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Authors: Daisy Alberto

Swiss Family Robinson (4 page)

BOOK: Swiss Family Robinson
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“W
e spend our years as a tale that is told,” said King David.

I thought of these words as I reviewed ten years in my journal.

Time was passing away.

Our sons were growing up.

Over the years, we had discovered many interesting animals lived on the island with us—gorillas, elephants, and even kangaroos. Rockburg and Falconhurst remained our
winter and summer homes. We had made many improvements. There were fountains, trellised verandas, and plantations around Rockburg. We had cleared and drained the swamp. It was now a large lake. Stately black swans and snow-white geese sailed on its waters. We had also built a watchtower on Shark Island.

We had all enjoyed good health in these ten years. The boys grew into fine, handsome fellows. But my wife and I were nearing old age. And I worried about my sons’ futures. What kind of life would they have on the island with no chance for families of their own?

The boys began to feel restless. They often went on trips to explore. One such time, Fritz had been off for a full day in his kayak. “Welcome back, Fritz!” I cried when
he returned. We all gathered around him.

“My trip has led to interesting discoveries,” he told us. “I left the harbor this morning. I wanted to explore farther than we have along the coast. After an hour and a half, I saw a magnificent archway in the side of a cliff. I passed through it into a huge cavern.” His eyes sparkled with excitement.

“The water beneath me was crystal clear,” he went on. “I could see beds of shellfish in it. I hooked up several clusters. I landed on the beach and flung them on the sand. Then I went to fetch more. I supposed the sun didn’t agree with them. For when I came back, they were all wide open. I looked at them and found these pearly balls.” He held out his hands.

“You have discovered treasure!” I exclaimed. “Why, these are pearls! They will be a source of wealth should we ever again be in the civilized world.”

Later, Fritz drew me aside. He had not told us everything about his trip. While leaving Pearl Bay, he had been attacked by seabirds. He had struck one with the boat hook.

“The bird fell stunned into the water,” said Fritz. “I raised it to the deck of the kayak. Then I saw a piece of rag was wound round one of its legs. To my astonishment, English words were written on it! It said, ‘Save an unfortunate Englishwoman!’” He showed me the rag.

“My brain whirled,” continued Fritz. “Can it be that we are not alone? I tore a strip from my handkerchief. On it, I wrote, ‘Do not despair! Help is near!’ I bound it to the bird’s leg. The bird slowly revived and
took flight. Oh, Father, shall I be able to find this woman?”

I listened to Fritz’s story with growing surprise. I could hardly believe it! “You were wise not to excite the others,” I said. “The words may have been written long ago. The unhappy stranger may have since perished.”

We decided that Fritz should go in search of the lady.

The boys were busily opening the oysters. All thoughts turned to a trip to Pearl Bay to build a pearl fishery. No one noticed that Fritz had a more important voyage in view.

We boarded the pinnace. Fritz set off on his kayak. After a time, we followed him through the archway that led to Pearl Bay.

We found a landing place by a sparkling stream. We anchored and set up camp
onshore. After two days of work, we had a giant pile of shells on the beach. Late in the evening on the last day, we stopped work. We ate dinner and went to bed.

In the morning, we followed Fritz out of the bay under the archway. Then, waving his hand to me, Fritz turned in the opposite direction.

I told his brothers that he was exploring more of the coast. I did not tell them he was looking for a lady.

M
y wife and Franz were happy to see us return safely. But Fritz’s absence startled them. Five days passed. Fritz remained gone. I could not hide my worry. I decided to search for him.

The whole family sailed in the pinnace on a bright morning. The sunshine and sea breeze put us all in high spirits.

“Look!” cried Franz after some time. He pointed to a spot on the water.

It was Fritz’s kayak! Ernest took the trumpet. “Fritz ahoy!” he shouted.

In a moment, the brave boy was on board. We kissed his face heartily.

Fritz cast me a glance full of meaning. “I can lead you to an island where you can anchor,” he said. “It contains all sorts of wonderful things.”

He sprang back into his kayak. He piloted us to a little island in the bay. There was no doubt now as to Fritz’s success. To prepare my wife for the surprise, I told her about the message. She was almost overcome with excitement.

“Why did you wait with such happy news?” she asked.

“I didn’t want to raise your hopes in case Fritz found nothing,” I replied.

The boys jumped ashore as soon as the
anchor was dropped. We followed Fritz through a thicket. On the other side, we saw a hut. A cheerful fire burned at the entrance. The boys looked at each other in confusion.

Fritz dived into this shelter. When he came out, his face shone with joy. To our amazement, he was leading a young lady by the hand. The boys stared in disbelief.

“Hello,” said the girl shyly.

“Will you not welcome her to our family?” asked Fritz.

We were all speechless—in all our years on the island, we had never dared hope to meet another soul! Where had she come from? How had she survived on these shores? I regained my voice first. “We will indeed!” I exclaimed. I held out my hands to the fair stranger. My wife, too, embraced the girl. The boys were elated.

They were full of questions and nearly dancing from excitement. When they had recovered a bit from the shock, they ran down to the boat to get supplies and set up camp. This done, my wife set out a meal. The boys were eager to make their guest feel at home and did their best to amuse her. By the time we sat down to supper, she was
laughing and chattering with the rest. The girl admired the various dishes and kept up a lively conversation.

After the feast, we cheered and drank to her health. Then she was led to quarters we had readied for her on the pinnace.

Fritz joined his brothers in three cheers for their new sister. When the boys quieted, he told us her story.

