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Chapter 42

  • In a few days we completed the _Grotto Ernestine_. It contained som_talactites; but not so many as our former grotto. We found, however, _eautiful block of salt, which resembled white marble, of which Ernest forme_ sort of altar, supported by four pillars, on which he placed a pretty vas_f citron-wood, which he had turned himself, and in which he arranged some o_he beautiful _erica_ which had been the cause of his discovering the grotto.
  • It was one of those occasions when his feelings overcame his natura_ndolence, when he became for a time the most active of the four, and brough_orward all his resources, which were many. This indolence was merel_hysical; when not excited by any sudden circumstance, or by some fancy whic_oon assumed the character of a passion, he loved ease, and to enjoy lif_ranquilly in study. He improved his mind continually, as well by hi_xcellent memory, as by natural talent and application. He reflected, mad_xperiments, and was always successful. He had at last succeeded in making hi_other a very pretty bonnet. He had also composed some verses, which wer_ntended to celebrate her visit to Tent House; and this joyful day being a_ast fixed, the boys all went over, the evening before, to make thei_reparations. The flowers that the storm had spared were gathered to ornamen_he fountains, the altar, and the table, on which was placed an excellent col_inner, entirely prepared by themselves. Fritz supplied and roasted th_ame,—a fine bustard, the flesh of which resembles a turkey, and a brace o_artridges. Ernest brought pines, melons, and figs; Jack should have supplie_he fish, but was able only to procure oysters, crabs, and turtles' eggs.
  • Francis had the charge of the dessert, which consisted of a dish o_trawberries, honeycomb, and the cream of the cocoa-nut. I had contributed _ottle of Canary wine, that we might drink mamma's health. All was arranged o_ table in the middle of the _Franciade_ , and my sons returned to accompan_he expedition next day.
  • The morning was beautiful, and the sun shone brightly on our emigration. M_ife was anxious to set out, expecting she should have to return to her aëria_welling. Though her leg and foot were better, she still walked feebly, an_he begged us to harness the cow and ass to the cart, and to lead them a_ently as possible.
  • "I will only go a little way the first day," said she, "for I am not stron_nough to visit Tent House yet."
  • We felt quite convinced she would change her opinion when once in her litter.
  • I wished to carry her down the staircase; but she declined, and descended ver_ell with the help of my arm. When the door was opened, and she found hersel_nce more in the open air, surrounded by her children, she thanked God, wit_ears of gratitude, for her recovery, and all his mercies to us. Then th_retty osier carriage arrived. They had harnessed the cow and young bull t_t; Francis answering for the docility of Valiant, provided he guided hi_imself. Accordingly, he was mounted before, his cane in his hand, and his bo_nd quiver on his back, very proud to be mamma's charioteer. My other thre_oys mounted on their animals, were ready before, to form the advanced guard,
  • while I proposed to follow, and watch over the whole. My wife was moved eve_o tears, and could not cease admiring her new carriage, which Fritz and Jac_resented to her as their own work. Francis, however, boasted that he ha_arded the cotton for the soft cushion on which she was to sit, and I, that _ad made it. I then lifted her in, and as soon as she was seated Ernest cam_o put her new bonnet on her head, which greatly delighted her; it was of fin_traw, and so thick and firm that it might even defend her from the rain. Bu_hat pleased her most was, that it was the shape worn by the Swiss peasants i_he Canton of Vaud, where my dear wife had resided some time in her youth. Sh_hanked all her dear children, and felt so easy and comfortable in her ne_onveyance, that we arrived at Family Bridge without her feeling the leas_atigue. Here we stopped.
  • "Would you like to cross here, my dear?" said I; "and as we are very near,
  • look in at your convenient Tent House, where you will have no staircase t_scend. And we should like to know, too, if you approve of our management o_our garden,"
  • "As you please," said she; "in fact, I am so comfortable in my carriage, tha_f it were necessary, I could make the tour of the island. I should like t_ee my house again; but it will be so very hot at this season, that we mus_ot stay long."
  • "But you must dine there, my dear mother," said Fritz; "it is too late t_eturn to dinner at Falcon's Nest; consider, too, the fatigue it woul_ccasion you."
  • "I would be very glad, indeed, my dear," said she; "but what are we to din_n? We have prepared no provision, and I fear we shall all be hungry."
  • "What matter," said Jack, "provided you dine with us? You must take you_hance. I will go and get some oysters, that we may not die with hunger;" an_ff he galloped on his buffalo. Fritz followed him, on some pretence, o_ightfoot. Mamma wished she had brought a vessel to carry some water from th_iver, for she knew we could get none at Tent House. Francis reminded her w_ould milk the cow, and she was satisfied, and enjoyed her journey much. A_ast we arrived before the colonnade. My wife was dumb with wonder for som_oments.
  • "Where am I, and what do I see?" said she, when she could speak.
  • "You see the _Franciade_ , mamma," said her little boy; "this beautifu_olonnade was my invention, to protect you from the heat; stay, read what i_ritten above: _Francis to his dear mother. May this colonnade, which i_alled the Franciade, be to her a temple of happiness._ Now mamma, lean on me,
  • and come and see my brothers' gifts—much better than mine;" and he led her t_ack's pavilion, who was standing by the fountain. He held a shell in hi_and, which he filled with water, and drank, saying, "To the health of th_ueen of the Island; may she have no more accidents, and live as long as he_hildren! Long live Queen Elizabeth, and may she come every day to _Jackia_ ,
  • to drink her son Jack's health."
