THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON;
OR, ADVENTURES IN A DESERT ISLAND.
WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN GILBERT.
Many years ago, an English translation of the first part of this charming tale appeared; and few books have obtained such deserved popularity. The gradual progress of the family from utter destitution and misery, to happiness and abundance, arising from their own labour, perseverance, and obedience, together with the effect produced on the different characters of the sons by the stirring adventures they met with, created a deep and absorbing interest. Every young reader patronized either the noble Fritz, the studious Ernest, or the generous Jack, and regarded him as a familiar personal acquaintance. The book had but one defect—the death of the talented author left it unfinished, and every reader regretted its abrupt termination.
This conclusion was happily supplied by one of the most accomplished and elegant writers of her day, the Baroness de Montolieu; and, sanctioned and approved by the son of the lamented author, the entire work was published in France, and has for many years held a distinguished rank in the juvenile libraries there. For the gratification of a little family circle, this now appears in English; and as, on examining the first part in the original, it was found, that "some new discoveries might be made," it was thought best to re-translate it, subduing the tone of the whole to English taste. The unanimous voices of the beloved circle, for whom the pleasant task was undertaken, have pronounced the result to be eminently successful, and they generously wish, that the whole of the juvenile public of England should share in their satisfaction, and possess a complete Swiss Robinson.
It is very well known that, some years ago, Counsellor Horner, a Swiss, made a voyage round the world in the Russian vessel Le Podesda, commanded by Capt. Krusenstern. They discovered many islands, and, amongst others, one very large and fertile, till then unknown to navigators, to the S.W. of Java, near the coast of New Guinea. They landed here, and to the great surprise of Mr. Horner, he was received by a family who spoke to him in German. They were a father and mother, and four robust and hardy sons.
Their history was very interesting. The father was a Swiss clergyman, who, in the Revolution of 1798, had lost all his fortune, and had determined to emigrate, in order to seek elsewhere the means of supporting his family. He went first to England, with his wife and children, consisting of four sons, between the ages of twelve and five. He there undertook the office of missionary to Otaheite; not that he intended to remain on that uncivilized island, but he wished to proceed from thence to Port Jackson as a free colonist. He invested his little capital in seeds of every description, and some cattle, to take out with him. They had a prosperous voyage till they were near the coast of New Guinea, when they were overtaken by a frightful storm. At this period he commenced his journal, which he afterwards committed to the care of Mr. Horner, to be forwarded to his friends in Switzerland.
Some time before, a boat from an English vessel, the Adventurer, had visited them, and the father had sent the first part of his journal by Lieut. Bell to the captain, who remained in the vessel. A violent tempest arose, which continued some days, and drove the Adventurer from the coast. The family concluded the ship was lost; but this was not the case, as will be seen in the conclusion.
* * * * *
The tempest had raged for six days, and on the seventh seemed to increase. The ship had been so far driven from its course, that no one on board knew where we were. Every one was exhausted with fatigue and watching. The shattered vessel began to leak in many places, the oaths of the sailors were changed to prayers, and each thought only how to save his own life. "Children," said I, to my terrified boys, who were clinging round me, "God can save us if he will. To him nothing is impossible; but if he thinks it good to call us to him, let us not murmur; we shall not be separated." My excellent wife dried her tears, and from that moment became more tranquil. We knelt down to pray for the help of our Heavenly Father; and the fervour and emotion of my innocent boys proved to me that even children can pray, and find in prayer consolation and peace.
We rose from our knees strengthened to bear the afflictions that hung over us. Suddenly we heard amid the roaring of the waves the cry of "Land! land!" At that moment the ship struck on a rock; the concussion threw us down. We heard a loud cracking, as if the vessel was parting asunder; we felt that we were aground, and heard the captain cry, in a tone of despair, "We are lost! Launch the boats!" These words were a dagger to my heart, and the lamentations of my children were louder than ever. I then recollected myself, and said, "Courage, my darlings, we are still, above water, and the land is near. God helps those who trust in him. Remain here, and I will endeavour to save us."
I went on deck, and was instantly thrown down, and wet through by a huge sea; a second followed. I struggled boldly with the waves, and succeeded in keeping myself up, when I saw, with terror, the extent of our wretchedness. The shattered vessel was almost in two; the crew had crowded into the boats, and the last sailor was cutting the rope. I cried out, and prayed them to take us with them; but my voice was drowned in the roar of the tempest, nor could they have returned for us through waves that ran mountains high. All hope from their assistance was lost; but I was consoled by observing that the water did not enter the ship above a certain height. The stern, under which lay the cabin which contained all that was dear to me on earth, was immovably fixed between two rocks. At the same time I observed, towards the south, traces of land, which, though wild and barren, was now the haven of my almost expiring hopes; no longer being able to depend on any human aid. I returned to my family, and endeavoured to appear calm. "Take courage," cried I, "there is yet hope for us; the vessel, in striking between the rocks, is fixed in a position which protects our cabin above the water, and if the wind should settle to-morrow, we may possibly reach the land."
This assurance calmed my children, and as usual, they depended on all I told them; they rejoiced that the heaving of the vessel had ceased, as, while it lasted, they were continually thrown against each other. My wife, more accustomed to read my countenance, discovered my uneasiness; and by a sign, I explained to her that I had lost all hope. I felt great consolation in seeing that she supported our misfortune with truly Christian resignation.
"Let us take some food," said she; "with the body, the mind is strengthened; this must be a night of trial."
Night came, and the tempest continued its fury; tearing away the planks from the devoted vessel with a fearful crashing. It appeared absolutely impossible that the boats could have out-lived the storm.
My wife had prepared some refreshment, of which the children partook with an appetite that we could not feel. The three younger ones retired to their beds, and soon slept soundly. Fritz, the eldest, watched with me. "I have been considering," said he, "how we could save ourselves. If we only had some cork jackets, or bladders, for mamma and my brothers, you and I don't need them, we could then swim to land."
"A good thought," said I, "I will try during the night to contrive some expedient to secure our safety." We found some small empty barrels in the cabin, which we tied two together with our handkerchiefs, leaving a space between for each child; and fastened this new swimming apparatus under their arms. My wife prepared the same for herself. We then collected some knives, string, tinder-box, and such little necessaries as we could put in our pockets; thus, in case the vessel should fall to pieces during the night, we hoped we might be enabled to reach land.
At length Fritz, overcome with fatigue, lay down and slept with his brothers. My wife and I, too anxious to rest, spent that dreadful night in prayer, and in arranging various plans. How gladly we welcomed the light of day, shining through an opening. The wind was subsiding, the sky serene, and I watched the sun rise with renewed hope. I called my wife and children on deck. The younger ones were surprised to find we were alone. They inquired what had become of the sailors, and how we should manage the ship alone.
"Children," said I, "one more powerful than man has protected us till now, and will still extend a saving arm to us, if we do not give way to complaint and despair. Let all hands set to work. Remember that excellent maxim, God helps those who help themselves. Let us all consider what is best to do now."
"Let us leap into the sea," cried Fritz, "and swim to the shore."
"Very well for you," replied Ernest, "who can swim; but we should be all drowned. Would it not be better to construct a raft and go all together?"
"That might do," added I, "if we were strong enough for such a work, and if a raft was not always so dangerous a conveyance. But away, boys, look about you, and seek for anything that may be useful to us."
We all dispersed to different parts of the vessel. For my own part I went to the provision-room, to look after the casks of water and other necessaries of life; my wife visited the live stock and fed them, for they were almost famished; Fritz sought for arms and ammunition; Ernest for the carpenter's tools. Jack had opened the captain's cabin, and was immediately thrown down by two large dogs, who leaped on him so roughly that he cried out as if they were going to devour him. However, hunger had rendered them so docile that they licked his hands, and he soon recovered his feet, seized the largest by the ears, and mounting his back, gravely rode up to me as I was coming from the hold. I could not help laughing; I applauded his courage; but recommended him always to be prudent with animals of that kind, who are often dangerous when hungry.
My little troop began to assemble. Fritz had found two fowling-pieces, some bags of powder and shot, and some balls, in horn flasks. Ernest was loaded with an axe and hammer, a pair of pincers, a large pair of scissors, and an auger showed itself half out of his pocket.
Francis had a large box under his arm, from which he eagerly produced what he called little pointed hooks. His brothers laughed at his prize. "Silence," said I, "the youngest has made the most valuable addition to our stores. These are fish-hooks, and may be more useful for the preservation of our lives than anything the ship contains. However, Fritz and Ernest have not done amiss."
