situation of his mother. "Forgive me, dear father," said he; "I had forgotten everything but the poor vessel. But the captain may do as we did, leave his ship between the rocks, and come, with all in the vessel, to establish themselves here. We will give them up a corner of our islands; and if there should be any ladies amongst them, how pleasant it would be for mamma to have a friend!"

The rain now fell in torrents, and we proceeded with great difficulty. After crossing the bridge, we saw at a distance a very extraordinary figure approaching us; we could not ascertain what species of animal it was. It appeared taller than any of the monkeys we had seen, and much larger, of a black or brown colour. We could not distinguish the head, but it seemed to have two thick and moveable horns before it. We had fortunately taken no gun with us, or Fritz would certainly have fired at this singular animal. But as it rapidly approached us, we soon recognized the step, and the cry of pleasure which hailed us. "It is Jack," we exclaimed; and in fact it was he, who was hurrying to meet us with my large cloak and waterproof caoutchouc boots. I had neglected to take them, and my dear little fellow had volunteered to bring them to Tent House. To protect himself on the way, he had put the cloak on, covering his head with the hood, and my boots being too large for him, he had put one on each arm, which he held up to secure the hood. Conceive what a singular figure he made. Notwithstanding our uneasiness, and our wretched condition, for we were wet to the skin, we could not but laugh heartily at him. I would not consent to use the coverings he had brought; neither Fritz nor I could be worse for the distance we had to go, and Jack was younger and more delicate; I obliged him therefore to retain his curious protection; and asked how he had left his mother. "Very uneasy," said he, "about you; else I think she must be much better, for her cheeks are very red, and her eyes very bright, and she talks incessantly. She would have come herself to seek you, but could not rise; and when I told her I would come, she bid me be very quick; but when I was coming down stairs, I heard her call me back for fear of the rain and the thunder; I would not hear her, but ran as fast as I could, hoping to reach Tent House. Why did you come back so soon?"

"To spare you half your journey, my brave little man," said I, hastening on; for Jack's account of his mother made me uneasy. I perceived she must be labouring under fever, and the blood ascending to her head. My children followed me, and we soon reached the foot of our castle in the air.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXIV.

We entered our apartment literally as if we had come out of the sea, and I found my poor Elizabeth much agitated. "Heaven be praised!" said she; "but where is Jack, that rash little fellow?"

"Here I am, mamma," said he, "as dry as when I left you. I have left my dress below, that I might not terrify you; for if Mr. Fritz had had his gun, I might have been shot as a rhinoceros, and not been here to tell you my story."

The good mother then turned her thoughts on Fritz and me, and would not suffer us to come near her till we had changed our drenched garments. To oblige her, we retired to a little closet I had contrived between two thick branches at the top of the staircase, which was used to contain our chests of linen, our dresses, and our provisions. Our dress was soon changed; we hung up the wet garments, and I returned to my companion, who was suffering from her foot, but still more from a frightful headache. She had a burning fever. I concluded that bleeding was urgently needed, but commenced by assuaging her thirst with some lemonade. I then opened my box of surgical instruments, and approached the opening to the east which served us for a window, and which we could close by means of a curtain, that was now entirely raised to give air to our dear invalid, and to amuse my children, who were watching the storm. The mighty waves that broke against the rocks, the vivid lightning bursting through the castles of murky clouds, the majestic and incessant rolling of the thunder, formed one of those enchanting spectacles to which they had been from infancy accustomed. As in the Swiss mountains we are liable to frightful storms, to which it is necessary to familiarize oneself, as one cannot avoid them, I had accustomed my wife and children, by my own example, to behold, not only without fear, but even with admiration, these great shocks of the elements,—these convulsions of nature.