“Jenny Montrose is the daughter of a British officer,” he explained. “He served in India, where Jenny was born. Her mother died when she was only three. When she was seventeen, her father received orders to return to England with his regiment. Jenny went on board a different ship. A week after Jenny left, a storm arose. It drove the ship off course. Leaks sprung in all directions. The crew took to the boats. After many
days, land was first sighted. Jenny’s boat capsized while trying to land. Jenny alone reached the shore. She’s lived here these past three years.”

After Fritz’s tale, we sat in silence, letting the story sink in. We knew better than anyone how hard it was to survive on these islands. To think this brave girl had managed for so long entirely on her own! A great yawn from Fritz drew our attention from these thoughts and we retired for the night.

The next morning, we started home. Jack and Fritz went ahead in the kayak. We glided out to sea.

In due time, Shark Island came into sight. “Oh!” cried Jenny. In astonishment, she gazed at our watchtower, with its guardhouse and waving flag. We steered toward Safety Bay. Fritz and Jack greeted us and
helped their mother and Jenny ashore. They led the way through the gently sloping gardens and orchards up to Rockburg Jenny viewed the villa with awe—its shady balcony, its sparkling fountains. “I can scarcely believe we’re still far from civilization!” she told us.

I was just as amazed when I saw a table laid out for lunch on the veranda. All our china, silver, and glass were arranged on the tablecloth. There were decanters of wine. Splendid pyramids of pineapples, oranges, guavas, apples, and pears. Platters of venison, fowl, and hams. And a vase of flowers rose in the center. Fritz and Jack had made a perfect welcome feast.

Jenny took the place of honor between my wife and me. When the banquet was over, the boys showed their new sister the
wonders of Rockburg. They led her around the house, cave, stables, gardens, fields, and boathouses and begged her to make herself comfortable. “Thank you,” she whispered, her eyes filling with tears of joy.

That night, I slept more soundly than I had in some time, knowing that a new daughter was safely under our roof.

A
nother rainy season passed. In the evenings, Jenny and the boys took turns reading or telling stories in our cozy study. It was truly a happy time. When the rain stopped and the sun again smiled upon us, we could scarcely believe it had gone so fast.

We visited our settlements to set things back in order. It fell to Franz and Jack to clean the guns on Shark Island. Once this was done, they fired them for practice.

No sooner had they done so when, as if in answer, we heard three guns booming across the water.

We stopped, speechless. Had we really heard strange guns? All sorts of feelings washed over us. Joy, hope, doubt. Were we about to be rescued? Or did these sounds come from a pirate who would rob and murder us?

We fired again and waited.

For some minutes there was silence. Then an answering shot sounded in the distance.

Fritz and I at once prepared for a journey. We armed ourselves with our guns and paddled away in the kayak.

For nearly an hour we headed in the direction from where we had heard the guns. We didn’t see anything. Then we rounded a
cape and all our doubts vanished. Joy filled our hearts! A large ship was anchored in the cove—and she was flying the English colors!

We saw by the camp set up onshore that the ship would remain for several days. We decided to return later, when we could show ourselves in better form.

We went back to Rockburg and told everyone what we had seen. Everyone was in a state of the greatest excitement. The rest of the day was spent getting ready. We scrubbed the decks of the pinnace and polished the guns. My wife repaired our clothes.

At the break of morning, we gathered for breakfast. We ate quickly and in silence. Our hearts were too full to talk.

Fritz and Jack slipped out and gathered
from the garden baskets of fruit to present to the strangers.

We all boarded our pinnace and set sail, with the kayak in tow. To the utter surprise of the strangers, we rounded the cape!

What a strange sight we must have looked! To see a pleasure yacht cruising on this shore that everyone thought was uninhabited.

Fritz and I stepped into the kayak and rowed toward the ship. In a minute, we were on her deck. The captain welcomed us and asked us who we were.

I told him an outline of our story and of Jenny’s.

“Then,” said the officer, “let me thank you in the name of Colonel Montrose. For it was the thought of finding the brave girl that led me to these shores. The colonel has never lost hope for his daughter.”

One of the officers was sent to the pinnace, and the rest of my family was soon on board.

Our kind host greeted them warmly. At lunch, the captain told us that a sickly gentleman named Mr. Wolston, his wife, and two daughters had sailed with him. They were resting on land.

We were eager to meet the family. In the afternoon, we paid them a visit.

We found Mr. Wolston seated by a tent, enjoying the sea breeze. He and his family were delighted to see us. We stayed with them until it was too late to return home. The captain offered tents to the boys. The rest of us spent the night on the pinnace.

That night, I had a long talk with my
wife about whether we wished to return to Europe. Neither of us knew what the other was thinking. But we discovered that in both our hearts, we wished to adopt New Switzerland as our home.

My dear wife told me she desired nothing more than to spend the rest of her days on the island. She had become fond of the place. However, she would only want to stay if at least two of her sons also wished to live here. If her other two children chose to return to Europe, she hoped that they would try to send new colonists to join us.

I heartily approved of this idea. We agreed to mention it to the captain. The next morning after breakfast, we asked the captain to visit us at Rockburg. We also invited Mr. Wolston and his family.

Fritz and Jack hurried off to prepare.
They were followed by the English ship and our pinnace.

What words can express the amazement of our guests when they rounded the rocky cape and the splendor of Rockburg lay before them?

Still greater was their surprise as an eleven-gun salute boomed from Shark Island, where the English flag floated on the morning breeze. Poor Wolston seemed to revive with the very idea of the peace and beauty of our island home.

The scene at the harbor and all round Rockburg was full of merriment as the company took in its many sights. At length, we all sat down to talk. But the young people were again soon roaming about our lawns and avenues.

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