"For my part," said my wife, "I only contribute good news; I have found a cow, an ass, two goats, six sheep, and a sow with young. I have fed them, and hope we may preserve them."
"Very well," said I to my little workmen, "I am satisfied with all but Master Jack, who, instead of anything useful, has contributed two great eaters, who will do us more harm than good."
"They can help us to hunt when we get to land," said Jack.
"Yes," replied I, "but can you devise any means of our getting there?"
"It does not seem at all difficult," said the spirited little fellow; "put us each into a great tub, and let us float to shore. I remember sailing capitally that way on godpapa's great pond at S—."
"A very good idea, Jack; good counsel may sometimes be given even by a child. Be quick, boys, give me the saw and auger, with some nails, we will see what we can do." I remembered seeing some empty casks in the hold. We went down and found them floating. This gave us less difficulty in getting them upon the lower deck, which was but just above the water. They were of strong wood, bound with iron hoops, and exactly suited my purpose; my sons and I therefore began to saw them through the middle. After long labour, we had eight tubs all the same height. We refreshed ourselves with wine and biscuit, which we had found in some of the casks. I then contemplated with delight my little squadron of boats ranged in a line; and was surprised that my wife still continued depressed. She looked mournfully on them. "I can never venture in one of these tubs," said she.
"Wait a little, till my work is finished," replied I, "and you will see it is more to be depended on than this broken vessel."
I sought out a long flexible plank, and arranged eight tubs on it, close to each other, leaving a piece at each end to form a curve upwards, like the keel of a vessel. We then nailed them firmly to the plank, and to each other. We nailed a plank at each side, of the same length as the first, and succeeded in producing a sort of boat, divided into eight compartments, in which it did not appear difficult to make a short voyage, over a calm sea.
But, unluckily, our wonderful vessel proved so heavy, that our united efforts could not move it an inch. I sent Fritz to bring me the jack-screw, and, in the mean time, sawed a thick round pole into pieces; then raising the fore-part of our work by means of the powerful machine, Fritz placed one of these rollers under it.
Ernest was very anxious to know how this small machine could accomplish more than our united strength. I explained to him, as well as I could, the power of the lever of Archimedes, with which he had declared he could move the world, if he had but a point to rest it on; and I promised my son to take the machine to pieces when we were on shore, and explain the mode of operation. I then told them that God, to compensate for the weakness of man, had bestowed on him reason, invention, and skill in workmanship. The result of these had produced a science which, under the name of Mechanics, taught us to increase and extend our limited powers incredibly by the aid of instruments.
Jack remarked that the jack-screw worked very slowly.
"Better slowly, than not at all," said I. "It is a principle in mechanics, that what is gained in time is lost in power. The jack is not meant to work rapidly, but to raise heavy weights; and the heavier the weight, the slower the operation. But, can you tell me how we can make up for this slowness?"
"Oh, by turning the handle quicker, to be sure!"
"Quite wrong; that would not aid us at all. Patience and Reason are the two fairies, by whose potent help I hope to get our boat afloat."
I quickly proceeded to tie a strong cord to the after-part of it, and the other end to a beam in the ship, which was still firm, leaving it long enough for security; then introducing two more rollers underneath, and working with the jack, we succeeded in launching our bark, which passed into the water with such velocity, that but for our rope it would have gone out to sea. Unfortunately, it leaned so much on one side, that none of the boys would venture into it. I was in despair, when I suddenly remembered it only wanted ballast to keep it in equilibrium. I hastily threw in anything I got hold of that was heavy, and soon had my boat level, and ready for occupation. They now contended who should enter first; but I stopped them, reflecting that these restless children might easily capsize our vessel. I remembered that savage nations made use of an out-rigger, to prevent their canoe oversetting, and this I determined to add to my work. I fixed two portions of a topsail-yard, one over the prow, the other across the stern, in such a manner that they should not be in the way in pushing off our boat from the wreck. I forced the end of each yard into the bunghole of an empty brandy-cask, to keep them steady during our progress.
It was now necessary to clear the way for our departure. I got into the first tub, and managed to get the boat into the cleft in the ship's side, by way of a haven; I then returned, and, with the axe and saw, cut away right and left all that could obstruct our passage. Then we secured some oars, to be ready for our voyage next day.
The day had passed in toil, and we were compelled to spend another night on the wreck, though we knew it might not remain till morning. We took a regular meal, for during the day we had scarcely had time to snatch a morsel of bread and a glass of wine. More composed than on the preceding night, we retired to rest. I took the precaution to fasten the swimming apparatus across the shoulders of my three younger children and my wife, for fear another storm might destroy the vessel, and cast us into the sea. I also advised my wife to put on a sailor's dress, as more convenient for her expected toils and trials. She reluctantly consented, and, after a short absence, appeared in the dress of a youth who had served as a volunteer in the vessel. She felt very timid and awkward in her new dress; but I showed her the advantage of the change, and, at last, she was reconciled, and joined in the laughter of the children at her strange disguise. She then got into her hammock, and we enjoyed a pleasant sleep, to prepare us for new labours.
* * * * *
At break of day we were awake and ready, and after morning prayer, I addressed my children thus: "We are now, my dear boys, with the help of God, about to attempt our deliverance. Before we go, provide our poor animals with food for some days: we cannot take them with us, but if our voyage succeed, we may return for them. Are you ready? Collect what you wish to carry away, but only things absolutely necessary for our actual wants." I planned that our first cargo should consist of a barrel of powder, three fowling-pieces, three muskets, two pair of pocket pistols, and one pair larger, ball, shot, and lead as much as we could carry, with a bullet-mould; and I wished each of my sons, as well as their mother, should have a complete game-bag, of which there were several in the officers' cabins. We then set apart a box of portable soup, another of biscuit, an iron pot, a fishing-rod, a chest of nails, and one of carpenter's tools, also some sailcloth to make a tent. In fact my boys collected so many things, we were compelled to leave some behind, though I exchanged all the useless ballast for necessaries.
When all was ready, we implored the blessing of God on our undertaking, and prepared to embark in our tubs. At this moment the cocks crowed a sort of reproachful farewell to us; we had forgotten them; I immediately proposed to take our poultry with us, geese, ducks, fowls and pigeons, for, as I observed to my wife, if we could not feed them, they would, at any rate, feed us. We placed our ten hens and two cocks in a covered tub; the rest we set at liberty, hoping the geese and ducks might reach the shore by water, and the pigeons by flight.
We waited a little for my wife, who came loaded with a large bag, which she threw into the tub that contained her youngest son. I concluded it was intended to steady him, or for a seat, and made no observation on it. Here follows the order of our embarkation. In the first division, sat the tender mother, the faithful and pious wife. In the second, our amiable little Francis, six years old, and of a sweet disposition.
In the third, Fritz, our eldest, fourteen or fifteen years old, a curly-headed, clever, intelligent and lively youth.
In the fourth, the powder-cask, with the fowls and the sailcloth.
Our provisions filled the fifth.
In the sixth, our heedless Jack, ten years old, enterprising, bold, and useful.
In the seventh, Ernest, twelve years of age, well-informed and rational, but somewhat selfish and indolent. In the eighth, myself, an anxious father, charged with the important duty of guiding the vessel to save my dear family. Each of us had some useful tools beside us; each held an oar, and had a swimming apparatus at hand, in case we were unfortunately upset. The tide was rising when we left, which I considered might assist my weak endeavours. We turned our out-riggers length-ways, and thus passed from the cleft of the ship into the open sea. We rowed with all our might, to reach the blue land we saw at a distance, but for some time in vain, as the boat kept turning round, and made no progress. At last I contrived to steer it, so that we went straight forward.
As soon as our dogs saw us depart, they leaped into the sea, and followed us; I could not let them get into the boat, for fear they should upset it. I was very sorry, for I hardly expected they would be able to swim to land; but by occasionally resting their forepaws on our out-riggers, they managed to keep up with us. Turk was an English dog, and Flora of a Danish breed.
We proceeded slowly, but safely. The nearer we approached the land, the more dreary and unpromising it appeared. The rocky coast seemed to announce to us nothing but famine and misery. The waves, gently rippling against the shore, were scattered over with barrels, bales, and chests from the wreck. Hoping to secure some good provisions, I called on Fritz for assistance; he held a cord, hammer, and nails, and we managed to seize two hogsheads in passing, and fastening them with cords to our vessel, drew them after us to the shore.
