The next day the weather was delightful. We rose before daybreak. My eldes_ons took their work-tools, which we might want, and their guns also, bu_nder the condition that they should not use them till I gave the word,
"Fire!" I carried the bag of provisions. Our flock of sheep had increased s_uch at the farm, that we allowed ourselves to kill one, and my wife ha_oasted a piece for us the preceding evening; to this we added a cake o_assava, and for our dessert we depended on the fruits of the trees we migh_iscover. But, previous to our departure, while I was taking leave of my wif_nd Francis, I heard a dispute in the colonnade, which I hastened to learn th_ause of. I found it was a question between Fritz and Jack, whether we shoul_ake the tour of the island by sea or land; and each was anxious for m_upport. Fritz complained that, since their two expeditions in the canoe, Jac_elieved himself the first sailor in the world, and that they had given hi_he name of Lord of the Waves, because he was constantly saying—"When I wa_nder the waves—when the waves were washing over me, do you think that the_eft me dry?"
"No, Mr. Sportsman," said Jack, "you got enough of them, and that's the reaso_ou don't wish to try them again. For my part, I love the waves, and I sing,
'The sea! the sea! it was the sea that brought us here!'"
"What a boaster you are," said Fritz: "it was only yesterday you said to me,
'I will guide you; I know the way by the rocks; I got my buffalo there, and _ntend to have another.' Was it in the pinnace you intended to pass th_efile, and pursue buffaloes?"
"No, no! I meant on foot," said Jack; "but I thought we should be only tw_hen. But, as we are four—papa at the helm, and three bold rowers, why shoul_e fatigue ourselves in making the tour of the island on our legs, when w_ave a good vessel to carry us? What says Mr. Philosopher, the prince o_dlers, to it?"
"For my part," said Ernest, quietly, "I am quite indifferent whether I use m_egs in walking, or my arms in rowing, it is equally fatiguing; but walkin_ives me more chance of filling my plant-box and my game-bag."
"And does he think," added Fritz, "that the mulberry and bread-fruit trees,
which we shall certainly find on the other side, grow on the sea? withou_aming my gazelle, which does not run over the waves."
"No, it is waiting, without moving, for you to shoot it," said Jack; "an_rnest, perhaps you may find on the sea some of those curious things hal_lants, half animals, which you were showing me in a book."
"The zoophytes, or polypi; for they are the same family, though there are mor_han a thousand species," said Ernest, charmed to display his knowledge; but _topped him by saying: "We will dispense with the thousand names at present.
After hearing all your arguments, attend to mine; even Jack must yield t_hem. Our principal aim now being to search for the trees we are in need of,
and to examine the productions of the island, our most sensible plan will b_o walk."
Jack still contended that we might land occasionally; but I showed him th_anger of this, the island being, in all probability, surrounded by reefs,
which might extend so far into the sea as to take us out of the sight of th_sland; this I intended to ascertain some day; and in the mean time I propose_o them that we should endeavour to find a pass round the rocks on our side,
from whence we could walk to the defile at the other end, take our canoe,
which we had left at anchor near the Great Bay, and return to Tent House.
Jack was in ecstasies; he declared the pass must be very well concealed tha_scaped his search, and, seizing his lasso and his bow, rushed out the first,
singing "The sea! the sea!"
"There goes a sailor formed by nature," thought I, as we followed the cours_f the chain of rocks to the left of our dwelling. It conducted us first t_he place of our landing, that little uncultivated plain of triangular form,
of which the base was washed by the sea, and the point was lost among th_ocks. I found here some traces of our first establishment; but how wretche_ll appeared, compared with our present comforts! We tried here in vain t_ind a passage to cross the rocks—the chain was everywhere like a_mpenetrable wall. We arrived at the ravine Fritz and Ernest had scaled whe_hey discovered their grotto; and, truly, nothing but the courage and rashnes_f youth could have undertaken this enterprise, and continued it daily fo_hree weeks. It appeared to me almost impossible; Fritz offered to ascend, t_how me how they accomplished it; but I would not consent, as it could serv_o useful purpose. I thought it better for us to proceed to the border of th_sland, where it was not impossible there might be a small space on the stran_etween the rocks and the sea, round which we could pass; from my sons bein_ble to distinguish from the summit the country on the other side, it wa_vident the chain of rocks could not be very broad. Suddenly Fritz struck hi_orehead, and, seizing Ernest by the arm—"Brother," said he, "what fools w_ave been!"
Ernest inquired what folly they had been guilty of.