  • I supported my wife, and was almost as much affected as herself. She wept an_rembled with joy and surprise. Jack and Ernest then joined their hands, an_arried her to the other pavilion, where Fritz was waiting to receive her, an_he same scene of tenderness ensued. "Accept this pavilion, dear mother," sai_e; "and may _Fritzia_ ever make you think on Fritz."
  • The delighted mother embraced them all, and observing Ernest's name was no_ommemorated by any trophy, thanked him again for her beautiful bonnet. Sh_hen drank some of the delicious water of the fountain, and returned to sea_erself at the repast, which was another surprise for her. We all made a_xcellent dinner; and at the dessert, I handed my Canary wine round in shells;
  • and then Ernest rose and sung us very prettily, to a familiar air, some littl_erses he had composed:—
  • > On this festive happy day,
  • > Let us pour our grateful lay;
  • > Since Heaven has hush'd our mother's pain,
  • > And given her to her sons again.
  • > Then from this quiet, lovely home
  • > Never, never, may we roam.
  • > All we love around us smile:
  • > Joyful is our desert isle.
  • >
  • > When o'er our mother's couch we bent,
  • > Fervent prayers to Heaven we sent,
  • > And God has spared that mother dear,
  • > To bless her happy children here.
  • > Then from this quiet, lovely home,
  • > Never, never, may we roam;
  • > All we love around us smile,
  • > Joyful is our desert isle.
  • >
  • We all joined in the chorus, and none of us thought of the ship, of Europe, o_f anything that was passing in the world. The island was our universe, an_ent House was a palace we would not have exchanged for any the worl_ontained. This was one of those happy days that God grants us sometimes o_arth, to give us an idea of the bliss of Heaven; and most fervently did w_hank Him, at the end of our repast, for all his mercies and blessings to us.
  • After dinner, I told my wife she must not think of returning to Falcon's Nest,
  • with all its risks of storms and the winding staircase, and she could no_etter recompense her sons for their labours than by living among them. Sh_as of the same opinion, and was very glad to be so near her kitchen and he_tores, and to be able to walk alone with the assistance of a stick in th_olonnade, which she could do already; but she made me promise to leav_alcon's Nest as it was. It would be a pretty place to walk to, and besides,
  • this castle in the air was her own invention. We agreed that this very evenin_he should take possession of her own pretty room, with the good felt carpet,
  • on which she could walk without fear; and that the next day, I should go wit_y elder sons and the animals to bring the cart, such utensils as we needed,
  • and above all, the poultry. Our dogs always followed their masters, as well a_he monkey and jackal, and they were so domesticated, we had no trouble wit_hem.
  • I then prevailed on my wife to go into her room and rest for an hour, afte_hich we were to visit the garden. She complied, and after her repose foun_er four sons ready to carry her in her litter as in a sedan-chair. They too_are to bring her straight to the grotto, where I was waiting for her. Thi_as a new surprise for the good mother. She could not sufficiently express he_stonishment and delight, when Jack and Francis, taking their flageolets,
  • accompanied their brothers, who sung the following verse, which Ernest ha_dded to his former attempt.
  • > Dear mother, let this gift be mine,
  • > Accept the Grotto Ernestine.
  • > May all your hours be doubly blest
  • > Within this tranquil place of rest.
  • > Then from this quiet, lovely home
  • > Never, never may we roam;
  • > All we love around us smile.
  • > Joyful is our desert isle!
  • >
  • What cause had we to rejoice in our children! we could not but shed tears t_itness their affection and perfect happiness.
  • Below the vase of flowers, on the block of salt, Ernest had written:—
  • > Ernest, assisted by his brother Fritz,
  • >   Has prepared this grotto,
  • > As a retreat for his beloved mother,
  • >   When she visits her garden.
  • >
  • Ernest then conducted his mother to one of the benches, which he had covere_ith soft moss, as a seat for her, and there she rested at her ease to hea_he history of the discovery of the grotto. It was now my turn to offer m_resent; the garden, the embankment, the pond, and the arbour. She walked,
  • supported by my arm, to view her little empire, and her delight was extreme;
  • the pond, which enabled her to water her vegetables, particularly pleased her,
  • as well as her shady arbour, under which she found all her gardening tools,
  • ornamented with flowers, and augmented by two light _watering-pans,_onstructed by Jack and Francis, from two gourds. They had canes for spouts,
  • with the gourd bottles at the end, pierced with holes, through which the wate_ame in the manner of a watering-pan. The embankment was also a grea_urprise; she proposed to place plants of pines and melon on it, and I agree_o it. Truly did she rejoice at the appearance of the vegetables, whic_romised us some excellent European provision, a great comfort to her. Afte_xpressing her grateful feelings, she returned to the grotto, and seatin_erself in her sedan-chair, returned to Tent House, to enjoy the repose sh_eeded, after such a day of excitement. We did not, however, lie down befor_e had together thanked God for the manifold blessings he had given us, an_or the pleasure of that day.
  • "If I had been in Europe," said my dear wife, "on the festival of my recovery,
  • I should have received a nosegay, a ribbon, or some trinket; here I have ha_resented a carriage, a colonnade, pavilions, ornamental fountains, a larg_rotto, a garden, a pond, an arbour, and a straw bonnet!"