Part 3 out of 7
farther along shore, where in a group of trees they built a shelter
among the limbs of a mangrove, about thirty feet from the ground. It
was necessary to bridge the river and make a road in order to transfer
Besides their building operations, all were compelled to hunt, fish
and forage for supplies for their own table and for food for their
animals and pets. Porcupines, crabs, flamingoes and numerous other
birds were captured or seen, fish were taken from the waters,
cochineal insects were discovered, and numerous useful vegetable
products were found in the woods and swamps. The family were very
comfortably situated, and from the wreck and through hunting and
fishing, were able to set a very good table.
Next morning, while the breakfast was getting ready, I attended to the
beautiful skin of the kangaroo, which I was anxious to preserve
entire; and afterward, when Fritz had prepared everything in readiness
for our trip to the wreck, I called Ernest and Jack in to give them
some parting injunctions. They, however, had disappeared directly
after breakfast, and their mother could only guess, that, as we
required potatoes, they might have gone to fetch a supply. I desired
her to reprove them, on their return, for starting away without leave;
but as it appeared they had taken Turk, I satisfied myself that no
harm was likely to befall them, although it was not without reluctance
that I left my dear wife alone with little Franz, cheering her with
hopes of our speedy return with new treasures from the wreck.
Advancing steadily on our way, we crossed the bridge at Jackal River,
[Footnote: The family had given names to all the places in their
neighborhood. Thus their original living place was called Tentholm,
the river Jackal River, and the new house in the trees Falconhurst.]
when suddenly, to our no small astonishment, Jack and Ernest burst out
of a hiding place where they had lain in wait for us, and were
enchanted with the startling effect of their unexpected appearance
upon their unsuspecting father and brother. It was evident that they
fully believed they might now go with us to the wreck.
To this notion I at once put a decided stop, although I could not find
in my heart to scold the two merry rogues for their thoughtless
frolic, more especially as I particularly wished to send back a
message to my wife. I told them they must hurry home, so as not to
leave their mother in suspense, although, as they were already so far,
they might collect some salt. And I instructed them to explain that,
as my work on board would take up a long time, she must try to bear
with our absence for a night. This I had meant to say when we parted,
but my courage had failed, knowing how much she would object to such a
plan, and I had resolved to return in the evening.
On consideration, however, of the importance of constructing a raft,
which was my intention in going, and finishing it without a second
trip, I determined to remain on board for the night, as the boys had,
unintentionally, given me the chance of sending a message to that
"Good-by, boys; take care of yourselves! We're off," shouted Fritz, as
I joined him in the tub-boat, and we shoved off.
The current carried us briskly out of the bay; we were very soon
moored safely alongside the wreck, and scrambling up her shattered
sides, stood on what remained of the deck, and began at once to lay
I wanted to make a raft fit to carry on shore a great variety of
articles far too large and heavy for our present boat. A number of
empty water casks seemed just what was required for a foundation; we
closed them tightly, pushed them overboard, and arranging twelve of
them side by side in rows of three, we firmly secured them together by
means of spars, and then proceeded to lay a good substantial floor of
planks, which was defended by a low bulwark. In this way we soon had a
first-rate raft, exactly suited to our purpose.
It would have been impossible to return to land that same evening, for
we were thoroughly fatigued by our labors, and had eaten only the
light refreshments we had brought in our wallets, scarcely desisting a
moment from our work.
Rejoicing that we were not expected home, we now made an excellent
supper from the ship's provisions, and then rested for the night on
spring mattresses, a perfect luxury to us after our hard and narrow
Next morning we actively set about loading the raft and boat, first
carrying off the entire contents of our own cabins; then, passing on
to the captain's room, we removed the furniture, as well as the doors
and window frames, with their bolts, bars, and locks. We next took the
officers' chests, and those belonging to the carpenter and gunsmith;
the contents of these latter we had to remove in portions, as their
weight was far beyond our strength.
One large chest was filled with an assortment of fancy goods, and
reminded us of a jeweler's shop, so glittering was the display of gold
and silver watches, snuffboxes, buckles, studs, chains, rings, and all
manner of trinkets; these, and a box of money, drew our attention for
a time; but more useful to us at present was a case of common knives
and forks, which I was glad to find, as more suited to us than the
smart silver ones we had previously taken on shore. To my delight we
found, most carefully packed, a number of young fruit trees; and we
read on the tickets attached to them the names, so pleasant to
European ears, of the apple, pear, chestnut, orange, almond, peach,
apricot, plum, cherry, and vine.
The cargo, which had been destined for the supply of a distant colony,
proved, in fact, a rich and almost inexhaustible treasure to us.
Ironmongery, plumber's tools, lead, paint, grindstones, cart wheels,
and all that was necessary for the work of a smith's forge, spades and
plowshares, sacks of maize, peas, oats, and wheat, a hand-mill, and
also the parts of a saw-mill so carefully numbered that, were we
strong enough, it would be easy to put it up, had been stowed away.
So bewildered were we by the wealth around us that for some time we
were at a loss as to what to remove to the raft. It would be
impossible to take everything; yet the first storm would complete the
destruction of the ship, and we should lose all we left behind.
Selecting a number of the most useful articles, however, including of
course the grain and the fruit trees, we gradually loaded our raft.
Fishing lines, reels, cordage, and a couple of harpoons were put on
board, as well as a mariner's compass.
Fritz, recollecting our encounter with the shark, placed the harpoons
in readiness; and amused me by seeming to picture himself a whaler,
flourishing his harpoon in most approved fashion.
Early in the afternoon both our crafts were heavily laden, and we were
ready to make for the shore. The voyage was begun with considerable
anxiety, as, with the raft in tow, there was some danger of an
But the sea being calm and the wind favorable, we found we could
spread the sail, and our progress was very satisfactory.
Presently, Fritz asked me for the telescope, as he had observed
something curious floating at a distance. Then handing it back, he
begged me to examine the object; which I soon discovered to be a
turtle asleep on the water, and of course unconscious of our approach.
"Do, father, steer toward it!" exclaimed he.
I accordingly did so, that he might have a nearer look at the
creature. Little did I suspect what was to follow. The lad's back was
turned to me, and the broad sail was between us, so that I could not
perceive his actions; when, all of a sudden, I experienced a shock,
and the thrill as of line running through a reel. Before I had time to
call out, a second shock, and the sensation of the boat being rapidly
drawn through the water, alarmed me.
"Fritz, what are you about?" cried I. "You are sending us to the
"I have him, hurrah! I have him safe!" shouted he, in eager
To my amazement, I perceived that he really had struck the tortoise
with a harpoon; a rope was attached to it, and the creature was
running away with us.
Lowering the sail and seizing my hatchet, I hastened forward, in order
to cut the line, and cast adrift at once turtle and harpoon.
"Father! do wait!" pleaded the boy; "there is no danger just yet. I
promise to cut the line myself the instant it is necessary! Let us
catch this turtle if we possibly can."
"My dear boy, the turtle will be a very dear bargain, if he upsets all
our goods into the sea, even if he does not drown us too. For Heaven's
sake, be careful! I will wait a few minutes, but the minute there is
danger, cut the line."
[Illustration: OVERTURNING THE TURTLE]
As the turtle began to make for the open sea, I hoisted the sail
again; and, finding the opposition too much for it, the creature again
directed its course landward, drawing us rapidly after it. The part of
the shore for which the turtle was making was considerably to the left
of our usual landing place. The beach there shelved very gradually,
and at some distance from land we grounded with a sharp shock, but
fortunately without a capsize.
The turtle was evidently greatly exhausted, and no wonder, since it
had been acting the part of a steam tug, and had been dragging, at
full speed, a couple of heavily laden vessels. Its intention was to
escape to land; but I leaped into the water, and wading up to it,
dispatched it with my ax. Such was its tenacity of life, however, that
it did not cease its struggles until I had actually severed its head
from its body.
As we were by no means far from Falconhurst, Fritz gave notice of our
approach by firing off his gun, as well as shouting loudly in his
glee; and, while we were yet engaged in securing our boats and getting
the turtle on shore, the whole family appeared in the distance,
hastening eagerly toward us; and our new prize, together with the
well-laden boat and raft, excited the liveliest interest; my wife's
chief pleasure, however, consisted in seeing us back, as our night's
absence had disturbed her, and she was horrified by the description of
our dangerous run in the wake of the fugitive turtle. Being anxious to
remove some of our goods before night, the boys ran off to fetch the
sledge; while I, having no anchor, contrived to moor the boats by
means of the heavy blocks of iron we had brought.
It required our united strength to get the turtle hoisted onto the
sledge, its weight being prodigious; we found it, indeed, with the
addition of the sapling fruit trees, quite a sufficient load.
We then made the best of our way home, chatting merrily about our
various adventures. The first thing to be done on arriving was to
obtain some of the turtle's flesh and cook it for supper. To my wife
this appeared necessarily a work of time, as well as of difficulty;
but I turned the beast on its back, and soon detached a portion of the
meat from the breast with a hatchet, by breaking the lower shell; and
I then directed that it should be cooked, with a little salt, shell
"But let me first cut away this disgusting green fat," said my wife,
with a little shudder, "See how it sticks all over the meat. No one
could eat anything so nasty."
"Leave the fat, whatever you do!" exclaimed I. "Why, my dear, that is
the very best part, and the delight of the epicure. If there be really
too much, cut some off--it can be used as lard; and let the dogs make
a supper of the refuse."
"And the handsome shell!" cried Fritz; "I should like to make a water
trough of that, to stand near the brook, and be kept always full of
clear water. How useful it would be!"
"That is a capital idea," I replied, "and we may manage it easily, if
we can find clay so as to make a firm foundation on which to place
I arose early the next morning, as I had some doubts about the safety
of my vessels on the open shore. The dogs were delighted when I
descended the ladder, and bounded to meet me; the cocks crowed and
flapped their wings; two pretty kids gamboled around; all was life and
energy; the ass alone seemed disinclined to begin the day, and as I
especially required his services, this was unfortunate. I put his
morning dreams to flight, however, and harnessed him to the sledge;
the cow, as she had not been milked, enjoyed the privilege of further
repose, and, with the rest of the family, I left her dozing.
My fears as to the safety of the boats were soon dispelled, for they
were all right; and, being in haste to return, the load I collected
from their freight was but a light one, and the donkey willingly
trotted home with it, he, as well as I, being uncommonly ready for
breakfast. As I approached the tree, not a sound was to be heard, not
a soul was to be seen, although it was broad day; and great was my
good wife's surprise, when, roused by the clatter and hullabaloo I
made, she started up, and became aware of the late hour.