"Why did we not," said Fritz, "when we were working within our grotto, attemp_o make the opening on the other side? We should not have had much difficulty,
I am persuaded, and if our tools had not been sufficient, a little powde_ould have opened us a door on the other side. Only consider, father, th_onvenience of bringing the cart loaded with the trees we wanted through ou_rotto, and to be able to go a-hunting without having I don't know how man_iles to go."
"Well, we can still do that," said Ernest, in his usual calm, grave manner;
"if we do not find another passage, we will make one through the Grott_rnestine, with mamma's permission, as it is her property."
This idea of my son appeared good. It was quite certain, from our experienc_t Tent House and in the grotto, that the cavity in the rocks was of ver_reat extent, and it did not appear difficult to pierce through to the othe_ide; but some other chain of rocks, some gigantic tree, some hill, at the en_f our tunnel, might render all our labour useless. I proposed that we shoul_efer our work till we had examined the nature of the ground on the othe_ide; my sons agreed, and we proceeded with renewed courage, when we wer_uddenly checked by the sight of the sea beating against a perpendicular roc_f terrific height, which terminated our island on this side, and did not giv_s a chance of going on. I saw the rock did not extend far; but how to ge_ound it, I could not devise. I did not conceive we could get the pinnac_ound, as the coast seemed surrounded by reefs; masses of rock stood up in th_ea, and the breakers showed that more were hidden. After much consideratio_nd many plans, Ernest proposed that we should swim out to the uncovere_ocks, and endeavour to pass round. Fritz objected, on account of his arms an_mmunition; but Ernest suggested that the powder should be secured in th_ockets of his clothes, which he might carry on his head, holding his gu_bove the water.
With some difficulty we arranged our incumbrances, and succeeded in reachin_he range of outer rocks, without swimming, as the water was not above ou_houlders. We rested here awhile, and, putting on some of our clothes, w_ommenced our walk over sharp stones, which wounded our feet. In many places,
where the rocks lay low, we were up to the waist in the water. Ernest, th_roposer of the plan, encouraged us, and led the way for some time; but a_ast he fell behind, and remained so long, that I became alarmed, and callin_loud, for I had lost sight of him, he answered me, and at last I discovere_im stretched on the rock, endeavouring to separate a piece from it with hi_nife.
"Father," said he, "I am now certain that this bed of rocks, over which we ar_alking, and which we fancied was formed of stone or flints, is nothing bu_he work of those remarkable zoophytes, called coral insects, which form cora_nd many other extraordinary things; they can even make whole islands. Look a_hese little points and hollows, and these stars of every colour and ever_orm; I would give all the world to have a specimen of each kind."
He succeeded in breaking off a piece, which was of a deep orange-colou_nside; he collected also, and deposited in his bag, some other pieces, o_arious forms and colours. These greatly enriched his collection; and, idle a_e was, he did not complain of any difficulty in obtaining them. He had give_is gun to Jack, who complained much of the ruggedness of our road. Our marc_as truly painful, and I repented more than once of having yielded to th_dea; besides the misery of walking along these shelly rocks, which presente_oints like the sharp teeth of a saw, tearing our shoes and even our skin, th_ea, in some of the lower places, was so high as to bar our passage, and w_ere obliged, in the interval between two waves, to rush across, with th_ater to our chins. We had some difficulty to avoid being carried away. _rembled especially for Jack; though small and light, he preferred facing th_ave to avoiding it. I was several times obliged to catch hold of him, an_arrowly escaped destruction along with him. Happily, our march was not abov_alf a mile, and we gained the shore at last without any serious accident, bu_uch fatigued and foot-sore; and we made a resolution never more to cross th_oral reefs.
After dressing ourselves, resting, and taking a slight refreshment on th_each, we resumed our march more at our ease into the interior of the island;
but though the long grass was not so sharp as the coral, it was almost a_roublesome, twisting round our legs, and threatening to throw us down ever_tep we took. Ernest, loaded with his bag of fragments of rock, coral, an_oophytes, had given his gun to Jack; and, fearing an accident among the lon_rass, I thought it prudent to discharge it. In order to profit by it, I fire_t a little quadruped, about the size of a squirrel, and killed it. I_ppeared to me to be the animal called by naturalists the palm-squirrel,
because it climbs the cocoa and date-palms, hooks itself by its tail, which i_ery long and flexible, to the upper branches, and feeds at pleasure on th_ruit, of which it is very fond. We amused ourselves by details of the habit_f this animal, occasionally separating to make more discoveries, but agreein_n a particular call, which was to assemble us when necessary,—a precaution b_o means useless, as it turned out.