I had opened the chest, and my children had directed their attention to the instruments it contained; the first were a little rusty, and I handed them to Ernest, who, after examining them, placed them on a table inside the window. I was searching for a lancet in good condition, when a clap of thunder, such as I had never heard in my life, terrified us all so much, that we nearly fell down. This burst of thunder had not been preceded by any lightning, but was accompanied by two immense forked columns of fire, which seemed to stretch from the sky to our very feet. We all cried out, even my poor wife; but the silence of terror succeeded, and seemed to be the silence of death. I flew to the bedside, and found my dear patient in a state of total insensibility. I was convinced that she was dead, and I was dumb with despair. I was roused from my stupor by the voice of my children. I then remembered that I had not lost all: there still remained duties to fulfil, and affection to console me. "My children," cried I, extending my arms to them, "come and comfort your unfortunate father: come and lament with him the best of wives and mothers." Terrified at the appearance of their mother, they surrounded her bed, calling on her in piercing accents. At that moment I saw my little Francis was missing, and my grief was augmented by the fear that he had been killed by the lightning. I hastily turned to the window, expecting to find my child dead, and our dwelling in flames. Fortunately, all was safe; but, in my distraction, I scarcely thanked God for His mercy, at the very moment even when he graciously restored to me my lost treasures. Francis, frightened by the storm, had hidden himself in his mother's bed, and fallen asleep; awaked by the thunder, he had not dared to move, fearing it announced the arrival of the savages; but at last, the cries of his brothers roused him, and raising his pretty fair head, supposing his mother sleeping, he flung his arms round her neck, saying, "Wake, mamma, we are all here,—papa, my brothers, and the storm, too, which is very beautiful, but frightens me. Open your eyes, mamma; look at the bright lightning, and kiss your little Francis." Either his sweet voice, or the cries of her elder children, restored her faculties: she gradually recovered, and called me to her. The excess of my joy threatened to be almost as fatal as my grief. With difficulty I controlled my own feelings and those of my boys; and, after I had sent them from the bed, I ascertained that she was not only really living, but much better. The pulse was calm, and the fever had subsided, leaving only a weakness that was by no means alarming. I relinquished, joyfully, the intention of bleeding her, the necessity of which I had trembled to contemplate, and contented myself with employing the boys to prepare a cooling mixture, composed of the juice of the lemon, of barley, and tamarinds, which they completed to the great satisfaction of their mother. I then ordered Fritz to descend to the yard, to kill a fowl, pluck and boil it, to make broth,—a wholesome and light nourishment for our dear invalid. I told one of his brothers to assist him, and Jack and Francis, frequently employed under their mother, were ready in a moment. Ernest alone remained quietly on his seat, which I attributed to his usual indolence, and tried to make him ashamed of it. "Ernest," said I, "you are not very anxious to oblige your mother; you sit as if the thunderbolt had struck you."

"It has, indeed, rendered me unfit to be of any service to my good mother," said he, quietly; and, drawing his right hand from under his waistcoat, he showed it to me, most frightfully black and burnt.

This dear child, who must have suffered very much, had never uttered a complaint, for fear of alarming his mother; and even now he made a sign to me to be silent, lest she should hear, and discover the truth. She soon, however, fell into a sleep, which enabled me to attend to poor Ernest, and to question him about the accident. I learned that a long and pointed steel instrument, which he was examining near the large window, stooping over it to see it better, had attracted the lightning, which, falling partly on the hand in which he held it, had caused the misfortune. There were traces on his arm of the electric fire, and his hair was burnt on one side. By what miracle the electric fluid had been diverted, and how we, dwelling in a tree, had been preserved from a sudden and general conflagration, I knew not. My son assured me he had seen the fire run along the instrument he held, and from thence fall perpendicularly to the earth, where it seemed to burst with a second explosion. I was impatient to examine this phenomenon, and to see if any other traces were left, except those on the hand of my son, which it was necessary, in the first place, to attend to. I remembered frequently to have applied with success in burns the most simple and easy of remedies, which everybody can command: this is, to bathe the hand affected in cold water, taking care to renew it every eight or ten minutes. I placed Ernest between two tubs of cold water, and, exhorting him to patience and perseverance, I left him to bathe his hand, and approached the opening, to try and discover what had preserved us, by averting the direction of the lightning, which one might have expected would have killed my son, and destroyed our dwelling. I saw only some light traces on the table; but, on looking more attentively, I found that the greater part of the surgical instruments which Ernest had placed upon it were either melted or much damaged. In examining them separately, I remarked one much longer than the rest, which projected beyond the edge of the table, and was much marked by the fire. I could not easily take it up; it had adhered somewhat in melting, and, in endeavouring to disengage it, I saw that the point, which was beyond the opening, touched a thick wire, which seemed to be suspended from the roof of our tent. All was now explained to me; except that I could in no way account for this wire, placed expressly to serve as a conductor for the lightning. It seemed to be the work of magic. The evening was too far advanced for me to distinguish how it was fastened, and what fixed it below; therefore, enjoining Ernest to call loudly if he needed me, I hastened down. I saw my three cooks very busy, as I passed through, preparing the broth for their mother—they assured me it would be excellent. Fritz boasted that he had killed the fowl with all speed, Jack that he had plucked it without tearing it much, and Francis that he had lighted and kept up the fire. They had nothing to employ them just then, and I took them with me to have some one to talk to on the phenomenon of the lightning. Below the window I found a large packet of iron wire, which I had brought from Tent House some days before, intending on some leisure day to make a sort of grating before our poultry-yard. By what chance was it here, and hooked by one end to the roof of our house? Some time before I had replaced our cloth canopy by a sort of roof covered with bark nailed upon laths; the cloth still enclosed the sides and front; all was so inflammable, that, but for the providential conductor, we must have been in flames in an instant. I thanked God for our preservation; and little Francis, seeing me so happy, said—