As we approached, the coast seemed to improve. The chain of rock was not entire, and Fritz's hawk eye made out some trees, which he declared were the cocoa-nut tree; Ernest was delighted at the prospect of eating these nuts, so much larger and better than any grown in Europe. I was regretting not having brought the large telescope from the captain's cabin, when Jack produced from his pocket a smaller one, which he offered me with no little pride.
This was a valuable acquisition, as I was now enabled to make the requisite observations, and direct my course. The coast before us had a wild and desert appearance,—it looked better towards the left; but I could not approach that part, for a current which drove us towards the rocky and barren shore. At length we saw, near the mouth of a rivulet, a little creek between the rocks, towards which our geese and ducks made, serving us for guides. This opening formed a little bay of smooth water, just deep enough for our boat. I cautiously entered it, and landed at a place where the coast was about the height of our tubs, and the water deep enough to let us approach. The shore spread inland, forming a gentle declivity of a triangular form, the point lost among the rocks, and the base to the sea.
All that were able leaped on shore in a moment. Even little Francis, who had been laid down in his tub, like a salted herring, tried to crawl out, but was compelled to wait for his mother's assistance. The dogs, who had preceded us in landing, welcomed us in a truly friendly manner, leaping playfully around us; the geese kept up a loud cackling, to which the yellow-billed ducks quacked a powerful bass. This, with the clacking of the liberated fowls, and the chattering of the boys, formed a perfect Babel; mingled with these, were the harsh cries of the penguins and flamingoes, which hovered over our heads, or sat on the points of the rocks. They were in immense numbers, and their notes almost deafened us, especially as they did not accord with the harmony of our civilized fowls. However I rejoiced to see these feathered creatures, already fancying them on my table, if we were obliged to remain in this desert region.
Our first care, when we stepped in safety on land, was to kneel down and thank God, to whom we owed our lives; and to resign ourselves wholly to his Fatherly kindness.
We then began to unload our vessel. How rich we thought ourselves with the little we had saved! We sought a convenient place for our tent, under the shade of the rocks. We then inserted a pole into a fissure in the rock; this, resting firmly on another pole fixed in the ground, formed the frame of the tent. The sailcloth was then stretched over it, and fastened down at proper distances, by pegs, to which, for greater security, we added some boxes of provision; we fixed some hooks to the canvas at the opening in front, that we might close the entrance during the night. I sent my sons to seek some moss and withered grass, and spread it in the sun to dry, to form our beds; and while all, even little Francis, were busy with this, I constructed a sort of cooking-place, at some distance from the tent, near the river which was to supply us with fresh water. It was merely a hearth of flat stones from the bed of the stream, fenced round with some thick branches. I kindled a cheerful fire with some dry twigs, put on the pot, filled with water and some squares of portable soup, and left my wife, with Francis for assistant, to prepare dinner. He took the portable soup for glue, and could not conceive how mamma could make soup, as we had no meat, and there were no butchers' shops here.
Fritz, in the mean time, had loaded our guns. He took one to the side of the river; Ernest declined accompanying him, as the rugged road was not to his taste; he preferred the sea-shore. Jack proceeded to a ridge of rocks on the left, which ran towards the sea, to get some muscles. I went to try and draw the two floating hogsheads on shore, but could not succeed, for our landing-place was too steep to get them up. Whilst I was vainly trying to find a more favourable place, I heard my dear Jack uttering most alarming cries. I seized my hatchet, and ran to his assistance. I found him up to the knees in a shallow pool, with a large lobster holding his leg in its sharp claws. It made off at my approach; but I was determined it should pay for the fright it had given me. Cautiously taking it up, I brought it out, followed by Jack, who, now very triumphant, wished to present it himself to his mother, after watching how I held it. But he had hardly got it into his hands, when it gave him such a violent blow on the cheek with its tail, that he let it fall, and began to cry again. I could not help laughing at him, and, in his rage, he seized a stone, and put an end to his adversary. I was grieved at this, and recommended him never to act in a moment of anger, showing him that he was unjust in being so revengeful; for, if he had been bitten by the lobster, it was plain he would have eaten his foe if he had conquered him. Jack promised to be more discreet and merciful in future, and obtained leave to bear the prize to his mother.
"Mamma," said he, proudly, "a lobster! A lobster, Ernest! Where is Fritz! Take care it does not bite you, Francis!" They all crowded round in astonishment. "Yes," added he, triumphantly, "here is the impertinent claw that seized me; but I repaid the knave,"
"You are a boaster," said I. "You would have got indifferently on with the lobster, if I had not come up; and have you forgotten the slap on the cheek which compelled you to release him? Besides, he only defended himself with his natural arms; but you had to take a great stone. You have no reason to be proud, Jack."
Ernest wished to have the lobster added to the soup to improve it; but his mother, with a spirit of economy, reserved it for another day. I then walked to the spot where Jack's lobster was caught, and, finding it favourable for my purpose, drew my two hogsheads on shore there, and secured them by turning them on end.
On returning, I congratulated Jack on being the first who had been successful in foraging. Ernest remarked, that he had seen some oysters attached to a rock, but could not get at them without wetting his feet, which he did not like.
"Indeed, my delicate gentleman!" said I, laughing, "I must trouble you to return and procure us some. We must all unite in working for the public good, regardless of wet feet. The sun will soon dry us."
"I might as well bring some salt at the same time," said he; "I saw plenty in the fissures of the rock, left by the sea, I should think, papa?"
"Doubtless, Mr. Reasoner," replied I; "where else could it have come from? the fact was so obvious, that you had better have brought a bagful, than delayed to reflect about it. But if you wish to escape insipid soup, be quick and procure some."
He went, and returned with some salt, so mixed with sand and earth, that I should have thrown it away as useless; but my wife dissolved it in fresh water, and, filtering it through a piece of canvas, managed to flavour our soup with it.
Jack asked why we could not have used sea-water; and I explained to him that the bitter and nauseous taste of sea-water would have spoiled our dinner. My wife stirred the soup with a little stick, and, tasting it, pronounced it very good, but added, "We must wait for Fritz. And how shall we eat our soup without plates or spoons? We cannot possibly raise this large boiling pot to our heads, and drink out of it."
It was too true. We gazed stupified at our pot, and, at last, all burst into laughter at our destitution, and our folly in forgetting such useful necessaries.
"If we only had cocoa-nuts," said Ernest, "we might split them, and make basins and spoons."
"If!" replied I—"but we have none! We might as well wish for a dozen handsome silver spoons at once, if wishes were of any use."
"But," observed he, "we can use oyster-shells."
"A useful thought, Ernest; go directly and get the oysters; and, remember, gentlemen, no complaints, though the spoons are without handles, and you should dip your fingers into the bowl."
Off ran Jack, and was mid-leg in the water before Ernest got to him. He tore down the oysters, and threw them to his idle brother, who filled his handkerchief, taking care to put a large one into his pocket for his own use; and they returned with their spoil.
Fritz had not yet appeared, and his mother was becoming uneasy, when we heard him cheerfully hailing us at a distance. He soon came up, with a feigned air of disappointment, and his hands behind him; but Jack, who had glided round him, cried out, "A sucking pig! a sucking pig!" And he then, with, great pride and satisfaction, produced his booty, which I recognized, from the description of travellers, to be the agouti, common in these regions, a swift animal, which burrows in the earth, and lives on fruits and nuts; its flesh, something like that of the rabbit, has an unpleasant flavour to Europeans.
All were anxious to know the particulars of the chase; but I seriously reproved my son for his little fiction, and warned him never to use the least deceit, even in jest. I then inquired where he had met with the agouti. He told me he had been on the other side of the river, "a very different place to this," continued he. "The shore lies low, and you can have no idea of the number of casks, chests, planks, and all sorts of things the sea has thrown up; shall we go and take possession of them? And to-morrow, father, we ought to make another trip to the vessel, to look after our cattle. We might, at least, bring away the cow. Our biscuit would not be so hard dipped in milk."
"And very much nicer," added the greedy Ernest.
"Then," continued Fritz, "beyond the river there is rich grass for pasturage, and a shady wood. Why should we remain in this barren wilderness?"
"Softly!" replied I, "there is a time for all things. To-morrow, and the day after to-morrow will have their work. But first tell me, did you see anything of our shipmates?"
"Not a trace of man, living or dead, on land or sea; but I saw an animal more like a hog than this, but with feet like a hare; it leaped among the grass, sometimes sitting upright, and rubbing its mouth with its forepaws; sometimes seeking for roots, and gnawing them like a squirrel. If I had not been afraid it would escape me, I would have tried to take it alive, it seemed so very tame."
