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.