"What can have made us oversleep ourselves like this?" she exclaimed.
"It must be the fault of those mattresses; they are delightful, but
really too lulling; see, the children are sound asleep still."
"Now for prayers and breakfast," I called, "and then off to work. I
must have our cargo landed in time to get the boats off with the next
By dint of downright hard work, we accomplished this, and I got on
board with Fritz as soon as they were afloat; the rest turned
homeward, but Jack lingered behind with such imploring looks, that I
could not resist taking him with me.
My intention had been simply to take the vessels round to the harbor
in Safety Bay, but the calm sea and fine weather tempted me to make
another trip to the wreck. It took up more time than I expected, so
that, when on board, we could only make a further examination of the
cargo, collect a few portable articles, and then avail ourselves of
the sea breeze, which would fail us later in the evening.
To Jack the pleasure of hunting about in the hold was novel and
charming, and very soon a tremendous rattling and clattering heralded
his approach with a wheelbarrow. He was in the highest spirits at his
good fortune in having found such a capital thing in which to bring
He was followed by Fritz, whose news was still more important. He had
found, carefully packed and enclosed within partitions, what appeared
to be the separate parts of a pinnace, with rigging and fittings
complete, even to a couple of small brass guns. This was a great
discovery, and I hastened to see if the lad was right. Indeed he was,
but my pleasure was qualified by a sense of the arduous task it would
be to put such a craft together so as to be fit for sea. For the
present we had barely time to get something to eat and hurry into the
boat, where were collected our new acquisitions, namely, a copper
boiler, iron plates, tobacco graters, two grindstones, a small barrel
of powder, and another of flints, and two wheelbarrows, besides
Jack's, which he kept under his own special care.
As we drew near the shore, we were surprised to see a number of little
figures ranged in a row along the water's edge, and apparently gazing
fixedly at us. They seemed to wear dark coats and white waistcoats,
and stood quite still, with their arms dropping by their sides, only
every now and then one would extend them gently, as though longing to
"Ah! here at last come the pigmy inhabitants of the country to welcome
us!" cried I, laughing.
"Oh, father!" exclaimed Jack. "I hope they are Lilliputians! I once
read in a book about them, so there must be such people, you know,
only these look rather too large."
"You must be content to give up the Lilliputians and accept penguins,
my dear Jack," said I. "We have not before seen them in such numbers,
but Ernest knocked one down, if you remember, soon after we landed.
They are excellent swimmers, but helpless on land, as they can neither
fly nor run."
We were gradually approaching the land as I spoke, and no sooner was
the water shallow, than out sprang Jack from his tub, and wading
ashore, took the unsuspecting birds by surprise, and with his stick
laid half a dozen, right and left, either stunned or dead at his feet.
The rest escaped into the water, dived and disappeared.
As these penguins are disagreeable food, on account of their strong,
oily taste, I was sorry Jack had attacked them; but as we went to
examine them when we landed, some of the fallen arose from their
swoon, and began solemnly to waddle away, upon which we caught them,
and tying their feet together with long grass, laid them on the sand
to wait until we were ready to start.
The three wheelbarrows then each received a load, the live penguins,
seated gravely, were trundled along by Jack, and away we went at a
The unusual noise of our approach set the dogs barking furiously, but
discovering us, they rushed forward with such forcible demonstrations
of delight that poor little Jack, who, as it was, could scarcely
manage his barrow, was fairly upset, penguins and all. This was too
much for his patience, and it was absurd to see how he started up and
cuffed them soundly for their boisterous behavior.
This scene, and the examination of our burdens, caused great
merriment; the tobacco grater and iron plates evidently puzzled
I sent the boys to catch some of our geese and ducks, and bade them
fasten a penguin to each by the leg, thinking it was worth while to
try to tame them.
My wife had exerted herself in our absence to provide a good store of
potatoes, and also of manioc [Footnote: Manioc, or cassava, is a South
American plant, from the roots of which tapioca is made] root. I
admired her industry, and little Franz said, "Ah, father! I wonder
what you will say when mother and I give you some Indian corn, and
melons, and pumpkins, and cucumbers!"
"Now, you little chatterbox!" cried she, "you have let out my secret!
I was to have the pleasure of surprising your father when my plants
were growing up."
"Ah, the poor disappointed little mother!" said I. "Never mind! I am
charmed to hear about it. Only do tell me, where did those seeds come
"Out of my magic bag, of course!" replied she. "And each time I have
gone for potatoes, I have sown seeds in the ground which was dug up to
get them; and I have planted potatoes also."
"Well done, you wise little woman!" I exclaimed. "Why you are a model
of prudence and industry!"
"But," continued she, "I do not half like the appearance of those
tobacco graters you have brought. Is it possible you are going to make
snuff? Do, pray, let us make sure of abundance of food for our mouths,
before we think of our noses!"
"Make your mind easy, my wife," said I. "I have not the remotest
intention of introducing the dirty, ridiculous habit of snuffing into
your family! Please to treat my graters with respect, however, because
they are to be the means of providing you with the first fresh bread
you have seen this many a long day."
"What possible connection can there be between bread and tobacco
graters? I cannot imagine what you mean, and to talk of bread where
there are no ovens is only tantalizing."
"Ah, you must not expect real loaves," said I. "But on these flat iron
plates I can bake flat cakes or scones, which will be excellent bread;
I mean to try at once what I can do with Ernest's roots. And first of
all, I want you to make me a nice strong canvas bag."
This the mother willingly undertook to do, but she evidently had not
much faith in my powers as a baker, and I saw her set on a good potful
of potatoes before beginning to work, as though to make sure of a meal
without depending on my bread.
Spreading a piece of sail-cloth on the ground, I summoned my boys to
set to work. Each took a grater and a supply of well-washed manioc
root, and when all were seated round the cloth--"Once, twice, thrice!
Off!" cried I, beginning to rub a root as hard as I could against the
rough surface of my grater. My example was instantly followed by the
whole party, amid bursts of merriment, as each remarked the funny
attitude and odd gestures of his neighbors while vehemently rubbing,
rasping, grating, and grinding down the roots allotted to him.
No one was tempted by the look of the flour to stop and taste it, for
in truth it looked much like wet sawdust.
"Cassava bread is highly esteemed in many parts of the New World, and
I have even heard that some Europeans there prefer it to the wheaten
bread of their own country. There are various species of manioc. One
sort grows quickly, and its roots ripen in a very short time. Another
kind is of somewhat slower growth. The roots of the third kind do not
come to maturity for two years. The first two are poisonous, if eaten
raw, yet they are preferred to the third, which is harmless, because
they are so much more fruitful, and the flour produced is excellent,
if the scrapings are carefully pressed."
"What is the good of pressing them, father?" inquired Ernest.
"It is in order to express the sap, which contains the poison. The dry
pith is wholesome and nourishing. Still, I do not mean to taste my
cakes until I have tried their effect on our fowls and the ape." Our
supply of roots being reduced to damp powder, the canvas bag was
filled with it, and tying it tightly up, I attempted to squeeze it,
but soon found that mechanical aid was necessary in order to express
the moisture. My arrangements for this purpose were as follows: A
strong, straight beam was made flat on one side, and smooth planks
were laid across two of the lower roots of our tree; on these we
placed the sack, above the sack another plank, and over that the long
beam; one end was passed under a root near the sack, the other
projected far forward. And to that we attached all the heaviest
weights we could think of, such as an anvil, iron bars, and masses of
lead. The consequent pressure on the bag was enormous, and the sap
flowed from it to the ground.
"Will this stuff keep any time?" inquired my wife, who came to see how
we were getting on. "Or must all this great bagful be used at once? In
that case we shall have to spend the whole of tomorrow in baking
"Not at all," I replied; "once dry, the flour in barrels will keep
fresh a long time. We shall use a great deal of this, however, as you
"Do you think we might begin now, father?" said Fritz. "There does not
seem the least moisture remaining."
"Certainly," said I. "But I shall make only one cake to-day for an
experiment; we must see how it agrees with Master Knips and the hens
before we set up a bakehouse in regular style."
I took out a couple of handfuls of flour for this purpose, and with a
stick loosened and stirred the remainder, which I intended should
again be pressed. While an iron plate, placed over a good fire, was
getting hot, I mixed the meal with water and a little salt, kneaded it
well, and forming a thickish cake, laid it on the hot plate. When one
side presently had become a nice yellow-brown color, it was turned,
and was quickly baked.
It smelt so delicious that the boys quite envied the two hens and the
monkey who were selected as the subjects of this interesting
experiment, and they silently watched them gobbling up the bits of
cake I gave them.
Next morning every one expressed the tenderest concern as to the
health of Knips and the hens; and lively pleasure was in every
countenance when Jack, who ran first to make the visit of inquiry,
brought news of their perfect good health and spirits.
No time was now to be lost, and the bread-baking commenced in earnest.
A large fire was kindled, the plates were heated, and the meal was
made into cakes, each boy busily preparing his own, and watching the
baking most eagerly. Mistakes occurred, of course; some of the bread
was burnt, some not done enough; but a pile of nice, tempting cakes
was at length ready, and with plenty of good milk we breakfasted right
royally, and in high spirits at our success.
Soon after, while feeding the poultry with the fragments of the
repast, I observed that the captive penguins were quite at ease among
them, and as tame as the geese and ducks; their bonds were therefore
loosed, and they were left as free as the other fowls.
Having now discovered how to provide bread for my family, my thoughts
began to revert to the wreck and all the valuables yet contained
within it. Above all, I was bent on acquiring possession of the
beautiful pinnace, and aware that our united efforts would be required
to do the necessary work, I began to coax and persuade the mother to
let me go in force with all her boys except Franz.
She very unwillingly gave her consent at last, but not until I had
faithfully promised never to pass a night on board. I did so with
reluctance, and we parted, neither feeling quite satisfied with the
The boys were delighted to go in so large a party, and merrily carried
provision bags filled with cassava bread and potatoes.
Reaching Safety Bay without adventure, we first paid a visit to the
geese and ducks which inhabited the marsh there, and having fed them
and seen that they were thriving well, we buckled on each his cork
belt, stepped into the tub-boat, and, with the raft in tow, steered
straight for the wreck.
When we got on board, I desired the boys to collect whatever came
first to hand, and load the raft to be ready for our return at night,
and then we made a minute inspection of the pinnace.
I came to the conclusion that difficulties well-nigh insuperable lay
between me and the safe possession of the beautiful little vessel. She
lay in a most un-get-at-able position at the further end of the hold,
stowed in so confined and narrow a space that it was impossible to
think of fitting the parts together there. At the same time, these
parts were so heavy, that removing them to a convenient place piece by
piece was equally out of the question.
