However, before we sat down to our repast, we went up to see our invalids, whom we found tolerably well, though anxious for our return. Ernest, with his sound hand, and the assistance of Francis, had succeeded in forming a sort of rampart before the opening into the room, composed of the four hammocks in which he and his brothers slept, placed side by side, on end. This sufficiently protected them from the rain, but excluded the light, so that they had been obliged to light a candle, and Ernest had been reading to his mother in a book of voyages that had formed part of the captain's small library. It was a singular coincidence, that while we were talking of the savages on the way home, they were also reading of them; and I found my dear wife much agitated by the fears these accounts had awakened in her mind. After soothing her terrors, I returned to the fire to dry myself, and to enjoy my repast. Besides the birds, Francis had prepared fresh eggs and potatoes for us. He told me that his mamma had given up her office of cook to him, and assured me that he would perform the duties to our satisfaction, provided he was furnished with materials. Fritz was to hunt, Jack to fish, I was to order dinner, and he would make it ready. "And when we have neither game nor fish," said Jack, "we will attack your poultry-yard." This was not at all to the taste of poor little Francis, who could not bear his favourites to be killed, and who had actually wept over the chicken that was slaughtered to make broth for his mother. We were obliged to promise him that, when other resources failed, we would apply to our barrels of salt-fish. He, however, gave us leave to dispose as we liked of the ducks and geese, which were too noisy for him.
After we had concluded our repast, we carried a part of it to our friends above, and proceeded to give them an account of our expedition. I then secured the hammocks somewhat more firmly, to save us from the storm that was still raging, and the hour of rest being at hand, my sons established themselves on mattresses of cotton, made by their kind mother, and in spite of the roaring of the winds, we were soon in profound repose.
* * * * *
The storm continued to rage the whole of the following day, and even the day after, with the same violence. Happily our tree stood firm, though several branches were broken; amongst others, that to which Francis's wire was suspended. I replaced it with more care, carried it beyond our roof, and fixed at the extremity the pointed instrument which had attracted the lightning. I then substituted for the hammocks before the window, strong planks, which remained from my building, and which my sons assisted me to raise with pulleys, after having sawed them to the proper length. Through these I made loop-holes, to admit the light and air. In order to carry off the rain, I fixed a sort of spout, made of the wood of a tree I had met with, which was unknown to me, though apparently somewhat like the elder. The whole of the tree, almost to the bark, was filled up with a sort of pith, easily removed. From this tree I made the pipes for our fountain, and the remainder was now useful for these rain-spouts. I employed those days in which I could not go out, in separating the seeds and grain, of which I saw we should have need, and in mending our work-tools; my sons, in the mean time, nestled under the tree among the roots, were incessantly employed in the construction of the carriage for their mother. The karatas had nearly completed the cure of Ernest's hand, and he was able to assist his brothers preparing the canes, which Fritz and Jack wove between the flat wooden wands, with which they had made the frame of their pannier; they succeeded in making it so strong and close, that they might have carried liquids in it. My dear wife's foot and leg were gradually improving; and I took the opportunity of her confinement, to reason with her on her false notion of the dangers of the sea, and to represent to her the gloomy prospect of our sons, if they were left alone in the island. She agreed with me, but could not resolve to leave it; she hoped God would send some vessel to us, which might leave us some society; and after all, if our sons were left, she pointed out to me, that they had our beautiful pinnace, and might at any time, of their own accord, leave the island.
"And why should we anticipate the evils of futurity, my dear friend?" said she. "Let us think only of the present. I am anxious now to know if the storm has spared my fine kitchen-garden."
"You must wait a little," said I. "I am as uneasy as you, for my maize-plantations, my sugar-canes, and my corn-fields."
At last, one night, the storm ceased, the clouds passed away, and the moon showed herself in all her glory. How delighted we were! My wife got me to remove the large planks I had placed before the opening, and the bright moonbeams streamed through the branches of the tree into our room; a gentle breeze refreshed us, and so delighted were we in gazing on that sky of promise, that we could scarcely bear to go to bed, but spent half the night in projects for the morrow; the good mother alone said, that she could not join in our excursions. Jack and Francis smiled at each other, as they thought of their litter, which was now nearly finished.
A bright sun awoke us early next morning. Fritz and Jack had requested me to allow them to finish their carriage; so, leaving Ernest with his mother, I took Francis with me to ascertain the damage done to the garden at Tent House, about which his mother was so anxious. We easily crossed the bridge, but the water had carried away some of the planks; however, my little boy leaped from one plank to another with great agility, though the distance was sometimes considerable. He was so proud of being my sole companion, that he scarcely touched the ground as he ran on before me; but he had a sad shock when he got to the garden; of which we could not find the slightest trace. All was destroyed; the walks, the fine vegetable-beds, the plantations of pines and melons—all had vanished. Francis stood like a marble statue, as pale and still; till, bursting into tears, he recovered himself.
"Oh! my good mamma," said he; "what will she say when she hears of this misfortune? But she need not know it, papa," added he, after a pause; "it would distress her too much; and if you and my brothers will help me, we will repair the damage before she can walk. The plants may not be so large; but the earth is moist, and they will grow quickly, and I will work hard to get it into order."
I embraced my dear boy, and promised him this should be our first work. I feared we should have many other disasters to repair; but a child of twelve years old gave me an example of resignation and courage. We agreed to come next day to begin our labour, for the garden was too well situated for me to abandon it. It was on a gentle declivity, at the foot of the rocks, which sheltered it from the north wind, and was conveniently watered from the cascade. I resolved to add a sort of bank, or terrace, to protect it from the violent rains; and Francis was so pleased with the idea, that he began to gather the large stones which were scattered over the garden, and to carry them to the place where I wished to build my terrace. He would have worked all day, if I would have allowed him; but I wanted to look after my young plantations, my sugar-canes, and my fields, and, after the destruction I had just witnessed, I had everything to fear. I proceeded to the avenue of fruit-trees that led to Tent House, and was agreeably surprised. All were half-bowed to the ground, as well as the bamboos that supported them, but few were torn up; and I saw that my sons and I, with the labour of two or three days, could restore them. Some of them had already begun to bear fruit, but all was destroyed for this year. This was, however, a trifling loss, compared with what I had anticipated; for, having no more plants of European fruits, I could not have replaced them. Besides, having resolved to inhabit Tent House at present, entirely,—being there defended from storms,—it was absolutely necessary to contrive some protection from the heat. My new plantations afforded little shade yet, and I trembled to propose to my wife to come and inhabit these burning rocks. Francis was gathering some of the beautiful unknown flowers of the island for his mother, and when he had formed his nosegay, bringing it to me,—
"See, papa," said he, "how the rain has refreshed these flowers. I wish it would rain still, it is so dreadfully hot here. Oh! if we had but a little shade."
"That is just what I was thinking of, my dear," said I; "we shall have shade enough when my trees are grown; but, in the mean time—"
"In the mean time, papa," said Francis, "I will tell you what you must do. You must make a very long, broad colonnade before our house, covered with cloth, and open before, so that mamma may have air and shade at once."
I was pleased with my son's idea, and promised him to construct a gallery soon, and call it the Franciade in honour of him. My little boy was delighted that his suggestion should be thus approved, and begged me not to tell his mamma, as he wished to surprise her, as much as his brothers did with their carriage; and he hoped the Franciade might be finished before she visited Tent House. I assured him I would be silent; and we took the road hence, talking about our new colonnade. I projected making it in the most simple and easy way. A row of strong bamboo-canes planted at equal distances along the front of our house, and united by a plank of wood at the top cut into arches between the canes; others I would place sloping from the rock, to which I would fasten them by iron cramps; these were to be covered with sailcloth, prepared with the elastic gum, and well secured to the plank. This building would not take much time, and I anticipated the pleasure of my wife when she found out that it was an invention of her little favourite, who, of a mild and reflecting disposition, was beloved by us all. As we walked along, we saw something approaching, that Francis soon discovered to be his brothers, with their new carriage; and, concluding that his mamma occupied it, he hastened to meet them, lest they should proceed to the garden. But on our approach, we discovered that Ernest was in the litter, which was borne by the cow before, on which Fritz was mounted, and by the ass behind, with Jack on it. Ernest declared the conveyance was so easy and delightful that he should often take his mother's place.
"I like that very much," said Jack; "then I will take care that we will harness the onagra and the buffalo for you, and they will give you a pretty jolting, I promise you. The cow and ass are only for mamma. Look, papa, is it not complete? We wished to try it as soon as we finished it, so we got Ernest to occupy it, while mother was asleep."
