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Chapter 36

  • "I see, my dear wife," said I, "that you, as well as the rest of my family,
  • are contented to remain on this island, where it seems it is the will of Go_or us to dwell, as it is improbable that in such a tempest Captain Johnso_ould risk approaching the island, if indeed it has not been already fatal t_im. I am impatient to learn if Fritz has any tidings of him; for it was o_he shore near Tent House that he and Jack passed the night."
  • "Well done, my good and courageous boys!" said their mother; "they might a_ny rate have given assistance to them if wrecked."
  • "You are more courageous than I am, my dear Elizabeth," answered I; "I hav_assed the whole night mourning for my children, and you think only of th_ood they might have done to their fellow-creatures."
  • My sons were awake by this time, and I eagerly inquired if they had discovere_ny traces of the vessel. Fritz said they had not; but he feared it woul_ever be able to resist the fury of the tempest.
  • "No, indeed," said Jack; "those mountains of waves, which were not fixture_ike other mountains, came full gallop to swallow up Fritz the great, Jack th_ittle, and their fine canoe."
  • My wife nearly fainted when she heard they had ventured on that terrible sea;
  • and I reminded Fritz that I had forbidden him to do this.
  • "But you have often said to me, papa," said he, "do unto others as you woul_hey should do unto you; and what a happiness it would have been to us, whe_ur vessel was wrecked, if we had seen a canoe!"
  • "With two bold men coming to our assistance," said Jack;—"but go on with you_tory, Fritz."
  • Fritz continued: "We proceeded first to the rocks, and, with some difficulty,
  • and not until Jack had shed some blood in the cause, we secured the karata-
  • leaves, with their ugly thorns at the end. When our sack was full, w_roceeded along the rocks towards Tent House. From this height I tried t_iscover the ship, but the darkness obscured everything. Once I thought _erceived at a great distance a fixed light, which was neither a star nor th_ightning, and which I lost sight of occasionally. We had now arrived at th_ascade, which, from the noise, seemed much swollen by the rain—our grea_tones were quite hidden by a boiling foam. I would have attempted to cross,
  • if I had been alone; but, with Jack on my shoulders, I was afraid of the risk.
  • I therefore prepared to follow the course of the river to Family Bridge. Th_et ground continually brought us on our knees, and with great difficulty w_eached the bridge. But judge of our consternation! the river had risen s_uch that the planks were covered, and, as we conceived, the whole wa_estroyed. I then told Jack to return to Falcon's Nest with the karata-leaves,
  • and I would swim across the river. I returned about a hundred yards up th_tream to find a wider and less rapid part, and easily crossed. Judge of m_urprise when I saw a human figure approaching to meet me; I had no doubt i_as the captain of the vessel, and—"
  • "And it was Captain Jack, _sans peur et sans reproche_ ," said the bold littl_ellow. "I was determined not to return home a poltroon who was afraid of th_ater." When Fritz was gone, I tried the bridge, and soon found there was no_ufficient water over it to risk my being drowned. I took off my boots, whic_ight have made me slip, and my cloak, which was too heavy, and, making _art, I ran with all my strength across, and reached the other side. I put o_y boots, which I had in my hands, and advanced to meet Fritz, who called out,
  • as soon as he saw me, "Is it you, captain?" I tried to say, "Yes, certainly,"
  • in a deep tone, but my laughter betrayed me.
  • "To my great regret;" said Fritz, "I should truly have preferred meetin_aptain Johnson; but I fear he and his people are at the bottom of the sea.
  • After meeting with Jack, we proceeded to Tent House, where we kindled a goo_ire, and dried ourselves a little. We then refreshed ourselves with some win_hich remained on the table where you had entertained the captain, an_roceeded to prepare a signal to inform the vessel we were ready to receiv_hem. We procured a thick bamboo cane from the magazine; I fixed firmly to on_nd of it the large lantern of the fish's bladder you gave us to take; _illed the lamp with oil, and placed in it a thick cotton-wick, which, whe_ighted, was very brilliant. Jack and I then placed it on the shore, at th_ntrance of the bay. We fixed it before the rock, where the land-wind woul_ot reach it, sunk it three or four feet into the ground, steadied it wit_tones, and then went to rest over our fire, after this long and difficul_abour. After drying ourselves a little, we set out on our return, when,
  • looking towards the sea, we were startled by the appearance of the same ligh_e had noticed before; we heard, at the same time, the distant report of _un, which was repeated three or four times at irregular intervals. We wer_ersuaded that it was the vessel calling to us for aid, and, remembering th_ommand of our Saviour, we thought you would forgive our disobedience if w_resented to you in the morning the captain, the lieutenant, and as many a_ur canoe would contain. We entered it then without any fear, for you know ho_ight and well-balanced it is; and, rowing into the bay, the sail was sprea_o the wind, and we had no more trouble. I then took the helm; my own signal-
  • light shone clearly on the shore; and, _except_ for the rain which fell i_orrents, the waves which washed over our canoe, and uneasiness about the shi_nd about you, and our fear that the wind might carry us into the open sea, w_hould have had a delightful little maritime excursion. When we got out of th_ay, I perceived the wind was driving us towards Shark's Island, which, bein_irectly before the bay, forms two entrances to it. I intended to go round it,
  • and disembark there, if possible, that I might look out for some trace of th_hip, but we found this impossible; the sea ran too high; besides, we shoul_ave been unable to moor our canoe, the island not affording a single tree o_nything we could lash it to, and the waves would soon have carried it away.
  • We had now lost sight of the light, and hearing no more signals, I began t_hink on your distress when we did not arrive at the hour we promised. _herefore resolved to return by the other side of the bay, carefully avoidin_he current, which would have carried us into the open sea. I lowered the sai_y means of the ropes you had fixed to it, and we rowed into port. W_arefully moored the canoe, and, without returning to Tent House, took th_oad home. We crossed the bridge as Jack had done, found the water-proof cloa_nd bag of karata-leaves where he had left them, and soon after met Ernest. A_t was daylight, I did not take him for the captain, but knew him immediately,
  • and felt the deepest remorse when I heard from him in what anxiety and anguis_ou had passed the night. Our enterprise was imprudent, and altogethe_seless; but we might have saved life, which would have been an ampl_emuneration. I fear all is hopeless. What do you think, father, of thei_ate?"
  • "I hope they are far from this dangerous coast," said I; "but if still in ou_eighbourhood, we will do all we can to assist them. As soon as the tempest i_ubsided, we will take the pinnace and sail round the island. You have lon_rged me to this, Fritz; and who knows but on the opposite side we may fin_ome traces of our own poor sailors,—perhaps even meet with them?"
  • The weather gradually clearing, I called my sons to go out with me. My wif_arnestly besought me not to venture on the sea; I assured her it was no_ufficiently calm, but we must examine our plantations, to ascertain wha_amage was done, and at the same time we might look out for some traces of th_reck; besides, our animals were becoming clamorous for food; therefore,
  • leaving Ernest with her, we descended to administer in the first place t_heir wants.