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Chapter 46

  • Whilst we continued to talk and to admire the beauty of the stars, they a_ength began to fade away before the first light of morning. Ernest returne_o us, and we awoke Jack, who had slept uninterruptedly, and was quit_nconscious where he was. We returned to the pass, which now, by the light o_ay, seemed to us in a more hopeless state than in the dusk of evening. I wa_truck with consternation: it appeared to me that we were entirely enclosed a_his side; and I shuddered to think of crossing the island again, to pas_ound at the other end, of the risk we should run of meeting wild beasts, an_f the painful and perilous passage along the coral reefs. At that moment _ould gladly have consented to open a passage through the grotto, at th_azard of any visitors, in order to get through myself, that I might reliev_he anxious feelings of my dear wife and boy. The thoughts of their agon_nnerved me, and took away all courage for the commencement of a labour whic_eemed impossible, our only utensils being a small saw, and a little dibbl_or taking up plants, which Ernest had been unwilling to leave behind us. Th_ath by which Jack and I had passed was covered with rocks and masses of soil,
  • which obstructed even the course of the stream; we could not discover th_lace we had forded, the river had opened itself a wider course, far beyon_ts former one.
  • "It is impossible," said Fritz, gazing on the ruins, "that we can remove al_hese immense stones without proper tools; but, perhaps, with a littl_ourage, we may cross over them, the rivulet being widened cannot be ver_eep. At all events, it cannot be worse than the coral reefs."
  • "Let us try; but I fear it will be impossible, at least for _him_ ," said I,
  • pointing to Jack.
  • " _Him_ , indeed, papa, and why not?" said the bold fellow; " _he_ is perhap_s strong, and more active, than some of _them_ ; ask Fritz what he thinks o_is workman. Shall I go the first to show you the way?"
  • And he was advancing boldly, but I checked him, and said, that before w_ndertook to scale these masses of rock, absolutely bare, where we had nothin_o support us, or to hold by, it would be as well to examine if, by descendin_ower, we could not find a less dangerous road. We descended to the narro_ass, and found our drawbridge, plantation, all our fortification that my boy_ere so proud of, and where, at Fritz's request, I had even planted a smal_annon, all, all destroyed; the cannon swallowed up with the rest. My boy_eplored their disappointment; but I showed them how useless such a defenc_ust ever be. Nature had provided us with a better fortification than we coul_onstruct, as we just now bitterly experienced.
  • We had descended several yards lower with incredible difficulty, plunged in _et, heavy soil, and obliged to step across immense stones, when Fritz, wh_ent first, cried out, joyfully—
  • "The roof, papa! the roof of our _chalet_! it is quite whole; it will be _ridge for us if we can only get to it."
  • "What roof? What chalet?" said I, in astonishment.
  • "The roof of our little hermitage," said he, "which we had covered so wel_ith stones, like the Swiss _chalets_."
  • I then recollected that I had made this little hut, after the fashion of th_wiss chalet, of bark, with a roof nearly flat and covered with stones, t_ecure it against the winds. It was this circumstance, and its situation, tha_ad saved it in the storm. I had placed it opposite the cascade, that we migh_ee the fall in all its beauty, and, consequently, a little on one side of th_assage filled up by the fall of the rocks. Some fragments reached the roof o_he hut, and we certainly could not have entered it; but the chalet wa_upported by this means, and the roof was still standing and perfectly secure.
  • We contrived to slide along the rock which sustained it; Jack was the first t_tand on the roof and sing victory. It was very easy to descend on the othe_ide, holding by the poles and pieces of bark, and we soon found ourselve_afe in our _own_ island. Ernest had lost his gun in the passage: not bein_illing to resign his bag of curiosities, he had dropped the gun into th_byss.
  • "You may take the gun I left in the canoe," said Fritz; "but, another time,
  • throw away your stones, and keep your gun—you will find it a good friend i_eed."
  • "Let us embark in our canoe," cried Jack. "The sea! the sea! Long live th_aves! they are not so hard as the stones."
  • I was very glad to have the opportunity of conveying my canoe back to the por_f Tent House; our important occupations had prevented me till now, an_verything favoured the plan: the sea was calm, the wind favourable, and w_hould arrive at home sooner, and with less fatigue, than by land. We skirte_he great Bay to the Cabbage-palm Wood. I had moored the canoe so firmly t_ne of the palms, that I felt secure of it being there. We arrived at th_lace, and no canoe was there! The mark of the cord which fastened it wa_till to be seen round the tree, but the canoe had entirely disappeared.
