The Swiss Family Robinson, In Words of One Syllable/Chapter 4

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On our way back we took up the gourd bowls and plates, which we found quite dry and hard as bone, and put them in our bags. We had scarce got through the wood, when Turk made a dart in front of us, and we saw a troop of apes rush out of his way. But he gave a leap and brought down one that could not climb so fast as the rest, for she had a young one in her arms. Turk made short work of the poor thing, for ere Fritz could call the dog off, the ape was dead. The young one, as soon as it saw Fritz, sprang on his back, put its paws in his curls, and would not let go, but made a noise as if to chide him. Fritz did not like this, for he was in fear lest it should bite him. I knew there was but small risk of that, for the poor thing was as much in dread as he was. I at length got the ape from Fritz's back, and took it up in my arms like a child. We found that it was too young to seek its own food, and, as Fritz said he should like to take it home, we put it on Turk's back. "Since you have been the cause of its grief," said I, "it is but fair that you should act the part of its dam." Turk did not at first like this, but we soon got him to bear the ape, which held so tight by the hair on the dog's neck, that it could not well fall off. Fritz then led Turk with a string, that he might not stray out of sight, or throw off his charge, which I think he would have done had we not been on the watch.

It did not take us long to reach the bank of the stream near to our home. Just as we came in sight of the tent we heard Bill bark, and saw him run off as fast as he could to meet us. This put Turk in a sad way, and made him leap up at us and try to get free; so Fritz at last took the ape from him and let him go.

I need not tell you how glad my wife and sons were to see us safe back, or with what joy the boys took the "real live ape" out of Fritz's arms. "How did you catch him?" said Ernest; "what does he live on?" said Frank; "what fun we shall have with him!" cried Jack.

At length, when they got more staid, I told them that we had brought them all sorts of good things, but that we had not met with any of the men of whom we went in search. "God's will be done," said my wife, "let us thank Him that you have come back safe to us. This day to me has been an age; but put down your loads, for we must now go in and hear what you have to tell."

Fritz and I then told them, by turns, where we found the things we brought with us, how we made and dried the plates and bowls, cut the canes, and caught the ape in the wood. Our tales had not come to an end, when we were told that it was time to sup. Ernest had shot a wild goose, and some fish had been caught in the stream. With these, and the Dutch cheese that we brought from the ship, we made a good meal; but the boys would not rest till we broke some of the nuts, from which they drank the milk, made sweet with the juice of the canes. I must tell you that we ate our food in great state from our gourd rind plates, which my wife said she should prize more than if they were made of pure gold.

"We can at least eat out of them," said I, "and if they were gold we could do no more."

That night the ape went to bed with Jack and Fritz, and we all slept in peace till the cocks on the roof of the tent woke us up.

Next day Fritz and I went back to the wreck to save the live stock, and get what else we had left that might be of use to us. We found it no light task, for we had to make floats for the cow, the ass, the sheep, and the goats, throw them in the sea, and tie them with ropes to our raft. For the sow we did the same, though she soon broke loose; but we were glad to see the tide flat her straight to shore. We put on board the raft a vast deal of food that had not been spoilt by the sea, though the waves had made a breach in the sides of the wreck. We then put to sea with our train of live stock made fast to the stern, and drew them like a flock of huge ducks in the water.

We had not gone far when I heard a loud cry of fear from Fritz, "We are lost! We are lost! See what a great shark is on its way to us!"

Though pale with fright, he took aim with his gun, and shot the fish in the head. It sank at once, but left a track of blood in the sea, which I knew to be a sign that we were once more safe. We then got to land, and made fast our freight to the shore. Ere we had done this our friends came to greet us, and give us what help they could to get the beasts out of the stream, and take them up to the tent. The poor things were well nigh worn out; but we took good care of them, and put them to rest on some dry grass that my wife had laid out for them.

That night we did not sup on the ground. My wife had spread a clot on the top of a cask, and we each sat on a tub. With the knives and forks that we had found in the ship we ate a dish of hot ham and eggs, nor did we fail to test the wine that I had brought with me in a small cask from the wreck.

I can now well call to mind the strange scene, as we sat there round the cask, with our two dogs, the fowls, the ape, and the doves, all in the light of the red glow that came from the fire which burnt on the ground just by the tent.

Ere bed time my wife had told me that while I was at the wreck she had gone in search of some place in which we could build a house, and be safe from the wild beasts that we had heard growl in the night.

"And did you find one, my dear?" I said.

"Oh, yes," said she. "We can take you to a great tree that will serve us well, if we can but get across the stream with our goods."

"But would you have us roost, like fowls, in a tree? How do you think we could get up to our perch?"

"Was there not a large lime tree in our town in which they built a ball room, with stairs up the trunk?"

"To be sure there was," said I; "and if we can not build in it, we can at least make use of its shade, and dwell in a hut on the roots."

Ernest said that he took a string, and found that it was twelve yards round. This led me to think that my wife's scheme was by no means a bad one, and that I would have a look at the tree the next day.

When I had heard all they had to tell, we knelt down to pray, and then sought a good night's rest, which the toils of the day made us much in need of.