I sent the boys away to amuse themselves by rummaging out anything
they liked to carry away, and sat down quietly to consider the matter.
As my eyes became used to the dim light which entered the compartment
through a chink or crevice here and there, I perceived how carefully
every part of the pinnace was arranged and marked with numbers, so
that if only I could bestow sufficient time on the work, and contrive
space in which to execute it, I might reasonably hope for success.
"Room! room to work in, boys! that's what we need in the first place!"
I cried, as my sons came to see what plan I had devised, for so great
was their reliance on me that they never doubted the pinnace was to be
"Fetch axes, and let us break down the compartment and clear space all
To work we all went, yet evening drew near, and but little impression
was made on the mass of woodwork around us. We had to acknowledge that
an immense amount of labor and perseverance would be required before
we could call ourselves the owners of the useful and elegant little
craft, which lay within this vast hulk like a fossil shell embedded in
Preparations for returning to shore were hastily made, and we landed
without much relish for the long walk to Falconhurst, when, to our
great surprise and pleasure, we found the mother and little Franz at
Tentholm awaiting us. She had resolved to take up her quarters there
during the time we should be engaged on the wreck. "In that way you
will live nearer your work, and I shall not quite lose sight of you!"
said she, with a pleasant smile.
"You are a good, sensible, kind wife," I exclaimed, delighted with her
plan, "and we shall work with the greater diligence, that you may
return as soon as possible to your dear Falconhurst."
"Come and see what we have brought you, mother!" cried Fritz; "a good
addition to your stores, is it not?" and he and his brothers exhibited
two small casks of butter, three of flour, corn, rice, and many other
articles welcome to our careful housewife.
Our days were now spent in hard work on board, first cutting and
clearing an open space round the pinnace, and then putting the parts
together. We started early and returned at night, bringing each time a
valuable freight from the old vessel. At length, with incredible
labor, all was completed. The pinnace stood actually ready to be
launched, but imprisoned within massive wooden walls which defied our
It seemed exactly as though the graceful vessel had awakened from
sleep, and was longing to spring into the free blue sea, and spread
her wings to the breeze. I could not bear to think that our success so
far should be followed by failure and disappointment. Yet no possible
means of setting her free could I perceive, and I was almost in
despair, when an idea occurred to me which, if I could carry it out,
would effect her release without further labor or delay.
Without explaining my purpose, I got a large cast-iron mortar, filled
it with gunpowder, and secured a block of oak to the top, through
which I pierced a hole for the insertion of the match; and this great
petard I so placed, that when it exploded it should blow out the side
of the vessel next which the pinnace lay. Then securing it with
chains, that the recoil might do no damage, I told the boys I was
going ashore earlier than usual, and calmly desired them to get into
the boat. Then lighting a match which I had prepared, and which would
burn some time before reaching the powder, I hastened after them with
a beating heart, and we made for the land.
We brought the raft close in shore and began to unload it; the other
boat I did not haul up, but kept her ready to put off at a moment's
notice; my anxiety was unobserved by any one, as I listened with
strained nerves for the expected sound. It came!--a flash--a mighty
roar--a grand burst of smoke!
My wife and children, terror-stricken, turned their eyes toward the
sea, whence the startling noise came, and then, in fear and wonder,
looked to me for some explanation. "Perhaps," said the mother, as I
did not speak, "perhaps you have left a light burning near some of the
gunpowder, and an explosion has taken place."
"Not at all unlikely," replied I quietly; "we had a fire below when we
were caulking the seams of the pinnace. I shall go off at once and see
what has happened. Will any one come?"
The boys needed no second invitation, but sprang into the boat, while
I lingered to reassure my wife by whispering a few words of
explanation; and then joining them, we pulled for the wreck at a more
rapid rate than we ever had done before. No alteration had taken place
in the side at which we usually boarded her, and we pulled round to
the further side, where a marvelous sight awaited us. A huge rent
appeared, the decks and bulwarks were torn open, the water was covered
with floating wreckage--all seemed in ruins; and the compartment where
the pinnace rested was fully revealed to view. There sat the little
beauty, to all appearance uninjured; and the boys, whose attention was
taken up with the melancholy scene of ruin and confusion around them,
were astonished to hear me shout in enthusiastic delight: "Hurrah! she
is ours! The lovely pinnace is won! We shall be able to launch her
easily after all. Come, boys, let us see if she has suffered from the
explosion which has set her free."
The boys gazed at me for a moment, and then, guessing my secret, "You
planned it yourself, you clever, cunning father! Oh, that machine we
helped to make was on purpose to blow it up!" cried they; and eagerly
they followed me into the shattered opening, where, to my intense
satisfaction, I found everything as I could wish, and the captive in
no way a sufferer from the violent measures I had adopted for her
The boys were deeply interested in examining the effects of the
explosion, and in the explanation I gave them of the proper way to
manage a petard.
It was evident that the launch could now be effected without much
trouble; I had been careful to place rollers beneath the keel, so that
by means of levers and pulleys we might, with our united strength,
move her forward toward the water. A rope was attached by which to
regulate the speed of the descent, and then, all putting their
shoulders to the work, the pinnace began to slide from the stocks, and
finally slipped gently and steadily into the water, where she floated
as if conscious it was her native element; while we, wild with
excitement, cheered and waved enthusiastically. We then remained only
long enough to secure our prize carefully at the most sheltered point,
and went back to Tentholm, where we accounted for the explosion;
saying that having blown away one side of the ship, we should be able
to obtain the rest of its contents with a few more days' work.
These days were devoted to completing the rigging, the mounting of her
two little brass guns, and all necessary arrangements about the
pinnace. It was wonderful what martial ardor was awakened by the
possession of a vessel armed with two real guns. The boys chattered
incessantly about savages, fleets of canoes, attack, defense, and
final annihilation of the invaders.
I assured them that, brilliant as their victories would doubtless be,
we should have good cause to thank God if their fighting powers and
newborn valor were never put to the test.
The pinnace was fully equipped and ready to sail, while yet no idea of
the surprise we were preparing for her had dawned upon my wife, and I
permitted the boys, who had kept the secret so well, to fire a salute
when we entered the bay.
Casting off from the ship, and spreading the sail, our voyage began.
The pinnace glided swiftly through the water. I stood at the helm,
Ernest and Jack manned the guns, and Fritz gave the word of command,
"Fire!" Bang! bang! rattled out a thrilling report, which echoed and
reechoed among the cliffs, followed by our shouts and hurrahs. The
mother and her little boy rushed hastily forward from near the tent,
and we could plainly see their alarm and astonishment; but speedily
recognizing us, they waved joyfully, and came quickly to the landing
place to meet us.
By skillful management we brought the pinnace near a projection of the
bank, and Fritz assisted his mother to come on board, where,
breathless with haste and excitement, she exclaimed, "You dear,
horrid, wonderful people, shall I scold you or praise you? You have
frightened me out of my wits! To see a beautiful little ship come
sailing in was startling enough, for I could not conceive who might be
on board, but the report of your guns made me tremble with fear--and
had I not recognized your voices directly after, I should have run
away with Franz--Heaven knows where! But have you really done all this
work yourselves?" she continued, when we had been forgiven for
terrifying her with our vainglorious salute. "What a charming little
yacht! I should not be afraid to sail in this myself."
After the pinnace had been shown off, and received the admiration she
deserved, while our industry, skill, and perseverance met with
boundless praise, "Now," said my wife, "you must come with me, and see
how little Franz and I have improved our time every day of your
We all landed, and with great curiosity followed the mother up the
river toward the cascade; where, to our astonishment, we found a
garden neatly laid out in beds and walks; and she continued, "We don't
frighten people by firing salutes in honor of our performances;
although, by and by, I too shall want fire in a peaceable form. Look
at my beds of lettuce and cabbages, my rows of beans and peas! Think
what delicious dinners I shall be able to cook for you, and give me
credit for my diligence."
"My dear wife!" I exclaimed, "this is beautiful! You have done
wonders! Did you not find the work too hard?"
"The ground is light and easy to dig hereabouts," she replied. "I have
planted potatoes and cassava roots; there is space for sugar canes and
the young fruit trees, and I shall want you to contrive to irrigate
them, by leading water from the cascades in hollow bamboos. Up by the
sheltering rocks I mean to have pineapples and melons; they will look
splendid when they spread there. To shelter the beds of European
vegetables from the heat of the sun, I have planted seeds of maize
round them. The shadow of the tall plants will afford protection from
the burning rays. Do you think that is a good plan?"
"I do, indeed; the whole arrangement is capital. Now, as sunset
approaches, we must return to the tent for supper and rest, for both
of which we are all quite ready."
The time passed in happy talk over our many new interests; every one
had the pleasant sensation which attends successful labor, as well as
experiencing the joy of affording unexpected pleasure to others; and I
especially pointed out to my sons how true, genuine happiness consists
in that, rather than in mere self-gratification. Next morning my wife
said, "If you can exist on shore long enough to visit Falconhurst,
dear husband, I should like you to attend to the little fruit trees. I
fear they have been too much neglected. I have watered them
occasionally, and spread earth over the roots as they lay, but I could
not manage to plant them."
"You have done far more than I could have expected, my wife," I
replied, "and provided you do not ask me to give up the sea
altogether, I most willingly agree to your request, and will go to
Falconhurst as soon as the raft is unloaded and everything safely
Life on shore was an agreeable change for us all, and the boys went
actively to work, so that the stores were quickly brought up to the
tent, piled in order, and carefully covered with sail-cloths, fastened
down by pegs all round. The pinnace, being provided with an anchor,
was properly moored, and her elegant appearance quite altered the
looks of our harbor, hitherto occupied only by the grotesque tub-boat,
and the flat, uninteresting raft.
Taking an ample supply of everything we should require at Falconhurst,
we were soon comfortably reestablished in that charming abode, its
peaceful shade seeming more delightful than ever, after the heat and
hard work we had lately undergone.
Several Sundays had passed during our stay at Tentholm, and the
welcome Day of Rest now returned again, to be observed with heartfelt
devotion and grateful praise.
PREPARING FOR THE RAINY SEASON. NEW DISCOVERIES
NOTE.--To make the ascent to Falconhurst easier and safer, a spiral
staircase was built in the trunk of the huge tree whose branches
upheld the "Nest." This is the "task" spoken of in the opening
paragraph of this chapter.
This task occupied us a whole month, and by the end of that period, so
accustomed had we become to having a definite piece of work before us,
that we began to consider what other great alteration we should
undertake. We were, however, of course not neglecting the details of
our colonial establishment. There were all the animals to be attended
to; the goats and sheep had both presented us with additions to our
flock, and these frisky youngsters had to be seen after; to prevent
them straying to any great distance--for we had no wish to lose them--
we tied round their necks little bells, which we had found on board
the wreck, and which would assist us to track them. Juno, too, had a
fine litter of puppies, but, in spite of the entreaties of the
children, I could not consent to keep more than two, and the rest
disappeared in that mysterious way in which puppies and kittens are
wont to leave the earth. To console the mother, as he said, but also,
I suspect, to save himself considerable trouble, Jack placed his
little jackal beside the remaining puppies, and, to his joy, found it
readily adopted. The other pets were also flourishing, and were being
usefully trained. The buffalo, after giving us much trouble, had now
become perfectly domesticated, and was a very useful beast of burden,
besides being a capital steed for the boys. They guided him by a bar
thrust through the hole in his nose, which was now perfectly healed,
and this served the purpose just as a bit in the mouth of a horse. I
began his education by securing round him a broad girth of buffalo
hide and fastening to it various articles, to accustom him to carrying
a burden. By degrees he permitted this to be done without making the
slightest resistance, and soon carried the paniers, before borne by
the ass, readily and willingly.
I then made Master Knips sit upon his back and hold the reins I had
prepared for him, that the animal might become accustomed to the
feeling of a rider, and finally allowed Fritz himself to mount. The
education of the eagle was not neglected. Fritz every day shot small
birds for his food, and these he placed, sometimes between the wide-
spreading horns of the buffalo or goat, and sometimes upon the back of
the great bustard, that he might become accustomed to pounce upon
living prey. These lessons had their due effect, and the bird, having
been taught to obey the voice and whistle of his master, was soon
allowed to bring down small birds upon the wing, when he stooped and
struck his quarry in most sportsmanlike manner. We kept him well away
from the poultry yard, lest his natural instincts should show
themselves and he should put an untimely end to some of our feathered
Neither was Master Knips allowed to remain idle, for Ernest, now that
he was in his possession, wished to train him to be of some use. With
Jack's help he made a little basket of rushes, which he so arranged
with straps that it might be easily fitted onto the monkey's back.
Thus equipped, he was taught to mount cocoanut palms and other lofty
trees, and to bring down their fruit in the hamper.
Jack was not so successful in his educational attempts. Fangs, as he
had christened his jackal, used his fangs, indeed, but only on his own
account; nothing could persuade him that the animals he caught were
not at once to be devoured, consequently poor Jack was never able to
save from his jaws anything but the tattered skin of his prey. Not
disheartened, however, he determined that Fangs could be trained, and
that he would train him.
These, and such like employments, afforded us the rest and recreation
I then turned shoemaker, for I had promised myself a pair of
waterproof boots, and now determined to make them.
Taking a pair of socks, I filled them with sand and then coated them
over with a thin layer of clay to form a convenient mold; this was
soon hardened in the sun, and was ready for use. Layer after layer of
caoutchouc I brushed over it, allowing each layer to dry before the
next was put on, until at length I considered that the shoes were of
sufficient thickness. I dried them, broke out the clay, secured with
nails a strip of buffalo hide to the soles, brushed that over with
caoutchouc, and I had a pair of comfortable, durable, respectable-
looking water-proof boots.
I was delighted; orders poured in from all sides, and soon every one
in the family was likewise provided for.
One objection to Falconhurst was the absence of any spring close by,
so that the boys were obliged to bring water daily from the stream;
and this involving no little trouble, it was proposed that we should
carry the water by pipes from the stream to our present residence. A
dam had to be thrown across the river some way up stream, that the
water might be raised to a sufficient height to run to Falconhurst.
From the reservoir thus made we led the water down by pipes into the
turtle's shell, which we placed near our dwelling, and from which the
superfluous water flowed off through the hole made in it by Fritz's
harpoon. This was an immense convenience, and we formally inaugurated
the trough by washing therein a whole sack of potatoes. Thus day after
day brought its own work, and day after day saw that work completed.
We had no time to be idle, or to lament our separation from our
One morning, as we were completing our spiral staircase, and giving it
such finish as we were capable of, we were suddenly alarmed by hearing
a most terrific noise, the roaring or bellowing of a wild beast; so
strange a sound was it, that I could not imagine by what animal it was
Jack thought it perhaps a lion, Fritz hazarded a gorilla, while Ernest
gave it as his opinion, and I thought it possible that he was right,
that it was a hyena.
"Whatever it is," said I, "we must prepare to receive it; up with you
all to the nest while I secure the door."
Then arming the dogs with their collars, I sent them out to protect
the animals below, closed the door, and joined my family. Every gun
was loaded, every eye was upon the watch. The sound drew nearer, and
then all was still; nothing was to be seen. I determined to descend
and reconnoiter, and Fritz and I carefully crept down; with our guns
at full cock we glided among the trees; noiselessly and quickly we
pushed on further and further; suddenly, close by, we heard the
terrific sound again. Fritz raised his gun, but almost as quickly
dropped it, and burst into a hearty fit of laughter. There was no
mistaking those dulcet tones--he-haw, he-haw, he-haw--resounded
through the forest, and our ass, braying his approach right merrily,
appeared in sight. To our surprise, however, our friend was not alone;
behind him trotted another animal, an ass no doubt, but slim and
graceful as a horse. We watched their movements anxiously.
"Fritz," I whispered, "that is an onager.[Footnote: An onager is a
wild ass] Creep back to Falconhurst and bring me a piece of cord--
[Illustration: CATCHING THE WILD ASS]
While he was gone, I cut a bamboo and split it halfway down to form a
pair of pincers, which I knew would be of use to me should I get near
the animal. Fritz soon returned with the cord, and I was glad to
observe also brought some oats and salt. We made one end of the cord
fast to a tree, and at the other end made a running noose. Silently we
watched the animals as they approached, quietly browsing; Fritz then
arose, holding in one hand the noose and in the other some oats and
salt. The ass, seeing his favorite food thus held out, advanced to
take it; Fritz allowed him to do so, and he was soon munching
contentedly. The stranger, on seeing Fritz, started back; but finding
her companion show no signs of alarm, was reassured, and soon
approached sniffing, and was about to take some of the tempting food.
In a moment the noose left Fritz's adroit hand and fell round her
neck; with a single bound she sprang backward the full length of the
cord, the noose drew tight, and she fell to the earth half strangled.
I at once ran up, loosened the rope, and replaced it by a halter; and
placing the pincers upon her nose, secured her by two cords fastened
between two trees, and left her to recover herself.
Every one hastened up to examine the beautiful animal as she rose from
the ground and cast fiery glances around. She lashed out with her
heels on every side; and, giving vent to angry snorts, struggled
violently to get free. All her endeavors were vain; the cords were
stout, and after a while she quieted down and stood exhausted and
quivering. I then approached; she suffered me to lead her to the roots
of our tree, which for the present formed our stables, and there I
tied her up close to the donkey, who was likewise prevented from
Next morning I found the onager after her night's rest as wild as
ever, and as I looked at the handsome creature I almost despaired of
ever taming her proud spirit. Every expedient was tried, and at
length, when the animal was subdued by hunger, I thought I might
venture to mount her; and having given her the strongest curb and
shackled her feet I attempted to do so. She was as unruly as ever, and
as a last expedient I resolved to adopt a plan which, though cruel,
was, I knew, attended with wonderful success among the American
Indians, by whom it is practiced. Watching a favorable opportunity, I
sprang upon the onager's back, and seizing her long ear in my teeth,
in spite of her kicking and plunging, bit it through. The result was
marvelous; the animal ceased plunging, and, quivering violently, stood
stock-still. From that moment we were her masters; the children
mounted her one after the other, and she carried them obediently and
quietly. Proud, indeed, did I feel as I watched this animal, which
naturalists and travelers have declared to be beyond the power of man
to tame, guided hither and thither by my youngest son.
Additions to our poultry yard reminded me of the necessity of
providing some substantial shelter for our animals before the rainy
season came on; three broods of chickens had been successfully
hatched, and the little creatures, forty in all, were my wife's pride
and delight. We began by making a roof over the vaulted roots of our
tree, forming the framework of bamboo canes, which we laid close
together and bound tightly down; others we fixed below as supports.
The interstices were filled up with clay and moss; and coating the
whole over with a mixture of tar and limewater, we obtained a firm
balcony, and a capital roof impervious to the severest fall of rain. I
ran a light rail round the balcony to give it a more ornamental
appearance, and below divided the building into several compartments.
Stables, poultry yard, hay and provision lofts, dairy, kitchen,
larder, and dining-hall were united under one roof.
Our winter quarters were now completed, and we had but to store them
with food. Day after day we worked, bringing in provisions of every
As we were one evening returning from gathering potatoes, it struck me
that we should take in a store of acorns; and sending the two younger
boys home with their mother and the cart, I took a large canvas bag,
and with Fritz and Ernest, the former mounted on his onager, and the
latter carrying his little favorite, Knips, made a detour toward the
We reached the spot, tied Lightfoot to a neighboring tree, and began
rapidly to fill the sack. As we were thus engaged, Knips sprang
suddenly into a bush close by, from which, a moment afterward, issued
such strange cries that Ernest followed to see what could be the
"Come!" he shouted; "come and help me! I've got a couple of birds and
their eggs. Quick! Ruffed grouse!"
We hurried to the spot. There was Ernest with a fluttering, screaming
bird in either hand; while with his foot he was endeavoring to prevent
his greedy little monkey from seizing the eggs. We quickly tied the
legs of the birds, and removing the eggs from the nest, placed them in
Ernest's hat; while he gathered some of the long, broad grass, with
which the nest was woven, and which grew luxuriantly around, for Franz
to play at sword-drill with. We then loaded the onager with the
acorns, and moved homeward. The eggs I covered carefully with dry
moss, that they might be kept warm, and as soon as possible I handed
them over to my wife, who managed the mother so cleverly that she
induced her to return to the eggs, and in a few days, to our great
delight, we had fifteen beautiful little chicks.
Franz was greatly pleased with the "swords" his brother brought him;
but having no small companion on whom to exercise his valor, he amused
himself for a short time in hewing down imaginary foes, and then cut
the reeds in slips, and plaited them to form a whip for Lightfoot. The
leaves seemed so pliable and strong that I examined them to see to
what further use they might be put. Their tissue was composed of long
silky fibers. A sudden thought struck me--this must be New Zealand
flax. [Footnote: New Zealand flax is not real flax: it is a plant of
the lily family, the fiber of whose leaves is used for making ropes,
mats and coarse cloth.] I could not rest till I had announced this
invaluable discovery to my wife. She was no less delighted than I was.
"Bring me the leaves!" she exclaimed. "Oh, what a delightful
discovery! No one shall now be clothed in rags; just make me a
spindle, and you shall soon have shirts and stockings and trousers,
all good homespun! Quick, Fritz, and bring your mother more leaves!"
We could not help smiling at her eager zeal; but Fritz and Ernest
sprang on their steeds, and soon the onager and the buffalo were
galloping home again, each laden with a great bundle of flax. The boys
dismounted and deposited their offering at their mother's feet.
"Capital!" she exclaimed. "I shall now show you that I am not at all
behindhand in ingenuity. This must be retted, carded, spun, and woven,
and then with scissors, needle, and thread I will make you any article
of clothing you choose."
We decided that Flamingo Marsh would be the best spot for the
operation of steeping or "retting" the flax, and next morning we set
out thither with the cart drawn by the ass, and laden with the
bundles, between which sat Franz and Knips, while the rest of us
followed with spades and hatchets. I described to my boys as we went
along the process of retting, and explained to them how steeping the
flax leaves destroys the useless membrane, while the strong fibers
As we were employed in making beds for the flax and placing it in
them, we observed several nests of the flamingo. These are most
curiously and skilfully made of glutinous clay, so strong that they
can neither be overturned nor washed away. They are formed in the
shape of blunted cones, and placed point downward; at the upper and
broader end is built a little platform to contain the eggs, on which
the female bird sits, with her long legs in the water on either side,
until the little birds are hatched and can take to the water. For a
fortnight we left the flax to steep, and then taking it out and drying
it thoroughly in the sun, stored it for future use at Falconhurst.
Daily did we load our cart with provisions to be brought to our winter
quarters: manioc, potatoes, cocoanuts, sweet acorns, sugar canes, were
all collected and stored in abundance--for grumbling thunder, lowering
skies, and sharp showers warned us that we had no time to lose. Our
corn was sowed, our animals housed, our provisions stored, when down
came the rain.
To continue in our nest we found impossible, and we were obliged to
retreat to the trunk, where we carried such of our domestic furniture
as might have been injured by the damp. Our dwelling was indeed
crowded; the animals and provisions below, and our beds and household
goods around us, hemmed us in on every side; by dint of patience and
better packing, we obtained sufficient room to work and lie down in;
by degrees, too, we became accustomed to the continual noise of the
animals and the smell of the stables. The smoke from the fire, which
we were occasionally obliged to light, was not agreeable; but in time
even that seemed to become more bearable.
To make more space, we turned such animals as we had captured, and who
therefore might be imagined to know how to shift for themselves,
outside during the daytime, bringing them under the arched roots only
at night. To perform this duty Fritz and I used to sally forth every
evening, and as regularly every evening did we return soaked to the
skin. To obviate this, the mother, who feared these continual wettings
might injure our health, contrived waterproofs; she brushed on several
layers of caoutchouc over stout shirts, to which she attached hoods;
she then fixed to these duck trousers, and thus prepared for each of
us a complete water-proof suit, clad in which we might brave the
In spite of our endeavors to keep ourselves busy, the time dragged
heavily. Our mornings were occupied in tending the animals; the boys
amused themselves with their pets, and assisted me in the manufacture
of carding-combs and a spindle for the mother. The combs I made with
nails, which I placed head downward on a sheet of tin about an inch
wide; holding the nails in their proper positions I poured solder
round their heads to fix them to the tin, which I then folded down on
either side of them to keep them perfectly firm. In the evening, when
our room was illuminated with wax candles, I wrote a journal of all
the events which had occurred since our arrival in this foreign land;
and, while the mother was busy with her needle and Ernest making
sketches of birds, beasts and flowers with which he had met during the
past months, Fritz and Jack taught little Franz to read.
Week after week rolled by. Week after week saw us still close
prisoners. Incessant rain battered down above us; constant gloom hung
over the desolate scene.
The winds at length were lulled, the sun shot his brilliant rays
through the riven clouds, the rain ceased to fall--spring had come. No
prisoners set at liberty could have felt more joy than we did as we
stepped forth from our winter abode, refreshed our eyes with the
pleasant verdure around us, and our ears with the merry songs of a
thousand happy birds, and drank in the pure, balmy air of spring.
Our plantations were thriving vigorously. The seed we had sown was
shooting through the moist earth. All nature was refreshed.
Our nest was our first care; filled with leaves and broken and torn by
the wind, it looked dilapidated. We worked hard, and in a few days it
was again habitable. My wife now begged that I would start her with
the flax, and as early as possible I built a drying-oven, and then
prepared the flax for her use; I also, after some trouble,
manufactured a beetle-reel and spinning wheel, and she and Franz were
soon hard at work, the little boy reeling off the thread his mother
I was anxious to visit Tentholm, for I feared that much of our
precious stores might have suffered, and Fritz and I made an early
excursion thither. The damage done to Falconhurst was as nothing
compared to the scene that awaited us. The tent was blown to the
ground, the canvas torn to rags, the provisions were soaked, and two
casks of powder utterly destroyed. We immediately spread such things
as we hoped yet to preserve in the sun to dry. The pinnace was safe,
hut our faithful tub-boat was dashed in pieces, and the irreparable
damage we had sustained made me resolve to contrive some safer and
more stable winter quarters before the arrival of the next rainy
season. Fritz proposed that we should hollow out a cave in the rock,
and though the difficulties seemed almost insurmountable, I yet
determined to make the attempt; we might not, I thought, hew out a
cavern of sufficient size to serve as a room, but we might at least
make a cellar for the more valuable and perishable of our stores.
Some days afterward we left Falconhurst with the cart laden with a
cargo of spades, hammers, chisels, pickaxes, and crowbars, and began
our undertaking. On the smooth face of the perpendicular rock I drew
out in chalk the size of the proposed entrance, and then, with minds
bent on success, we battered away. Six days of hard and incessant toil
made but little impression; I do not think that the hole would have
been a satisfactory shelter for even Master Knips; but we still did
not despair, and were presently rewarded by coming to softer and more
yielding substance; our work progressed, and our minds were relieved.
On the tenth day, as our persevering blows were falling heavily, Jack,
who was working diligently with a hammer and crowbar, shouted:
"Gone, father! Fritz, my bar has gone through the mountain!"
"Run round and get it," laughed Fritz; "perhaps it has dropped into
Europe--you must not lose a good crowbar."
"But, really, it is through; it went right through the rock; I heard
it crash down inside. Oh, do come and see!" he shouted, excitedly.
We sprang to his side, and I thrust the handle of my hammer into the
hole he spoke of; it met with no opposition; I could turn it in any
direction I chose. Fritz handed me a long pole; I tried the depth with
that. Nothing could I feel. A thin wall, then, was all that intervened
between us and a great cavern.
With a shout of joy, the boys battered vigorously at the rock; piece
by piece fell, and soon the hole was large enough for us to enter. I
stepped near the aperture, and was about to make a further
examination, when a sudden rush of poisonous air turned me giddy, and
shouting to my sons to stand off, I leaned against the rock.
When I came to myself I explained to them the danger of approaching
any cavern or other place where the air has for a long time been
stagnant. "Unless air is incessantly renewed it becomes vitiated," I
said, "and fatal to those who breathe it. The safest way of restoring
it to its original state is to subject it to the action of fire; a few
handfuls of blazing hay thrown into this hole may, if the place be
small, sufficiently purify the air within to allow us to enter without
danger." We tried the experiment. The flame was extinguished the
instant it entered. Though bundles of blazing grass were thrown in, no
difference was made.
I saw that we must apply some more efficacious remedy, and sent the
boys for a chest of signal rockets we had brought from the wreck. We
let fly some dozens of these fiery serpents, which went whizzing in,
and disappeared at apparently a vast distance from us. Some flew like
radiant meteors round, lighted up the mighty circumference and
displayed, as by a magician's wand, a sparkling, glittering roof. They
looked like avenging dragons driving a foul, malignant fiend out of a
We waited for a little while after these experiments, and I then again
threw in lighted hay. It burned clearly; the air was purified.
Fritz and I enlarged the opening, while Jack, springing on his
buffalo, thundered away to Falconhurst to bear the great and
astonishing news to his mother.
Great must have been the effect of Jack's eloquence on those at home,
for the timbers of the bridge were soon again resounding under the
swift but heavy tramp of his steed; and he was quickly followed by the
rest of our party in the cart.
All were in the highest state of excitement. Jack had stowed in the
cart all the candles he could find, and we now, lighting these,
shouldered our arms and entered.
I led the way, sounding the ground as I advanced with a long pole,
that we might not fall unexpectedly into any great hole or chasm,
Silently we marched---the mother, the boys, and even the dogs seeming
overawed with the grandeur and beauty of the scene. We were in a
grotto of diamonds--a vast cave of glittering crystal; the candles
reflected on the wall a golden light, bright as the stars of heaven,
while great crystal pillars rose from the floor like mighty trees,
mingling their branches high above us and drooping in hundreds of
stalactites, which sparkled and glittered with all the colors of the
[Illustration: I ADVANCED WITH A LONG POLE]
The floor of this magnificent palace was formed of hard, dry sand, so
dry that I saw at once that we might safely take up our abode therein,
without the slightest fear of danger from damp.
From the appearance of the brilliant crystals round about us I
suspected their nature.
I tasted a piece. This was a cavern of rock salt. There was no doubt
about it--here was an unlimited supply of the best and purest salt!
But one thing detracted from my entire satisfaction and delight--large
crystals lay scattered here and there, which, detached from the roof,
had fallen to the ground; this, if apt to recur, would keep us in
constant peril. I examined some of the masses and discovered that they
had been all recently separated, and therefore concluded that the
concussion of the air occasioned by the rockets had caused their fall.
To satisfy ourselves, however, that there were no more pieces
tottering above us, we discharged our guns from the entrance, and
watched the effect. Nothing more fell--our magnificent abode was safe.
We returned to Falconhurst with minds full of wonder at our new
discovery, and plans for turning it to the best possible advantage.
Nothing was now talked of but the new house, how it should be
arranged, how it should be fitted up. The safety and comfort of
Falconhurst, which had at first seemed so great, now dwindled away in
our opinion to nothing; it should be kept up, we decided, merely as a
summer residence, while our cave should be formed into a winter house
and impregnable castle. Our attention was now fully occupied with this
new house. Light and air were to be admitted, so we hewed a row of
windows in the rock, where we fitted the window cases we had brought
from the officers' cabins. We brought the door, too, from Falconhurst,
and fitted it in the aperture we had made. The opening in the trunk of
the tree I determined to conceal with bark, as less likely to attract
the notice of wild beasts or savages should they approach during our
absence. The cave itself we divided into four parts: in front, a large
compartment into which the door opened, subdivided into our sitting,
eating, and sleeping apartments; the right-hand division containing
our kitchen and workshop, and the left our stables; behind all this,
in the dark recesses of the cave, was our storehouse and powder
magazine. Having already undergone one rainy season, we knew well its
discomforts, and thought of many useful arrangements in the laying out
of our dwelling, We did not intend to be again smoke-dried; we
therefore contrived a properly built fireplace and chimney; our stable
arrangements, too, were better, and plenty of space was left in our
workshop that we should not be hampered in even the most extensive
Our frequent residence at Tentholm revealed to us several important
advantages which we had not foreseen. Numbers of splendid turtles
often came ashore to deposit their eggs in the sand, and their
delicious flesh afforded us many a sumptuous meal. When more than one
of these creatures appeared at a time, we used to cut off their
retreat to the sea, and, turning them on their backs, fasten them to a
stake driven in close by the water's edge, by a cord passed through a
hole in their shell. We thus had fresh turtle continually within our
reach; for the animals throve well thus secured, and appeared in as
good condition, after having been kept thus for several weeks, as
others when freshly caught. Lobsters, crabs, and mussels also abounded
on the shore. But this was not all; an additional surprise awaited us.
As we were one morning approaching Tentholm, we were attracted by a
most curious phenomenon. The waters out at sea appeared agitated by
some unseen movement, and as they heaved and boiled, their surface,
struck by the beams of the morning sun, seemed illuminated by flashes
of fire. Over the water where this disturbance was taking place
hovered hundreds of birds, screaming loudly, which ever and anon would
dart downward, some plunging beneath the water, some skimming the
surface. Then again they would rise and resume their harsh cries. The
shining, sparkling mass then rolled onward, and approached in a direct
line our bay, followed by the feathered flock above. We hurried down
to the shore to examine further this strange sight.
I was convinced as we approached that it was a shoal, or bank, of
No sooner did I give utterance to my conjecture than I was assailed by
a host of questions concerning this herring-bank--what it was, and
what occasioned it.
"A herring-bank," I said, "is composed of an immense number of
herrings swimming together. I can scarcely express to you the huge
size of this living bank, which extends over a great area many fathoms
deep. It is followed by numbers of great ravenous fish, who devour
quantities of the herrings, while above hover birds, as you have just
seen, ready to pounce down on stragglers near the top. To escape these
enemies, the shoal makes for the nearest shore, and seeks safety in
those shallows where the large fish cannot follow. But here it meets
with a third great enemy. It may escape from the fish, and elude the
vigilance of sharp-sighted birds, but from the ingenuity of man it can
find no escape. In one year millions of these fish are caught, and yet
the roes of only a small number would be sufficient to supply as many
Soon our fishery was in operation. Jack and Fritz stood in the water
with baskets, and baled out the fish, as one bales water with a
bucket, throwing them to us on the shore. As quickly as possible we
cleaned them, and placed them in casks with salt, first a layer of
salt, and then a layer of herrings, and so on, until we had ready many
casks of pickled fish.
As the barrels were filled, we closed them carefully, and rolled them
away to the cool vaults at the back of our cave.
Our good fortune, however, was not to end here. A day after the
herring fishery was over, and the shoal had left our bay, a great
number of seals appeared, attracted by the refuse of the herrings
which we had thrown into the sea. Though I feared they would not be
suitable for our table, we yet secured a score or two for the sake of
their skins and fat. The skins we drew carefully off for harness and
clothing, and the fat we boiled down for oil, which we put aside in
casks for tanning, soap making, and burning in lamps.
These occupations interfered for some time with our work at Rock
House; but as soon as possible we again returned to our labor with
I had noticed that the salt crystals had for their base a species of
gypsum, which I knew might be made of great service to us in our
building operations as plaster.
As an experiment, I broke off some pieces, and, after subjecting them
to great heat, reduced them to powder. The plaster this formed with
water was smooth and white, and as I had then no particular use to
which I might put it, I plastered over some of the herring casks, that
I might be perfectly certain that all air was excluded. The remainder
of the casks I left as they were, for I presently intended to preserve
their contents by smoking. To do this, the boys and I built a small
hut of reeds and branches, and then we strung our herrings on lines
across the roof. On the floor we lit a great fire of brushwood and
moss, which threw out a dense smoke, curling in volumes round the
fish, and they in a few days seemed perfectly cured.
About a month after the appearance of the herrings, we were favored by
a visit from other shoals of fish. Jack espied them first, and called
to us that a lot of young whales were off the coast. We ran down and
discovered the bay apparently swarming with great sturgeon, salmon and
trout, all making for the mouth of Jackal River, that they might
ascend it and deposit their spawn among the stones.
Jack was delighted at his discovery.
"Here are proper fish!" he exclaimed; "none of your paltry fry. How do
you preserve these sorts of fish? Potted, salted or smoked?"
"Not so fast," said I, "not so fast; tell me how they are to be
caught, and I will tell you how they are to be cooked."
"Oh! I'll catch them fast enough," he replied, and darted off to Rock
While I was still puzzling my brains as to how I should set to work,
he returned with his fishing apparatus in hand; a bow and arrow, and a
ball of twine.
At the arrowhead he had fastened a barbed spike, and had secured the
arrow to the end of the string. Armed with this weapon, he advanced to
the river's edge.
His arrow flew from the bow, and, to my surprise, struck one of the
largest fish in the side.
"Help, father, help!" he cried, as the great fish darted off, carrying
arrow and all with it; "help! or he will pull me into the water."
I ran to his assistance, and together we struggled with the finny
monster. He pulled tremendously, and lashed the water around him; but
we held the cord fast, and he had no chance of escape. Weaker and
weaker grew his struggles, and, at length, exhausted by his exertions
and loss of blood, he allowed us to draw him ashore.
He was a noble prize, and Fritz and Ernest, who came up just as we
completed his capture, were quite envious of Jack's success. Not to be
behind-hand, they eagerly rushed off for weapons themselves.
We were soon all in the water, Fritz with a harpoon, Ernest with a rod
and line, and I myself armed, like Neptune, with an iron trident, or
more properly speaking, perhaps, a pitchfork. Soon the shore was
strewn with a goodly number of the finest fish--monster after monster
we drew to land. At length Fritz, after harpooning a great sturgeon
full eight feet long, could not get the fish ashore; we all went to
his assistance, but our united efforts were unavailing.
"The buffalo!" proposed my wife, and off went Jack for Storm. Storm
was harnessed to the harpoon rope, and soon the monstrous fish lay
panting on the sand.
We at length, when we had captured as many fish as we could possibly
utilize, set about cleaning and preparing their flesh. Some we salted,
some we dried like the herrings, some we treated like the tunny of the
Mediterranean--we prepared them in oil.
For two months we worked steadily at our salt-cave, in order to
complete the necessary arrangement of partition walls, so as to put
the rooms and stalls for the animals in comfortable order for the next
long rainy season.
We leveled the floors first with clay; then spread gravel mixed with
melted gypsum over that, producing a smooth, hard surface, which did
very well for most of the apartments; but I was ambitious of having
one or two carpets, and set about making a kind of felt in the
I spread out a large piece of sailcloth, and covered it equally all
over with a strong liquid, made of glue and isinglass, which saturated
it thoroughly. On it we then laid wool and hair from the sheep and
goats, which had been carefully cleaned and prepared, and rolled and
beat it until it adhered tolerably smoothly to the cloth. Finally it
became, when perfectly dry, a covering for the floor of our sitting
room by no means to be despised.
One morning, just after these labors at the salt-cave were completed,
happening to awake unusually early, I turned my thoughts, as I lay
waiting for sunrise, to considering what length of time we had now
passed on this coast, and discovered, to my surprise, that the very
next day would be the anniversary of our escape from the wreck. My
heart swelled with gratitude to the gracious God, who had then granted
us deliverance, and ever since loaded us with benefits; and I resolved
to set to-morrow apart as a day of thanksgiving, in joyful celebration
of the occasion.
My mind was full of indefinite plans when I rose, and the day's work
began as usual. I took care that everything should be cleaned,
cleared, and set in order both outside and inside our dwelling; none,
however, suspecting that there was any particular object in view.
Other more private preparations I also made for the next day. At
supper I made the coming event known to the assembled family.
"Good people, do you know that to-morrow is a very great and important
day? We shall have to keep it in honor of our merciful escape to this
land, and call it Thanksgiving Day."
THE BOA CONSTRICTOR
I was seated with my wife and Fritz beneath the shade of the veranda,
engaged in wicker work, and chatting pleasantly, when suddenly Fritz
got up, advanced a step or two, gazing fixedly along the avenue which
led from Jackal River, and finally exclaimed:
"I see something so strange in the distance, father! What in the world
can it be? First it seems to be drawn in coils on the ground like a
cable, then uprises as if it were a little mast, then that sinks, and
the coils move along again. It is coming toward the bridge."
My wife took alarm at this description, and calling the other boys,
retreated into the cave, where I desired them to close up the
entrances, and keep watch with firearms at the upper windows. These
were openings we had made in the rock at some elevation, reached
within by steps, and a kind of gallery which passed along the front of
Fritz remained by me while I examined the object through my spyglass.
"It is, as I feared, an enormous serpent!" cried I; "it advances
directly this way, and we shall be placed in the greatest possible
danger, for it will cross the bridge to a certainty."
"May we not attack it, father?" exclaimed the brave boy.
"Only with the greatest caution," returned I; "it is far too
formidable, and too tenacious of life, for us rashly to attempt its
destruction. Thank God, we are at Rockburg, where we can keep in safe
retreat, while we watch for an opportunity to destroy this frightful
enemy. Go up to your mother now, and assist in preparing the firearms;
I will join you directly, but I must further observe the monster's
Fritz left me unwillingly, while I continued to watch the serpent
which was of gigantic size, and already much too near the bridge to
admit of the possibility of removing that means of access to our
dwelling. I recollected, too, how easily it would pass through the
walls. The reptile advanced with writhing and undulatory movements,
from time to time rearing its head to the height of fifteen or twenty
feet, and slowly turning it about, as though on the lookout for prey.
As it crossed the bridge with a slow, suspicious motion, I withdrew,
and hastily rejoined my little party, which was preparing to garrison
our fortress in warlike array, but with considerable trepidation,
which my presence served in a measure to allay.
We placed ourselves at the upper openings, after strongly barricading
everything below, and, ourselves unseen, awaited with beating hearts
the further advance of the foe, which speedily became visible to us.
Its movements appeared to become uncertain as though puzzled by the
trace of human habitation; it turned in different directions, coiling
and uncoiling, and frequently rearing its head, but keeping about the
middle of the space in front of the cave, when suddenly, as though
unable to resist doing so, one after another the boys fired, and even
their mother discharged her gun. The shots took not the slightest
effect beyond startling the monster, whose movements were accelerated.
Fritz and I also fired with steadier aim, but with the same want of
success, for the monster, passing on with a gliding motion, entered
the reedy marsh to the left, and entirely disappeared.
A wonderful weight seemed lifted from our hearts, while all eagerly
discussed the vast length and awful though magnificent appearance of
the serpent. I had recognized it as the boa constrictor. It was a vast
specimen, upward of thirty feet in length.
The near neighborhood of this terrific reptile occasioned me the
utmost anxiety; and I desired that no one should leave the house on
any pretense whatever, without my express permission.
During three whole days we were kept in suspense and fear, not daring
to stir above a few hundred steps from the door, although during all
that time the enemy showed no sign of his presence.
In fact, we might have been induced to think the boa had passed across
the swamp, and found his way by some cleft or chasm through the wall
of cliffs beyond, had not the restless behavior of our geese and ducks
given proof that he still lurked in the thicket of reeds which they
were accustomed to make their nightly resting place.
They swam anxiously about, and with much clapping of wings and
disturbed cackling showed their uneasiness; finally taking wing they
crossed the harbor, and took up their quarters on Shark Island.
My embarrassment increased, as time passed on. I could not venture to
attack with insufficient force a monstrous and formidable serpent
concealed in dense thickets amidst dangerous swamps; yet it was
dreadful to live in a state of blockade, cut off from all the
important duties in which we were engaged, and shut up with our
animals in the unnatural light of the cave, enduring constant anxiety
Out of this painful state we were at last delivered by none other than
our good old simple-hearted donkey; not, however, by the exercise of a
praise-worthy quality, but by sheer stupidity.
Our situation was rendered the more critical from having no great
stock of provisions, or fodder for the animals; and the hay failing us
on the evening of the third day, I determined to set them at liberty
by sending them, under the guidance of Fritz, across the river at the
He was to ride Lightfoot, and they were to be fastened together until
Next morning we began to prepare for this by tying them in a line, and
while so engaged my wife opened the door, when old Grizzle, who was
fresh and frolicsome after the long rest and regular feeding, suddenly
broke away from the halter, cut some awkward capers, then bolting out,
careered at full gallop straight for the marsh.
In vain we called him by name. Fritz would even have rushed after him,
had not I held him back. In another moment the ass was close to the
thicket, and with the cold shudder of horror, we beheld the snake rear
itself from its lair, the fiery eyes glanced around, the dark, deadly
jaws opened widely, the forked tongue darted greedily forth--poor
Grizzle's fate was sealed.
Becoming aware on a sudden of his danger, he stopped short, spread out
all four legs, and set up the most piteous and discordant bray that
ever wrung echo from rocks.
Swift and straight as a fencer's thrust, the destroyer was upon him,
wound round him, entangled, enfolded, compressed him, all the while
cunningly avoiding the convulsive kicks of the agonized animal.
A cry of horror arose from the spectators of this miserable tragedy.
"Shoot him, father! oh, shoot him--do save poor Grizzle!"
"My children, it is impossible!" cried I. "Our old friend is lost to
us forever! I have hopes, however, that when gorged with his prey we
may be able to attack the snake with some chance of success."
"But the horrible wretch is never going to swallow him all at once,
father?" cried Jack. "That will be too shocking!"
"Snakes have no grinders, but only fangs, therefore they cannot chew
their food, and must swallow it whole. But although the idea is
startling, it is not really more shocking than the rending, tearing,
and shedding of blood which occurs when the lions and tigers seize
"But," said Franz, "how can the snake separate the flesh from the
bones without teeth? And is this kind of snake poisonous?"
"No, dear child," said I, "only fearfully strong and ferocious. And it
has no need to tear the flesh from the bones. It swallows them, skin,
hair, and all, and digests everything in its stomach."
"It seems utterly impossible that the broad ribs, the strong legs,
hoofs, and all, should go down that throat," exclaimed Fritz.
"Only see," I replied, "how the monster deals with his victim; closer
and more tightly he curls his crushing folds, the bones give way, he
is kneading him into a shapeless mass. He will soon begin to gorge his
prey, and slowly but surely it will disappear down that distended
The mother, with little Franz, found the scene all too horrible, and
hastened into the cave, trembling and distressed.
To the rest of us there seemed a fearful fascination in the dreadful
sight, and we could not move from the spot. I expected that the boa,
before swallowing his prey, would cover it with saliva, to aid in the
operation, although it struck me that its very slender forked tongue
was about the worst possible implement for such a purpose.
It was evident to us, however, that this popular idea was erroneous.
The act of lubricating the mass must have taken place during the
process of swallowing; certainly nothing was applied beforehand.
This wonderful performance lasted from seven in the morning until
noon. When the awkward morsel was entirely swallowed, the serpent lay
stiff, distorted, and apparently insensible along the edge of the
marsh. I felt that now or never was the moment for attack.
Calling on my sons to maintain their courage and presence of mind, I
left our retreat with a feeling of joyous emotion quite new to me, and
approached with rapid steps and leveled gun the outstretched form of
the serpent. Fritz followed me closely.
Jack, somewhat timidly, came several paces behind; while Ernest, after
a little hesitation, remained where he was.
The monster's body was stiff and motionless, which made its rolling
and fiery eyes, and the slow, spasmodic undulations of its tail more
fearful by contrast.
We fired together, and both balls entered the skull; the light of the
eye was extinguished, and the only movement was in the further
extremity of the body, which rolled, writhed, coiled, and lashed from
side to side. Advancing closer, we fired our pistols directly into its
head, a convulsive quiver ran through the mighty frame, and the boa
constrictor lay dead.
As we raised a cry of victory, Jack, desirous of a share in the glory
of conquest, ran close to the creature, firing his pistol into its
side, when he was sent sprawling over and over by a movement of its
tail, excited to a last galvanic effort by the shot.
Being in no way hurt, he speedily recovered his feet, and declared he
had given it its quietus.
"I hope the terrible noise you made just now was the signal of
victory," said my wife, drawing near, with the utmost circumspection,
and holding Franz tightly by the hand. "I was half afraid to come, I
"See this dreadful creature dead at our feet; and let us thank God
that we have been able to destroy such an enemy."
"What's to be done with him now?" asked Jack.
"Let us get him stuffed," said Fritz, "and set him up in the museum
among our shells and corals."
"Did anybody ever think of eating serpents?" inquired Franz.
"Of course not!" said his mother. "Why, child, serpents are poisonous
--it would be very dangerous."
"Excuse me, my dear wife," said I. "First of all, the boa is not
poisonous; and then, besides that, the flesh of even poisonous snakes
can be eaten without danger; as, for instance, the rattlesnake, from
which can be made a strong and nourishing soup, tasting very like good
chicken broth--of course, the cook must be told to throw away the
head, containing the deadly fangs. "It is remarkable that pigs do not
fear poisonous snakes, but can kill and eat them without injury. An
instance of this occurs to my memory. A vessel on Lake Superior, in
North America, was wrecked on a small island abounding in
rattlesnakes, and for that reason uninhabited.
"The vessel had a cargo of live pigs. The crew escaped to the mainland
in a boat, but the pigs had to be left for some time, till the owner
could return to fetch them, but with the small hope of finding many
"To his surprise, the animals were not only alive, but remarkably fat
and flourishing, while not a single rattlesnake remained on the
island. The pigs had clearly eaten the serpents."
THE EXCURSION BY THE BOYS. THE TRAINING OF THE OSTRICH
The four boys at length became so weary of inaction, that I determined
to let them make an excursion alone on the Savannah. Three of them
received this permission with eager delight, but Ernest said he would
prefer to remain with us; to which, as the expedition was to be
entirely one of pleasure, I could make no objection.
Little Franz, on the other hand, whom I would willingly have kept with
us, was wild to go with his brothers, and I was obliged to consent, as
I had made the proposal open to all, and could not draw back.
In the highest spirits they ran to bring their steeds (as we were fain
to call the cattle they rode) from their pasturage at a short
distance. Speedily were they saddled, bridled, and mounted---the three
lads were ready to be off.
We, who remained behind, passed the day in a variety of useful
As evening approached, the bears' paws which were stewing for supper
sent forth savory odors; and we sat talking round the fire, while
listening anxiously for sounds heralding the return of our young
At last the tramp and beat of hoofs struck our ears; the little troop
appeared, crossing the open ground before us at a sharp trot, and a
shrill ringing cheer greeted us as we rose and went to meet them.
They sprang from their saddles, the animals were set at liberty to
refresh themselves, and the riders eagerly came to exhibit their
acquisitions and give an account of themselves.
Funny figures they cut! Franz and Jack had each a young kid slung on
his back, so that the four legs, tied together, stuck out under their
Fritz's game bag looked remarkably queer--round lumps, sharp points,
and an occasional movement seemed to indicate a living creature or
"Hurrah for the chase, father!" cried Jack, "Nothing like real hunting
after all. And just to see how Storm and Grumble go along over a
grassy plain! It is perfectly splendid! We soon tired out the little
antelopes, and were able to catch them."
"Yes, father," said Franz; "and Fritz has two Angora rabbits in his
bag, and we wanted to bring you some honey. Only think! such a clever
bird--a cuckoo, showed us where it was!"
"My brothers forget the chief thing," said Fritz. "We had driven the
little herd of antelopes right through the Gap into our territory; and
there they are, all ready for us to hunt when we like---or to catch
"We had a splendid ride," said Fritz, "down Glen Verdant, and away to
the defile through our Rocky Barrier, and the morning was so cool and
fresh that our steeds galloped along, nearly the whole way, at the top
of their speed. When we had passed through the Gap we moderated our
furious pace and kept our eyes open on the lookout for game; we then
trotted slowly to the top of a grassy hill, from whose summit we saw
two herds of animals, whether antelopes, goats, or gazelles, we did
not know, grazing by the side of the stream below us. We were about to
gallop down and try to get a shot at them, when it struck me that it
would be wiser to try and drive the whole herd through the Gap into
our own domain, where they would be shut up, as it were, in a park,
free and yet within reach. Down the hill we rode as hard as we could
go, formed in a semicircle behind the larger herd--magnificent
antelopes--and, aided by the dogs, with shouts and cries drove them
along the stream toward the Gap; as we came near the opening they
appeared inclined to halt and turn, like sheep about to be driven into
the butcher's yard; and it was all we could do to prevent them from
bolting past us; but at length one made a rush at the opening, and the
rest following, they were soon all on the other side of the frontier,
and inhabitants of New Switzerland.
"We stretched a long line right across the defile and strung on it
feathers and rags and all sorts of other things, which danced and
fluttered in the wind, and looked so strange that I am perfectly
certain that the herd will never attempt to pass it."
"Well done," said I. "I am glad to see that you remember what you have
read. The antelopes are welcome to New Switzerland, but, my boy," I
added, "I cannot say the same for the rabbits you have here; they
increase so rapidly that if you establish a colony of the little
wretches your next difficulty will be to get rid of them."
"True," he replied, "but my idea was to place them upon Whale Island,
where they would find abundant food, and at the same time in no way
trouble us. May I not establish a warren there? It would be so useful.
Do you know, my eagle caught these pretty little fellows for me? I saw
a number of them running about and so unhooded him, and in a few
minutes he brought me three--one dead, with whose body I rewarded him,
and these two here, unhurt."
"Now, father," said Jack, interrupting him, "do listen to me and hear
my story, or else Fritz will begin upon my adventures and tire you out
with his rigmarole descriptions."
"Certainly, Jack," I said, "I am quite ready to listen to you. First
and foremost, how did you bring down those beautiful little animals
you have there?"
"Oh, we galloped them down. The dogs sniffed about in the grass while
Fritz was away after the rabbits, out popped those little fawns, and
away they went bounding and skipping, at the rate of thirty miles an
hour, with Storm, Grumble, and the dogs at their heels. In about a
quarter of an hour we had left the dogs behind and were close upon our
prey. Down went the little creatures in the grass, and, overcome with
terror and fatigue, were at our mercy. So we shouted to Fritz, and--"
"My dear boy," said I, "according to your statement, Fritz must have
been seven miles and a half off."
"Oh, well, father, perhaps we did not ride for quite a quarter of an
hour, and, of course, I can't say exactly how fast we were going; and
then, you see, the fawns did not run in a straight line; at any rate
Fritz heard us, and he and Franz and I leashed the legs of the pretty
creatures, and then we mounted again, and presently saw a wretch of a
cuckoo, who led us ever so far out of our course by cuckooing and
making faces at us, and then hopping away. Franz declared it must be
an enchanted princess, and so I thought I would rid it of its spell;
but Fritz stopped me shooting it, and said it was a 'Honey Indicator,'
and that it was leading us probably to a bees' byke, so we spared its
life, and presently, sure enough, it stopped close by a bees' nest in
a hollow tree. This was capital, we thought, and, as we were in a
great hurry to taste the honey, I threw in a lot of lighted lucifer
matches, but somehow it did not kill the bees at all, but only made
them awfully angry, and they flew out in a body and stung me all over.
I rushed to Storm and sprang on his back, but, though I galloped away
for bare life, it was an age before I got rid of the little wretches,
and now my face is in a perfect fever. I think I will get mother to
bathe it for me;" and off rushed the noisy boy, leaving Fritz and me
to see to the fawns and examine the rabbits. With these latter I
determined to do as Fritz proposed, namely, to colonize Whale Island.
I was all the more willing to do this because I had been considering
the advisability of establishing on that island a fortress to which we
might retreat in any extreme danger, and where we should be very
thankful, in case of such a retreat, to possess means of obtaining a
constant supply of animal food.
I ministered to the wants of the antelopes, and just then the mother
summoned us to dinner.
The principal dish in this meal consisted of bears' paws--most savory
smelling delicacies, so tempting that their close resemblance to human
hands, and even the roguish "Fee-fo-fum" from Jack, did not prevent a
single member of the family from enjoying them most heartily.
Supper over, we lit our watch fire, retired to our tent, and slept
We had been working very diligently; the bears' meat was smoked, the
fat melted down and stored, and a large supply of bamboos collected.
But I wished to make yet another excursion, and at early dawn I
aroused the boys.
Fritz mounted the mule, I rode Lightfoot, Jack and Franz took their
usual steeds, and, with the two dogs, we galloped off--first to visit
the euphorbia to collect the gum, and then to discover whether an
ostrich which we had found previously had deserted her eggs in the
sand. Ernest watched us depart without the slightest look or sigh of
regret, and returned to the tent to assist his mother and study his
Our steeds carried us down the Green Valley at a rapid rate, and we
followed the direction we had pursued on our former expedition. We
soon reached Turtle Marsh, and then filling our water flasks, we
arrived at the rising ground.
As Jack and Franz wanted to gallop, I allowed them to press forward,
while Fritz and I visited the euphorbia trees. A quantity of the red
gum had exuded from the incisions I had made, and as this had
coagulated in the sun, I rolled it into little balls and stored it in
a bamboo jar I had brought with me for the purpose.
As we rode after the boys, who were some way ahead, Fritz remarked:
"Did you not tell me that the juice of that tree was poisonous,
father; why have you collected such a quantity?"
"I did indeed say so," I replied; "it is a most deadly poison. The
inhabitants of the Cape of Good Hope use it to poison the springs
where wild animals assemble to quench their thirst; and they thus
slaughter an immense number of the creatures for the sake of their
hides. I intend, however, to use it to destroy the apes should they
again commit depredations, and also in preparing the skins of animals
to protect them from the attacks of insects."
The two boys were still at some distance from us, when suddenly four
magnificent ostriches rose from the sand where they had been sitting.
Jack and Franz perceived them, and, with a great shout, drove them
toward us. In front ran a splendid male bird, his feathers of shining
black, and his great tail plume waving. Three females of an ashen gray
color followed him. They approached us with incredible swiftness, and
were within gunshot before they perceived us. Fritz had had the
forethought to bind up the beak of his eagle so that, should he bring
down an ostrich, he might be unable to injure it.
He now threw up the falcon, which, towering upward, swooped down upon
the head of the foremost bird, and so confused and alarmed him, that
he could not defend himself nor continue his flight. So greatly was
his speed checked that Jack overtook him, and hurling his lasso,
enfolded his wings and legs in its deadly coils and brought him to the
ground. The other ostriches were almost out of sight, so leaving them
to their own devices, we leaped from our steeds and attempted to
approach the captured bird. He struggled fearfully, and kicked with
such violence, right and left, that I almost despaired of getting him
It occurred to me, however, that if we could cover his eyes, his fury
might be subdued. I instantly acted upon this idea, and flung over his
head my coat and hunting bag, which effectually shut out the light.
No sooner had I done this than his struggles ceased, and we were able
to approach. We first secured round his body a broad strip of
sealskin, on each side of which I fastened a stout piece of cord, that
I might be able to lead him easily. Then fastening another cord in a
loop round his legs that he might he prevented from breaking into a
gallop, we released him from the coils of the lasso.
"Do you know," said I to the boys, "how the natives of India secure a
newly captured elephant?"
"Oh, yes!" said Fritz; "they fasten him between two tame elephants.
We'll do that to this fine fellow, and tame him double quick."
"The only difficulty will be," remarked Jack, "that we have no tame
ostriches. However, I daresay Storm and Grumble will have no objection
to perform their part, and it will puzzle even this great monster to
run away with them."
So we at once began operations. Storm and Grumble were led up on
either side of the recumbent ostrich, and the cords secured to their
girths. Jack and Franz, each armed with a stout whip, mounted their
respective steeds, the wrappers were removed from the bird's eyes, and
we stood by to watch what would next occur.
For some moments after the return of his sight he lay perfectly still,
then he rose with a bound, and, not aware of the cords which hampered
him, attempted to dash forward. The thongs were stout, and he was
brought to his knees. A fruitless struggle ensued, and at length,
seeming to accommodate himself to circumstances, he set off at a sharp
trot, his guards making the air reecho with their merry shouts. These
cries stimulated the ostrich to yet further exertions, but he was at
length brought to a stand by the determined refusal of his four-footed
companions to continue such a race across loose sand.
The boys having enjoyed the long run, I told them to walk with the
prisoner slowly home, while Fritz and I returned to examine the
ostrich's nest. The eggs were quite warm, and I was certain that the
mother had quite recently left the nest; leaving about half, I packed
the rest of the eggs in a large bag I had brought for the purpose, and
slung it carefully on the saddle before me. We soon caught up our
advance guard, and without other notable incident reached our tent.
Astonishment and dismay were depicted on the face of the mother as we
"My dear husband," she exclaimed, "do you think our provisions so
abundant that you must scour the deserts to find some great beast to
assist us to devour them? You must discover an iron mine next, for
iron is what ostriches chiefly live on, is it not? Oh! I do wish you
would be content with the menagerie you have already collected,
instead of bringing in a specimen of every beast you come across. And
this is such a useless monster!"
"Useless! mother," exclaimed Jack; "you would not say so had you seen
him run; why, he will be the fleetest courser in our stables. I am
going to make a saddle and bridle for him, and in future he shall be
my only steed. Then as for his appetite, father declares it is most
delicate; he only wants a little fruit and grass, and a few stones and
tenpenny nails to help his digestion."
The way in which Jack assumed the proprietorship of our new prize
seemed to strike his brothers as rather cool, and there was instantly
a cry raised on the subject.
"Very well," said Jack, "let us each take possession of the part of
the ostrich we captured. Your bird, Fritz, seized the head, so you may
keep that; father shall have the body, I'll have the legs, and Franz a
couple of feathers from the tail."
"Come, come," said I, "I think that Jack has a very good right to the
ostrich, seeing that he brought it to the ground; and if he succeeds
in taming it and converting it into a saddle horse it shall be his.
From this time, therefore, he is responsible for its training."
The day was now too far advanced to allow us to think of setting out
for Rockburg, so we fastened up the ostrich between two trees, and
devoted the remainder of the evening to making preparations for our
At early dawn our picturesque caravan was moving homeward. The ostrich
continued so refractory that we were obliged to make him again march
between Storm and Grumble, and as these gallant steeds were thus
employed, the cow was harnessed to the cart, laden with our treasures.
Room was left in the cart for the mother, Jack and Franz mounted Storm
and Grumble, I rode Lightfoot, and Fritz brought up the rear on Swift.
At the mouth of the Gap we called a halt, and replaced the cord the
boys had strung with ostrich feathers by a stout palisade of bamboos.
I also took the opportunity of collecting a store of pipe clay, as I
intended during the winter months, which were close at hand, to try my
hand at china making.
When we reached the sugar-cane grove, we again stopped to collect the
peccary hams we had left to be smoked; and my wife begged me to gather
some seeds of an aromatic plant which grew in the neighborhood, and
which had the scent of vanilla. I obtained a good supply, and we moved