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Authors: Daisy Alberto

Swiss Family Robinson (2 page)

BOOK: Swiss Family Robinson
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“W
hat shall we do today?” the children asked the next morning.

“On the seventh day thou shall rest,” I replied.

“Is it really Sunday?” asked Jack. “But what shall we do? We can’t go to church here.”

“The leafy shade of this tree is more beautiful than any church,” I said. “We will worship here.”

After our simple service, I let the children spend the day as they wished. Jack and I made a little bow and some arrows for Franz to shoot with.

Suddenly we heard a shot over our heads. Two small birds fell at our feet. We looked up and saw Ernest in the branches.

He slipped down the ladder and brought the birds to me. The birds had come to eat the figs from our tree. Since the figs were just now becoming ripe, there would probably soon be large flocks of birds in our trees.

The tropics are known to have a rainy season every year. I had been worried about how we would find food when the rains came. I knew that if we could catch the birds, we could store them for later.

I was still thinking on this when we were called to dinner. During the meal, I
suggested we name the different spots on the island. “Let us begin by naming the bay in which we landed.”

“I think,” said my wife, “that, as thanks for our escape, we shall call it Safety Bay.”

This idea was met with approval. We then named our first campsite Tentholm. The islet in the bay we called Shark Island. Our tree house Falconhurst. The first hill we climbed Prospect Hill. The stream by our landing place Jackal River, because we’d seen jackals there. And the rocky heights from which we saw we were alone Cape Disappointment.

The next day, we took a hike to Tentholm. The boys roamed ahead. Presently, we heard a joyful shout. Ernest raced toward me, holding a plant. “Potatoes!” he gasped with sparkling eyes.

“Yes,” cried Jack. “Acres and acres!”

“With potatoes, we shall never starve,” said I. My heart was easier about the rainy season now. We hurried to the spot. We were so excited that we did not stop digging until every bag, pouch, and pocket was filled.

At Tentholm we collected some of the supplies we had left there. Then we returned home. And after a hardy supper of potatoes and milk, we climbed our tree for the night.

The next morning, Fritz and I took the tub boat to the wreck. Once we were there, we made a raft out of water casks to carry back items too large for the tub boat.

We spent the night on board the wreck. When the sun rose, we carried off everything from our own cabins. We claimed the furniture and window and door frames from
the captain’s room. We took the officers’ chests. One was filled with gold and silver watches, rings, and other jewelry.

I was delighted to discover a number of carefully packed young fruit trees. We also found more tools, sacks of oats and peas, and a harpoon. We loaded the boat and the raft and pushed off.

On our way back to shore, Fritz saw a turtle floating in the distance. I steered closer to have a better look. Suddenly I felt a shock. The boat was being pulled through the water!

To my amazement, I saw that Fritz had struck the turtle with the harpoon. A rope was tied to it, and the creature was running away with us!

“Fritz, what have you done?” cried I. “You will sink us!”

“Oh, Father, I have him!” Fritz shouted with excitement. “Do let us catch this turtle if we can!”

The turtle pulled us to the beach. It was very tired. And no wonder. It had been dragging two heavy boats at full speed! I leapt into the water and pulled out my ax to kill it.

The family soon appeared in the distance with a cart that Ernest and I had made some days before. It required all of our effort to hoist the heavy turtle on board. We added the fruit trees and headed home.

When we got there, I turned the turtle on its back. I cut some meat for our supper.

“What a handsome shell!” cried Fritz. “I should like to make a water trough of that, to stand near the brook and be kept full of clear water.”

“That is a capital idea!” I replied.

Ernest then showed me some roots he had found that day in the woods.

My heart leapt with joy. The boy had made a brilliant discovery! “I believe these to be manioc root,” I exclaimed. “Cakes called cassava bread are made from it. With these, we will always have plenty to eat!”

The boys and I set to work. Each took a tobacco grater we had taken from the wrecked ship and began grating a manioc root. No one was tempted to taste the flour it made—it looked like wet sawdust!

The next step was to press it to take out the sap. We put the damp powder into bags my wife had made. We laid the sacks on smooth planks. We placed another plank on top of them. We weighted this with everything heavy we could find. The sap flowed to the ground.

I took out handfuls of dry flour and mixed it with water and salt. I kneaded it, forming a cake. I laid it on an iron plate over the fire. Presently, it turned golden brown. I wanted to be certain it was safe, so I gave the cake to two hens and the monkey to eat.

In the morning, we were all very happy to see the hens and monkey in good health.

No time was lost. We began baking bread. Soon we had a pile of tempting cakes. We breakfasted royally.

My thoughts turned back to the wreck. I took Fritz, Ernest, and Jack back to collect more items. Fritz made a wonderful discovery. He found a light sailing ship, called a pinnace. It was carefully packed away in pieces.

I was determined to possess the pinnace!

We loaded the boat and the raft with
butter and flour and other items. Then we studied the pinnace. The problem was, it was stowed in a very narrow space. We had no room to put the parts together there. But the parts were too heavy to move.

Our days were now spent on the wreck. We went to work with axes, breaking down the compartment to clear space. First we cleared an open area around the pinnace. Then we put the parts together.

At length, the pinnace was ready to be launched. But it was imprisoned within the wreck!

I was almost in despair when I had an idea. I found a large cannon and filled it with gunpowder. I placed it so that when it exploded, it would blow out the side of the wreck.