"Is it quite true, papa, that this wire has preserved us?"

"Yes, it is true, my darling; and I wish to know what good genius has placed it there, that I may be thankful," said I.

"Ah! father," said my little fellow, "embrace me, but do not thank me; for I did not know that I was doing good."

Astonished at this information, I requested my boy to tell me why and how he had fixed the wire?

"I wanted to reach some figs," said he, "when you and Fritz were at Tent House, and Jack and Ernest were nursing mamma; I wished to do some good for her. I thought she would like some of our sweet figs; but there were none in my reach, and I had no stick long enough to beat them down. I went below, and found that great roll of wire. I tried to break a piece off, but could not; and I then determined to carry the whole up to our dwelling, and to bend one end into a hook, by which I might catch some of the branches, and bring them near me to gather the figs. I was very successful at first, and secured one or two figs. I had my packet of wire on the table by the window, and stood near it myself. I thought I could reach a branch that hung over our roof, loaded with fruit. I leaned forward, and extended my hook to the branch; I felt I had secured it, and joyfully began to pull. You know, papa, they bend, and don't break; but it remained immovable, as well as my hook, which was held by one of the laths of the roof. I pulled with all my strength, and, in my efforts, I struck my foot against the roll of wire, which fell down to the ground without detaching the hook. You may judge how firm it is, for it is no trifling leap from our house to the ground."

"A good work, indeed, my boy," said I, "is yours, for it has saved us. God has inspired you, and has made use of the hand of a child for our preservation. Your conductor shall remain where you have so happily placed it; we may still have need of it. The sky still looks very threatening; let us return to your mother, and take a light with us."

I had contrived a sort of portable lantern, made of isinglass, which lighted us in our offices. Moreover, a calibash pierced with small holes, with a candle inside, was placed at the top of the winding staircase, and lighted it entirely, so that we were able to descend without danger by night as w ell as by day. I was, however, uneasy about the way we should bring my wife down, if we found it necessary to remove her during her sickness; I named it to Fritz.

"Have no uneasiness, father," said he, "Ernest and I are very strong now, and we can carry mamma like a feather."

"You and I might, my dear boy," said I; "but Ernest cannot be of much assistance to us at present."

I then related his misfortune to them. They were distressed and astonished, not comprehending the cause, which I promised to explain. They wished now, however, to see their brother. Fritz then requested, in a low tone of voice, that he might go to Tent House, to see if the vessel and the captain had arrived. Seeing his brothers listening with curiosity, I thought it best to tell them the affair, requesting them, however, not to name it to their mother at present. Jack, who was now about fourteen years of age, listened with the most intense interest, his eyes sparkling with joy and surprise.

"A vessel!—people from Europe! Do you think they have come to seek us? Perhaps they are our relations and friends."

"How glad should I be," said Francis, "if my good grandmamma were there; she loved me so much, and was always giving me sweetmeats." This was the mother of my dear wife, from whom she had parted with extreme regret; I knew that a single word from the child would have revived all her sorrows, and would in her present state be dangerous. I therefore forbade him naming such a thing to his mother, even if we mentioned the vessel.

We ascended, and found our dear patient awake, with Ernest at her side, his hand tied up, and somewhat relieved; though, from not having applied the water immediately, there were several blisters, which he requested me to open. It was necessary to tell his mother he had had a burn; she named several remedies, and I was hesitating which to use, when Fritz, giving me a significant glance, said, "Don't you think, father, that the leaves of the karata, which cured Jack's leg so well, would be is serviceable to Ernest's hand?"

"I have no doubt of it," said I; "but we have none here."

