Swiss Family Robinson Chapter 10

Chapter 10

After dinner, as I found we could not ascend at present, I suspended our hammocks under the arched roots of our tree, and, covering the whole with sailcloth, we had a shelter from the dew and the insects.

While my wife was employed making harness for the cow and ass, I went with my sons to the shore, to look for wood fit for our use next day. We saw a great quantity of wreck, but none fit for our purpose, till Ernest met with a heap of bamboo canes, half buried in sand and mud. These were exactly what I wanted. I drew them out of the sand, stripped them of their leaves, cut them in pieces of about four or five feet long, and my sons each made up a bundle to carry home. I then set out to seek some slender stalks to make arrows, which I should need in my project.

I now ordered Fritz to measure our strong cord, and the little ones to collect all the small string, and wind it. I then took a strong bamboo and made a bow of it, and some arrows of the slender canes, filling them with wet sand to give them weight, and feathering them from the dead flamingo. As soon as my work was completed, the boys crowded round me, all begging to try the bow and arrows. I begged them to be patient, and asked my wife to supply me with a ball of thick strong thread. The enchanted bag did not fail us; the very ball I wanted appeared at her summons. This, my little ones declared, must be magic; but I explained to them, that prudence, foresight, and presence of mind in danger, such as their good mother had displayed, produced more miracles than magic.

I then tied the end of the ball of thread to one of my arrows, fixed it in my bow, and sent it directly over one of the thickest of the lower branches of the tree, and, falling to the ground, it drew the thread after it. Charmed with this result, I hastened to complete my ladder. Fritz had measured our ropes, and found two of forty feet each, exactly what I wanted. These I stretched on the ground at about one foot distance from each other; Fritz cut pieces of cane two feet long, which Ernest passed to me. I placed these in knots which I had made in the cords, at about a foot distance from each other, and Jack fastened each end with a long nail, to prevent it slipping. In a very short time our ladder was completed; and, tying it to the end of the cord which went over the branch, we drew it up without difficulty. All the boys were anxious to ascend; but I chose Jack, as the lightest and most active. Accordingly, he ascended, while his brothers and myself held the ladder firm by the end of the cord. Fritz followed him, conveying a bag with nails and hammer. They were soon perched on the branches, huzzaing to us.

Fritz secured the ladder so firmly to the branch, that I had no hesitation in ascending myself. I carried with me a large pulley fixed to the end of a rope, which I attached to a branch above us, to enable us to raise the planks necessary to form the groundwork of our habitation. I smoothed the branches a little by aid of my axe, sending the boys down to be out of my way. After completing my day’s work, I descended by the light of the moon, and was alarmed to find that Fritz and Jack were not below; and still more so, when I heard their clear, sweet voices, at the summit of the tree, singing the evening hymn, as if to sanctify our future abode. They had climbed the tree, instead of descending, and, filled with wonder and reverence at the sublime view below them, had burst out into the hymn of thanksgiving to God.

I could not scold my dear boys, when they descended, but directed them to assemble the animals, and to collect wood, to keep up fires during the night, in order to drive away any wild beasts that might be near.

My wife then displayed her work, complete harness for our two beasts of burden, and, in return, I promised her we would establish ourselves next day in the tree. Supper was now ready, one piece of the porcupine was roasted by the fire, smelling deliciously; another piece formed a rich soup; a cloth was spread on the turf; the ham, cheese, butter, and biscuits, were placed upon it.

My wife first assembled the fowls, by throwing some grain to them, to accustom them to the place. We soon saw the pigeons fly to roost on the higher branches of the trees, while the fowls perched on the ladder; the beasts we tied to the roots, close to us. Now, that our cares were over, we sat down to a merry and excellent repast by moonlight. Then, after the prayers of the evening, I kindled our watch-fires, and we all lay down to rest in our hammocks. The boys were rather discontented, and complained of their cramped position, longing for the freedom of their beds of moss; but I instructed them to lie, as the sailors do, diagonally, and swinging the hammock, and told them that brave Swiss boys might sleep as the sailors of all nations were compelled to sleep. After some stifled sighs and groans, all sank to rest except myself, kept awake by anxiety for the safety of the rest.

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