I told the boys to get in the boat. Then I
lit the match and hurried after them. We were already ashore when it came. A flash! A roar! A burst of smoke!

We sprang back into the boat and rowed for the wreck. When we rounded the far side, a marvelous sight awaited us. The compartment where the pinnace rested was torn open.

“Hurrah!” I shouted. “She is ours!”

The boys followed me into the opening. I placed rollers beneath the pinnace. And with some effort, she slipped into the water.

We were ready to surprise my wife. We spread the sail, and the pinnace glided swiftly through the water. When we entered the bay, the boys fired a salute.

“What a charming boat!” exclaimed my wife.

I saw all this hard work was making the boys very strong. But it was having another effect upon their clothes. I decided to visit the wreck one last time to see if we could find new clothes.

The three older boys and I found the wreck as we had last seen her. We rummaged through all that was left on her. Sailors’ chests, cloth, tables, benches, window shutters. We made several trips back and forth, and soon everything was ashore.

Before we left, I lit a fuse to blow up the brave ship that had carried us from Switzerland. It saddened me to do so, but I knew that even her battered decks could be put to
use. Darkness came. A pillar of fire rose from the water. A roar boomed across the sea. And we knew our old ship was no more.

The next day, we were cheered to see the shore lined with planks and beams from the wreck. The ship had been good to us to her very end.

T
he peaceful shade of our tree seemed more delightful than ever after the hard work of the past few weeks.

Around this time, I came up with a new weapon for my boys. “This is a lasso,” I said. “One end is swung around and around, and then thrown toward the animal you wish to catch.”

But even better than the lasso was another discovery. One afternoon, I noticed
some bushes loaded with white berries. We could use these berries to make wax candles. We filled a canvas bag with them.

The next morning, the boys woke with the word “candle” on their lips.

We were soon at work. We threw the berries into an iron pot on the fire. The wax melted and rose to the top of the berry juice. My wife prepared wicks and we dipped them into the wax. We repeated this until they became thick, sturdy candles. For the first time Falconhurst was brilliantly lit!

Next we planted the fruit trees in two lines from Falconhurst to Family Bridge. Between them, we laid down a road.

We were eating supper when our donkey, Grizzle, suddenly let out a loud bray and ran away. We chased him. But we could not catch up.

In the morning, Jack and I took the dogs to search for him. After a while, we saw his tracks mixed with other tracks. In the distance, I could see animals grazing. We suddenly found ourselves face to face with a herd of buffalo!

Before I could stop them, one of the dogs rushed forward and seized a buffalo calf. The herd went on the attack! They were upon us in no time! I drew a pistol and fired. The herd stopped and galloped off.

Clever Jack unwound his lasso and cast it toward the calf. It drew tight around his hind legs. We fastened it to a stout bamboo.

The young buffalo followed us quietly and, after a time, allowed us to lay a bundle on his back.

On the way home, the dogs peered into a cleft in the rocks. A jackal jumped out and attacked them! The jackal was no match for the dogs. But from the way she fought, I knew her young must be near. Jack crept into the cave and emerged with a beautiful yellow pup. He named the pup Fangs.

Back at home, the buffalo and the jackal pup delighted the others. Then they surprised me with a new animal of their own. While we were gone, Fritz had found a young eagle. I suggested he train it to hunt.

Soon after this, my wife came to me with an idea. “I wish,” she said, “that you would build a staircase to our tree house.”

I thought it over. I had often thought our great trunk might be hollow. If that were true, we could build a staircase inside it.

We got to work. First we cut a door in the base of the tree. We fitted into it the door we had brought from the captain’s cabin. We
then began building a spiral staircase. We used a sapling as the center and planks from the wreck for the steps. Up and up, we built. We cut windows in the trunk as we went to give us light and air.

Meanwhile, our animals were doing well. Juno and Turk had a fine litter of puppies. Ernest and Jack made a basket for Mr. Knips. They strapped it to the monkey’s back. Then they taught the little fellow to climb trees and bring the fruit down in the basket.

One morning, we were awoken by a terrific noise. Jack thought it was a lion. I agreed with Ernest that it might be a hyena. Fritz climbed down to see and burst out laughing.
Hee-haw, hee-haw!
It was our donkey, Grizzle, returned to us!

The rainy season was near. So we next
set about building a shelter for our chickens. We made a bamboo roof over the arched roots of our tree.

Every day we loaded our cart and brought in food for the winter. Potatoes, coconuts, sugarcanes, manioc.

When the rains came, we took our furniture and moved downstairs under the roots. The animals and all our supplies were packed in with us. It was so crowded we barely had space to move. During the day, we let the animals out to make more room. At night, Fritz and I would go into the pouring rain to bring them home. Each time we returned soaked to the skin.

We soon became used to the smell of the animals and the smoke from the fire—we had no choice. But time went slowly. The boys played with their pets. Our cow had
had a calf. “Will you look after this little fellow?” I asked Franz.

“Oh yes, Father!” he agreed happily. “I shall call him Grumble. Hear the grumbling noise he makes!”

Ernest sketched, my wife sewed, and Fritz and Jack taught Franz to read. I wrote a journal of all that had happened to us on the island so far. Weeks and weeks went by. We were prisoners while the rain battered down.

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