Ernest declared it only wanted two cushions, one to sit upon, the other to recline against, to make it perfect; and though I could not help smiling at his love of ease, I encouraged the notion, in order to delay my wife's excursion till our plans were completed. I then put Francis into the carriage beside his brother; and ordering Fritz and Jack to proceed with their equipage to inspect our corn-fields, I returned to my wife, who was still sleeping. On her awaking, I told her the garden and plantations would require a few days' labour to set them in order, and I should leave Ernest, who was not yet in condition to be a labourer, to nurse her and read to her. My sons returned in the evening, and gave me a melancholy account of our corn-fields; the corn was completely destroyed, and we regretted this the more, as we had very little left for seed. We had anticipated a feast of real bread, but we were obliged to give up all hope for this year, and to content ourselves with our cakes of cassava, and with potatoes. The maize had suffered less, and might have been a resource for us, but the large, hard grain was so very difficult to reduce to flour fine enough for dough. Fritz often recurred to the necessity of building a mill near the cascade at Tent House; but this was not the work of a moment, and we had time to consider of it; for at present we had no corn to grind. As I found Francis had let his brothers into all our secrets, it was agreed that I, with Fritz, Jack, and Francis, should proceed to Tent House next morning. Francis desired to be of the party, that he might direct the laying out of the garden, he said, with an important air, as he had been his mother's assistant on its formation. We arranged our bag of vegetable-seeds, and having bathed my wife's foot with a simple embrocation, we offered our united prayers, and retired to our beds to prepare ourselves for the toils of the next day.
* * * * *
We rose early; and, after our usual morning duties, we left our invalids for the whole day, taking with us, for our dinner, a goose and some potatoes, made ready the evening before. We harnessed the bull and the buffalo to the cart, and I sent Fritz and Jack to the wood of bamboos, with orders to load the cart with as many as it would contain; and, especially, to select some very thick ones for my colonnade; the rest I intended for props for my young trees; and this I proposed to be my first undertaking. Francis would have preferred beginning with the Franciade, or the garden, but he was finally won over by the thoughts of the delicious fruits, which we might lose by our neglect; the peaches, plums, pears, and, above all, the cherries, of which he was very fond. He then consented to assist me in holding the trees whilst I replaced the roots; after which he went to cut the reeds to tie them. Suddenly I heard him cry, "Papa, papa, here is a large chest come for us; come and take it." I ran to him, and saw it was the very chest we had seen floating, and which we had taken for the boat at a distance; the waves had left it in our bay, entangled in the reeds, which grew abundantly here. It was almost buried in the sand. We could not remove it alone, and, notwithstanding our curiosity, we were compelled to wait for the arrival of my sons. We returned to our work, and it was pretty well advanced when the tired and hungry party returned with their cart-load of bamboos. We rested, and sat down to eat our goose. Guavas and sweet acorns, which had escaped the storm, and which my sons brought, completed our repast. Fritz had killed a large bird in the marsh, which I took at first for a young flamingo; but it was a young cassowary, the first I had seen in the island. This bird is remarkable for its extraordinary size, and for its plumage, so short and fine that it seems rather to be hair than feathers. I should have liked to have had it alive to ornament our poultry-yard, and it was so young we might have tamed it; but Fritz's unerring aim had killed it at once. I wished to let my wife see this rare bird, which, if standing on its webbed feet, would have been four feet high; I therefore forbade them to meddle with it.
As we ate, we talked of the chest, and our curiosity being stronger than our hunger, we swallowed our repast hastily, and then ran down to the shore. We were obliged to plunge into the water up to the waist, and then had some difficulty to extricate it from the weed and slime, and to push it on shore. No sooner had we placed it in safety than Fritz, with a strong hatchet, forced it open, and we all eagerly crowded to see the contents. Fritz hoped it would be powder and fire-arms; Jack, who was somewhat fond of dress, and had notions of elegance, declared in favour of clothes, and particularly of linen, finer and whiter than that which his mother wove; if Ernest had been there, books would have been his desire; for my own part, there was nothing I was more anxious for than European seeds, particularly corn; Francis had a lingering wish that the chest might contain some of those gingerbread cakes which his grandmamma used to treat him with in Europe, and which he had often regretted; but he kept this wish to himself, for fear his brothers should call him "little glutton," and assured us that he should like a little pocket-knife, with a small saw, better than anything in the world; and he was the only one who had his wish. The chest was opened, and we saw that it was filled with a number of trifling things likely to tempt savage nations, and to become the means of exchange,—principally glass and iron ware, coloured beads, pins, needles, looking-glasses, children's toys, constructed as models, such as carts, and tools of every sort; amongst which we found some likely to be useful, such as hatchets, saws, planes, gimlets, &c.; besides a collection of knives, of which Francis had the choice; and scissors, which were reserved for mamma, her own being nearly worn out. I had, moreover, the pleasure of finding a quantity of nails of every size and kind, besides iron hooks, staples, &c, which I needed greatly. After we had examined the contents, and selected what we wanted immediately, we closed up the chest, and conveyed it to our magazine at Tent House. We had spent so much time in our examination, that we had some difficulty to finish propping our trees, and to arrive at home before it was dark. We found my wife somewhat uneasy at our lengthened absence, but our appearance soon calmed her. "Mother," said I, "I have brought back all your chickens to crowd under your wing."
"And we have not come back empty-handed," said Jack. "Look, mamma; here are a beautiful pair of scissors, a large paper of needles, another of pins, and a thimble! How rich you are now! And when you get well, you can make me a pretty waistcoat and a pair of trousers, for I am in great want of them."
"And I, mamma," said Francis, "have brought you a mirror, that you may arrange your cap; you have often been sorry papa did not remember to bring one from the ship. This was intended for the savages, and I will begin with you."
"I believe I rather resemble one now," said my good Elizabeth, arranging the red and yellow silk handkerchief which she usually wore on her head.
"Only, mamma," said Jack, "when you wear the comical pointed bonnet which Ernest made you."
"What matters it," said she, "whether it be pointed or round? It will protect me from the sun, and it is the work of my Ernest, to whom I am much obliged."
Ernest, with great ingenuity and patience, had endeavoured to plait his mother a bonnet of the rice-straw; he had succeeded; but not knowing how to form the round crown, he was obliged to finish it in a point, to the great and incessant diversion of his brothers.
"Mother," said Ernest, in his usual grave and thoughtful tone, "I should not like you to look like a savage; therefore, as soon as I regain the use of my hand, my first work shall be to make you a bonnet, which I will take care shall be formed with a round crown, as you will lend me one of your large needles, and I will take, to sew the crown on, the head of either Jack or Francis."
"What do you mean? My head!" said they both together.
"Oh, I don't mean to take it off your shoulders," said he; "it will only be necessary that one of you should kneel down before me, for a day perhaps, while I use your head as a model; and you need not cry out much if I should chance to push my needle in."
This time the philosopher had the laugh on his side, and his tormentors were silenced.
We now explained to my wife where we had found the presents we had brought her. My offerings to her were a light axe, which she could use to cut her fire-wood with, and an iron kettle, smaller and more convenient than the one she had. Fritz had retired, and now came in dragging with difficulty his huge cassowary. "Here, mamma," said he, "I have brought you a little chicken for your dinner;" and the astonishment and laughter again commenced. The rest of the evening was spent in plucking the bird, to prepare part of it for next day. We then retired to rest, that we might begin our labour early next morning. Ernest chose to remain with his books and his mother, for whom he formed with the mattresses a sort of reclining chair, in which she was able to sit up in bed and sew. Thus she endured a confinement of six weeks, without complaint, and in that time got all our clothes put into good order. Francis had nearly betrayed our secret once, by asking his mamma to make him a mason's apron. "A mason's apron!" said she; "are you going to build a house, child?"
"I meant to say a gardener's apron," said he.
His mamma was satisfied, and promised to comply with his request.
In the mean time, my three sons and I laboured assiduously to get the garden into order again, and to raise the terraces, which we hoped might be a defence against future storms. Fritz had also proposed to me to construct a stone conduit, to bring the water to our kitchen-garden from the river, to which we might carry it back, after it had passed round our vegetable-beds. This was a formidable task, but too useful an affair to be neglected; and, aided by the geometrical skill of Fritz, and the ready hands of my two younger boys, the conduit was completed. I took an opportunity, at the same time, to dig a pond above the garden, into which the conduit poured the water; this was always warm with the sun, and, by means of a sluice, we were able to disperse it in little channels to water the garden. The pond would also be useful to preserve small fish and crabs for use. We next proceeded to our embankment. This was intended to protect the garden from any extraordinary overflow of the river, and from the water running from the rocks after heavy rains. We then laid out our garden on the same plan as before, except that I made the walks wider, and not so flat; I carried one directly to our house, which, in the autumn, I intended to plant with shrubs, that my wife might have a shady avenue to approach her garden; where I also planned an arbour, furnished with seats, as a resting-place for her. The rocks were covered with numerous climbing plants, bearing every variety of elegant flower, and I had only to make my selection.
All this work, with the enclosing the garden with palisades of bamboo, occupied us about a fortnight, in which time our invalids made great progress towards their recovery. After the whole was finished, Francis entreated me to begin his gallery. My boys approved of my plan, and Fritz declared that the house was certainly comfortable and commodious, but that it would be wonderfully improved by a colonnade, with a little pavilion at each end, and a fountain in each pavilion.