As we were talking, Jack had been trying, with many grimaces, to force an oyster open with his knife. I laughed at his vain endeavours, and putting some on the fire, showed him them open of themselves. I had no taste for oysters myself; but as they are everywhere accounted a delicacy, I advised my sons to try them. They all at first declined the unattractive repast, except Jack, who, with great courage, closed his eyes, and desperately swallowed one as if it had been medicine. The rest followed his example, and then all agreed with me that oysters were not good. The shells were soon plunged into the pot to bring out some of the good soup; but scalding their fingers, it was who could cry out the loudest. Ernest took his large shell from his pocket, cautiously filled it with a good portion of soup, and set it down to cool, exulting in his own prudence. "You have been very thoughtful, my dear Ernest," said I; "but why are your thoughts always for yourself; so seldom for others? As a punishment for your egotism, that portion must be given to our faithful dogs. We can all dip our shells into the pot, the dogs cannot. Therefore, they shall have your soup, and you must wait, and eat as we do." My reproach struck his heart, and he placed his shell obediently on the ground, which the dogs emptied immediately. We were almost as hungry as they were, and were watching anxiously till the soup began to cool; when we perceived that the dogs were tearing and gnawing Fritz's agouti. The boys all cried out; Fritz was in a fury, took his gun, struck the dogs, called them names, threw stones at them, and would have killed them if I had not held him. He had actually bent his gun with striking them. As soon as he would listen to me, I reproached him seriously for his violence, and represented to him how much he had distressed us, and terrified his mother; that he had spoiled his gun, which might have been so useful to us, and had almost killed the poor animals, who might be more so. "Anger," said I, "leads to every crime. Remember Cain, who killed his brother in a fit of passion." "Oh, father!" said he, in a voice of terror; and, acknowledging his error, he asked pardon, and shed bitter tears.
Soon after our repast the sun set, and the fowls gathered round us, and picked up the scattered crumbs of biscuit. My wife then took out her mysterious bag, and drew from it some handfuls of grain to feed her flock. She showed me also many other seeds of useful vegetables. I praised her prudence, and begged her to be very economical, as these seeds were of great value, and we could bring from the vessel some spoiled biscuit for the fowls.
Our pigeons now flew among the rocks, the cocks and hens perched on the frame of the tent, and the geese and ducks chose to roost in a marsh, covered with bushes, near the sea. We prepared for our rest; we loaded all our arms, then offered up our prayers together, thanking God for his signal mercy to us, and commending ourselves to his care. When the last ray of light departed, we closed our tent, and lay down on our beds, close together. The children had remarked how suddenly the darkness came on, from which I concluded we were not far from the equator; for I explained to them, the more perpendicularly the rays of the sun fall, the less their refraction; and consequently night comes on suddenly when the sun is below the horizon.
Once more I looked out to see if all was quiet, then carefully closing the entrance, I lay down. Warm as the day had been, the night was so cold that we were obliged to crowd together for warmth. The children soon slept, and when I saw their mother in her first peaceful sleep, my own eyes closed, and our first night on the island passed comfortably.
* * * * *
At break of day I was waked by the crowing of the cock. I summoned my wife to council, to consider on the business of the day. We agreed that our first duty was to seek for our shipmates, and to examine the country beyond the river before we came to any decisive resolution.
My wife saw we could not all go on this expedition, and courageously agreed to remain with her three youngest sons, while Fritz, as the eldest and boldest, should accompany me. I begged her to prepare breakfast immediately, which she warned me would be scanty, as no soup was provided. I asked for Jack's lobster; but it was not to be found. Whilst my wife made the fire, and put on the pot, I called the children, and asking Jack for the lobster, he brought it from a crevice in the rock, where he had hidden it from the dogs, he said, who did not despise anything eatable.
"I am glad to see you profit by the misfortunes of others," said I; "and now will you give up that large claw that caught your leg, and which I promised you, to Fritz, as a provision for his journey?" All were anxious to go on this journey, and leaped round me like little kids. But I told them we could not all go. They must remain with their mother, with Flora for a protector. Fritz and I would take Turk; with him and a loaded gun I thought we should inspire respect. I then ordered Fritz to tie up Flora, and get the guns ready.
Fritz blushed, and tried in vain to straighten his crooked gun. I let him go on for some time, and then allowed him to take another; for I saw he was penitent. The dogs, too, snarled, and would not let him approach them. He wept, and begged some biscuit from his mother, declaring he would give up his own breakfast to make his peace with the dogs. He fed them, caressed them, and seemed to ask pardon. The dog is always grateful; Flora soon licked his hands; Turk was more unrelenting, appearing to distrust him. "Give him a claw of the lobster," said Jack; "for I make you a present of the whole for your journey."
"Don't be uneasy about them," said Ernest, "they will certainly meet with cocoa-nuts, as Robinson did, very different food to your wretched lobster. Think of an almond as big as my head, with a large cup full of rich milk."
"Pray, brother, bring me one, if you find any," said Francis.
We began our preparation; we each took a game-bag and a hatchet. I gave Fritz a pair of pistols in addition to his gun, equipped myself in the same way, and took care to carry biscuit and a flask of fresh water. The lobster proved so hard at breakfast, that the boys did not object to our carrying off the remainder; and, though the flesh is coarse, it is very nutritious.
I proposed before we departed, to have prayers, and my thoughtless Jack began to imitate the sound of church-bells—"Ding, dong! to prayers! to prayers! ding, dong!" I was really angry, and reproved him severely for jesting about sacred things. Then, kneeling down, I prayed God's blessing on our undertaking, and his pardon for us all, especially for him who had now so grievously sinned. Poor Jack came and kneeled by me, weeping and begging for forgiveness from me and from God. I embraced him, and enjoined him and his brothers to obey their mother. I then loaded the guns I left with them, and charged my wife to keep near the boat, their best refuge. We took leave of our friends with many tears, as we did not know what dangers might assail us in an unknown region. But the murmur of the river, which we were now approaching, drowned the sound of their sobs, and we bent our thoughts on our journey.
The bank of the river was so steep, that we could only reach the bed at one little opening, near the sea, where we had procured our water; but here the opposite side was guarded by a ridge of lofty perpendicular rocks. We were obliged to ascend the river to a place where it fell over some rocks, some fragments of which having fallen, made a sort of stepping-stones, which enabled us to cross with some hazard. We made our way, with difficulty, through the high grass, withered by the sun, directing our course towards the sea, in hopes of discovering some traces of the boats, or the crew. We had scarcely gone a hundred yards, when we heard a loud noise and rustling in the grass, which was as tall as we were. We imagined we were pursued by some wild beast, and I was gratified to observe the courage of Fritz, who, instead of running away, calmly turned round and presented his piece. What was our joy when we discovered that the formidable enemy was only our faithful Turk, whom we had forgotten in our distress, and our friends had doubtless dispatched him after us! I applauded my son's presence of mind; a rash act might have deprived us of this valuable friend.
We continued our way: the sea lay to our left; on our right, at a short distance, ran the chain of rocks, which were continued from our landing-place, in a line parallel to the sea; the summits clothed with verdure and various trees. Between the rocks and the sea, several little woods extended, even to the shore, to which we kept as close as possible, vainly looking out on land or sea for any trace of our crew. Fritz proposed to fire his gun, as a signal to them, if they should be near us; but I reminded him that this signal might bring the ravages round us, instead of our friends.
He then inquired why we should search after those persons at all, who so unfeelingly abandoned us on the wreck.
"First," said I, "we must not return evil for evil. Besides, they may assist us, or be in need of our assistance. Above all, remember, they could save nothing but themselves. We have got many useful things which they have as much right to as we."
"But we might be saving the lives of our cattle," said he.
"We should do our duty better by saving the life of a man," answered I; "besides, our cattle have food for some days, and the sea is so calm there is no immediate danger."
We proceeded, and entering a little wood that extended to the sea, we rested in the shade, near a clear stream, and took some refreshment. We were surrounded by unknown birds, more remarkable for brilliant plumage than for the charm of their voice. Fritz thought he saw some monkeys among the leaves, and Turk began to be restless, smelling about, and barking very loud. Fritz was gazing up into the trees, when he fell over a large round substance, which he brought to me, observing that it might be a bird's nest. I thought it more likely to be a cocoa-nut. The fibrous covering had reminded him of the description he had read of the nests of certain birds; but, on breaking the shell, we found it was indeed a cocoa-nut, but quite decayed and uneatable.
