The Swiss Family Robinson, In Words of One Syllable/Chapter 8

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It took the whole of the next day to make a sledge, to which we tied the ass, and drove to Tent House. On our sledge we put such of the casks which held food, and took them back to The Nest. In the course of the same week, Fritz and I went once more to the wreck, and this time we brought off chests of clothes, pigs of lead, cart wheels, sacks of maize, oats, peas, and wheat, and a small mill that had been used by the cook on board to grind the peas with which he made soup for the crew. When we had put these on board the raft, there was not an inch of room to spare. With a strong bar we broke down some of the doors, and took such parts of the ship as we thought would aid us to build our house, which as yet was far less safe than I could wish. These we bound with cords, and made them float back at the stern of the raft.

When we got to the shore, my wife and the three boys were there to greet us. My first care was to send for the sledge, and with this we took most of our new wealth up to The Nest.

Fritz told Frank that he had seen a chest of gold coin on the wreck.

"Oh, I wish you had brought it with you," said he.

"And what would you have done with it when you had got it?" said I.

"I would buy some nice sweet cakes, for the bread we have is so hard."

This made us all laugh, and Frank with the rest, for he soon saw that the coin would be of no use in a place where there were no shops.

The next day I told my sons that they must now learn to run, to leap, to climb, and to throw stones straight at a mark, as all these things would be of great use to them in their new mode of life.

I next taught them to use the Las-so, by means of which men catch the wild horse on the vast plains of the New World. I tied two stones to the ends of a cord some yards in length, and flung off one of them at the trunk of a young tree; the cord went round and round it in a coil, and bound it so tight that I could have drawn it to me had it not been fast in the ground. This trick the boys were not slow to learn; and Fritz, in a short time, could take an aim as well with a stone as he could with his gun.

As yet we had not seen much of the isle; for though Fritz and I had gone some few miles round the place where we dwelt,it took most of our time to build the house, and this kept us hard at work near the tree. But one day we made up our minds that we would all start on a tour. We rose at dawn, put the ass in the sledge, took what food we thought we should need, and set out from The Nest just as the sun rose.

My sons and I took our guns, Frank sat in the sledge, my wife led the ass, and the ape rode on the back of our dog Turk. When we came to the wood where Fritz found the ape, he told them by what means we got the nuts, but now there were no apes there to throw them down.

"Oh, if one would but fall from the trees," he said.

The words had but just left his lips when a large nut fell at his feet. He made a start back, and two more came down near the same spot.

"It seems," said I, "as if we had but to wish for a thing and we get it."

As the nuts were far from ripe, I was at a loss to know how they could fall off the tree, for I could not see an ape nor a bird near. All at once Jack cried out, "See, see! here comes our friend, but I can't say much for his looks." With that I went close up to the tree, and saw a large land crab on its way down the trunk. Jack struck a blow at him with a stick, but did not hit the beast. He then took off his coat and threw it on the crab's head, while I made an end of him with an axe. I told them that these crabs climb the trees and break off the nuts, as we had seen, and then come down to feast on them at their ease.

"But how do they crack the nuts?" said Jack.

"They make a hole through the shell at the thin end, and then suck them dry."

The dead crab was put in the sledge, and we went on through the wood. The wild plants which lay in our path made us stop now and then to clear the way an axe, so that we did not get on fast, and the heat was so great that I thought we should have had to seek the shade of the next large tree we could find. When we came to the Gourd Wood, we sat down to make some more bowls and flasks to take back with us. Ernest had gone to try what new thing he could find, but he had not been from us long, when we heard him call out—

"A wild boar! A great wild boar! Come here, pray!"

We took up our guns, and went at once with the dogs to the spot. We soon heard Turk give a loud bark, and a long deep grunt told us that the dogs had found the beast, and were no doubt at his throat. But just then we heard Ernest laugh, and saw the two dogs come through a clump of brush wood, with our old sow fast by the ears. She did not seem to like the way in which they had put an end to her feast of fruit, so she ran back as soon as we told the dogs to let go their hold of her ears.

"But with all our sport," said Fritz, "we have a poor show of game. Let us leave the young ones, and set off to see what we can meet with." Ernest, who was not so fond of field sports as the rest, sat down with Frank, and we left them and my wife at the gourd tree, while Fritz and Jack set off with me to a high rock which we saw on the right. Jack went first and broke off the twigs, to let him pass through, with as much ease as if he had been born to that kind of work. "Fritz, look here," said he, as he made his way to the rock.

"What have you found now?" said Fritz.

"I don't know what it is, but it's a fine prize."

When I went up I saw at once that it was a large I-gu-a-na, the flesh and eggs of which are both good for food. Fritz would have shot at it, but I told him that its scales were no doubt shot proof, and that I knew a way to catch it that I thought would do quite as well. I had heard that these and such like beasts will stand still if you play an air on a pipe. So I crept near, and made a low sound with my lips, while I held in my right hand a stout stick, to which I had tied a cord with a noose, and in my left hand a slight wand. It soon woke from its sleep, but did not seem to fear us. I saw it first move its tail, and then draw its head from side to side, as if to look where the sound came from. I then threw the noose round its neck, drew it tight, got on its back with a leap, and thrust the wand up its nose, which is the sole part of the beast whee there are no hard scales. It bled at once, and was soon dead, nor did it seem to feel any pain. Our prize, which was near five feet long, was no slight weight to lift. I got it at last on my back; while Jack, in his fun, held up my train, which was, of course, its long tail, and thus we went back to the gourd tree, where we found the rest quite safe.

It took us a long time to reach The Nest that night. My wife did her best to dress some of the flesh of the land crab, but it was tough, and did not taste so nice as the soup made from the beast that we had caught by the nose.