"I never heard a word of these pavilions," said I.
"No," said Jack, "they are our own invention. The colonnade will be called the Franciade; and we wish our little pavilions to be named, the one Fritzia, the other Jackia, if you please."
I agreed to this reasonable request, and only begged to know how they would procure water for their fountains. Fritz undertook to bring the water, if I would only assist them in completing this little scheme, to give pleasure to their beloved mother. I was charmed to see the zeal and anxiety of my children to oblige their tender mother. Her illness seemed to have strengthened their attachment; they thought only how to console and amuse her. She sometimes told me she really blessed the accident, which had taught her how much she was valued by all around her.
* * * * *
The next day was Sunday,—our happy Sabbath for repose and quiet conversation at home. After passing the day in our usual devotions and sober reading, my three elder boys requested my permission to walk towards our farm in the evening. On their return, they informed me it would be necessary to give a few days' labour to our plantations of maize and potatoes. I therefore determined to look to them.
Though I was out early next morning, I found Fritz and Jack had been gone some time, leaving only the ass in the stables, which I secured for my little Francis. I perceived, also, that they had dismounted my cart, and carried away the wheels, from which I concluded that they had met with some tree in their walk the preceding evening, suitable for the pipes for their fountains, and that they had now returned to cut it down, and convey it to Tent House. As I did not know where to meet with them, I proceeded with Francis on the ass to commence his favourite work. I drew my plan on the ground first. At the distance of twelve feet from the rock which formed the front of our house, I marked a straight line of fifty feet, which I divided into ten spaces of five feet each for my colonnade; the two ends were to be reserved for the two pavilions my sons wished to build. I was busy in my calculations, and Francis placing stakes in the places where I wished to dig, when the cart drove up with our two good labourers. They had, as I expected, found the evening before a species of pine, well adapted for their pipes. They had cut down four, of fifteen or twenty feet in length, which they had brought on the wheels of the cart, drawn by the four animals. They had had some difficulty in transporting them to the place; and the greatest still remained—the boring the trunks, and then uniting them firmly. I had neither augers nor any tools fit for the purpose. I had, certainly, constructed a little fountain at Falcon's Nest; but the stream was near at hand, and was easily conveyed by cane pipes to our tortoise-shell basin. Here the distance was considerable, the ground unequal, and, to have the water pure and cool, underground pipes were necessary. I thought of large bamboos, but Fritz pointed out the knots, and the difficulty of joining the pieces, and begged me to leave it to him, as he had seen fountains made in Switzerland, and had no fears of success. In the mean time, all hands set to work at the arcade. We selected twelve bamboos of equal height and thickness, and fixed them securely in the earth, at five feet from each other. These formed a pretty colonnade, and were work enough for one day.
We took care to divert all inquiries at night, by discussing the subjects which our invalids had been reading during the day. The little library of our captain was very choice; besides the voyages and travels, which interested them greatly, there was a good collection of historians, and some of the best poets, for which Ernest had no little taste. However, he requested earnestly that he might be of our party next day, and Francis, good-naturedly, offered to stay with mamma, expecting, no doubt, Ernest's congratulations on the forward state of the Franciade. The next morning Ernest and I set out, his brothers having preceded us. Poor Ernest regretted, as we went, that he had no share in these happy schemes for his mother. I reminded him, however, of his dutiful care of her during her sickness, and all his endeavours to amuse her. "And, besides," added I, "did you not make her a straw bonnet?"
"Yes," said he, "and I now remember what a frightful shape it was. I will try to make a better, and will go to-morrow morning to choose my straw."
As we approached Tent House, we heard a most singular noise, echoing at intervals amongst the rocks. We soon discovered the cause; in a hollow of the rocks I saw a very hot fire, which Jack was blowing through a cane, whilst Fritz was turning amidst the embers a bar of iron. When it was red hot, they laid it on an anvil I had brought from the ship, and struck it alternately with hammers to bring it to a point.
"Well done, my young smiths," said I; "we ought to try all things, and keep what is good. Do you expect to succeed in making your auger? I suppose that is what you want."
"Yes, father," said Fritz; "we should succeed well enough if we only had a good pair of bellows; you see we have already got a tolerable point."
Now Fritz could not believe anything was impossible. He had killed a kangaroo the evening before, and skinned it. The flesh made us a dinner; of the skin he determined to make a pair of bellows. He nailed it, with the hair out, not having time to tan it, to two flat pieces of wood, with holes in them; to this he added a reed for the pipe; he then fixed it by means of a long cord and a post, to the side of his fire, and Jack, with his hand or his foot, blew the fire, so that the iron was speedily red hot, and quite malleable. I then showed them how to twist the iron into a screw,—rather clumsy, but which would answer the purpose tolerably well. At one end they formed a ring, in which we placed a piece of wood transversely, to enable them to turn the screw. We then made a trial of it. We placed a tree on two props, and Fritz and I managed the auger so well, that we had our tree pierced through in a very little time, working first at one end and then at the other. Jack, in the mean time, collected the shavings we made, which he deposited in the kitchen for his mother's use, to kindle the fire. Ernest, meanwhile, was walking about, making observations, and giving his advice to his brothers on the architecture of their pavilions, till, seeing they were going to bore another tree, he retired into the garden to see the embankment. He returned delighted with the improvements, and much disposed to take some employment. He wanted to assist in boring the tree, but we could not all work at it. I undertook this labour myself, and sent him to blow the bellows, while his brothers laboured at the forge, the work not being too hard for his lame hand. My young smiths were engaged in flattening the iron to make joints to unite their pipes; they succeeded very well, and then began to dig the ground to lay them. Ernest, knowing something of geometry and land-surveying, was able to give them some useful hints, which enabled them to complete their work successfully. Leaving them to do this, I employed myself in covering in my long colonnade. After I had placed on my columns a plank cut in arches, which united them, and was firmly nailed to them, I extended from it bamboos, placed sloping against the rock, and secured to it by cramps of iron, the work of my young smiths. When my bamboo roof was solidly fixed, the canes as close as possible, I filled the interstices with a clay I found near the river, and poured gum over it; I had thus an impervious and brilliant roof, which appeared to be varnished, and striped green and brown. I then raised the floor a foot, in order that there might be no damp, and paved it with the square stones I had preserved when we cut the rock. It must be understood that all this was the work of many days. I was assisted by Jack and Fritz, and by Ernest and Francis alternately, one always remaining with his mother, who was still unable to walk. Ernest employed his time, when at home, in making the straw bonnet, without either borrowing his brother's head for a model, or letting any of them know what he was doing. Nevertheless, he assisted his brothers with their pavilions by his really valuable knowledge. They formed them very elegantly,—something like a Chinese pagoda. They were exactly square, supported on four columns, and rather higher than the gallery. The roofs terminated in a point, and resembled a large parasol. The fountains were in the middle; the basins, breast-high, were formed of the shells of two turtles from our reservoir, which were mercilessly sacrificed for the purpose, and furnished our table abundantly for some days. They succeeded the cassowary, which had supplied us very seasonably: its flesh tasted like beef, and made excellent soup.
But to return to the fountains. Ernest suggested the idea of ornamenting the end of the perpendicular pipe, which brought the water to the basin, with shells; every sort might be collected on the shore, of the most brilliant colours, and curious and varied shapes. He was passionately devoted to natural history, and had made a collection of these, endeavouring to classify them from the descriptions he met with in the books of voyages and travels. Some of these, of the most dazzling beauty, were placed round the pipe, which had been plastered with clay; from thence the water was received into a volute, shaped like an antique urn, and again was poured gracefully into the large turtle-shell; a small channel conveyed it then out of the pavilions. The whole was completed in less time than I could have imagined, and greatly surpassed my expectations; conferring an inestimable advantage on our dwelling, by securing us from the heat. All honour was rendered to Master Francis, the inventor, and The Franciade was written in large letters on the middle arch; Fritzia and Jackia were written in the same way over the pavilions. Ernest alone was not named; and he seemed somewhat affected by it. He had acquired a great taste for rambling and botanizing, and had communicated it also to Fritz, and now that our labours were ended at Tent House, they left us to nurse our invalid, and made long excursions together, which lasted sometimes whole days. As they generally returned with some game, or some new fruit, we pardoned their absence, and they were always welcome. Sometimes they brought a kangaroo, sometimes an agouti, the flesh of which resembles that of a rabbit, but is richer; sometimes they brought wild ducks, pigeons, and even partridges. These were contributed by Fritz, who never went out without his gun and his dogs. Ernest brought us natural curiosities, which amused us much,—stones, crystals, petrifactions, insects, butterflies of rare beauty, and flowers, whose colours and fragrance no one in Europe can form an idea of. Sometimes he brought fruit, which we always administered first to our monkey, as taster: some of them proved very delicious. Two of his discoveries, especially, were most valuable acquisitions,—the guajaraba, on the large leaf of which one may write with a pointed instrument, and the fruit of which, a sort of grape, is very good to eat; also the date-palm, every part of which is so useful, that we were truly thankful to Heaven, and our dear boys, for the discovery. Whilst young, the trunk contains a sort of marrow, very delicious. The date-palm is crowned by a head, formed of from forty to eighty leafy branches, which spread round the top. The dates are particularly good about half-dried; and my wife immediately began to preserve them. My sons could only bring the fruit now, but we purposed to transplant some of the trees themselves near our abode. We did not discourage our sons in these profitable expeditions; but they had another aim, which I was yet ignorant of. In the mean time, I usually walked with one of my younger sons towards Tent House, to attend to our garden, and to see if our works continued in good condition to receive mamma, who daily improved; but I insisted on her being completely restored, before she was introduced to them. Our dwelling looked beautiful amongst the picturesque rocks, surrounded by trees of every sort, and facing the smooth and lovely Bay of Safety. The garden was not so forward as I could have wished; but we were obliged to be patient, and hope for the best.
* * * * *
One day, having gone over with my younger sons to weed the garden, and survey our possessions, I perceived that the roof of the gallery wanted a little repair, and called Jack to raise for me the rope ladder which I had brought from Falcon's Nest, and which had been very useful while we were constructing the roof; but we sought for it everywhere; it could not be found; and as we were quite free from robbers in our island, I could only accuse my elder sons, who had doubtless carried it off to ascend some tall cocoa-nut tree. Obliged to be content, we walked into the garden by the foot of the rocks. Since our arrival, I had been somewhat uneasy at hearing a dull, continued noise, which appeared to proceed from this side. The forge we had passed, now extinguished, and our workmen were absent. Passing along, close to the rocks, the noise became more distinct, and I was truly alarmed. Could it be an earthquake? Or perhaps it announced some volcanic explosion. I stopped before that part of the rock where the noise was loudest; the surface was firm and level; but from time to time, blows and falling stones seemed to strike our ears. I was uncertain what to do; curiosity prompted me to stay, but a sort of terror urged me to remove my child and myself. However, Jack, always daring, was unwilling to go till he had discovered the cause of the phenomenon. "If Francis were here," said he, "he would fancy it was the wicked gnomes, working underground, and he would be in a fine fright. For my part, I believe it is only people come to collect the salt in the rock."
"People!" said I; "you don't know what you are saying, Jack; I could excuse Francis and his gnomes,—it would be at least a poetic fancy, but yours is quite absurd. Where are the people to come from?"
"But what else can it be?" said he. "Hark! you may hear them strike the rock."
"Be certain, however," said I, "there are no people." At that moment, I distinctly heard human voices, speaking, laughing, and apparently clapping their hands. I could not distinguish any words; I was struck with a mortal terror; but Jack, whom nothing could alarm, clapped his hands also, with joy, that he had guessed right. "What did I say, papa? Was I not right? Are there not people within the rock?—friends, I hope." He was approaching the rock, when it appeared to me to be shaking; a stone soon fell down, then another. I seized hold of Jack, to drag him away, lest he should be crushed by the fragments of rock. At that moment another stone fell, and we saw two heads appear through the opening,—the heads of Fritz and Ernest. Judge of our surprise and joy! Jack was soon through the opening, and assisting his brothers to enlarge it. As soon as I could enter, I stepped in, and found myself in a real grotto, of a round form, with a vaulted roof, divided by a narrow crevice, which admitted the light and air. It was, however, better lighted by two large gourd lamps. I saw my long ladder of ropes suspended from the opening at the top, and thus comprehended how my sons had penetrated into this recess, which it was impossible to suspect the existence of from the outside. But how had they discovered it? and what were they making of it? These were my two questions. Ernest replied at once to the last. "I wished," said he, "to make a resting-place for my mother, when she came to her garden. My brothers have each built some place for her, and called it by their name. I had a desire that some place in our island might be dedicated to Ernest, and I now present you the Grotto Ernestine."
"And after all," said Jack, "it will make a pretty dwelling for the first of us that marries."
"Silence, little giddy-pate," said I; "where do you expect to find a wife in this island? Do you think you shall discover one among the rocks, as your brothers have discovered the grotto? But tell me, Fritz, what directed you here."
"Our good star, father," said he. "Ernest and I were walking round these rocks, and talking of his wish for a resting-place for my mother on her way to the garden. He projected a tent; but the path was too narrow to admit it; and the rock, heated by the sun, was like a stove. We were considering what we should do, when I saw on the summit of the rock a very beautiful little unknown quadruped. From its form I should have taken it for a young chamois, if I had been in Switzerland; but Ernest reminded me that the chamois was peculiar to cold countries, and he thought it was a gazelle or antelope; probably the gazelle of Guinea or Java, called by naturalists the chevrotain. You may suppose I tried to climb the rock on which this little animal remained standing, with one foot raised, and its pretty head turning first to one side and then to the other; but it was useless to attempt it here, where the rock was smooth and perpendicular; besides, I should have put the gazelle to flight, as it is a timid and wild animal. I then remembered there was a place near Tent House where a considerable break occurred in the chain of rocks, and we found that, with a little difficulty, the rock might be scaled by ascending this ravine. Ernest laughed at me, and asked me if I expected the antelope would wait patiently till I got to it? No matter, I determined to try, and I told him to remain; but he soon determined to accompany me, for he fancied that in the fissure of a rock he saw a flower of a beautiful rose-colour, which was unknown to him. My learned botanist thought it must be an erica, or heath, and wished to ascertain the fact. One helping the other, we soon got through all difficulties, and arrived at the summit; and here we were amply repaid by the beautiful prospect on every side. We will talk of that afterwards, father; I have formed some idea of the country which these rocks separate us from. But to return to our grotto. I went along, first looking for my pretty gazelle, which I saw licking a piece of rock, where doubtless she found some salt. I was hardly a hundred yards from her, my gun ready, when I was suddenly stopped by a crevice, which I could not cross, though the opening was not very wide. The pretty quadruped was on the rock opposite to me; but of what use would it have been to shoot it, when I could not secure it. I was obliged to defer it till a better opportunity offered, and turned to examine the opening, which appeared deep; still I could see that the bottom of the cavity was white, like that of our former grotto. I called Ernest, who was behind me, with his plants and stones, to impart to him an idea that suddenly struck me. It was, to make this the retreat for my mother. I told him that I believed the floor of the cave was nearly on a level with the path that led to the garden, and we had only to make an opening in the form of a natural grotto, and it would be exactly what he wished. Ernest was much pleased with the idea, and said he could easily ascertain the level by means of a weight attached to a string; but though he was startled at the difficulty of descending to our labour every day, and returning in the evening, he would not agree to my wish of beginning at the outside of the rock, as we had done in our former grotto, He had several reasons for wishing to work from within. 'In the first place,' said he, 'it will be so much cooler this summer weather; we should be soon unable to go on labouring before the burning rock; then our path is so narrow, that we should not know how to dispose of the rubbish; in the interior, it will serve us to make a bench round the grotto; besides, I should have such pleasure in completing it secretly, and unsuspected, without any assistance or advice except yours, my dear Fritz, which I accept with all my heart; so pray find out some means of descending and ascending readily.'
"I immediately recollected your rope ladder, father; it was forty feet long, and we could easily fasten it to the point of the rock. Ernest was delighted and sanguine. We returned with all speed. We took first a roll of cord and some candles; then the rope ladder, which we rolled up as well as we could, but had great difficulty in conveying it up the rock; once or twice, when the ascent was very difficult, we were obliged to fasten a cord to it, and draw it up after us; but determination, courage, and perseverance overcame all obstacles. We arrived at the opening, and, on sounding it, we were glad to find our ladder would be long enough to reach the bottom. We then measured the outside of the rock, and ascertained that the floor of the grotto was near the same level as the ground outside. We remembered your lessons, father, and made some experiments to discover if it contained mephitic air. We first lighted some candles, which were not extinguished; we then kindled a large heap of sticks and dried grass, which-burned well, the smoke passing through the opening like a chimney. Having no uneasiness about this, we deferred our commencement till the next day. Then we lighted the forge, and pointed some iron bars we found in the magazine; these were to be our tools to break open the rock. We secured, also, your chisel, as well as some hammers, and all our tools were thrown down below; we then arranged two gourds to serve us for lamps; and when all was ready, and our ladder firmly fixed, we descended ourselves; and we have nothing more to tell you, except that we were very glad when we heard your voices outside, at the very time when our work was drawing to an end. We were sure, when we distinguished your voices so clearly, that we must be near the external air; we redoubled our efforts, and here we are. Now tell us, father, are you pleased with our idea? and will you forgive us for making a mystery of it?"
I assured them of my forgiveness, and my cordial approbation of their manly and useful enterprise; and made Ernest happy by declaring that it should always be called the Grotto Ernestine.
"Thanks to you all, my dear children," said I; "your dear mamma will now prefer Tent House to Falcon's Nest, and will have no occasion to risk breaking a limb in descending the winding staircase. I will assist you to enlarge the opening, and as we will leave it all the simplicity of a natural grotto, it will soon be ready."
We all set to work; Jack carried away the loosened stones and rubbish, and formed benches on each side the grotto. With what had fallen outside, he also made two seats in the front of the rock, and before evening all was complete. Fritz ascended to unfasten the ladder, and to convey it by an easier road to Tent House; he then rejoined us, and we returned to our castle in the air, which was henceforward only to be looked on as a pleasure-house. We resolved, however, to establish here, as we had done at our farm, a colony of our cattle, which increased daily: we had now a number of young cows, which were most useful for our support. We wished, however, for a female buffalo, as the milk of that animal makes excellent cheese. Conversing on our future plans, we soon reached home, and found all well.
* * * * *
In a few days we completed the Grotto Ernestine. It contained some stalactites; but not so many as our former grotto. We found, however, a beautiful block of salt, which resembled white marble, of which Ernest formed a sort of altar, supported by four pillars, on which he placed a pretty vase of citron-wood, which he had turned himself, and in which he arranged some of the beautiful erica which had been the cause of his discovering the grotto. It was one of those occasions when his feelings overcame his natural indolence, when he became for a time the most active of the four, and brought forward all his resources, which were many. This indolence was merely physical; when not excited by any sudden circumstance, or by some fancy which soon assumed the character of a passion, he loved ease, and to enjoy life tranquilly in study. He improved his mind continually, as well by his excellent memory, as by natural talent and application. He reflected, made experiments, and was always successful. He had at last succeeded in making his mother a very pretty bonnet. He had also composed some verses, which were intended to celebrate her visit to Tent House; and this joyful day being at last fixed, the boys all went over, the evening before, to make their preparations. The flowers that the storm had spared were gathered to ornament the fountains, the altar, and the table, on which was placed an excellent cold dinner, entirely prepared by themselves. Fritz supplied and roasted the game,—a fine bustard, the flesh of which resembles a turkey, and a brace of partridges. Ernest brought pines, melons, and figs; Jack should have supplied the fish, but was able only to procure oysters, crabs, and turtles' eggs. Francis had the charge of the dessert, which consisted of a dish of strawberries, honeycomb, and the cream of the cocoa-nut. I had contributed a bottle of Canary wine, that we might drink mamma's health. All was arranged on a table in the middle of the Franciade, and my sons returned to accompany the expedition next day.
The morning was beautiful, and the sun shone brightly on our emigration. My wife was anxious to set out, expecting she should have to return to her aerial dwelling. Though her leg and foot were better, she still walked feebly, and she begged us to harness the cow and ass to the cart, and to lead them as gently as possible.
"I will only go a little way the first day," said she, "for I am not strong enough to visit Tent House yet."
We felt quite convinced she would change her opinion when once in her litter. I wished to carry her down the staircase; but she declined, and descended very well with the help of my arm. When the door was opened, and she found herself once more in the open air, surrounded by her children, she thanked God, with tears of gratitude, for her recovery, and all his mercies to us. Then the pretty osier carriage arrived. They had harnessed the cow and young bull to it; Francis answering for the docility of Valiant, provided he guided him himself. Accordingly, he was mounted before, his cane in his hand, and his bow and quiver on his back, very proud to be mamma's charioteer. My other three boys mounted on their animals, were ready before, to form the advanced guard, while I proposed to follow, and watch over the whole. My wife was moved even to tears, and could not cease admiring her new carriage, which Fritz and Jack presented to her as their own work. Francis, however, boasted that he had carded the cotton for the soft cushion on which she was to sit, and I, that I had made it. I then lifted her in, and as soon as she was seated Ernest came to put her new bonnet on her head, which greatly delighted her; it was of fine straw, and so thick and firm that it might even defend her from the rain. But what pleased her most was, that it was the shape worn by the Swiss peasants in the Canton of Vaud, where my dear wife had resided some time in her youth. She thanked all her dear children, and felt so easy and comfortable in her new conveyance, that we arrived at Family Bridge without her feeling the least fatigue. Here we stopped.
"Would you like to cross here, my dear?" said I; "and as we are very near, look in at your convenient Tent House, where you will have no staircase to ascend. And we should like to know, too, if you approve of our management of your garden,"
"As you please," said she; "in fact, I am so comfortable in my carriage, that if it were necessary, I could make the tour of the island. I should like to see my house again; but it will be so very hot at this season, that we must not stay long."
"But you must dine there, my dear mother," said Fritz; "it is too late to return to dinner at Falcon's Nest; consider, too, the fatigue it would occasion you."
"I would be very glad, indeed, my dear," said she; "but what are we to dine on? We have prepared no provision, and I fear we shall all be hungry."
"What matter," said Jack, "provided you dine with us? You must take your chance. I will go and get some oysters, that we may not die with hunger;" and off he galloped on his buffalo. Fritz followed him, on some pretence, on Lightfoot. Mamma wished she had brought a vessel to carry some water from the river, for she knew we could get none at Tent House. Francis reminded her we could milk the cow, and she was satisfied, and enjoyed her journey much. At last we arrived before the colonnade. My wife was dumb with wonder for some moments.
"Where am I, and what do I see?" said she, when she could speak.
"You see the Franciade, mamma," said her little boy; "this beautiful colonnade was my invention, to protect you from the heat; stay, read what is written above: Francis to his dear mother. May this colonnade, which is called the Franciade, be to her a temple of happiness. Now mamma, lean on me, and come and see my brothers' gifts—much better than mine;" and he led her to Jack's pavilion, who was standing by the fountain. He held a shell in his hand, which he filled with water, and drank, saying, "To the health of the Queen of the Island; may she have no more accidents, and live as long as her children! Long live Queen Elizabeth, and may she come every day to Jackia, to drink her son Jack's health."
I supported my wife, and was almost as much affected as herself. She wept and trembled with joy and surprise. Jack and Ernest then joined their hands, and carried her to the other pavilion, where Fritz was waiting to receive her, and the same scene of tenderness ensued. "Accept this pavilion, dear mother," said he; "and may Fritzia ever make you think on Fritz."
The delighted mother embraced them all, and observing Ernest's name was not commemorated by any trophy, thanked him again for her beautiful bonnet. She then drank some of the delicious water of the fountain, and returned to seat herself at the repast, which was another surprise for her. We all made an excellent dinner; and at the dessert, I handed my Canary wine round in shells; and then Ernest rose and sung us very prettily, to a familiar air, some little verses he had composed:—
On this festive happy day, Let us pour our grateful lay; Since Heaven has hush'd our mother's pain, And given her to her sons again. Then from this quiet, lovely home Never, never, may we roam. All we love around us smile: Joyful is our desert isle.
When o'er our mother's couch we bent, Fervent prayers to Heaven we sent, And God has spared that mother dear, To bless her happy children here. Then from this quiet, lovely home, Never, never, may we roam; All we love around us smile, Joyful is our desert isle.
We all joined in the chorus, and none of us thought of the ship, of Europe, or of anything that was passing in the world. The island was our universe, and Tent House was a palace we would not have exchanged for any the world contained. This was one of those happy days that God grants us sometimes on earth, to give us an idea of the bliss of Heaven; and most fervently did we thank Him, at the end of our repast, for all his mercies and blessings to us.
After dinner, I told my wife she must not think of returning to Falcon's Nest, with all its risks of storms and the winding staircase, and she could not better recompense her sons for their labours than by living among them. She was of the same opinion, and was very glad to be so near her kitchen and her stores, and to be able to walk alone with the assistance of a stick in the colonnade, which she could do already; but she made me promise to leave Falcon's Nest as it was. It would be a pretty place to walk to, and besides, this castle in the air was her own invention. We agreed that this very evening she should take possession of her own pretty room, with the good felt carpet, on which she could walk without fear; and that the next day, I should go with my elder sons and the animals to bring the cart, such utensils as we needed, and above all, the poultry. Our dogs always followed their masters, as well as the monkey and jackal, and they were so domesticated, we had no trouble with them.
I then prevailed on my wife to go into her room and rest for an hour, after which we were to visit the garden. She complied, and after her repose found her four sons ready to carry her in her litter as in a sedan-chair. They took care to bring her straight to the grotto, where I was waiting for her. This was a new surprise for the good mother. She could not sufficiently express her astonishment and delight, when Jack and Francis, taking their flageolets, accompanied their brothers, who sung the following verse, which Ernest had added to his former attempt.
Dear mother, let this gift be mine, Accept the Grotto Ernestine. May all your hours be doubly blest Within this tranquil place of rest. Then from this quiet, lovely home Never, never may we roam; All we love around us smile. Joyful is our desert isle!
What cause had we to rejoice in our children! we could not but shed tears to witness their affection and perfect happiness.
Below the vase of flowers, on the block of salt, Ernest had written:—
Ernest, assisted by his brother Fritz, Has prepared this grotto, As a retreat for his beloved mother, When she visits her garden.
Ernest then conducted his mother to one of the benches, which he had covered with soft moss, as a seat for her, and there she rested at her ease to hear the history of the discovery of the grotto. It was now my turn to offer my present; the garden, the embankment, the pond, and the arbour. She walked, supported by my arm, to view her little empire, and her delight was extreme; the pond, which enabled her to water her vegetables, particularly pleased her, as well as her shady arbour, under which she found all her gardening tools, ornamented with flowers, and augmented by two light watering-pans, constructed by Jack and Francis, from two gourds. They had canes for spouts, with the gourd bottles at the end, pierced with holes, through which the water came in the manner of a watering-pan. The embankment was also a great surprise; she proposed to place plants of pines and melon on it, and I agreed to it. Truly did she rejoice at the appearance of the vegetables, which promised us some excellent European provision, a great comfort to her. After expressing her grateful feelings, she returned to the grotto, and seating herself in her sedan-chair, returned to Tent House, to enjoy the repose she needed, after such a day of excitement. We did not, however, lie down before we had together thanked God for the manifold blessings he had given us, and for the pleasure of that day.
"If I had been in Europe," said my dear wife, "on the festival of my recovery, I should have received a nosegay, a ribbon, or some trinket; here I have had presented a carriage, a colonnade, pavilions, ornamental fountains, a large grotto, a garden, a pond, an arbour, and a straw bonnet!"
* * * * *
THE next and following days were spent in removing our furniture and property, particularly our poultry, which had multiplied greatly. We also constructed a poultry-yard, at a sufficient distance from our house to save our sleep from disturbance, and still so near that we could easily tend them. We made it as a continuation of the colonnade, and on the same plan, but enclosed in the front by a sort of wire trellis-work, which Fritz and Jack made wonderfully well. Fritz, who had a turn for architecture and mechanics, gave me some good hints, especially one, which we put into execution. This was to carry the water from the basin of the fountain through the poultry-yard, which enabled us also to have a little pond for our ducks. The pigeons had their abode above the hen-roosts, in some pretty baskets, which Ernest and Francis made, similar to those made by the savages of the Friendly Isles, of which they had seen engravings in Cook's Voyages. When all was finished, my wife was delighted to think that even in the rainy season she could attend to her feathered family and collect their eggs.
"What a difference," said she, admiring the elegance of our buildings,—"what a difference between this Tent House and the original dwelling that suggested the name to us, and which was our only shelter four years ago. What a surprising progress luxury has made with us in that time! Do you remember, my dear, the barrel which served us for a table, and the oyster-shells for spoons, the tent where we slept, crowded together on dried leaves, and without undressing, and the river half a mile off, where we were obliged to go to drink if we were thirsty? Compared to what we were then, we are now great lords"
"Kings, you mean, mamma," said Jack, "for all this island is ours, and it is quite like a kingdom."
"And how many millions of subjects does Prince Jack reckon in the kingdom of his august father?" said I.
Prince Jack declared he had not yet counted the parrots, kangaroos, agoutis, and monkeys. The laughter of his brothers stopped him. I then agreed with my wife that our luxuries had increased; but I explained to her that this was the result of our industry. All civilized nations have commenced as we did; necessity has developed the intellect which God has given to man alone, and by degrees the arts have progressed, and knowledge has extended more perhaps than is conducive to happiness. What appeared luxury to us now was still simplicity compared with the luxury of towns, or even villages, among civilized nations. My wife declared she had everything she wished for, and should not know what more to ask for, as we now had only to rest and enjoy our happiness.
I declared against spending our time in rest and indolence, as the sure means of ending our pleasure; and I well knew my dear wife was, like myself, an enemy to idleness; but she dreaded any more laborious undertakings.
"But, mamma," said Fritz, "you must let me make a mill under the cascade; it will be so useful when our corn grows, and even now for the maize. I also think of making an oven in the kitchen, which will be very useful for you to bake your bread in."
"These would indeed be useful labours," said the good mother, smiling; "but can you accomplish them?"
"I hope so," said Fritz, "with the help of God and that of my dear brothers."
Ernest promised his best aid, in return for his brother's kind services in forming his grotto, only requesting occasional leisure for his natural history collections. His mother did not see the utility of these collections, but, willing to indulge her kind and attentive Ernest, she offered, till she could walk well, to assist him in arranging and labelling his plants, which were yet in disorder, and he gratefully consented. In procuring her some paper for the purpose, of which I had brought a large quantity from the vessel, I brought out an unopened packet, amongst which was a piece of some fabric, neither paper nor stuff apparently. We examined it together, and at length remembered it was a piece of stuff made at Otaheite, which our captain had bought of a native at an island where we had touched on our voyage. Fritz appearing much interested in examining this cloth, Ernest said gravely, "I can teach you how to make it;" and immediately bringing Cook's Voyages, where a detailed description is given, he proceeded to read it. Fritz was disappointed to find it could only be made of the bark of three trees—of these our island produced only one. These trees were the mulberry-tree, the bread fruit, and the wild fig. We had the last in abundance, but of the two former we had not yet discovered a single plant. Fritz was not, however, discouraged. "They ought to be here," said he, "since they are found in all the South-Sea Islands. Perhaps we may find them on the other side of the rocks, where I saw some superb unknown trees from the height where we discovered the grotto; and who knows but I may find my pretty gazelle there again. The rogue can leap better than I can over those rocks. I had a great wish to descend them, but found it impossible; some are very high and perpendicular; others have overhanging summits; I might, however, get round as you did by the pass, between the torrent and the rocks at the Great Bay."
Jack offered to be his guide, even with his eyes shut, into that rich country where he conquered and captured his buffalo; and Ernest begged to be of the party. As this was an expedition I had long projected, I agreed to accompany them next day, their mother being content to have Francis left with her as a protector. I cautioned Fritz not to fire off his gun when we approached the buffaloes, as any show of hostility might render them furious; otherwise the animals, unaccustomed to man, have no fear of him, and will not harm him. "In general," added I, "I cannot sufficiently recommend to you to be careful of your powder; we have not more than will last us a year, and there may be a necessity to have recourse to it for our defence."
"I have a plan for making it," said Fritz, who never saw a difficulty in anything. "I know it is composed of charcoal, saltpetre, and sulphur—and we ought to find all these materials in the island. It is only necessary to combine them, and to form it into little round grains. This is my only difficulty; but I will consider it over; and I have my mill to think on first. I have a confused recollection of a powder manufactory at Berne: there was some machinery which went by water; this machinery moved some hammers, which pounded and mixed the ingredients—was not this the case, father?"
"Something like it," said I; "but we have many things to do before making powder. First, we must go to sleep; we must set out before daybreak, if we intend to return to-morrow evening." We did indeed rise before the sun, which would not rise for us. The sky was very cloudy, and shortly we had an abundant and incessant rain, which obliged us to defer our journey, and put us all in bad humour, but my wife, who was not sorry to keep us with her, and who declared this gracious rain would water her garden, and bring it forward. Fritz was the first who consoled himself; he thought on nothing but building mills, and manufacturing gunpowder. He begged me to draw him a mill; this was very easy, so far as regards the exterior,—that is, the wheel, and the waterfall that sets it in motion; but the interior,—the disposition of the wheels, the stones to bruise the grain, the sieve, or bolter, to separate the flour from the bran; all this complicated machinery was difficult to explain; but he comprehended all, adding his usual expression,—"I will try, and I shall succeed." Not to lose any time, and to profit by this rainy day, he began by making sieves of different materials, which he fastened to a circle of pliant wood, and tried by passing through them the flour of the cassava; he made some with sailcloth, others with the hair of the onagra, which is very long and strong, and some of the fibres of bark. His mother admired his work, which he continued to improve more and more; she assured him the sieve would be sufficient for her; it was useless to have the trouble of building a mill.
"But how shall we bruise the grain, mamma?" said he; "it would be tedious and hard work."
"And you think there will be no hard work in building your mill?" said Jack. "I am curious to see how you will contrive to form that huge stone, which is called the millstone."
"You shall see," said Fritz; "only find me the stone, and it shall soon be done. Do you think, father, that of our rock would be suitable?"
I told him I thought it would be hard enough, but it would be difficult to cut from the rock a piece large enough for the purpose. He made his usual reply,—"I will try. Ernest and Jack will assist me; and perhaps you, papa."
I declared my willingness, but named him the master-mason; we must only be his workmen. Francis was impatient to see the mill in operation. "Oh!" said Jack, "you shall soon have that pleasure. It is a mere trifle; we only want stone, wood, tools, and science."
At the word "science," Ernest, who was reading in a corner, without listening to us, raised his head suddenly, saying,—"What science are you in need of?"
"Of one you know nothing of, Mr. Philosopher," said Jack. "Come, tell us, do you know how to build a mill?"
