Swiss Family Robinson Chapter 58

I must conclude my journal here. We can scarcely be more happy than we are, and I feel no cares about my children. Fritz is so fond of the chase and of mechanics, and Ernest of study, that they will not wish to marry; but I please myself by hoping at some time to see my dear Jack and Francis happily united to Sophia and Matilda. What remains for me to tell? The details of happiness, however sweet in enjoyment, are often tedious in recital.

I will only add, that after passing a few days with us, Mr. Willis returned to his charge, promising to visit us, and eventually to join us. The Grotto Ernestine, fitted up by Fritz and Parabery, made a pretty abode for Madame Hirtel and her daughters, and the two islanders. Minouminou did not leave his young mammas, and was very useful to them. I must state, also, that my son Ernest, without abandoning the study of natural history, applied himself to astronomy, and mounted the large telescope belonging to the ship; he acquired considerable knowledge of this sublime science, which his mother, however, considered somewhat useless. The course of the other planets did not interest her, so long as all went on well in that which she inhabited; and nothing now was wanting to her happiness, surrounded as she was by friends.

The following year we had a visit from a Russian vessel, the Neva, commanded by Captain Krusenstern, a countryman and distant relation of mine. The celebrated Horner, of Zurich, accompanied him as astronomer. Having read the first part of our journal, sent into Europe by Captain Johnson, he had come purposely to see us. Delighted with our establishment, he did not advise us to quit it. Captain Krusenstern invited us to take a passage in his vessel; we declined his offer; but my wife, though she renounced her country for ever, was glad of the opportunity of making inquiries about her relations and friends. As she had concluded, her good mother had died some years before, blessing her absent children. My wife shed some tears, but was consoled by the certainty of her mother’s eternal felicity, and the hope of their meeting in futurity.

One of her brothers was also dead; he had left a daughter, to whom my wife had always been attached, though she was very young when we left. Henrietta Bodmer was now sixteen, and, Mr. Horner assured us, a most amiable girl. My wife wished much to have her with us.

Ernest would not leave Mr. Horner a moment, he was so delighted to meet with one so eminently skilful in his favourite science. Astronomy made them such friends, that Mr. Horner petitioned me to allow him to take my son to Europe, promising to bring him back himself in a few years. This was a great trial to us, but I felt that his taste for science required a larger field than our island. His mother was reluctant to part with him, but consoled herself with a notion, that he might bring his cousin Henrietta back with him.

Many tears were shed at our parting; indeed, the grief of his mother was so intense, that my son seemed almost inclined to give up his inclination; but Mr. Horner made some observations about the transit of Venus, so interesting that Ernest could not resist. He left us, promising to bring us back everything we wished for. In the mean time Captain Krusenstern left us a good supply of powder, provisions, seeds, and some capital tools, to the great delight of Fritz and Jack. They regretted their brother greatly, but diverted their minds from sorrow by application to mechanics, assisted by the intelligent Parabery. They have already succeeded in constructing, near the cascade, a corn-mill and a saw-mill, and have built a very good oven.

We miss Ernest very much. Though his taste for study withdrew him a good deal from us, and he was not so useful as his brothers, we found his calm and considerate advice often of value, and his mildness always spread a charm over our circle, in joy or in trouble.

Except this little affliction, we are very happy. Our labours are divided regularly. Fritz and Jack manage the Board of Works. They have opened a passage through the rock which divided us from the other side of the island; thus doubling our domain and our riches. At the same time, they formed a dwelling for Madame Hirtel near our own, from the same excavation in the rock. Fritz took great pains with it; the windows are made of oiled paper instead of glass; but we usually assemble in our large work-room, which is very well lighted.

Francis has the charge of our flocks and of the poultry, all greatly increased. For me, I preside over the grand work of agriculture. The two mothers, their two daughters, and Canda, manage the garden, spin, weave, take care of our clothes, and attend to household matters. Thus we all work, and everything prospers. Several families of the natives, pupils of Mr. Willis, have obtained leave, through him, to join us, and are settled at Falcon’s Nest, and at the Farm. These people assist us in the cultivation of our ground, and our dear missionary in the cultivation of our souls. Nothing is wanting to complete our happiness but the return of dear Ernest.

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