Swiss Family Robinson Chapter 33

Chapter 33

Three or four years after the family was shipwrecked, an English transport ship called The Adventurer returning from New Holland (i.e. the south-east part of what we now know as Australia) was blown by a storm to the island. A boat was sent ashore and took the journal of the Swiss family back to the ship, but was prevented from returning to rescue them. The journal was taken to England and from there to Switzerland. The captain was stated to be determined to return to rescue the family. The beginning of this chapter picks up after this encounter.

I left the reader at the moment in which I had placed the first part of my journal in the hands of Lieutenant Bell, to deliver to Captain Johnson, of the English vessel the Adventurer, expecting him to return the next day with Lieutenant Bell. We separated in this hope, and I thought it necessary to inform my family of this expected visit, which might decide their future lot. My wife and elder sons might wish to seize this only occasion that might occur to revisit their native country to quit their beloved island, which would doubtless cost them much sorrow at the last moment, but was necessary to their future comfort. I could not help feeling distressed at the prospect of my dear children’s solitary old age, and I determined, if they did not wish to return with Captain Johnson, to request him to send some colonists out to people our island.

It will be remembered that I had left home alone, and at an early hour, having perceived a vessel from the top of our tree with my telescope. I had set out without breakfast, without giving my sons their tasks, or making any arrangements for the labours of the day. My conference with Lieutenant Bell had been long; it was now past noon, and knowing how prompt my wife was to alarm herself, I was surprised that I did not meet her, nor any of my sons. I began to be uneasy, and on my arrival I hastily mounted the tree, and found my faithful partner extended on her bed, surrounded by her four sons, and apparently in great pain. I demanded, with a cry of grief, what had happened; all wished to speak at once, and it was with some difficulty I learned, that my dear wife, in descending the staircase, had been seized with a giddiness in her head, and had fallen down and injured herself so much, that she was unable to rise without assistance; she was now enduring great pain in her right leg and in her left foot. “Ernest and I,” added Fritz, “carried her without delay to her bed, though not without difficulty, for the staircase is so narrow; but she continued to get worse, and we did not know what to do.”

Jack. I have rubbed her foot continually, but it swells more and more, as well as her leg, which I dare not touch, it hurts her so much.

Ernest. I remember, father, that of the chests that we brought from the ship there is one unopened, which is marked “medicines,” may it not contain something that will relieve mamma?

Father. Perhaps it may, my son. You did well to remember it; we will go to Tent House for it. Fritz, you shall accompany me to assist in bringing it.

I wished to be alone with Fritz, to consult him about the English vessel, and was glad of this opportunity. Before I left my wife, I intended to examine her leg and foot, which were exceedingly painful. When I was preparing to enter the Church, I had studied medicine and practical surgery, in order to be able to administer to the bodily afflictions of my poor parishioners, as well as to their spiritual sorrows. I knew how to bleed, and could replace a dislocated limb. I had often made cures; but since my arrival at the island I had neglected my medical studies, which happily had not been needed. I hoped now, however, to recall as much of my knowledge as would be sufficient to cure my poor wife. I examined her foot first, which I found to be violently sprained. She begged me then to look at her leg, and what was my distress when I saw it was fractured above the ankle; however, the fracture appeared simple, without splinters, and easy to cure. I sent Fritz without delay to procure me two pieces of the bark of a tree, between which I placed the leg, after having, with the assistance of my son, stretched it till the two pieces of broken bone united; I then bound it with bandages of linen, and tied the pieces of bark round the leg, so that it might not be moved. I bound the sprained foot very tightly, till I could procure the balsam which I expected to find in the chest. I felt assured, that the giddiness of the head, which had caused her fall, proceeded from some existing cause, which I suspected, from the pulse and the complexion, must be a fullness of blood; and it appeared to be necessary to take away some ounces, which I persuaded her to allow me to do, when I should have brought my medicine-chest and instruments from Tent House. I left her, with many charges, to the care of my three younger sons, and proceeded to Tent House with Fritz, to whom I now related my morning adventure, and consulted him how we should mention it to his mother. Fritz was astonished. I saw how his mind was employed; he looked round on our fields and plantations, increasing and prospering.

“We must not tell her, father,” said he. “I will be at Tent House early in the morning; you must give me some commission to execute; I will await the arrival of the Captain, and tell him that my dear mother is ill, and that he may return as he came.”

“You speak rashly, Fritz,” answered I. “I have told you that this ship has suffered much from the storm, and needs repairs. Have you not often read the golden rule of our divine Master, Do unto others as you would have others do unto you? Our duty is to receive the Captain into our island, and to assist him in repairing and refitting his vessel.”