"I know very well where they grow," said he. "Come, Jack, we shall soon be there; we shall have a little rain, but what of that? we shall not be melted, and we can have a bath."

My wife was divided between her desire to relieve Ernest, and her fear of the boys venturing out in such a stormy night. She agreed at last, provided Jack had my cloak, and Fritz the boots, and that they should take the lantern. Thus equipped, they set out; I accompanied them outside the tree; Fritz assuring me they would be back in three hours, at most. He intended to proceed along the rocks towards Tent House, to make what observations he could; for, as he told me, he could not get the poor captain and his vessel out of his head. It was now seven o'clock; I gave them my blessing, and left them with injunctions to be prudent, and returned with an anxious heart to my invalids.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXV.

On entering, I found Francis sitting on his mother's bed, telling her the story of the lightning, of the wire which was called a conductor, of the figs that he was going to gather for her, and that papa had called him—little Francis—the preserver of the whole family. Having briefly explained to them the results of Francis's fortunate device, I procured some raw potato to apply to Ernest's hand, which still gave him great pain, and bathed my wife's foot with some eau d'arquebusade, which I procured from my medicine-chest; here I also met with some laudanum, a few drops of which I infused into the lemonade, wishing her to sleep till her sons returned. She soon was in a sweet slumber; the boys followed her example, and I was left alone with my anxieties; happy, however, to see them at rest after such an evening of agitation. The hours passed, still my children returned not. I was continually at the window, listening for their steps or the sound of their voices; I heard only the rain falling in torrents, the waves breaking against the rocks, and the wind howling frightfully. I could not help thinking of the danger they ran, having twice to cross the river, which was doubtless swoln by the rain. I was not so much alarmed for Fritz, a strong, bold youth of nineteen years of age, and a determined hunter: as for poor Jack, bold even to rashness, and having neither strength nor experience to secure him, I could not help fancying him carried away by the stream, and his brother not daring to return without him. My wife occasionally awoke, but the narcotic stupified her; she did not perceive the absence of her sons. Francis slept tranquilly; but when Ernest awoke, and heard the tempest so terribly augmented, he was almost distracted; all his selfishness, all his indolence disappeared. He entreated me to allow him to go in search of his brothers, and with difficulty I detained him. To convince him that he was not the sole cause of the danger of Fritz and Jack, I related to him, for the first time, the history of the boat and the vessel, and assured him that the great cause of their anxiety to go over to Tent House, was to search for some traces of the unfortunate seamen and their vessel, exposed to that furious sea.

"And Fritz, also, is exposed to that sea," cried Ernest. "I know it; I am sure that he is at this moment in his canoe, struggling against the waves!"

"And Jack, my poor Jack!" sighed I, infected with his fears.

"No, father," added Ernest; "be composed; Fritz will not be so imprudent; he will have left Jack in our house at the rock; and, probably, seeing the hopelessness of his undertaking, he is returned himself now, and is waiting there till the stream subsides a little; do allow me to go, dear father; you have ordered me cold water for my burnt hand, and it will certainly cure it to get well wet."

I could not consent to expose my third son to the tempest, which was now become frightful; the sailcloth which covered our window was torn into a thousand pieces, and carried away; the rain, like a deluge, forced itself into our dwelling, even to the bed where my wife and child were lying. I could neither make up my mind to leave them myself in this perilous situation, nor to spare my boy, who could not even be of any use to his brothers. I commanded him to remain, succeeded in persuading him of their probable safety, and induced him to lie down to rest. Now, in my terrible solitude, I turned to Him, "who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb;" who forbids us not to address Him in the trials he sends us, to beseech Him to soften them, or to give us strength to bear them. Kneeling down, I dared to supplicate Him to restore me my children, submissively adding, after the example of our blessed Saviour, "Yet, not my will, but thine be done, O Lord."

My prayers appeared to be heard; the storm gradually abated, and the day began to break. I awoke Ernest, and having dressed his wounded hand, he set out for Tent House, in search of his brothers. I followed him with my eyes as far as I could see; the whole country appeared one vast lake, and the road to Tent House was like the bed of a river; but, protected by his good gaiters of buffalo-skin, he proceeded fearlessly, and was soon out of my sight.

I was recalled from the window by the voice of my wife, who was awake, and anxiously inquiring for her sons.

"They are gone," said I, "to gather the leaves of the karata for Ernest's burnt hand, and he wished to go too."