Fritz, with his head raised, went on examining all the trees, and occasionall_iving a keen look after his gazelle. Ernest, stooping down, examined plants,
insects, and, occasionally pursuing rare and beautiful butterflies, wa_illing his bag and plant-box with various curiosities. Jack, with his lass_n his hand, prepared himself to fling it round the legs of the first buffal_e met with, and was vexed that he did not see any. For my own part, I wa_ngaged in surveying the chain of rocks, in order to discover that whic_ontained the Grotto Ernestine. It was easy to recognize it, from its summi_left in two; and I wished to ascertain, as nearly as possible, if the clef_xtended to the base of the rock, as this would render our work much easier.
This side of the island did not resemble that near the Great Bay, with whic_ack and I had been so much charmed. The island was much narrower here, an_nstead of the wide plain, crossed by a river, divided by delightful woods,
giving an idea of paradise on earth; we were journeying through a contracte_alley, lying between the rocky wall which divided the island, and a chain o_andy hills, which hid the sea and sheltered the valley from the wind. Frit_nd I ascended one of these hills, on which a few pines and broom wer_rowing, and perceived beyond them a barren tract, stretching to the sea,
where the coral reefs rose to the level of the water, and appeared to exten_ar into the sea. Any navigators, sailing along these shores, would pronounc_he island inaccessible and entirely barren. This is not the fact; the gras_s very thick, and the trees of noble growth; we found many unknown to us,
some loaded with fruit; also, several beautiful shrubs covered with flowers;
the dwarf orange-tree, the elegant melaleuca, the nutmeg-tree, and the Benga_ose blending its flowers with the fragrant jasmine. I should never finish, i_ were to try and name all the plants found in this shady valley, which migh_e called the botanic garden of Nature. Ernest was in ecstasies; he wished t_arry away everything, but he did not know how to dispose of them.
"Ah!" said he, "if only our grotto were open to this side!"
At this moment Fritz came running out of breath, crying out, "The bread-frui_ree! I have found the bread-fruit tree! Here is the fruit,—excellent,
delicious bread. Taste it, father; here, Ernest; here, Jack;" and he gave u_ach a part of an oval fruit, about the size of an ordinary melon, whic_eally seemed very good and nourishing.
"There are many of these trees," continued he, "loaded with fruit. Would tha_e had our grotto opened, that we might collect a store of them, now that the_re ripe."
My boys pointed out to me exactly the situation of the grotto, judging fro_he rock above, and longed for their tools, that they might commence th_pening directly. We proceeded to make our way through a border of trees an_ushes, that separated us from the rock, that we might examine it, and judg_f the difficulties of our undertaking. Jack preceded us, as usual, afte_iving Ernest his gun; Fritz followed him, and suddenly turning to me, said,—
"I believe kind Nature has saved us much trouble; the rock appears to b_ivided from top to bottom; at the foot I see a sort of cave, or grotto,
At this moment Jack uttered a piercing cry, and came running to us, his lass_n his hand: "Two monstrous beasts!" cried he. "Help! help!" We rushe_orward, our guns ready, and saw at the entrance of the cave two large brow_ears. The black bear, whose fur is most valued, is only found in cold an_ountainous countries; but the brown prefers the south. It is a carnivorou_nimal, considered very ferocious. The black bear lives only on vegetables an_oney. Of these, the one I judged to be the female seemed much irritated,
uttering deep growls, and furiously gnashing her teeth. As I knew something o_hese animals, having met with them on the Alps, I remembered having hear_hat a sharp whistling terrifies and checks them. I therefore whistled as lon_nd loudly as I could, and immediately saw the female retire backwards int_he cave, while the male, raising himself on his hind legs, stood quite still,
with his paws closed. My two elder sons fired into his breast: he fell down,
but being only wounded, turned furiously on us. I fired a third shot at him,
and finished him. We then hastened to load our guns again, to be ready t_eceive his companion. Jack wished to use his lasso; but I explained to hi_hat the legs of the bear were too short and thick for such a measure to b_uccessful. He related to us, that having entered the cave, he saw somethin_oving at the bottom; he took up a stone, and threw it with all his strengt_t the object; immediately he heard a frightful growling, and saw two larg_easts coming towards him; he had barely time to escape and call for help, an_hen to hide himself behind a tree. To save ourselves from the other bear, i_as necessary that we should take some prompt measures; we therefore advanced,