Fritz was astonished; where was the sweet milk that Ernest had talked of?
I told him the milk was only in the half-ripe nuts; that it thickened and hardened as the nut ripened, becoming a kernel. This nut had perished from remaining above ground. If it had been in the earth, it would have vegetated, and burst the shell. I advised my son to try if he could not find a perfect nut.
After some search, we found one, and sat down to eat it, keeping our own provision for dinner. The nut was somewhat rancid; but we enjoyed it, and then continued our journey. We were some time before we got through the wood, being frequently obliged to clear a road for ourselves, through the entangled brushwood, with our hatchets. At last we entered the open plain again, and had a clear view before us. The forest still extended about a stone's throw to our right, and Fritz, who was always on the look-out for discoveries, observed a remarkable tree, here and there, which he approached to examine; and he soon called me to see this wonderful tree, with wens growing on the trunk.
On coming up, I was overjoyed to find this tree, of which there were a great number, was the gourd-tree, which bears fruit on the trunk. Fritz asked if these were sponges. I told him to bring me one, and I would explain the mystery.
"There is one," said he, "very like a pumpkin, only harder outside."
"Of this shell," said I, "we can make plates, dishes, basins, and flasks. We call it the gourd-tree."
Fritz leaped for joy. "Now my dear mother will be able to serve her soup properly." I asked him if he knew why the tree bore the fruit on its trunk, or on the thick branches only. He immediately replied, that the smaller branches would not bear the weight of the fruit. He asked me if this fruit was eatable. "Harmless, I believe," said I; "but by no means delicate. Its great value to savage nations consists in the shell, which they use to contain their food, and drink, and even cook in it." Fritz could not comprehend how they could cook in the shell without burning it. I told him the shell was not placed on the fire; but, being filled with cold water, and the fish or meat placed in it, red-hot stones are, by degrees, introduced into the water, till it attains sufficient heat to cook the food, without injuring the vessel. We then set about making our dishes and plates. I showed Fritz a better plan of dividing the gourd than with a knife. I tied a string tightly round the nut, struck it with the handle of my knife till an incision was made, then tightened it till the nut was separated into two equally-sized bowls. Fritz had spoiled his gourd by cutting it irregularly with his knife. I advised him to try and make spoons of it, as it would not do for basins now. I told him I had learnt my plan from books of travels. It is the practice of the savages, who have no knives, to use a sort of string, made from the bark of trees, for this purpose. "But how can they make bottles," said he. "That requires some preparation," replied I. "They tie a bandage round the young gourd near the stalk, so that the part at liberty expands in a round form, and the compressed part remains narrow. They then open the top, and extract the contents by putting in pebbles and shaking it. By this means they have a complete bottle."
We worked on. Fritz completed a dish and some plates, to his great satisfaction, but we considered, that being so frail, we could not carry them with us. We therefore filled them with sand, that the sun might not warp them, and left them to dry, till we returned.
As we went on, Fritz amused himself with cutting spoons from the rind of the gourd, and I tried to do the same with the fragments of the cocoa-nut; but I must confess my performances were inferior to those I had seen in the museum in London, the work of the South Sea islanders. We laughed at our spoons, which would have required mouths from ear to ear to eat with them. Fritz declared that the curve of the rind was the cause of that defect: if the spoons had been smaller, they would have been flat; and you might as well eat soup with an oyster-shell as with a shovel.
While we talked, we did not neglect looking about for our lost companions, but in vain. At last, we arrived at a place where a tongue of land ran to some distance into the sea, on which was an elevated spot, favourable for observation. We attained the summit with great labour, and saw before us a magnificent prospect of land and water; but with all the aid our excellent telescope gave us, we could in no direction discover any trace of man. Nature only appeared in her greatest beauty. The shore enclosed a large bay, which terminated on the other side in a promontory. The gentle rippling of the waves, the varied verdure of the woods, and the multitude of novelties around us, would have filled us with delight, but for the painful recollection of those who, we now were compelled to believe, were buried beneath that glittering water. We did not feel less, however, the mercy of God, who had preserved us, and given us a home, with a prospect of subsistence and safety. We had not yet met with any dangerous animals, nor could we perceive any huts of savages. I remarked to my son that God seemed to have destined us to a solitary life in this rich country, unless some vessel should reach these shores. "And His will be done!" added I; "it must be for the best. Now let us retire to that pretty wood to rest ourselves, and eat our dinner, before we return."
We proceeded towards a pleasant wood of palm-trees; but before reaching it, had to pass through an immense number of reeds, which greatly obstructed our road. We were, moreover, fearful of treading on the deadly serpents who choose such retreats. We made Turk walk before us to give notice, and I cut a long, thick cane as a weapon of defence. I was surprised to see a glutinous juice oozing from the end of the cut cane; I tasted it, and was convinced that we had met with a plantation of sugar-canes. I sucked more of it, and found myself singularly refreshed. I said nothing to Fritz, that he might have the pleasure of making the discovery himself. He was walking a few paces before me, and I called to him to cut himself a cane like mine, which he did, and soon found out the riches it contained. He cried out in ecstasy, "Oh, papa! papa! syrup of sugar-cane! delicious! How delighted will dear mamma, and my brothers be, when I carry some to them!" He went on, sucking pieces of cane so greedily, that I checked him, recommending moderation. He was then content to take some pieces to regale himself as he walked home, loading himself with a huge burden for his mother and brothers. We now entered the wood of palms to eat our dinner, when suddenly a number of monkeys, alarmed by our approach, and the barking of the dog, fled like lightning to the tops of the trees; and then grinned frightfully at us, with loud cries of defiance. As I saw the trees were cocoa-palms, I hoped to obtain, by means of the monkeys, a supply of the nuts in the half-ripe state, when filled with milk. I held Fritz's arm, who was preparing to shoot at them, to his great vexation, as he was irritated against the poor monkeys for their derisive gestures; but I told him, that though no patron of monkeys myself, I could not allow it. We had no right to kill any animal except in defence, or as a means of supporting life. Besides, the monkeys would be of more use to us living than dead, as I would show him. I began to throw stones at the monkeys, not being able, of course, to reach the place of their retreat, and they, in their anger, and in the spirit of imitation, gathered the nuts and hurled them on us in such quantities, that we had some difficulty in escaping from them. We had soon a large stock of cocoa-nuts. Fritz enjoyed the success of the stratagem, and, when the shower subsided, he collected as many as he wished. We then sat down, and tasted some of the milk through the three small holes, which we opened with our knives. We then divided some with our hatchets, and quenched our thirst with the liquor, which has not, however, a very agreeable flavour. We liked best a sort of thick cream which adheres to the shells, from which we scraped it with our spoons, and mixing it with the juice of the sugar-cane, we produced a delicious dish. Turk had the rest of the lobster, which we now despised, with some biscuit.
We then got up, I tied some nuts together by their stems, and threw them over my shoulder. Fritz took his bundle of canes, and we set out homewards.
* * * * *
Fritz groaned heavily under the weight of his canes as we travelled on, and pitied the poor negroes, who had to carry such heavy burdens of them. He then, in imitation of me, tried to refresh himself by sucking a sugar-cane, but was surprised to find he failed in extracting any of the juice. At last, after some reflection, he said, "Ah! I remember, if there is no opening made for the air, I can get nothing out." I requested him to find a remedy for this.
"I will make an opening," said he, "above the first knot in the cane. If I draw in my breath in sucking, and thus make a vacuum in my mouth, the outer air then forces itself through the hole I have made to fill this vacuum, and carries the juice along with it; and when this division of the cane is emptied, I can proceed to pierce above the next knot. I am only afraid that going on this way we shall have nothing but empty canes to carry to our friends." I told him, that I was more afraid the sun might turn the syrup sour before we got our canes home; therefore we need not spare them.
"Well, at any rate," said he, "I have filled my flask with the milk of the cocoa-nut to regale them."
I told him I feared another disappointment; for the milk of the cocoa-nut, removed from the shell, spoiled sooner than the sugar-cane juice. I warned him that the milk, exposed to the sun in his tin flask, was probably become vinegar.
He instantly took the bottle from his shoulder and uncorked it; when the liquor flew out with a report, foaming like champaign.
I congratulated him on his new manufacture, and said, we must beware of intoxication.
"Oh, taste, papa!" said he, "it is delicious, not at all like vinegar, but capital new, sweet, sparkling wine. This will be the best treat, if it remains in this state."
