The Swiss Family Robinson, In Words of One Syllable/Chapter 5

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CHAPTER V.

When I rose from my bed the next day, I said to my wife; "Does it not seem, my dear, as if God had led us to this place, and that we should do wrong to leave it?"

"What you say may be quite true, so far as it goes," she said; "but I must tell you that the mid-day heat is more than we can bear, and that if we stay here we may have to keep watch at night, for there are, no doubt, wild beasts of some kind that will find us out; and we should not trust too much to our dogs, who may lose their lives in a fight with them."

"I dare say you are right," said I; "but I do not yet see how we can cross the stream. We shall first have to build a bridge."

"Then I fear we must stay where we are," said my wife.

"I do not think so, my dear," I said. "No one knows what he can do till he tries."

The boys were now all out of their beds; and while my wife went to milk the cow and cook some food, I made my plans known to them. They were all glad when they heard that we were to leave, and each said he would help, as far as he could, to build the bridge.

The first thing to be done was to find some strong planks; and Fritz, Ernest, and I went down to the shore, and got in the boat, which the tide took down to the bay.

On a piece of land which lay to the left we could see some large dark thing, round which flew a flock of sea gulls. We put up a sail and caught a gust of wind which had sprung up, and this soon brought the boat to the spot. We made no noise, but crept up the shore step by step, and we got so near that Ernest brought down some of the birds with a stick. Fritz was the first to find out that what the sea gulls had just left was the huge fish he had shot in the sea. It was a large shark, and we could see the wound in its head made by the two balls in Fritz's gun. We cut off some parts of the rough skin, which we thought might serve for files, and then went back to the boat. I took a glance at the shore ere I got in, and to my great joy saw some of the planks and spars from the wreck lay on the ground not far off. Our next care was to bind these so as to make a raft, which we tied to the stern of the boat, and then, by the use of our oars, soon made our way up the stream to the place where the bridge was to be built. Our young friends were glad to see us back so soon, and ran to meet us; Jack had a cloth in his hand, in which was a store of cray fish and crabs just caught in some of the nooks of a rock up the stream; Frank was full of glee, and told how that he had been the first to find them out, and how Jack had to wade up to his knees to get them.

"Do not fail to give God thanks," said I, "that our lot has been cast where we can pick up more food than we can eat."

It would take a long time to tell how we brought all the wood up to the spot, how we built piers of stone in the stream, and how we put the planks one by one in their place; it was late at night when we left off work, and once more sought our tent.

The next day we saw the sun rise, and took our first meal in haste, for we knew we should have a long day's toil. All the stores that we could not take with us were laid by in the tent, the door of which was made safe by a row of casks that we put round it. My wife and Fritz soon led the way; the cow went next; then the ass, with Frank on its back. Jack led the goats, and on the back of one of them sat the ape. Ernest took charge of the sheep, and I brought up the rear as chief guard. Our dogs ran from the front to the rear rank, and went to and fro, as if to see that all was right, and to keep us in line. We left the sow near the tent, but we had not gone far when she set off with a loud grunt, and soon came up with us. Our march was slow, for the livestock would stray here and there to graze on the rich grass that grew by the way; but still we got on. We took care to cross the bridge one at a time, and found it bear our weight well; but once or twice we thought the cow would step in the stream, or fall off the boards, when she went to the sides to drink. Just as we had left the bridge, Jack cried out, "Be quick! here is a strange beast with quills as long as my arm." The dogs ran, and I with them, and found a large Por-cu-pine in the grass. It made a loud noise, and shot out its quills at the dogs, and made them bleed. At this Jack put his hand to his belt, drew forth one of the small arms I gave him, and shot straight, with good aim, at the beast, which fell dead on the spot. Jack was proud of his feat, but Fritz, who did not like to be beat by one so young as Jack, told him to use more care, or he might shoot one of the dogs, if not one of us. My wife's first thought was to dress the wounds made by the quills, which had stuck in the nose of one of the dogs, while the boys made haste to pluck some of the quills from the skin of their strange prize.

At last our march came to an end, and I saw for the first time the great trees that my wife had told me of. They were of vast size, and were, I thought, fig trees. "If we can but fix our tent up there," I said, "we shall have no cause to dread, for no wild beasts can reach us." We sent Frank off to find sticks, with which to make a fire, and my wife made some soup of the flesh of the beast we had slain, though we did not like it so well as we did the ham and cheese we brought with us.