Her deep sleep had entirely chased from her memory all the events of the previous evening, and I was glad to allow Francis to repeat his little tale of the burn and his conductor in order to gain time. She was astonished and uneasy to hear of Ernest's accident, and was afraid they would get wet in searching for the karata, little aware of the hours of anguish I had endured waiting and watching for those she believed had only just left home. At that moment, the dear and well-known voices were heard under the great window.

"Father, I am bringing back my brothers," cried Ernest.

"Yes, papa, we are all alive, and as wet as fishes," added the sweet voice of Jack.

"But not without having had our troubles," said the manly voice of Fritz.

I rushed down the staircase to meet them, and, embracing them, I led them, trembling with emotion, to the bed of their mother, who could not comprehend the transport of joy I expressed.

"Dear Elizabeth," said I, "here are our sons; God has given them to us a second time."

"Have we then been in any danger of losing them?" said she. "What is the meaning of this?"

They saw their mother was unconscious of their long absence, and assured her it was only the storm which had so completely wetted them, that had alarmed me. I hastened to get them to change their clothes, and go to bed a little while to rest themselves; as, however anxious I was myself, I wished to prepare my wife for their recital, and also to tell her of the vessel. Jack would not go till he had produced his bundle of the karata leaves.

"There is enough for six-and-thirty thunderstorms," said he; "and I will prepare them. I have had some experience with my own, and I know the best method."

He soon divided one of the leaves with his knife, after cutting away the triangular thorn from the end, and applied it to his brother's hand, binding it with his handkerchief. Having completed this dressing, he threw off his clothes, and, jumping into his bed, he and his brothers were sound asleep in ten minutes.

I then sat down by my wife, and began my tale; from my first view of the vessel, and my anxious watching for intercourse with it, in order that we might take the opportunity to return to Europe.

"But why should we return to Europe?" said she; "we want nothing here now, since I have got flax, cotton, and a wheel. Our children lead an active, healthy, and innocent life, and live with us, which they might not do in the world. For four years we have been happy here, and what shall we find in Europe to compensate us for what we leave here?—poverty, war, and none of those things which we have here abundantly."

"But we should find grandmamma," said little Francis; and stopped, recollecting my prohibition.

He had, however, said sufficient to bring tears to his mother's eyes.

"You are right, my darling," said she, "that is my sole regret; but my dear parent was aged and infirm, in all probability I should no longer find her in this world; and if removed to Heaven, she watches over us in this island, as well as if we were in Europe."

After my dear wife had subdued the agitation this remembrance caused her, I pursued the conversation as follows:—

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXVI.

"I see, my dear wife," said I, "that you, as well as the rest of my family, are contented to remain on this island, where it seems it is the will of God for us to dwell, as it is improbable that in such a tempest Captain Johnson would risk approaching the island, if indeed it has not been already fatal to him. I am impatient to learn if Fritz has any tidings of him; for it was on the shore near Tent House that he and Jack passed the night."

"Well done, my good and courageous boys!" said their mother; "they might at any rate have given assistance to them if wrecked."

"You are more courageous than I am, my dear Elizabeth," answered I; "I have passed the whole night mourning for my children, and you think only of the good they might have done to their fellow-creatures."

My sons were awake by this time, and I eagerly inquired if they had discovered any traces of the vessel. Fritz said they had not; but he feared it would never be able to resist the fury of the tempest.

"No, indeed," said Jack; "those mountains of waves, which were not fixtures like other mountains, came full gallop to swallow up Fritz the great, Jack the little, and their fine canoe."

My wife nearly fainted when she heard they had ventured on that terrible sea; and I reminded Fritz that I had forbidden him to do this.

"But you have often said to me, papa," said he, "do unto others as you would they should do unto you; and what a happiness it would have been to us, when our vessel was wrecked, if we had seen a canoe!"

"With two bold men coming to our assistance," said Jack;—"but go on with your story, Fritz."