"I fear it will not be so," said I. "This is the first stage of fermentation. When this is over, and the liquor is cleared, it is a sort of wine, or fermented liquor, more or less agreeable, according to the material used. By applying heat, a second, and slower fermentation succeeds, and the liquor becomes vinegar. Then comes on a third stage, which deprives it of its strength, and spoils it. I fear, in this burning climate, you will carry home only vinegar, or something still more offensive. But let us drink each other's health now, but prudently, or we shall soon feel the effects of this potent beverage." Perfectly refreshed, we went on cheerfully to the place where we had left our gourd utensils. We found them quite dry, and hard as bone; we had no difficulty in carrying them in our game-bags. We had scarcely got through the little wood where we had breakfasted, when Turk darted furiously on a troop of monkeys, who were sporting about, and had not perceived him. He immediately seized a female, holding a young one in her arms, which impeded her flight, and had killed and devoured the poor mother before we could reach him. The young one had hidden itself among the long grass, when Fritz arrived; he had run with all his might, losing his hat, bottle, and canes, but could not prevent the murder of the poor mother.
The little monkey no sooner saw him than it leaped upon his shoulders, fastening its paws in his curls, and neither cries, threats, nor shaking could rid him of it. I ran up to him laughing, for I saw the little creature could not hurt him, and tried in vain to disengage it. I told him he must carry it thus. It was evident the sagacious little creature, having lost its mother, had adopted him for a father.
I succeeded, at last, in quietly releasing him, and took the little orphan, which was no bigger than a cat, in my arms, pitying its helplessness. The mother appeared as tall as Fritz.
I was reluctant to add another mouth to the number we had to feed; but Fritz earnestly begged to keep it, offering to divide his share of cocoa-nut milk with it till we had our cows. I consented, on condition that he took care of it, and taught it to be obedient to him.
Turk, in the mean time, was feasting on the remains of the unfortunate mother. Fritz would have driven him off, but I saw we had not food sufficient to satisfy this voracious animal, and we might ourselves be in danger from his appetite.
We left him, therefore, with his prey, the little orphan sitting on the shoulder of his protector, while I carried the canes. Turk soon overtook us, and was received very coldly; we reproached him with his cruelty, but he was quite unconcerned, and continued to walk after Fritz. The little monkey seemed uneasy at the sight of him, and crept into Fritz's bosom, much to his inconvenience. But a thought struck him; he tied the monkey with a cord to Turk's back, leading the dog by another cord, as he was very rebellious at first; but our threats and caresses at last induced him to submit to his burden. We proceeded slowly, and I could not help anticipating the mirth of my little ones, when they saw us approach like a pair of show-men.
I advised Fritz not to correct the dogs for attacking and killing unknown animals. Heaven bestows the dog on man, as well as the horse, for a friend and protector. Fritz thought we were very fortunate, then, in having two such faithful dogs; he only regretted that our horses had died on the passage, and only left us the ass.
"Let us not disdain the ass," said I; "I wish we had him here; he is of a very fine breed, and would be as useful as a horse to us."
In such conversations, we arrived at the banks of our river before we were aware. Flora barked to announce our approach, and Turk answered so loudly, that the terrified little monkey leaped from his back to the shoulder of its protector, and would not come down. Turk ran off to meet his companion, and our dear family soon appeared on the opposite shore, shouting with joy at our happy return. We crossed at the same place as we had done in the morning, and embraced each other. Then began such a noise of exclamations. "A monkey! a real, live monkey! Ah! how delightful! How glad we are! How did you catch him?"
"He is very ugly," said little Francis, who was almost afraid of him.
"He is prettier than you are," said Jack; "see how he laughs! how I should like to see him eat!"
"If we only had some cocoa-nuts," said Ernest. "Have you found any, and are they good?"
"Have you had any unpleasant adventures?" asked my wife.
It was in vain to attempt replying to so many questions and exclamations.
At length, when we got a little peace, I told them that, though I had brought them all sorts of good things, I had, unfortunately, not met with any of our companions.
"God's will be done!" said my wife; "let us thank Him for saving us, and again bringing us together now. This day has seemed an age. But put down your loads, and let us hear your adventures; we have not been idle, but we are less fatigued than you. Boys, assist your father and brother."
Jack took my gun, Ernest the cocoa-nuts, Francis the gourd-rinds, and my wife the game-bag. Fritz distributed his sugar-canes, and placed the monkey on Turk's back, to the amusement of the children. He begged Ernest to carry his gun, but he complained of being overloaded with the great bowls. His indulgent mother took them from him, and we proceeded to the tent.
Fritz thought Ernest would not have relinquished the bowls, if he had known what they contained, and called out to tell him they were cocoa-nuts.
"Give them to me," cried Ernest. "I will carry them, mamma, and the gun too."
His mother declined giving them.
"I can throw away these sticks," said he, "and carry the gun in my hand."
"I would advise you not," observed Fritz, "for the sticks are sugar-canes."
"Sugar-canes!" cried they all, surrounding Fritz, who had to give them the history, and teach them the art of sucking the canes.
My wife, who had a proper respect for sugar in her housekeeping, was much pleased with this discovery, and the history of all our acquisitions, which I displayed to her. Nothing gave her so much pleasure as our plates and dishes, which were actual necessaries. We went to our kitchen, and were gratified to see preparations going on for a good supper. My wife had planted a forked stick on each side the hearth; on these rested a long thin wand, on which all sorts of fish were roasting, Francis being intrusted to turn the spit. On the other side was impaled a goose on another spit, and a row of oyster-shells formed the dripping-pan: besides this, the iron pot was on the fire, from which arose the savoury odour of a good soup. Behind the hearth stood one of the hogsheads, opened, and containing the finest Dutch cheeses, enclosed in cases of lead. All this was very tempting to hungry travellers, and very unlike a supper on a desert island. I could not think my family had been idle, when I saw such a result of their labours; I was only sorry they had killed the goose, as I wished to be economical with our poultry.
"Have no uneasiness," said my wife, "this is not from our poultry-yard, it is a wild goose, killed by Ernest."
"It is a sort of penguin, I believe," said Ernest, "distinguished by the name of booby, and so stupid, that I knocked it down with a stick. It is web-footed, has a long narrow beak, a little curved downwards. I have preserved the head and neck for you to examine; it exactly resembles the penguin of my book of natural history."
I pointed out to him the advantages of study, and was making more inquiries about the form and habits of the bird, when my wife requested me to defer my catechism of natural history.
"Ernest has killed the bird," added she; "I received it; we shall eat it. What more would you have? Let the poor child have the pleasure of examining and tasting the cocoa-nuts."
"Very well," replied I, "Fritz must teach them how to open them; and we must not forget the little monkey, who has lost his mother's milk."
"I have tried him," cried Jack, "and he will eat nothing."
I told them he had not yet learnt to eat, and we must feed him with cocoa-nut milk till we could get something better. Jack generously offered all his share, but Ernest and Francis were anxious to taste the milk themselves.
"But the monkey must live," said Jack, petulantly.
"And so must we all," said mamma. "Supper is ready, and we will reserve the cocoa-nuts for dessert."
We sat down on the ground, and the supper was served on our gourd-rind service, which answered the purpose admirably. My impatient boys had broken the nuts, which they found excellent, and they made themselves spoons of the shell. Jack had taken care the monkey had his share; they dipped the corner of their handkerchiefs in the milk, and let him suck them. They were going to break up some more nuts, after emptying them through the natural holes, but I stopped them, and called for a saw. I carefully divided the nuts with this instrument, and soon provided us each with a neat basin for our soup, to the great comfort of my dear wife, who was gratified by seeing us able to eat like civilized beings. Fritz begged now to enliven the repast by introducing his champaign. I consented; requesting him, however, to taste it himself before he served it. What was his mortification to find it vinegar! But we consoled ourselves by using it as sauce to our goose; a great improvement also to the fish. We had now to hear the history of our supper. Jack and Francis had caught the fish at the edge of the sea. My active wife had performed the most laborious duty, in rolling the hogshead to the place and breaking open the head.
The sun was going down as we finished supper, and, recollecting how rapidly night succeeded, we hastened to our tent, where we found our beds much more comfortable, from the kind attention of the good mother, who had collected a large addition of dried grass. After prayers, we all lay down; the monkey between Jack and Fritz, carefully covered with moss to keep him warm. The fowls went to their roost, as on the previous night, and, after our fatigue, we were all soon in a profound sleep.