  • Struck with astonishment, we looked at each other with terror, and withou_eing able to articulate a word. What was become of it?
  • "Some animal,—the jackals; a monkey, perhaps,—might have detached it," sai_ack; "but they could not have eaten the canoe." And we could not find a trac_f it, any more than of the gun Fritz had left in it.
  • This extraordinary circumstance gave me a great deal of thought. Savages,
  • surely, had landed on our island, and carried off our canoe. We could n_onger doubt it when we discovered on the sands the print of naked feet! It i_asy to believe how uneasy and agitated I was. I hastened to take the road t_ent House, from which we were now more than three leagues distant. I forbad_y sons to mention this event, or our suspicions, to their mother, as I kne_t would rob her of all peace of mind. I tried to console myself. It wa_ossible that chance had conducted them to the Bay, that they had seen ou_retty canoe, and that, satisfied with their prize, and seeing no inhabitants,
  • they might not return. Perhaps, on the contrary, these islanders might prov_ind and humane, and become our friends. There was no trace of thei_roceedings further than the shore. We called at _The Farm_ , on purpose t_xamine. All appeared in order; and certainly, if they had reached here, ther_as much to tempt them: our cotton mattresses, our osier seats, and som_ousehold utensils that my wife had left here. Our geese and fowls did no_ppear to have been alarmed, but were pecking about as usual for worms an_nsects. I began to hope that we might get off with the loss of our canoe,—_oss which might be repaired. We were a sufficient number, being well armed,
  • not to be afraid of a few savages, even if they penetrated further into th_sland, and showed hostile intentions. I exhorted my sons to do nothing t_rritate them; on the contrary, to meet them with kindness and attention, an_o commit no violence against them unless called on to defend their lives. _lso recommended them to select from the wrecked chest, some articles likel_o please the savages, and to carry them always about with them. "And _eseech you, once more," added I, "not to alarm your mother." They promise_e; and we continued our road unmolested to Falcon's Nest. Jack preceded us,
  • delighted, he said, to see our castle again, which he hoped the savages ha_ot carried away. Suddenly, we saw him return, running, with terror painted o_is countenance.
  • "They are there!" said he; "they have taken possession of it; our dwelling i_ull of them. Oh! how frightful they are! What a blessing mamma is not there;
  • she would have died of fright to see them enter."
  • I confess I was much agitated; but, not wishing to expose my children t_anger before I had done all in my power to prevent it, I ordered them t_emain behind till I called them. I broke a branch from a tree hastily, whic_ held in one hand, and in the other some long nails, which I found by chanc_n the bottom of my pocket; and I advanced thus to my Tree-Castle. I expecte_o have found the door of my staircase torn open and broken, and our ne_uests ascending and descending; but I saw at once it was closed as I had lef_t; being of bark, it was not easily distinguished. How had these savage_eached the dwelling, forty feet from the ground? I had placed planks befor_he great opening; they were no longer there; the greater part of them ha_een hurled down to the ground, and I heard such a noise in our house, that _ould not doubt Jack's report. I advanced timidly, holding up in the air th_ranch and my offerings, when I discovered, all at once, that I was offerin_hem to a troop of monkeys, lodged in the fortress, which they were amusin_hemselves by destroying. We had numbers of them in the island; some large an_ischievous, against whom we had some difficulty in defending ourselves whe_rossing the woods, where they principally dwelt. The frequent report of fire-
  • arms round our dwelling had kept them aloof till now, when, emboldened by ou_bsence, and enticed by the figs on our tree, they had come in crowds. Thes_exatious animals had got through the roof, and, once in, had thrown down th_lanks that covered the opening; they made the most frightful grimaces,
  • throwing down everything they could seize.
  • Although this devastation caused me much vexation, I could not help laughin_t their antics, and at the humble and submissive manner in which I ha_dvanced to pay homage to them. I called my sons, who laughed heartily, an_allied " _the prince of the monkeys_ " without mercy, for not knowing his ow_ubjects. Fritz wished much to discharge his gun amongst them, but I forbad_im. I was too anxious to reach Tent House, to be able to turn my thoughts o_hese depredators just now.
  • We continued our journey—but I pause here; my heart is oppressed. My feeling_hen I reached home require another chapter to describe them, and I mus_ummon courage for the task.