Fritz continued: "We proceeded first to the rocks, and, with some difficulty, and not until Jack had shed some blood in the cause, we secured the karata-leaves, with their ugly thorns at the end. When our sack was full, we proceeded along the rocks towards Tent House. From this height I tried to discover the ship, but the darkness obscured everything. Once I thought I perceived at a great distance a fixed light, which was neither a star nor the lightning, and which I lost sight of occasionally. We had now arrived at the cascade, which, from the noise, seemed much swollen by the rain—our great stones were quite hidden by a boiling foam. I would have attempted to cross, if I had been alone; but, with Jack on my shoulders, I was afraid of the risk. I therefore prepared to follow the course of the river to Family Bridge. The wet ground continually brought us on our knees, and with great difficulty we reached the bridge. But judge of our consternation! the river had risen so much that the planks were covered, and, as we conceived, the whole was destroyed. I then told Jack to return to Falcon's Nest with the karata-leaves, and I would swim across the river. I returned about a hundred yards up the stream to find a wider and less rapid part, and easily crossed. Judge of my surprise when I saw a human figure approaching to meet me; I had no doubt it was the captain of the vessel, and—"

"And it was Captain Jack, sans peur et sans reproche," said the bold little fellow. "I was determined not to return home a poltroon who was afraid of the water." When Fritz was gone, I tried the bridge, and soon found there was not sufficient water over it to risk my being drowned. I took off my boots, which might have made me slip, and my cloak, which was too heavy, and, making a dart, I ran with all my strength across, and reached the other side. I put on my boots, which I had in my hands, and advanced to meet Fritz, who called out, as soon as he saw me, "Is it you, captain?" I tried to say, "Yes, certainly," in a deep tone, but my laughter betrayed me.

"To my great regret;" said Fritz, "I should truly have preferred meeting Captain Johnson; but I fear he and his people are at the bottom of the sea. After meeting with Jack, we proceeded to Tent House, where we kindled a good fire, and dried ourselves a little. We then refreshed ourselves with some wine which remained on the table where you had entertained the captain, and proceeded to prepare a signal to inform the vessel we were ready to receive them. We procured a thick bamboo cane from the magazine; I fixed firmly to one end of it the large lantern of the fish's bladder you gave us to take; I filled the lamp with oil, and placed in it a thick cotton-wick, which, when lighted, was very brilliant. Jack and I then placed it on the shore, at the entrance of the bay. We fixed it before the rock, where the land-wind would not reach it, sunk it three or four feet into the ground, steadied it with stones, and then went to rest over our fire, after this long and difficult labour. After drying ourselves a little, we set out on our return, when, looking towards the sea, we were startled by the appearance of the same light we had noticed before; we heard, at the same time, the distant report of a gun, which was repeated three or four times at irregular intervals. We were persuaded that it was the vessel calling to us for aid, and, remembering the command of our Saviour, we thought you would forgive our disobedience if we presented to you in the morning the captain, the lieutenant, and as many as our canoe would contain. We entered it then without any fear, for you know how light and well-balanced it is; and, rowing into the bay, the sail was spread to the wind, and we had no more trouble. I then took the helm; my own signal-light shone clearly on the shore; and, except for the rain which fell in torrents, the waves which washed over our canoe, and uneasiness about the ship and about you, and our fear that the wind might carry us into the open sea, we should have had a delightful little maritime excursion. When we got out of the bay, I perceived the wind was driving us towards Shark's Island, which, being directly before the bay, forms two entrances to it. I intended to go round it, and disembark there, if possible, that I might look out for some trace of the ship, but we found this impossible; the sea ran too high; besides, we should have been unable to moor our canoe, the island not affording a single tree or anything we could lash it to, and the waves would soon have carried it away. We had now lost sight of the light, and hearing no more signals, I began to think on your distress when we did not arrive at the hour we promised. I therefore resolved to return by the other side of the bay, carefully avoiding the current, which would have carried us into the open sea. I lowered the sail by means of the ropes you had fixed to it, and we rowed into port. We carefully moored the canoe, and, without returning to Tent House, took the road home. We crossed the bridge as Jack had done, found the waterproof cloak and bag of karata-leaves where he had left them, and soon after met Ernest. As it was daylight, I did not take him for the captain, but knew him immediately, and felt the deepest remorse when I heard from him in what anxiety and anguish you had passed the night. Our enterprise was imprudent, and altogether useless; but we might have saved life, which would have been an ample remuneration. I fear all is hopeless. What do you think, father, of their fate?"

"I hope they are far from this dangerous coast," said I; "but if still in our neighbourhood, we will do all we can to assist them. As soon as the tempest is subsided, we will take the pinnace and sail round the island. You have long urged me to this, Fritz; and who knows but on the opposite side we may find some traces of our own poor sailors,—perhaps even meet with them?"

