Johann David Wyss.

The Swiss Family Robinson; or Adventures in a Desert Island online

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"Here, my children," cried I, "here we will build our summer house. This
is truly Arcadia." Here we placed our tent, and immediately began to
erect a new building, formed in the same manner as the Farm House, but
now executed more quickly. We raised the roof in the middle, and made
four sloped sides. The interior was divided into eating and sleeping
apartments, stables, and a store-room for provisions; the whole was
completed and provisioned in ten days; and we had now another mansion
for ourselves, and a shelter for new colonies of animals. This new
erection received the name of Prospect Hill, to gratify Ernest, who
thought it had an English appearance.

However, the end for which our expedition was planned was not yet
fulfilled. I had not yet met with a tree likely to suit me for a boat.
We returned then to inspect the trees, and I fixed on a sort of oak, the
bark of which was closer than that of the European oak, resembling more
that of the cork-tree. The trunk was at least five feet in diameter, and
I fancied its coating, if I could obtain it whole, would perfectly
answer my purpose. I traced a circle at the foot, and with a small saw
cut the bark entirely through; Fritz, by means of the rope ladder we had
brought with us, and attached to the lower branches of the tree,
ascended, and cut a similar circle eighteen feet above mine. We then cut
out, perpendicularly, a slip the whole length, and, removing it, we had
room to insert the necessary tools, and, with wedges, we finally
succeeded in loosening the whole. The first part was easy enough, but
there was greater difficulty as we advanced. We sustained it as we
proceeded with ropes, and then gently let it down on the grass. I
immediately began to form my boat while the bark was fresh and flexible.
My sons, in their impatience, thought it would do very well if we nailed
a board at each end of the roll; but this would have been merely a heavy
trough, inelegant and unserviceable; I wished to have one that would
look well by the side of the pinnace; and this idea at once rendered my
boys patient and obedient. We began by cutting out at each end of the
roll of bark a triangular piece of about five feet long; then, placing
the sloping parts one over the other, I united them with pegs and strong
glue, and thus finished the ends of my boat in a pointed form. This
operation having widened it too much in the middle, we passed strong
ropes round it, and drew it into the form we required. We then exposed
it to the sun, which dried and fixed it in the proper shape.

As many things were necessary to complete my work, I sent Fritz and Jack
to Tent House for the sledge, to convey it there, that we might finish
it more conveniently. I had the good fortune to meet with some very
hard, crooked wood, the natural curve of which would be admirably
suitable for supporting the sides of the boat. We found also a resinous
tree, which distilled a sort of pitch, easy to manage, and which soon
hardened in the sun. My wife and Francis collected sufficient of it for
my work. It was almost night when our two messengers returned. We had
only time to sup and retire to our rest.

We were all early at work next morning. We loaded the sledge, placing on
it the canoe, the wood for the sides, the pitch, and some young trees,
which I had transplanted for our plantation at Tent House, and which we
put into the boat. But, before we set out, I wished to erect a sort of
fortification at the pass of the rock, for the double purpose of
securing us against the attacks of wild beasts or of savages, and for
keeping enclosed, in the savannah beyond the rocks, some young pigs,
that we wished to multiply there, out of the way of our fields and

As we crossed the sugar-cane plantation, I saw some bamboos larger than
any I had ever met with, and we cut down one for a mast to our canoe. We
now had the river to our left, and the chain of rocks to our right,
which here approached the river, leaving only a narrow pass. At the
narrowest part of this we raised a rampart before a deep ditch, which
could only be crossed by a drawbridge we placed there. Beyond the
bridge, we put a narrow gate of woven bamboos, to enable us to enter the
country beyond, when we wished. We planted the side of the rampart with
dwarf palms, India fig, and other thorny shrubs, making a winding path
through the plantation, and digging in the midst a hidden pitfall, known
to ourselves by four low posts, intended to support a plank bridge when
we wished to cross it. After this was completed, we built a little
_chalet_ of bark in that part of the plantation that faced the stream,
and gave it the name of the Hermitage, intending it for a
resting-place. After several days of hard labour, we returned to
Prospect Hill, and took a little relaxation. The only work we did was to
prepare the mast, and lay it on the sledge with the rest.

The next morning we returned to Tent House, where we immediately set to
work on our canoe with such diligence that it was soon completed. It was
solid and elegant, lined through with wood, and furnished with a keel.
We provided it with brass rings for the oars, and stays for the mast.
Instead of ballast, I laid at the bottom a layer of stones covered with
clay, and over this a flooring of boards. The benches for the rowers
were laid across, and in the midst the bamboo mast rose majestically,
with a triangular sail. Behind I fixed the rudder, worked by a tiller;
and I could boast now of having built a capital canoe.

Our fleet was now in good condition. For distant excursions we could
take the pinnace, but the canoe would be invaluable for the
coasting service.

Our cow had, in the mean time, given us a young male calf, which I
undertook to train for service, as I had done the buffalo, beginning by
piercing its nostrils; and the calf promised to be docile and useful;
and, as each of the other boys had his favourite animal to ride, I
bestowed the bull on Francis, and intrusted him with its education, to
encourage him to habits of boldness and activity. He was delighted with
his new charger, and chose to give him the name of Valiant.

We had still two months before the rainy season, and this time we
devoted to completing the comforts of our grotto. We made all the
partitions of wood, except those which divided us from the stables,
which we built of stone, to exclude any smell from the animals. We soon
acquired skill in our works; we had a plentiful supply of beams and
planks from the ship; and by practice we became very good plasterers. We
covered the floors with a sort of well-beaten mud, smoothed it, and it
dried perfectly hard. We then contrived a sort of felt carpet. We first
covered the floor with sailcloth; we spread over this wool and goats'
hair mixed, and poured over it isinglass dissolved, rolling up the
carpet, and beating it well. When this was dry, we repeated the process,
and in the end had a felt carpet. We made one of these for each room, to
guard against any damp that we might be subject to in the rainy season.