“And he will find,” said he, “we know something of that kind of work. Did you show him our beautiful pinnace and canoe? But can such a large vessel enter our Bay of Safety?”

“No,” replied I; “I fear there will not be sufficient water; but we will show the captain the large bay at the other end of the island, formed by Cape Disappointment; he will find there a beautiful harbour.”

“And he and his officers may live at the farm, and we can go over every day to assist in repairing their vessel,” continued Fritz.

“Very well,” said I; “and when it is finished, he will, in return, give us a place in it to return to Europe.”

“To return to Europe, father!” cried he; “to leave our beautiful winter dwelling, Tent House, and our charming summer residence, Falcon’s Nest; our dear, good animals; our crystals of salt; our farms; so much that is our own, and which nobody covets, to return into Europe to poverty, to war, to those wicked soldiers who have banished us! We want nothing. Dear father, can you consent to leave our beloved island?”

“You are right, my dear son,” said I. “Would to God we might always remain here happily together; but we are of different ages, and by the law of nature we must one day be separated. Consider, my dear son, if you should survive your brothers, how cheerless it would be to live quite alone on this desert island, without any one to close your eyes. But let us look at these trees; I see they are tamarind-trees; their fruit contains a pulp which is very useful in medicine, and which will suit your mother, I think, as well as the juice of the orange or lemon. We shall find some of the latter at our plantation near Tent House; but, in the mean time, do you climb the tamarind-tree, and gather some of those pods which resemble those of beans, fill one side of the bag with them, the other we will reserve for the oranges and lemons. Not to lose any time, I will go on to Tent House to seek for the two chests, and you can follow me.”

Fritz was up the tamarind-tree in a moment. I crossed Family Bridge, and soon reached the grotto. I lighted a candle, which I always kept ready, entered the magazine, and found the two chests, labeled.

They were neither large nor heavy, and, having tied cords round them for the convenience of carrying them, I proceeded to visit the orange and lemon trees, where I found the fruit sufficiently ripe for lemonade. Fritz came to meet me, with a good supply of tamarinds. We filled the other end of his sack with oranges and lemons. He threw it over his shoulder, and, neither of us being overloaded, we pursued our way homewards very quickly, notwithstanding the heat, which was excessively oppressive, though the sun was hidden under the thick clouds, which entirely concealed the sea from us. Nothing was to be seen but the waves breaking against the rocks. Fritz expressed his fears that a storm was coming on, which might prove fatal to the vessel, and wished to take out the pinnace and endeavour to assist Captain Johnson. Delighted as I felt with his fearless humanity, I could not consent; I reminded him of the situation of his mother. “Forgive me, dear father,” said he; “I had forgotten everything but the poor vessel. But the captain may do as we did, leave his ship between the rocks, and come, with all in the vessel, to establish themselves here. We will give them up a corner of our islands; and if there should be any ladies amongst them, how pleasant it would be for mamma to have a friend!”

The rain now fell in torrents, and we proceeded with great difficulty. After crossing the bridge, we saw at a distance a very extraordinary figure approaching us; we could not ascertain what species of animal it was. It appeared taller than any of the monkeys we had seen, and much larger, of a black or brown colour. We could not distinguish the head, but it seemed to have two thick and moveable horns before it. We had fortunately taken no gun with us, or Fritz would certainly have fired at this singular animal. But as it rapidly approached us, we soon recognized the step, and the cry of pleasure which hailed us. “It is Jack,” we exclaimed; and in fact it was he, who was hurrying to meet us with my large cloak and waterproof caoutchoucboots. I had neglected to take them, and my dear little fellow had volunteered to bring them to Tent House. To protect himself on the way, he had put the cloak on, covering his head with the hood, and my boots being too large for him, he had put one on each arm, which he held up to secure the hood. Conceive what a singular figure he made. Notwithstanding our uneasiness, and our wretched condition, for we were wet to the skin, we could not but laugh heartily at him. I would not consent to use the coverings he had brought; neither Fritz nor I could be worse for the distance we had to go, and Jack was younger and more delicate; I obliged him therefore to retain his curious protection; and asked how he had left his mother. “Very uneasy,” said he, “about you; else I think she must be much better, for her cheeks are very red, and her eyes very bright, and she talks incessantly. She would have come herself to seek you, but could not rise; and when I told her I would come, she bid me be very quick; but when I was coming down stairs, I heard her call me back for fear of the rain and the thunder; I would not hear her, but ran as fast as I could, hoping to reach Tent House. Why did you come back so soon?”

“To spare you half your journey, my brave little man,” said I, hastening on; for Jack’s account of his mother made me uneasy. I perceived she must be labouring under fever, and the blood ascending to her head. My children followed me, and we soon reached the foot of our castle in the air.

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