The weather gradually clearing, I called my sons to go out with me. My wife earnestly besought me not to venture on the sea; I assured her it was not sufficiently calm, but we must examine our plantations, to ascertain what damage was done, and at the same time we might look out for some traces of the wreck; besides, our animals were becoming clamorous for food; therefore, leaving Ernest with her, we descended to administer in the first place to their wants.

* * * * *



CHAPTER XXXVII.

Our animals were impatiently expecting us; they had been neglected during the storm, and were ill-supplied with food, besides being half-sunk in water. The ducks and the flamingo liked it well enough, and were swimming comfortably in the muddy water; but the quadrupeds were complaining aloud, each in his own proper language, and making a frightful confusion of sounds. Valiant, especially,—the name Francis had bestowed on the calf I had given him to bring up,—bleated incessantly for his young master, and could not be quieted till he came. It is wonderful how this child, only twelve years old, had tamed and attached this animal; though sometimes so fierce, with him he was mild as a lamb. The boy rode on his back, guiding him with a little stick, with which he just touched the side of his neck as he wished him to move; but if his brothers had ventured to mount, they would have been certainly thrown off. A pretty sight was our cavalry: Fritz on his handsome onagra, Jack on his huge buffalo, and Francis on his young bull. There was nothing left for Ernest but the donkey, and its slow and peaceful habits suited him very well.

Francis ran up to his favourite, who showed his delight at seeing him as well as he was able, and at the first summons followed his master from the stable. Fritz brought out Lightfoot Jack his buffalo, and I followed with the cow and the ass. We left them to sport about at liberty on the humid earth, till we removed the water from their stable, and supplied them with fresh food. We then drove them in, considering it advisable to pursue our expedition on foot, lest the bridge should still be overflowed. Francis was the superintendent of the fowls, and knew every little chicken by name; he called them out and scattered their food for them, and soon had his beautiful and noisy family fluttering round him.

After having made all our animals comfortable, and given them their breakfast, we began to think of our own. Francis made a fire and warmed some chicken broth for his mother; for ourselves, we were contented with some new milk, some salt herrings, and cold potatoes. I had often searched in my excursions for the precious bread-fruit tree, so highly spoken of by modern travellers, which I had hoped might be found in our island, from its favourable situation; but I had hitherto been unsuccessful. We were unable to procure the blessing of bread, our ship biscuit had long been exhausted, and though we had sown our European corn, we had not yet reaped any.

After we had together knelt down to thank God for his merciful protection through the terrors of the past night, and besought him to continue it, we prepared to set out. The waves still ran high, though the wind had subsided, and we determined merely to go along the shore, as the roads still continued impassable from the rain, and the sand was easier to walk on than the wet grass; besides, our principal motive for the excursion was to search for any traces of a recent shipwreck. At first we could discover nothing, even with the telescope; but Fritz, mounting a high rock, fancied he discovered something floating towards the island. He besought me to allow him to take the canoe, which was still where he left it the preceding night. As the bridge was now easy to cross, I consented, only insisting on accompanying him to assist in managing it. Jack, who was much afraid of being left behind, was the first to leap in and seize an oar. There was, however, no need of it; I steered my little boat into the current, and we were carried away with such velocity as almost to take our breath. Fritz was at the helm, and appeared to have no fear; I will not say that his father was so tranquil. I held Jack, for fear of accidents, but he only laughed, and observed to his brother that the canoe galloped better than Lightfoot. We were soon in the open sea, and directed our canoe towards the object we had remarked, and which we still had in sight. We were afraid it was the boat upset, but it proved to be a tolerably large cask, which had probably been thrown overboard to lighten the distressed vessel; we saw several others, but neither mast nor plank to give us any idea that the vessel and boat had perished. Fritz wished much to have made the circuit of the island, to assure ourselves of this, but I would not hear of it; I thought of my wife's terror; besides, the sea was still too rough for our frail bark, and we had, moreover, no provisions. If my canoe had not been well built, it would have run great risk of being overset by the waves, which broke over it. Jack, when he saw one coming, lay down on his face, saying he preferred having them on his back rather than in his mouth; he jumped up as soon as it passed, to help to empty the canoe, till another wave came to fill it again; but, thanks to my out-riggers, we preserved our balance very well, and I consented to go as far as Cape Disappointment, which merited the name a second time, for we found no trace here of the vessel, though we mounted the hill, and thus commanded a wide extent of view. As we looked round the country, it appeared completely devastated: trees torn up by the roots, plantations levelled with the ground, water collected into absolute lakes,—all announced desolation; and the tempest seemed to be renewing. The sky was darkened, the wind arose, and was unfavourable for our return; nor could I venture the canoe on the waves, every instant becoming more formidable. We moored our bark to a large palm-tree we found at the foot of the hill, near the shore, and set out by land to our home. We crossed the Gourd Wood and the Wood of Monkeys, and arrived at our farm, which we found, to our great satisfaction, had not suffered much from the storm. The food we had left in the stables was nearly consumed; from which we concluded that the animals we had left here had sheltered themselves during the storm. We refilled the mangers with the hay we had preserved in the loft, and observing the sky getting more and more threatening, we set out without delay for our house, from which we were yet a considerable distance. To avoid Flamingo Marsh, which was towards the sea, and Rice Marsh, towards the rock, we determined to go through Cotton Wood, which would save us from the wind, which was ready to blow us off our feet. I was still uneasy about the ship, which the lieutenant had told me was out of repair; but I indulged a hope that they might have taken refuge in some bay, or found anchorage on some hospitable shore, where they might get their vessel into order.