We had not slept long, when a great commotion among the dogs and fowls announced the presence of an enemy. My wife, Fritz, and I, each seizing a gun, rushed out.
By the light of the moon, we saw a terrible battle going on: our brave dogs were surrounded by a dozen jackals, three or four were extended dead, but our faithful animals were nearly overpowered by numbers when we arrived. I was glad to find nothing worse than jackals; Fritz and I fired on them; two fell dead, and the others fled slowly, evidently wounded. Turk and Flora pursued and completed the business, and then, like true dogs, devoured their fallen foes, regardless of the bonds of relationship.
All being quiet again, we retired to our beds; Fritz obtaining leave to drag the jackal he had killed towards the tent, to save it from the dogs, and to show to his brothers next morning. This he accomplished with difficulty, for it was as big as a large dog.
We all slept peacefully the remainder of the night, till the crowing of the cock awoke my wife and myself to a consultation on the business of the day.
* * * * *
"Well, my dear," I began, "I feel rather alarmed at all the labours I see before me. A voyage to the vessel is indispensable, if we wish to save our cattle, and many other things that may be useful to us; on the other hand, I should like to have a more secure shelter for ourselves and our property than this tent."
"With patience, order, and perseverance, all may be done," said my good counsellor; "and whatever uneasiness your voyage may give me, I yield to the importance and utility of it. Let it be done to-day; and have no care for the morrow: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, as our blessed Lord has said."
It was then agreed that the three youngest children should remain with my wife; and Fritz, the strongest and most active, should accompany me.
I then arose, and woke my children for the important duties of the day. Fritz jumped up the first, and ran for his jackal, which had stiffened in the cold of the night. He placed it on its four legs, at the entrance of the tent, to surprise his brothers; but no sooner did the dogs see it erect, than they flew at it, and would have torn it to pieces, if he had not soothed them and called them off. However, their barking effectually roused the boys, who rushed out to see the cause. Jack issued first with the monkey on his shoulder; but no sooner did the little creature see the jackal, than he sprang into the tent, and hid himself among the moss, till only the tip of his nose was visible. All were astonished to see this large yellow animal standing; Francis thought it was a wolf; Jack said it was only a dead dog, and Ernest, in a pompous tone, pronounced it to be a golden fox.
Fritz laughed at the learned professor, who knew the agouti immediately, and now called a jackal a golden fox!
"I judged by the peculiar characteristics," said Ernest, examining it carefully.
"Oh! the characteristics!" said Fritz, ironically, "don't you think it may be a golden wolf?"
"Pray don't be so cross, brother," said Ernest, with tears in his eyes, "perhaps you would not have known the name, if papa had not told you."
I reproved Fritz for his ridicule of his brother, and Ernest for so easily taking offence; and, to reconcile all, I told them that the jackal partook of the nature of the wolf, the fox, and the dog. This discussion terminated, I summoned them to prayers, after which we thought of breakfast. We had nothing but biscuit, which was certainly dry and hard. Fritz begged for a little cheese with it; and Ernest, who was never satisfied like other people, took a survey of the unopened hogshead. He soon returned, crying "If we only had a little butter with our biscuit, it would be so good, papa!"
I allowed it would be good, but it was no use thinking of such a thing.
"Let us open the other cask," said he, displaying a piece of butter he had extracted through a small crack on the side.
"Your instinct for good things has been fortunate for us," said I. "Come, boys, who wants bread and butter?"
We began to consider how we should come at the contents of the hogshead, without exposing the perishable matter to the heat of the sun. Finally, I pierced a hole in the lower part of the cask, large enough for us to draw out the butter as we wanted it, by means of a little wooden shovel, which I soon made. We then sat down to breakfast with a cocoa-nut basin filled with good salt Dutch butter. We toasted our biscuit, buttered it hot, and agreed that it was excellent. Our dogs were sleeping by us as we breakfasted; and I remarked that they had bloody marks of the last night's fray, in some deep and dangerous wounds, especially about the neck; my wife instantly dressed the wounds with butter, well washed in cold water; and the poor animals seemed grateful for the ease it gave them. Ernest judiciously remarked, that they ought to have spiked collars, to defend them from any wild beasts they might encounter.
"I will make them collars," said Jack, who never hesitated at anything. I was glad to employ his inventive powers; and, ordering my children, not to leave their mother, during our absence, but to pray to God to bless our undertaking, we began our preparations for the voyage.
While Fritz made ready the boat, I erected a signal-post, with a piece of sailcloth for a flag, to float as long as all was going on well; but if we were wanted, they were to lower the flag, and fire a gun three times, when we would immediately return; for I had informed my dear wife it might be necessary for us to remain on board all night; and she consented to the plan, on my promising to pass the night in our tubs, instead of the vessel. We took nothing but our guns and ammunition; relying on the ship's provisions. Fritz would, however, take the monkey, that he might give it some milk from the cow.
We took a tender leave of each other, and embarked. When we had rowed into the middle of the bay, I perceived a strong current formed by the water of the river which issued at a little distance, which I was glad to take advantage of, to spare our labour. It carried us three parts of our voyage, and we rowed the remainder; and entering the opening in the vessel, we secured our boat firmly, and went on board.
The first care of Fritz was to feed the animals, who were on deck, and who all saluted us after their fashion, rejoiced to see their friends again, as well as to have their wants supplied. We put the young monkey to a goat, which he sucked with extraordinary grimaces, to our infinite amusement. We then took some refreshment ourselves, and Fritz, to my great surprise, proposed that we should begin by adding a sail to our boat. He said the current which helped us to the vessel, could not carry us back, but the wind which blew so strongly against us, and made our rowing so fatiguing, would be of great service, if we had a sail.
I thanked my counsellor for his good advice, and we immediately set to the task. I selected a strong pole for a mast, and a triangular sail, which was fixed to a yard. We made a hole in a plank, to receive the mast, secured the plank on our fourth tub, forming a deck, and then, by aid of a block used to hoist and lower the sails, raised our mast. Finally, two ropes fastened by one end to the yard, and by the other to each extremity of the boat, enabled us to direct the sail at pleasure. Fritz next ornamented the top of the mast with a little red streamer. He then gave our boat the name of the Deliverance, and requested it might henceforward be called the little vessel. To complete its equipment, I contrived a rudder, so that I could direct the boat from either end.
After signalling to our friends that we should not return that night, we spent the rest of the day in emptying the tubs of the stones we had used for ballast, and replacing them with useful things. Powder and shot, nails and tools of all kinds, pieces of cloth; above all, we did not forget knives, forks, spoons, and kitchen utensils, including a roasting-jack. In the captain's cabin we found some services of silver, pewter plates and dishes, and a small chest filled with bottles of choice wines. All these we took, as well as a chest of eatables, intended for the officers' table, portable soup, Westphalian hams, Bologna sausages, &c.; also some bags of maize, wheat, and other seeds, and some potatoes. We collected all the implements of husbandry we could spare room for, and, at the request of Fritz, some hammocks and blankets; two or three handsome guns, and an armful of sabres, swords, and hunting-knives. Lastly, I embarked a barrel of sulphur, all the cord and string I could lay my hands on, and a large roll of sailcloth. The sulphur was intended to produce matches with. Our tubs were loaded to the edge; there was barely room left for us to sit, and it would have been dangerous to attempt our return if the sea had not been so calm.
Night arrived, we exchanged signals, to announce security on sea and land, and, after prayers for the dear islanders, we sought our tubs, not the most luxurious of dormitories, but safer than the ship. Fritz slept soundly; but I could not close my eyes, thinking of the jackals. I was, however, thankful for the protection they had in the dogs.
* * * * *
As soon as day broke, I mounted on deck, to look through the telescope. I saw my wife looking towards us; and the flag, which denoted their safety, floating in the breeze. Satisfied on this important point, we enjoyed our breakfast of biscuit, ham, and wine, and then turned our thoughts to the means of saving our cattle. Even if we could contrive a raft, we could never get all the animals to remain still on it. We might venture the huge sow in the water, but the rest of the animals we found would not be able to swim to shore. At last Fritz suggested the swimming apparatus. We passed two hours in constructing them. For the cow and ass it was necessary to have an empty cask on each side, well bound in strong sailcloth, fastened by leather thongs over the back and under each animal. For the rest, we merely tied a piece of cork under their bodies; the sow only being unruly, and giving us much trouble. We then fastened a cord to the horns or neck of each animal, with a slip of wood at the end, for a convenient handle. Luckily, the waves had broken away part of the ship, and left the opening wide enough for the passage of our troop. We first launched the ass into the water, by a sudden push; he swam away, after the first plunge, very gracefully. The cow, sheep, and goats, followed quietly after. The sow was furious, and soon broke loose from us all, but fortunately reached the shore long before the rest.