"A mill?" answered Ernest; "of what description? There are many sorts. I was just looking in my dictionary for it. There are corn-mills, and powder-mills, oil-mills, wind-mills, water-mills, hand-mills, and saw-mills; which do you want?"
Fritz would have liked them all.
"You remind me," said I, "that we brought from the vessel a hand-mill and a saw-mill, taken to pieces, to be sure, but numbered and labelled, so that they could be easily united: they should be in the magazine, where you found the anvil and iron bars; I had forgotten them."
"Let us go and examine them," said Fritz, lighting his lantern; "I shall get some ideas from them."
"Rather," said his mother, "they will spare you the trouble of thinking and labouring."
I sent them all four to seek these treasures, which, heaped in an obscure corner of the store-room, had escaped my recollection. When we were alone, I seriously besought my wife not to oppose any occupations our children might plan, however they might seem beyond their power; the great point being, to keep them continually occupied, so that no evil or dangerous fancies might fill their minds. "Let them," I said, "cut stone, fell trees, or dig fountains, and bless God that their thoughts are so innocently directed." She understood me, and promised not to discourage them, only fearing the excessive fatigue of these undertakings.
Our boys returned from the magazine, delighted with what they had found, and loaded with work-tools. Those of the masons,—the chisel, the short hammer, and the trowel, were not to be found, and rarely are taken out to sea; but they had collected a great number of carpenters' tools,—saws, planes, rules, &c. And now that Fritz was a smith, he had no difficulty in making any tool he wanted. He was loaded on each shoulder, and in each hand he brought a specimen of gunpowder; one sort was in good condition, and they had found a barrel of it; the other was much damaged by the water. Jack and Francis were also bending under the weight of various articles; among which I saw some pieces of the hand-mill Fritz wished to examine. Ernest, always rather idle, came proudly on, with a leather belt across his shoulders, to which was suspended a large tin box for plants, and a leather portmanteau for stones, minerals, and shells. His brothers, even Francis, rallied him unmercifully on his immense burden; one offered to help him, another to go and bring the ass; he preserved his grave and thoughtful air, and extended himself on a seat near his mother, who was occupied with his specimens of natural history. Jack deposited his load in a corner, and ran out; we soon saw him return with a huge screw-machine on his head, which he placed before Ernest, saying, with an air of respect,—
"I have the honour to bring for his Highness the Prince of the Idle Penguins, the press for his august plants, which his Highness doubtless found too heavy; and, truly, it is no little weight."
Ernest did not know whether to thank him or to be angry, but he decided to join in the jest, and, therefore, answered gravely that he was distressed that his Highness the Prince of the Monkeys should have taken so much trouble to oblige him, that he ought to have employed some of his docile subjects to do it; after all, he confessed that the press, which he had not noticed, gave him great pleasure, and he placed some plants in it immediately, which he had collected the evening before.
The rain ceasing for a short time, I went with Fritz and Jack to examine our embankment, and to open the sluices of the pond. We found all right, and our garden looking beautiful after the rain. On our return, we looked in at the Grotto Ernestine, which we found inundated from the opening above. We proposed to make a trench, or little channel, to carry off the rain-water from it. We returned home, and retired to bed, in hopes of being able to set out next morning. We were, however, again disappointed, and for a longer period than we expected. The rain continued some days, and the country was again a complete lake; we had, however, no storm or wind, and our possessions did not suffer; so we resolved to wait patiently till the weather would permit us to go. My wife was delighted to be in her comfortable abode, and to have us round her; neither did we waste the time. Ernest finished the arrangement of his collection with his mother and Francis. Fritz and Jack prepared the tools that would be wanted in their great undertaking—the first attempt was to be a saw-mill. In order to prepare the planks they wished, a very large saw, which they had found amongst the tools, would serve their purpose; but it was necessary to set it in motion by water, and here was the difficulty. Fritz made several models from the thin wood of our chests, and the wheels of our guns, but they were too small. In the mean time, the mind of my young mechanic was exercised, his ideas were enlarged and improved; and, as this science was so necessary in our situation, I allowed him to go on with his experiments. Notwithstanding the rain, protected by my cloak, he went several times to the cascade to look out for a place where he should place his mills to the best advantage, and have a constant supply of water. Ernest assisted him by his advice, and promised his labour when it should be needed. Jack and Francis were helping their mother to card cotton, of which she had made a large collection, intending to spin it for our clothing; and I exercised my mechanical talents in turning a large wheel for her, which it was necessary should revolve very easily, her leg being still stiff; and a reel, by which four bobbins were filled at once by turning a handle.
These different occupations aided us to pass the rainy season, which visited us earlier this year, and did not remain so long. My wife knew something of dyeing cloth; and, some of the plants she had helped Ernest to dry having left their colour on the papers, she made some experiments, and succeeded in obtaining a very pretty blue to dye our clothes with; and, with the cochineal from our fig-tree, a beautiful red brown, with which she had dyed for herself a complete dress.
Thus passed several weeks. Ernest read to us from some amusing or instructive work every evening; and, when his collections were all put in order, he worked at his lathe, or at the business of weaving. At last the sun appeared; we spent some days enjoying it in our delightful colonnade. We went to visit the grotto and the garden, where all was going on well—the embankment had prevented the inundation. Satisfied with our work, we now fixed our departure for the next day, once more hoping the rain would not come again to disappoint us.
* * * * *
The next day the weather was delightful. We rose before daybreak. My eldest sons took their work-tools, which we might want, and their guns also, but under the condition that they should not use them till I gave the word, "Fire!" I carried the bag of provisions. Our flock of sheep had increased so much at the farm, that we allowed ourselves to kill one, and my wife had roasted a piece for us the preceding evening; to this we added a cake of cassava, and for our dessert we depended on the fruits of the trees we might discover. But, previous to our departure, while I was taking leave of my wife and Francis, I heard a dispute in the colonnade, which I hastened to learn the cause of. I found it was a question between Fritz and Jack, whether we should make the tour of the island by sea or land; and each was anxious for my support. Fritz complained that, since their two expeditions in the canoe, Jack believed himself the first sailor in the world, and that they had given him the name of Lord of the Waves, because he was constantly saying—"When I was under the waves—when the waves were washing over me, do you think that they left me dry?"
"No, Mr. Sportsman," said Jack, "you got enough of them, and that's the reason you don't wish to try them again. For my part, I love the waves, and I sing, 'The sea! the sea! it was the sea that brought us here!'"
"What a boaster you are," said Fritz: "it was only yesterday you said to me, 'I will guide you; I know the way by the rocks; I got my buffalo there, and I intend to have another.' Was it in the pinnace you intended to pass the defile, and pursue buffaloes?"
"No, no! I meant on foot," said Jack; "but I thought we should be only two then. But, as we are four—papa at the helm, and three bold rowers, why should we fatigue ourselves in making the tour of the island on our legs, when we have a good vessel to carry us? What says Mr. Philosopher, the prince of idlers, to it?"
"For my part," said Ernest, quietly, "I am quite indifferent whether I use my legs in walking, or my arms in rowing, it is equally fatiguing; but walking gives me more chance of filling my plant-box and my game-bag."
"And does he think," added Fritz, "that the mulberry and bread-fruit trees, which we shall certainly find on the other side, grow on the sea? without naming my gazelle, which does not run over the waves."
"No, it is waiting, without moving, for you to shoot it," said Jack; "and Ernest, perhaps you may find on the sea some of those curious things half plants, half animals, which you were showing me in a book."
"The zoophytes, or polypi; for they are the same family, though there are more than a thousand species," said Ernest, charmed to display his knowledge; but I stopped him by saying: "We will dispense with the thousand names at present. After hearing all your arguments, attend to mine; even Jack must yield to them. Our principal aim now being to search for the trees we are in need of, and to examine the productions of the island, our most sensible plan will be to walk."
Jack still contended that we might land occasionally; but I showed him the danger of this, the island being, in all probability, surrounded by reefs, which might extend so far into the sea as to take us out of the sight of the island; this I intended to ascertain some day; and in the mean time I proposed to them that we should endeavour to find a pass round the rocks on our side, from whence we could walk to the defile at the other end, take our canoe, which we had left at anchor near the Great Bay, and return to Tent House.
Jack was in ecstasies; he declared the pass must be very well concealed that escaped his search, and, seizing his lasso and his bow, rushed out the first, singing "The sea! the sea!"
"There goes a sailor formed by nature," thought I, as we followed the course of the chain of rocks to the left of our dwelling. It conducted us first to the place of our landing, that little uncultivated plain of triangular form, of which the base was washed by the sea, and the point was lost among the rocks. I found here some traces of our first establishment; but how wretched all appeared, compared with our present comforts! We tried here in vain to find a passage to cross the rocks—the chain was everywhere like an impenetrable wall. We arrived at the ravine Fritz and Ernest had scaled when they discovered their grotto; and, truly, nothing but the courage and rashness of youth could have undertaken this enterprise, and continued it daily for three weeks. It appeared to me almost impossible; Fritz offered to ascend, to show me how they accomplished it; but I would not consent, as it could serve no useful purpose. I thought it better for us to proceed to the border of the island, where it was not impossible there might be a small space on the strand between the rocks and the sea, round which we could pass; from my sons being able to distinguish from the summit the country on the other side, it was evident the chain of rocks could not be very broad. Suddenly Fritz struck his forehead, and, seizing Ernest by the arm—"Brother," said he, "what fools we have been!"
Ernest inquired what folly they had been guilty of.
"Why did we not," said Fritz, "when we were working within our grotto, attempt to make the opening on the other side? We should not have had much difficulty, I am persuaded, and if our tools had not been sufficient, a little powder would have opened us a door on the other side. Only consider, father, the convenience of bringing the cart loaded with the trees we wanted through our grotto, and to be able to go a-hunting without having I don't know how many miles to go."
"Well, we can still do that," said Ernest, in his usual calm, grave manner; "if we do not find another passage, we will make one through the Grotto Ernestine, with mamma's permission, as it is her property."
This idea of my son appeared good. It was quite certain, from our experience at Tent House and in the grotto, that the cavity in the rocks was of very great extent, and it did not appear difficult to pierce through to the other side; but some other chain of rocks, some gigantic tree, some hill, at the end of our tunnel, might render all our labour useless. I proposed that we should defer our work till we had examined the nature of the ground on the other side; my sons agreed, and we proceeded with renewed courage, when we were suddenly checked by the sight of the sea beating against a perpendicular rock of terrific height, which terminated our island on this side, and did not give us a chance of going on. I saw the rock did not extend far; but how to get round it, I could not devise. I did not conceive we could get the pinnace round, as the coast seemed surrounded by reefs; masses of rock stood up in the sea, and the breakers showed that more were hidden. After much consideration and many plans, Ernest proposed that we should swim out to the uncovered rocks, and endeavour to pass round. Fritz objected, on account of his arms and ammunition; but Ernest suggested that the powder should be secured in the pockets of his clothes, which he might carry on his head, holding his gun above the water.
With some difficulty we arranged our incumbrances, and succeeded in reaching the range of outer rocks, without swimming, as the water was not above our shoulders. We rested here awhile, and, putting on some of our clothes, we commenced our walk over sharp stones, which wounded our feet. In many places, where the rocks lay low, we were up to the waist in the water. Ernest, the proposer of the plan, encouraged us, and led the way for some time; but at last he fell behind, and remained so long, that I became alarmed, and calling aloud, for I had lost sight of him, he answered me, and at last I discovered him stretched on the rock, endeavouring to separate a piece from it with his knife.
"Father," said he, "I am now certain that this bed of rocks, over which we are walking, and which we fancied was formed of stone or flints, is nothing but the work of those remarkable zoophytes, called coral insects, which form coral and many other extraordinary things; they can even make whole islands. Look at these little points and hollows, and these stars of every colour and every form; I would give all the world to have a specimen of each kind."
He succeeded in breaking off a piece, which was of a deep orange-colour inside; he collected also, and deposited in his bag, some other pieces, of various forms and colours. These greatly enriched his collection; and, idle as he was, he did not complain of any difficulty in obtaining them. He had given his gun to Jack, who complained much of the ruggedness of our road. Our march was truly painful, and I repented more than once of having yielded to the idea; besides the misery of walking along these shelly rocks, which presented points like the sharp teeth of a saw, tearing our shoes and even our skin, the sea, in some of the lower places, was so high as to bar our passage, and we were obliged, in the interval between two waves, to rush across, with the water to our chins. We had some difficulty to avoid being carried away. I trembled especially for Jack; though small and light, he preferred facing the wave to avoiding it. I was several times obliged to catch hold of him, and narrowly escaped destruction along with him. Happily, our march was not above half a mile, and we gained the shore at last without any serious accident, but much fatigued and foot-sore; and we made a resolution never more to cross the coral reefs.
After dressing ourselves, resting, and taking a slight refreshment on the beach, we resumed our march more at our ease into the interior of the island; but though the long grass was not so sharp as the coral, it was almost as troublesome, twisting round our legs, and threatening to throw us down every step we took. Ernest, loaded with his bag of fragments of rock, coral, and zoophytes, had given his gun to Jack; and, fearing an accident among the long grass, I thought it prudent to discharge it. In order to profit by it, I fired at a little quadruped, about the size of a squirrel, and killed it. It appeared to me to be the animal called by naturalists the palm-squirrel, because it climbs the cocoa and date-palms, hooks itself by its tail, which is very long and flexible, to the upper branches, and feeds at pleasure on the fruit, of which it is very fond. We amused ourselves by details of the habits of this animal, occasionally separating to make more discoveries, but agreeing on a particular call, which was to assemble us when necessary,—a precaution by no means useless, as it turned out.
Fritz, with his head raised, went on examining all the trees, and occasionally giving a keen look after his gazelle. Ernest, stooping down, examined plants, insects, and, occasionally pursuing rare and beautiful butterflies, was filling his bag and plant-box with various curiosities. Jack, with his lasso in his hand, prepared himself to fling it round the legs of the first buffalo he met with, and was vexed that he did not see any. For my own part, I was engaged in surveying the chain of rocks, in order to discover that which contained the Grotto Ernestine. It was easy to recognize it, from its summit cleft in two; and I wished to ascertain, as nearly as possible, if the cleft extended to the base of the rock, as this would render our work much easier. This side of the island did not resemble that near the Great Bay, with which Jack and I had been so much charmed. The island was much narrower here, and instead of the wide plain, crossed by a river, divided by delightful woods, giving an idea of paradise on earth; we were journeying through a contracted valley, lying between the rocky wall which divided the island, and a chain of sandy hills, which hid the sea and sheltered the valley from the wind. Fritz and I ascended one of these hills, on which a few pines and broom were growing, and perceived beyond them a barren tract, stretching to the sea, where the coral reefs rose to the level of the water, and appeared to extend far into the sea. Any navigators, sailing along these shores, would pronounce the island inaccessible and entirely barren. This is not the fact; the grass is very thick, and the trees of noble growth; we found many unknown to us, some loaded with fruit; also, several beautiful shrubs covered with flowers; the dwarf orange-tree, the elegant melaleuca, the nutmeg-tree, and the Bengal rose blending its flowers with the fragrant jasmine. I should never finish, if I were to try and name all the plants found in this shady valley, which might be called the botanic garden of Nature. Ernest was in ecstasies; he wished to carry away everything, but he did not know how to dispose of them.
"Ah!" said he, "if only our grotto were open to this side!"
At this moment Fritz came running out of breath, crying out, "The bread-fruit tree! I have found the bread-fruit tree! Here is the fruit,—excellent, delicious bread. Taste it, father; here, Ernest; here, Jack;" and he gave us each a part of an oval fruit, about the size of an ordinary melon, which really seemed very good and nourishing.
"There are many of these trees," continued he, "loaded with fruit. Would that we had our grotto opened, that we might collect a store of them, now that they are ripe."
My boys pointed out to me exactly the situation of the grotto, judging from the rock above, and longed for their tools, that they might commence the opening directly. We proceeded to make our way through a border of trees and bushes, that separated us from the rock, that we might examine it, and judge of the difficulties of our undertaking. Jack preceded us, as usual, after giving Ernest his gun; Fritz followed him, and suddenly turning to me, said,—
"I believe kind Nature has saved us much trouble; the rock appears to be divided from top to bottom; at the foot I see a sort of cave, or grotto, already made."
At this moment Jack uttered a piercing cry, and came running to us, his lasso in his hand: "Two monstrous beasts!" cried he. "Help! help!" We rushed forward, our guns ready, and saw at the entrance of the cave two large brown bears. The black bear, whose fur is most valued, is only found in cold and mountainous countries; but the brown prefers the south. It is a carnivorous animal, considered very ferocious. The black bear lives only on vegetables and honey. Of these, the one I judged to be the female seemed much irritated, uttering deep growls, and furiously gnashing her teeth. As I knew something of these animals, having met with them on the Alps, I remembered having heard that a sharp whistling terrifies and checks them. I therefore whistled as long and loudly as I could, and immediately saw the female retire backwards into the cave, while the male, raising himself on his hind legs, stood quite still, with his paws closed. My two elder sons fired into his breast: he fell down, but being only wounded, turned furiously on us. I fired a third shot at him, and finished him. We then hastened to load our guns again, to be ready to receive his companion. Jack wished to use his lasso; but I explained to him that the legs of the bear were too short and thick for such a measure to be successful. He related to us, that having entered the cave, he saw something moving at the bottom; he took up a stone, and threw it with all his strength at the object; immediately he heard a frightful growling, and saw two large beasts coming towards him; he had barely time to escape and call for help, and then to hide himself behind a tree. To save ourselves from the other bear, it was necessary that we should take some prompt measures; we therefore advanced, and formed a line