Jack was alarmed lest they should fall into the hands of the anthropophagi, who eat men like hares or sheep, of whom he had read in some book of travels, and excited the ridicule of his brother, who was astonished at his ready belief of travellers' tales, which he asserted were usually false.

"But Robinson Crusoe would not tell a falsehood," said Jack, indignantly; "and there were cannibals came to his island, and were going to eat Friday, if he had not saved him."

"Oh! Robinson could not tell a falsehood," said Fritz, "because he never existed. The whole history is a romance—is not that the name, father, that is given to works of the imagination?"

"It is," said I; "but we must not call Robinson Crusoe a romance; though Robinson himself, and all the circumstances of his history are probably fictitious, the details are all founded on truth—on the adventures and descriptions of voyagers who may be depended on, and unfortunate individuals who have actually been wrecked on unknown shores. If ever our journal should be printed, many may believe that it is only a romance—a mere work of the imagination."

My boys hoped we should not have to introduce any savages into our romance, and were astonished that an island so beautiful had not tempted any to inhabit it; in fact, I had often been myself surprised at this circumstance; but I told them many voyagers had noticed islands apparently fertile, and yet uninhabited; besides, the chain of rocks which surrounded this might prevent the approach of savages, unless they had discovered the little Bay of Safety where we had landed. Fritz said he anxiously desired to circumnavigate the island, in order to ascertain the size of it, and if there were similar chains of rocks on the opposite side. I promised him, as soon as the stormy weather was past, and his mother well enough to remove to Tent House, we would take our pinnace, and set out on our little voyage.

We now approached the marsh, and he begged me to let him go and cut some canes, as he projected making a sort of carriage for his mother. As we were collecting them, he explained his scheme to me. He wished to weave of these reeds, which were very strong, a large and long sort of pannier, in which his mother might sit or recline, and which might be suspended between two strong bamboo-canes by handles of rope. He then purposed to yoke two of our most gentle animals, the cow and the ass, the one before and the other behind, between these shafts, the leader to be mounted by one of the children as director; the other would follow naturally, and the good mother would thus be carried, as if in a litter, without any danger of jolting. I was pleased with this idea, and we all set to work to load ourselves each with a huge burden of reeds. They requested me not to tell my wife, that they might give her an agreeable surprise. It needed such affection as ours to induce us to the undertaking in such unpropitious weather. It rained in torrents, and the marsh was so soft and wet, that we were in danger of sinking at every step. However, I could not be less courageous than my sons, whom nothing daunted, and we soon made up our bundles, and, placing them on our heads, they formed a sort of umbrella, which was not without its benefits. We soon arrived at Falcon's Nest. Before we reached the tree, I saw a fire shine to such a distance, that I was alarmed; but soon found it was only meant for our benefit by our kind friends at home. When my wife saw the rain falling, she had instructed her little assistant to make a fire in our usual cooking-place, at a little distance from the tree, and protected by a canopy of waterproof cloth from the rain. The young cook had not only kept up a good fire to dry us on our return, but had taken the opportunity of roasting two dozen of those excellent little birds which his mother had preserved in butter, and which, all ranged on the old sword which served us for a spit, were just ready on our arrival, and the fire and feast were equally grateful to the hungry, exhausted, and wet travellers, who sat down to enjoy them.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse