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Chapter 34

  • We entered our apartment literally as if we had come out of the sea, and _ound my poor Elizabeth much agitated. "Heaven be praised!" said she; "bu_here is Jack, that rash little fellow?"
  • "Here I am, mamma," said he, "as dry as when I left you. I have left my dres_elow, that I might not terrify you; for if Mr. Fritz had had his gun, I migh_ave 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 suffe_s to come near her till we had changed our drenched garments. To oblige her,
  • we retired to a little closet I had contrived between two thick branches a_he top of the staircase, which was used to contain our chests of linen, ou_resses, and our provisions. Our dress was soon changed; we hung up the we_arments, and I returned to my companion, who was suffering from her foot, bu_till more from a frightful headache. She had a burning fever. I conclude_hat bleeding was urgently needed, but commenced by assuaging her thirst wit_ome lemonade. I then opened my box of surgical instruments, and approache_he opening to the east which served us for a window, and which we could clos_y means of a curtain, that was now entirely raised to give air to our dea_nvalid, and to amuse my children, who were watching the storm. The might_aves that broke against the rocks, the vivid lightning bursting through th_astles of murky clouds, the majestic and incessant rolling of the thunder,
  • formed one of those enchanting spectacles to which they had been from infanc_ccustomed. As in the Swiss mountains we are liable to frightful storms, t_hich it is necessary to familiarize oneself, as one cannot avoid them, I ha_ccustomed my wife and children, by my own example, to behold, not onl_ithout fear, but even with admiration, these great shocks of th_lements,—these convulsions of nature.
  • I had opened the chest, and my children had directed their attention to th_nstruments it contained; the first were a little rusty, and I handed them t_rnest, who, after examining them, placed them on a table inside the window. _as searching for a lancet in good condition, when a clap of thunder, such a_ had never heard in my life, terrified us all so much, that we nearly fel_own. This burst of thunder had not been preceded by any lightning, but wa_ccompanied by two immense forked columns of fire, which seemed to stretc_rom the sky to our very feet. We all cried out, even my poor wife; but th_ilence of terror succeeded, and seemed to be the silence of death. I flew t_he bedside, and found my dear patient in a state of total insensibility. _as convinced that she was dead, and I was dumb with despair. I was rouse_rom my stupor by the voice of my children. I then remembered that I had no_ost all: there still remained duties to fulfil, and affection to console me.
  • "My children," cried I, extending my arms to them, "come and comfort you_nfortunate father: come and lament with him the best of wives and mothers."
  • Terrified at the appearance of their mother, they surrounded her bed, callin_n her in piercing accents. At that moment I saw my little Francis wa_issing, and my grief was augmented by the fear that he had been killed by th_ightning. I hastily turned to the window, expecting to find my child dead,
  • and our dwelling in flames. Fortunately, all was safe; but, in my distraction,
  • I scarcely thanked God for His mercy, at the very moment even when h_raciously restored to me my lost treasures. Francis, frightened by the storm,
  • had hidden himself in his mother's bed, and fallen asleep; awaked by th_hunder, he had not dared to move, fearing it announced the arrival of th_avages; but at last, the cries of his brothers roused him, and raising hi_retty fair head, supposing his mother sleeping, he flung his arms round he_eck, saying, "Wake, mamma, we are all here,—papa, my brothers, and the storm,
  • too, which is very beautiful, but frightens me. Open your eyes, mamma; look a_he bright lightning, and kiss your little Francis." Either his sweet voice,
  • or the cries of her elder children, restored her faculties: she graduall_ecovered, and called me to her. The excess of my joy threatened to be almos_s fatal as my grief. With difficulty I controlled my own feelings and thos_f my boys; and, after I had sent them from the bed, I ascertained that sh_as not only really living, but much better. The pulse was calm, and the feve_ad subsided, leaving only a weakness that was by no means alarming. _elinquished, joyfully, the intention of bleeding her, the necessity of whic_ had trembled to contemplate, and contented myself with employing the boys t_repare a cooling mixture, composed of the juice of the lemon, of barley, an_amarinds, which they completed to the great satisfaction of their mother. _hen ordered Fritz to descend to the yard, to kill a fowl, pluck and boil it,
  • to make broth,—a wholesome and light nourishment for our dear invalid. I tol_ne of his brothers to assist him, and Jack and Francis, frequently employe_nder their mother, were ready in a moment. Ernest alone remained quietly o_is seat, which I attributed to his usual indolence, and tried to make hi_shamed of it. "Ernest," said I, "you are not very anxious to oblige you_other; you sit as if the thunderbolt had struck you."
  • "It has, indeed, rendered me unfit to be of any service to my good mother,"
  • said he, quietly; and, drawing his right hand from under his waistcoat, h_howed it to me, most frightfully black and burnt.
  • This dear child, who must have suffered very much, had never uttered _omplaint, for fear of alarming his mother; and even now he made a sign to m_o be silent, lest she should hear, and discover the truth. She soon, however,
  • fell into a sleep, which enabled me to attend to poor Ernest, and to questio_im about the accident. I learned that a long and pointed steel instrument,
  • which he was examining near the large window, stooping over it to see i_etter, had attracted the lightning, which, falling partly on the hand i_hich he held it, had caused the misfortune. There were traces on his arm o_he electric fire, and his hair was burnt on one side. By what miracle th_lectric fluid had been diverted, and how we, dwelling in a tree, had bee_reserved from a sudden and general conflagration, I knew not. My son assure_e he had seen the fire run along the instrument he held, and from thence fal_erpendicularly to the earth, where it seemed to burst with a secon_xplosion. I was impatient to examine this phenomenon, and to see if any othe_races were left, except those on the hand of my son, which it was necessary,
  • in the first place, to attend to. I remembered frequently to have applied wit_uccess in burns the most simple and easy of remedies, which everybody ca_ommand: this is, to bathe the hand affected in cold water, taking care t_enew it every eight or ten minutes. I placed Ernest between two tubs of col_ater, and, exhorting him to patience and perseverance, I left him to bath_is hand, and approached the opening, to try and discover what had preserve_s, by averting the direction of the lightning, which one might have expecte_ould have killed my son, and destroyed our dwelling. I saw only some ligh_races on the table; but, on looking more attentively, I found that th_reater part of the surgical instruments which Ernest had placed upon it wer_ither melted or much damaged. In examining them separately, I remarked on_uch longer than the rest, which projected beyond the edge of the table, an_as much marked by the fire. I could not easily take it up; it had adhere_omewhat in melting, and, in endeavouring to disengage it, I saw that th_oint, which was beyond the opening, touched a thick wire, which seemed to b_uspended from the roof of our tent. All was now explained to me; except tha_ could in no way account for this wire, placed expressly to serve as _onductor for the lightning. It seemed to be the work of magic. The evenin_as too far advanced for me to distinguish how it was fastened, and what fixe_t below; therefore, enjoining Ernest to call loudly if he needed me, _astened down. I saw my three cooks very busy, as I passed through, preparin_he broth for their mother—they assured me it would be excellent. Frit_oasted that he had killed the fowl with all speed, Jack that he had plucke_t without tearing it much, and Francis that he had lighted and kept up th_ire. They had nothing to employ them just then, and I took them with me t_ave some one to talk to on the phenomenon of the lightning. Below the windo_ found a large packet of iron wire, which I had brought from Tent House som_ays before, intending on some leisure day to make a sort of grating befor_ur poultry-yard. By what chance was it here, and hooked by one end to th_oof of our house? Some time before I had replaced our cloth canopy by a sor_f roof covered with bark nailed upon laths; the cloth still enclosed th_ides and front; all was so inflammable, that, but for the providentia_onductor, we must have been in flames in an instant. I thanked God for ou_reservation; and little Francis, seeing me so happy, said—
  • "Is it quite true, papa, that this wire has preserved us?"
  • "Yes, it is true, my darling; and I wish to know what good genius has place_t there, that I may be thankful," said I.
  • "Ah! father," said my little fellow, "embrace me, but do not thank me; for _id not know that I was doing good."
  • Astonished at this information, I requested my boy to tell me why and how h_ad fixed the wire?
  • "I wanted to reach some figs," said he, "when you and Fritz were at Ten_ouse, and Jack and Ernest were nursing mamma; I wished to do some good fo_er. I thought she would like some of our sweet figs; but there were none i_y reach, and I had no stick long enough to beat them down. I went below, an_ound that great roll of wire. I tried to break a piece off, but could not;
  • and I then determined to carry the whole up to our dwelling, and to bend on_nd into a hook, by which I might catch some of the branches, and bring the_ear me to gather the figs. I was very successful at first, and secured one o_wo figs. I had my packet of wire on the table by the window, and stood nea_t myself. I thought I could reach a branch that hung over our roof, loade_ith fruit. I leaned forward, and extended my hook to the branch; I felt I ha_ecured it, and joyfully began to pull. You know, papa, they bend, and don'_reak; but it remained immovable, as well as my hook, which was held by one o_he laths of the roof. I pulled with all my strength, and, in my efforts, _truck my foot against the roll of wire, which fell down to the ground withou_etaching the hook. You may judge how firm it is, for it is no trifling lea_rom our house to the ground."
  • "A good work, indeed, my boy," said I, "is yours, for it has saved us. God ha_nspired you, and has made use of the hand of a child for our preservation.
  • Your conductor shall remain where you have so happily placed it; we may stil_ave need of it. The sky still looks very threatening; let us return to you_other, and take a light with us."
  • I had contrived a sort of portable lantern, made of isinglass, which lighte_s in our offices. Moreover, a calibash pierced with small holes, with _andle inside, was placed at the top of the winding staircase, and lighted i_ntirely, so that we were able to descend without danger by night as w ell a_y day. I was, however, uneasy about the way we should bring my wife down, i_e found it necessary to remove her during her sickness; I named it to Fritz.
  • "Have no uneasiness, father," said he, "Ernest and I are very strong now, an_e can carry mamma like a feather."
  • "You and I might, my dear boy," said I; "but Ernest cannot be of muc_ssistance to us at present."
  • I then related his misfortune to them. They were distressed and astonished,
  • not comprehending the cause, which I promised to explain. They wished now,
  • however, to see their brother. Fritz then requested, in a low tone of voice,
  • that he might go to Tent House, to see if the vessel and the captain ha_rrived. Seeing his brothers listening with curiosity, I thought it best t_ell them the affair, requesting them, however, not to name it to their mothe_t present. Jack, who was now about fourteen years of age, listened with th_ost intense interest, his eyes sparkling with joy and surprise.
  • "A vessel!—people from Europe! Do you think they have come to seek us? Perhap_hey are our relations and friends."
  • "How glad should I be," said Francis, "if my good grandmamma were there; sh_oved me so much, and was always giving me sweetmeats." This was the mother o_y dear wife, from whom she had parted with extreme regret; I knew that _ingle word from the child would have revived all her sorrows, and would i_er present state be dangerous. I therefore forbade him naming such a thing t_is mother, even if we mentioned the vessel.
  • We ascended, and found our dear patient awake, with Ernest at her side, hi_and tied up, and somewhat relieved; though, from not having applied the wate_mmediately, there were several blisters, which he requested me to open. I_as necessary to tell his mother he had had a burn; she named severa_emedies, and I was hesitating which to use, when Fritz, giving me _ignificant glance, said, "Don't you think, father, that the leaves of th_arata, which cured Jack's leg so well, would be is serviceable to Ernest'_and?"
  • "I have no doubt of it," said I; "but we have none here."
  • "I know very well where they grow," said he. "Come, Jack, we shall soon b_here; we shall have a little rain, but what of that? we shall not be melted,
  • and we can have a bath."
  • My wife was divided between her desire to relieve Ernest, and her fear of th_oys venturing out in such a stormy night. She agreed at last, provided Jac_ad my cloak, and Fritz the boots, and that they should take the lantern. Thu_quipped, they set out; I accompanied them outside the tree; Fritz assuring m_hey would be back in three hours, at most. He intended to proceed along th_ocks towards Tent House, to make what observations he could; for, as he tol_e, he could not get the poor captain and his vessel out of his head. It wa_ow seven o'clock; I gave them my blessing, and left them with injunctions t_e prudent, and returned with an anxious heart to my invalids.