The privations we had suffered the preceding winter increased the
enjoyment of our present comforts. The rainy season came on; we had now
a warm, well-lighted, convenient habitation, and abundance of excellent
provision for ourselves and our cattle. In the morning, we could attend
to their wants without trouble, for the rain-water, carefully collected
in clean vessels, prevented the necessity of going to the river. We then
assembled in the dining-room to prayers. After that we went to our
work-room. My wife took her wheel, or her loom, which was a rude
construction of mine, but in which she had contrived to weave some
useful cloth of wool and cotton, and also some linen, which she had made
up for us. Everybody worked; the workshop was never empty. I contrived,
with the wheel of a gun, to arrange a sort of lathe, by means of which
I and my sons produced some neat furniture and utensils. Ernest
surpassed us all in this art, and made some elegant little things for
his mother.

After dinner, our evening occupations commenced; our room was lighted up
brilliantly; we did not spare our candles, which were so easily
procured, and we enjoyed the reflection in the elegant crystals above
us. We had partitioned off a little chapel in one corner of the grotto,
which we had left untouched, and nothing could be more magnificent than
this chapel lighted up, with its colonnades, portico, and altars. We had
divine service here every Sunday. I had erected a sort of pulpit, from
which I delivered a short sermon to my congregation, which I endeavoured
to render as simple and as instructive as possible.

Jack and Francis had a natural taste for music. I made them flageolets
of reeds, on which they acquired considerable skill. They accompanied
their mother, who had a very good voice; and this music in our lofty
grotto had a charming effect.

We had thus made great steps towards civilization; and, though
condemned, perhaps, to pass our lives alone on this unknown shore, we
might yet be happy. We were placed in the midst of abundance. We were
active, industrious, and content; blessed with health, and united by
affection, our minds seemed to enlarge and improve every day. We saw
around us on every side traces of the Divine wisdom and beneficence; and
our hearts overflowed with love and veneration for that Almighty hand
which had so miraculously saved, and continued to protect us. I humbly
trusted in Him, either to restore us to the world, or send some beings
to join us in this beloved island, where for two years we had seen no
trace of man. To Him we committed our fate. We were happy and tranquil,
looking with resignation to the future.


* * * * *


It is necessary to explain how this first part of the journal of the
Swiss pastor came into my hands.

Three or four years after the family had been cast on this desert coast,
where, as we see, they lived a happy and contented life, an English
transport was driven by a storm upon the same shore. This vessel was the
_Adventurer_, Captain Johnson, and was returning from New Zealand to the
eastern coast of North America, by Otaheite, to fetch a cargo of furs
for China, and then to proceed from Canton to England. A violent storm,
which lasted several days, drove them out of their course. For many days
they wandered in unknown seas, and the ship was so injured by the storm,
that the captain looked out for some port to repair it. They discovered
a rocky coast, and, as the violence of the wind was lulled, ventured to
approach the shore. At a short distance they anchored, and sent a boat
to examine the coast. Lieutenant Bell, who went with the boat, knew a
little German. They were some time before they could venture to land
among the rocks which guarded the island, but, turning the promontory,
they saw Safety Bay, and entering it, were astonished to see a handsome
pinnace and boat at anchor, near the strand a tent, and in the rock
doors and windows, like those of a European house.

They landed, and saw a middle-aged man coming to meet them, clothed in
European fashion, and well armed. After a friendly salutation, they
first spoke in German and then in English. This was the good father; the
family were at Falcon's Nest, where they were spending the summer. He
had seen the vessel in the morning through his telescope, but, unwilling
to alarm, or to encourage hopes that might be vain, he had not spoken of
it, but come alone towards the coast.

After much friendly conference, the party were regaled with all
hospitality at Tent House, the good Swiss gave the Lieutenant this first
part of his journal for the perusal of Captain Johnson, and, after an
hour's conversation, they separated, hoping to have a pleasant
meeting next day.

But Heaven decreed it otherwise. During the night, another fearful storm
arose; the _Adventurer_ lost its anchor, and was driven out to sea; and,
after several days of anxiety and danger, found itself so far from the
island, and so much shattered, that all thoughts of returning were given
up for that time, and Captain Johnson reluctantly relinquished the hope
of rescuing the interesting family.

Thus it happened that the first part of this journal was brought to
England, and from thence sent to me, a friend of the family, in
Switzerland, accompanied by a letter from the Captain, declaring, that
he could have no rest till he found, and became acquainted with, this
happy family; that he would search for the island in his future voyages,
and either bring away the family, or, if they preferred to remain, he
would send out from England some colonists, and everything that might be
necessary to promote their comfort. A rough map of the island is added
to the journal, executed by Fritz, the eldest son.

* * * * *



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 ancle; 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 fulness 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

"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, labelled.

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 caoutchouc boots. 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.

* * * * *


We entered our apartment literally as if we had come out of the sea, and
I found my poor Elizabeth much agitated. "Heaven be praised!" said she;
"but where is Jack, that rash little fellow?"

"Here I am, mamma," said he, "as dry as when I left you. I have left my
dress below, that I might not terrify you; for if Mr. Fritz had had his
gun, I might have been shot as a _rhinoceros_, and not been here to tell
you my story."

The good mother then turned her thoughts on Fritz and me, and would not
suffer us to come near her till we had changed our drenched garments. To

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Online LibraryJohann David WyssThe Swiss Family Robinson; or Adventures in a Desert Island → online text (page 13 of 28)