Swiss Family Robinson Chapters 13 and 14

Chapter 13

The next morning, all were engaged in archery: I completed the bow for Francis, and at his particular request made him a quiver too. The delicate bark of a tree, united by glue, obtained from our portable soup, formed an admirable quiver; this I suspended by a string round the neck of my boy, furnished with arrows; then taking his bow in his hand, he was as proud as a knight armed at all points.

After dinner, I proposed that we should give names to all the parts of our island known to us, in order that, by a pleasing delusion, we might fancy ourselves in an inhabited country. My proposal was well received, and then began the discussion of names. Jack wished for something high-sounding and difficult, such as Monomotapa or Zanguebar; very difficult words, to puzzle any one that visited our island. But I objected to this, as we were the most likely to have to use the names ourselves, and we should suffer from it. I rather suggested that we should give, in our own language, such simple names as should point out some circumstance connected with the spot. I proposed we should begin with the bay where we landed, and called on Fritz for his name.

The Bay of Oysters” said he, “we found so many there.”

“Oh, no!” said Jack, “let it be Lobster Bay; for there I was caught by the leg.”




“Then we ought to call it the Bay of Tears,” said Ernest, “to commemorate those you shed on the occasion.”

“My advice,” said my wife, “is, that in gratitude to God we should name it Safety Bay.”

We were all pleased with this name, and proceeded to give the name of Tent House to our first abode; Shark Island, to the little island in the bay, where we had found that animal; and, at Jack’s desire, the marshy spot where we had cut our arrows was named Flamingo Marsh. There the height from which we had vainly sought traces of our shipmates, received the name of Cape Disappointment. The river was to be Jackal River, and the bridge,Family Bridge. The most difficult point was, to name our present abode. At last we agreed on the name of Falcon’s Nest (in German Falken-hoist). This was received with acclamations, and I poured out for my young nestlings each a glass of sweet wine, to drink Prosperity to Falcon’s Nest. We thus laid the foundation of the geography of our new country, promising to forward it to Europe by the first post.

After dinner, my sons returned to their occupation as tanners, Fritz to complete his belt, and Jack to make a sort of cuirass, of the formidable skin of the porcupine, to protect the dogs. He finished by making a sort of helmet from the head of the animal, as strange as the cuirasses.

The heat of the day being over, we prepared to set out to walk to Tent House, to renew our stock of provisions, and endeavor to bring the geese and ducks to our new residence; but, instead of going by the coast, we proposed to go up the river till we reached the chain of rocks, and continue under their shade till we got to the cascade, where we could cross, and return by Family Bridge.

This was approved, and we set out. Fritz, decorated with his beautiful belt of skin, Jack in his porcupine helmet. Each had a gun and game-bag; except Francis, who, with his pretty fair face, his golden hair, and his bow and quiver, was a perfect Cupid. My wife was loaded with a large butter-pot for a fresh supply. Turk walked before us with his coat of mail, and Flora followed, keeping at a respectful distance from him, for fear of the darts. Knips, as my boys called the monkey, finding this new saddle very inconvenient, jumped off, with many contortions, but soon fixed on Flora, who, not being able to shake him off, was compelled to become his palfrey.

The road by the river was smooth and pleasant. When we reached the end of the wood, the country seemed more open; and now the boys, who had been rambling about, came running up, out of breath; Ernest was holding a plant with leaves and flowers, and green apples hanging on it.

“Potatoes!” said he; “I am certain they are potatoes!”

“God be praised,” said I; “this precious plant will secure provision for our colony.”

“Well,” said Jack, “if his superior knowledge discovered them, I will be the first to dig them up;” and he set to work so ardently, that we had soon a bag of fine ripe potatoes, which we carried on to Tent House.


Chapter 14

We had been much delighted with the new and lovely scenery of our road: the prickly cactus, and aloe, with its white flowers; the Indian fig; the white and yellow jasmine; the fragrant vanilla, throwing round its graceful festoons. Above all, the regal pineapple grew in profusion, and we feasted on it, for the first time, with avidity.

Among the prickly stalks of the cactus and aloes, I perceived a plant with large pointed leaves, which I knew to be the karata. I pointed out to the boys its beautiful red flowers; the leaves are an excellent application to wounds, and thread is made from the filaments, and the pith of the stem is used by the native tribes for tinder.

When I showed the boys, by experiment, the use of the pith, they thought the tinder-tree would be almost as useful as the potatoes.

“At all events,” I said, “it will be more useful than the pine-apples; your mother will be thankful for thread, when her enchanted bag is exhausted.”

“How happy it is for us,” said she, “that you have devoted yourself to reading and study. In our ignorance we might have passed this treasure, without suspecting its value.”

Fritz inquired of what use in the world all the rest of these prickly plants could be, which wounded every one that came near.

“All these have their use, Fritz,” said I; “some contain juices and gums, which are daily made use of in medicine; others are useful in the arts, or in manufactures. The Indian fig, for instance, is a most interesting tree. It grows in the most arid soil. The fruit is said to be sweet and wholesome.”

In a moment, my little active Jack was climbing the rocks to gather some of these figs; but he had not remarked that they were covered with thousands of slender thorns, finer than the finest needles, which terribly wounded his fingers. He returned, weeping bitterly and dancing with pain. Having rallied him a little for his greediness, I extracted the thorns, and then showed him how to open the fruit, by first cutting off the pointed end, as it lay on the ground; into this I fixed a piece of stick, and then pared it with my knife. The novelty of the expedient recommended it, and they were soon all engaged eating the fruit, which they declared was very good.

In the mean time, I saw Ernest examining one of the figs very attentively. “Oh! papa!” said he, “what a singular sight; the fig is covered with a small red insect. I cannot shake them off.” I recognized at once the precious insect, of which I explained to my sons the nature and use. “It is with this insect,” said I, “that the beautiful and rich scarlet dye is made. It is found in America, and the Europeans give its weight in gold for it.”

Thus discoursing on the wonders of nature, and the necessity of increasing our knowledge by observation and study, we arrived at Tent House, and found it in the same state as we left it.

We all began to collect necessaries. Fritz loaded himself with powder and shot, I opened the butter-cask, and my wife and little Francis filled the pot. Ernest and Jack went to try and secure the geese and ducks; but they had become so wild that it would have been impossible, if Ernest had not thought of an expedient. He tied pieces of cheese, for bait, to threads, which he floated on the water. The voracious creatures immediately swallowed the cheese and were drawn out by the thread. They were then securely tied, and fastened to the game-bags, to be carried home on our backs. As the bait could not be recovered, the boys contented themselves with cutting off the string close to the beak, leaving them to digest the rest.

Our bags were already loaded with potatoes, but we filled up the spaces between them with salt; and, having relieved Turk of his armour, we placed the heaviest on his back. I took the butter-pot; and, after replacing everything, and closing our tent, we resumed our march, with our ludicrous incumbrances. The geese and ducks were very noisy in their adieu to their old marsh; the dogs barked; and we all laughed so excessively, that we forgot our burdens till we sat down again under our tree. My wife soon had her pot of potatoes on the fire. She then milked the cow and goat, while I set the fowls at liberty on the banks of the river. We then sat down to a smoking dish of potatoes, a jug of milk, and butter and cheese. After supper we had prayers, thanking God especially for his new benefits; and we then sought our repose among the leaves.

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