We now embarked, fastening all the slips of wood to the stern of the boat, thus drawing our train after us; and the wind filling our sail, carried us smoothly towards the shore. Fritz exulted in his plan, as we certainly could never have rowed our boat, loaded as we were. I once more took out my telescope, and was remarking that our party on shore seemed making ready for some excursion, when a loud cry from Fritz filled me with terror. "We are lost! we are lost! see, what a monstrous fish!" Though pale with alarm, the bold boy had seized his gun, and, encouraged by my directions, he fired two balls into the head of the monster, as it was preparing to dart on the sheep. It immediately made its escape, leaving a long red track to prove that it was severely wounded.
Being freed from our enemy, I now resumed the rudder, and we lowered the sail and rowed to shore. The animals, as soon as the water became low enough, walked out at their own discretion, after we had relieved them from their swimming girdles. We then secured our boat as before, and landed ourselves, anxiously looking round for our friends.
We had not long to wait, they came joyfully to greet us; and, after our first burst of pleasure, we sat down to tell our adventures in a regular form. My wife was overjoyed to see herself surrounded by these valuable animals; and especially pleased that her son Fritz had suggested so many useful plans. We next proceeded to disembark all our treasures. I noticed that Jack wore a belt of yellow skin, in which were placed a pair of pistols, and inquired where he had got his brigand costume.
"I manufactured it myself," said he; "and this is not all. Look at the dogs!"
The dogs wore each a collar of the same skin as his belt, bristling with long nails, the points outwards—a formidable defence.
"It is my own invention," said he; "only mamma helped me in the sewing."
"But where did you get the leather, the needle and thread?" inquired I.
"Fritz's jackal supplied the skin," said my wife, "and my wonderful bag the rest. There is still more to come from it, only say what you want."
Fritz evidently felt a little vexation at his brother's unceremonious appropriation of the skin of the jackal, which displayed itself in the tone in which he exclaimed, holding his nose, "Keep at a distance, Mr. Skinner, you carry an intolerable smell about with you."
I gave him a gentle hint of his duty in the position of eldest son, and he soon recovered his good humour. However, as the body as well as the skin of the jackal was becoming offensive, they united in dragging it down to the sea, while Jack placed his belt in the sun to dry.
As I saw no preparation for supper, I told Fritz to bring the ham; and, to the astonishment and joy of all, he returned with a fine Westphalian ham, which we had cut into in the morning.
"I will tell you," said my wife, "why we have no supper prepared; but first, I will make you an omelet;" and she produced from a basket a dozen turtle's eggs.
"You see," said Ernest, "they have all the characteristics of those Robinson Crusoe had in his island. They are white balls, the skin of which resembles moistened parchment."
My wife promised to relate the history of the discovery after supper, and set about preparing her ham and omelet, while Fritz and I proceeded in unloading our cargo, assisted by the useful ass.
Supper was now ready. A tablecloth was laid over the butter-cask, and spread with the plates and spoons from the ship. The ham was in the middle, and the omelet and cheese at each end; and we made a good meal, surrounded by our subjects,—the dogs, the fowls, the pigeons, the sheep, and the goats, waiting for our notice. The geese and ducks were more independent, remaining in their marsh, where they lived in plenty on the small crabs which abounded there.
After supper, I sent Fritz for a bottle of the captain's Canary wine, and then requested my wife to give us her recital.
* * * * *
"I will spare you the history of the first day," said my good Elizabeth, "spent in anxiety about you, and attending to the signals; but this morning, being satisfied that all was going right, I sought, before the boys got up, a shady place to rest in, but in vain; I believe this barren shore has not a single tree on it. Then I began to consider on the necessity of searching for a more comfortable spot for our residence; and determined, after a slight repast, to set out with my children across the river, on a journey of discovery. The day before, Jack had busied himself in skinning the jackal with his knife, sharpened on the rock; Ernest declining to assist him in his dirty work, for which I reproved him, sorry that any fastidiousness should deter him from a labour of benefit to society.
"Jack proceeded to clean the skin as well as he was able; then procured from the nail-chest some long flat-headed nails, and inserted them closely through the long pieces of skin he had cut for collars; he then cut some sailcloth, and made a double lining over the heads of the nails; and finished by giving me the delicate office of sewing them together, which I could not but comply with.
"His belt he first stretched on a plank, nailing it down, and exposing it to the sun, lest it should shrink in drying.
"Now for our journey: we took our game-bags and some hunting-knives. The boys carried provisions, and I had a large flask of water. I took a small hatchet, and gave Ernest a carbine, which might be loaded with ball; keeping his light gun for myself. I carefully secured the opening of the tent with the hooks. Turk went before, evidently considering himself our guide; and we crossed the river with some difficulty.
"As we proceeded, I could not help feeling thankful that you had so early taught the boys to use fire-arms properly, as the defence of my youngest boy and myself now depended on the two boys of ten and twelve years of age.
"When we attained the hill you described to us, I was charmed with the smiling prospect, and, for the first time since our shipwreck, ventured to hope for better things. I had remarked a beautiful wood, to which I determined to make our way, for a little shade, and a most painful progress it was, through grass that was higher than the children's heads. As we were struggling through it, we heard a strange rustling sound among the grass, and at the same moment a bird of prodigious size rose, and flew away, before the poor boys could get their guns ready. They were much mortified, and I recommended them always to have their guns in readiness, for the birds would not be likely to wait till they loaded them. Francis thought the bird was so large, it must be an eagle; but Ernest ridiculed the idea, and added that he thought it must be of the bustard tribe. We went forward to the spot from which it had arisen, when suddenly another bird of the same kind, though still larger, sprung up, close to our feet, and was soon soaring above our heads. I could not help laughing to see the look of astonishment and confusion with which the boys looked upwards after it. At last Jack took off his hat, and, making a low bow, said, 'Pray, Mr. Bird, be kind enough to pay us another visit, you will find us very good children!' We found the large nest they had left; it was rudely formed of dry grass, and empty, but some fragments of egg-shells were scattered near, as if the young had been recently hatched; we therefore concluded that they had escaped among the grass.
"Doctor Ernest immediately began a lecture. 'You observe, Francis, these birds could not be eagles, which do not form their nests on the ground. Neither do their young run as soon as they are hatched. These must be of the gallinaceous tribe, an order of birds such as quails, partridges, turkeys, &c.; and, from the sort of feathered moustache which I observed at the corner of the beak, I should pronounce that these were bustards.'
"But we had now reached the little wood, and our learned friend had sufficient employment in scrutinizing, and endeavouring to classify, the immense number of beautiful, unknown birds, which sung and fluttered about us, apparently regardless of our intrusion.
"We found that what we thought a wood was merely a group of a dozen trees, of a height far beyond any I had ever seen; and apparently belonging rather to the air than the earth; the trunks springing from roots which formed a series of supporting arches. Jack climbed one of the arches, and measured the trunk of the tree with a piece of packthread. He found it to be thirty-four feet. I made thirty-two steps round the roots. Between the roots and the lowest branches, it seemed about forty or fifty feet. The branches are thick and strong, and the leaves are of a moderate size, and resemble our walnut-tree. A thick, short, smooth turf clothed the ground beneath and around the detached roots of the trees, and everything combined to render this one of the most delicious spots the mind could conceive.
"Here we rested, and made our noon-day repast; a clear rivulet ran near us, and offered its agreeable waters for our refreshment. Our dogs soon joined us; but I was astonished to find they did not crave for food, but laid down to sleep at our feet. For myself, so safe and happy did I feel, that I could not but think that if we could contrive a dwelling on the branches of one of these trees, we should be in perfect peace and safety. We set out on our return, taking the road by the sea-shore, in case the waves had cast up anything from the wreck of the vessel. We found a quantity of timber, chests, and casks; but all too heavy to bring. We succeeded in dragging them, as well as we could, out of the reach of the tide; our dogs, in the mean time, fishing for crabs, with which they regaled themselves, much to their own satisfaction and to mine, as I now saw they would be able to provide their own food. As we rested from our rough labour, I saw Flora scratching in the sand, and swallowing something with great relish. Ernest watched, and then said, very quietly, 'They are turtles' eggs.' We drove away the dog, and collected about two dozen, leaving her the rest as a reward for her discovery.