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Chapter 45

  • the whole valley, which could not be. It was a gentle stream, gushing from _erpendicular rock, which reminded me of the source of the river Orbe, in th_anton of Vaud; it issued forth in its full width, rolling at first over _ocky bed; then forming a graceful bend, it took its course towards the grea_ay, and fell in a cascade into the sea. We remained some time here to fil_ur gourds, drinking moderately, and taking a bath, which refreshed us al_reatly.
  • The evening was approaching, and we began to fear we should not reach hom_efore night. I had warned my wife that there was a possibility that we migh_e delayed, though I could not then anticipate the cause of our delay. W_ndeavoured, however, by walking as quickly as we could, and resting no more,
  • to reach our farm at any rate. We followed the course of the river, on th_pposite shore of which rose a wide plain, where we saw the herd of buffaloe_uietly grazing, ruminating, and drinking, without paying the slightes_ttention to us. We thought we distinguished some other quadrupeds amongs_hem, which Fritz was certain were zebras or onagras; but certainly not hi_ear gazelle, for which he had incessantly looked round. Jack was in despai_hat the river separated us from the buffaloes, so that he could not cast hi_asso round the legs of one of them, as he had promised Ernest. He even wishe_o swim across the stream, to have a hunt; but I forbade him, encouraging hi_o hope that perhaps a single buffalo might cross to our side, and thro_tself in the way of his lasso. I was far from wishing such a thing myself,
  • for we had no time to lose, nor any means to secure and lead it home, shoul_e succeed in capturing one, not having any cords with us; and moreover,
  • intending to return from the bay in the canoe. When we arrived at the bay, th_ight, which comes on rapidly in equinoctial countries, had almost closed. W_ere scarcely able to see, without terror, the changes that the late storm ha_ccasioned; the narrow pass which led from the other side of the island,
  • between the river and a deep stream that flowed from the rocks, was entirel_bstructed with rocks and earth fallen upon it; and to render our passag_racticable, it was necessary to undertake a labour that the darkness no_revented, and which would at any time be attended by danger. We were oblige_hen to spend the night in the open air, and separated from our dear an_nxious friends at Tent House. Fortunately, Fritz had collected a store o_read-fruit for his mother, with which he had filled his own pockets and thos_f his brothers. These, with water from the river, formed our supper; for w_ad nothing but the bone of our leg of mutton left. We turned back a littl_ay, to establish ourselves under a clump of trees, where we were in greate_afety; we loaded our muskets, we kindled a large fire of dry branches, an_ecommending ourselves to the protection of God, we lay ourselves down on th_oft moss to wait for the first rays of light. With the exception of Jack, wh_rom the first slept as if he had been in his bed, we none of us could rest.
  • The night was beautiful; a multitude of stars shone over our heads in th_thereal vault. Ernest was never tired of gazing on them. After some question_nd suppositions on the plurality of worlds, their courses and thei_istances, he quitted us to wander on the borders of the river, whic_eflected them in all their brilliancy. From this night his passion fo_stronomy commenced, a passion which he carried beyond all others. This becam_is favourite and continual study, nor did he fall far short of Duval, whos_istory he had read. Whilst he was engaged in contemplation, Fritz and _onversed on our projects for tunnelling to the grotto, and on the utility o_uch a passage, as this side of the island was quite lost to us, from th_ifficulty in reaching it. "And yet," said I, "it is to this difficulty we ow_he safety we have enjoyed. Who can say that the bears and the buffaloes ma_ot find the way through the grotto? I confess I am not desirous of thei_isits, nor even of those of the onagras. Who knows but they might persuad_our favourite Lightfoot to return and live amongst them? Liberty has man_harms. Till now, we have been very happy on our side of the island, withou_he productions of this. My dear boy, there is a proverb, 'Let _well_ alone,'
  • Let us not have too much ambition,—it has ruined greater states than ours."
  • Fritz seemed grieved to give up his plan, and suggested that he could forg_ome strong bars of iron to place before the opening, which could be remove_t will.
  • "But," said I, "they will not prevent the snakes from passing underneath. _ave noticed some with terror, as they are animals I have a great antipath_o; and if your mother saw one crawl into her grotto, she would never enter i_gain; even if she did not die of fright."
  • "Well, we must give it up," said Fritz; "but it is a pity. Do you think,
  • father, there are more bears in the island than those we killed?"
  • "In all probability," said I; "it is scarcely to be supposed that there shoul_nly be two. I cannot well account for their being here. They can swim ver_ell, and perhaps the abundance of fruit in this part of the island may hav_ttracted them." I then gave my son a short account of their manners an_abits, from the best works on the history of these animals.