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- The Little Savage - 30/51 -
"Except brushes and combs, I can hardly say. When I travelled about, I always carried my basket, containing those things most requisite for daily use, and in the basket I put everything that I wished to preserve, till I had an opportunity to put it away. When I embarked on board of the whaler, I brought my basket on my arm as usual, but except opening it for my brushes and combs or scissors, I have not examined it for months."
"What are brushes and combs and scissors?"
"That I will shew you," replied she, opening the lid of the basket. "These are the brushes and combs for cleaning the hair, and these are scissors. Now we will take everything out."
The basket did indeed appear to contain a wonderful quantity of things, almost all new to me. There were two brushes, twelve combs, three pair of scissors, a penknife, a little bottle of ink, some pens, a woman's thimble, a piece of wax, a case of needles, thread and silk, a piece of India ink, and a camel's-hair brush, sealing-wax, sticking plaster, a box of pills, some tape and bobbin, paper of pins, a magnifying glass, silver pencil case, some money in a purse, black shoe ribbon, and many other articles which I have forgotten. All I know is that I never was so much interested ever after at any show as I was with the contents of this basket, all of which were explained to me by my mother, as to their uses, and how they were made. There were several little papers at the bottom of the basket which she said were seeds of plants, which she had collected to take to England with her, and that we would plant them here. As she shook the dust out of the basket after it was empty, two or three white things tumbled out, which she asked me to pick up and give to her.
"I don't know how they came here," said she, "but three of them are orange-pips which we will sow to-morrow, and the other is a pea, but of what kind I know not, we will sow that also--but I fear it will not come up, as it appears to me to be one of the peas served out to the sailors on board ship, and will be too old to grow. We can but try. Now we will put into the chest, with the other things that you have, what we do not want for present use, and then I can drive a nail into the side of my bedroom and hang my basket on it."
"But," said I, "this round glass--what is that for?"
"Put it on one side," replied she, "and to-morrow, if it is fine, I will shew you the use of it; but there are some things we have forgotten, which are your belt and the other articles you gave me to take for you when you thought we were to leave the island. They are in the bed-place opposite to yours."
I brought them, and she put away the mate's watch and sleeve buttons, and the other trinkets, &c., saying that she would examine the letters and papers at another time. The belt was examined, counting how many of the squares had stones in them, and then, with her scissors, she cut open one of the squares, and took out a white glittering thing like glass as it appeared to me, and looked at it carefully.
"I am no great judge of these things," said she, "but still I have picked up some little knowledge. This belt, if it contain all stones like this, must be of considerable value; now I must get out my needle and thread and sew it up again." She did, and put the belt away with the other articles in the chest. "And now," said she, "we have done a good day's work, and it is time to have something to eat."
I must say that I was much better pleased with the appearance of the cabin, it was so neat and clean to what it had been, and everything was out of the way. The next day was a calm and clear day, and we went down to fish. We were fortunate, and procured almost as many as we had done at the previous fishing--they were all put in the bathing pool as before. When we went up to the cabin, as soon as the fish was put on the fire, under the direction of my mother, I turned up the sides of one of the pieces of sheet iron, so as to make a sort of dish. The other piece I did the same to, only not so high at the sides, as one piece was kept for baking the fish on and the other as a dish to put our dinner upon when cooked. That day we had been too busy with fishing to think of anything else, but on the following I recollected the magnifying glass, and brought it to her. She first showed me the power it had to magnify, with which I was much amused for a time, and she explained as well as she could to me the cause of its having that power, but I could not well understand her; I was more pleased with the effect than cognisant of the cause. Afterwards she sent me to the cabin for some of the dried moss which I used for tinder, and placing the glass so as to concentrate the rays of the sun, to my astonishment I saw the tinder caught fire. It was amazement more than astonishment, and I looked up to see where the fire came from. My mother explained to me, and I, to a certain degree, comprehended, but I was too anxious to have the glass in my own hands and try experiments. I lighted the tinder again-then I burnt my hand--then I singed one of the gannet's heads, and lastly, perceiving that Nero was fast asleep in the sun, I obtained the focus on his cold nose. He started up with a growl, which made me retreat, and I was perfectly satisfied with the result of my experiments. From that time, the fire was, when the sun shone, invariably lighted by the burning-glass, and very useful did I find it. As it was so portable, I always carried it with me, and when I had nothing to do, I magnified, or set fire, according to the humour of the moment.
Although I have not mentioned it, not a morning rose, but before breakfast, I read the Scriptures to my mother.
"There's so much in that book which I cannot understand," said I, one morning.
"I suspect that, living as you have, alone on this island, and having seen nothing of the world," replied my mother, "that there are not many books that you would understand."
"But I understand all that is said in the Beast and Bird Book," replied I.
"Perhaps you may, or think you do; but, Frank, you must not class the Bible with other books. The other books are the works of man, but the Bible is the word of God. There are many portions of that book which the cleverest men, who have devoted their lives to its study, cannot understand, and which never will be understood as long as this world endures. In many parts the Bible is a sealed book."
"But will it never be understood then by anybody?"
"There is quite as much of the Bible as is necessary for men to follow its precepts, and this is so clear that anybody may understand it--it contains all that is necessary for salvation; but there are passages, the true meaning of which we cannot explain, and which God, for his own purposes, will not permit us to. But if we do not know them now, we shall probably hereafter, when we have left this world, and our intellects more nearly approach God's."
"Well, I don't understand why we should not understand it."
"Frank," replied she, "look at that flower just in bloom. Do you understand how it is that that plant keeps alive--grows every year --every year throws out a large blue flower? Why should it do so? why should the flower always be blue? and whence comes that beautiful colour? Can you tell me? You see, you know that it does do so; but can you tell me what makes it do so?"
"Look at that bird. You know it is hatched from an egg. How is it that the inside of an egg is changed into a bird? How is it that the bird is covered with feathers, and has the power to fly? Can you explain to me yourself? You can walk about just as you please--you have the power of reasoning, and thinking, and of acting; but by what means is it that you possess that power? Can you tell? You know that is so, but you know no more. You can't tell why or how or what causes produce these effects--can you?"
"Well, then, if you are surrounded by all manner of things, living and dead, and see every day things which you cannot explain, or understand, why should you be surprised that, as God has not let you know by what means these effects are produced, that in his written word he should also keep from you that which for good purposes you are not permitted to know. Everything here is by God's will, and that must be sufficient for us. Now do you understand?"
"Yes, I see now what you mean, but I never thought about these things before. Tell me some more about the Bible."
"Not now. Some day I will give you a history of the Bible, and then you will understand the nature of the book, and why it was written; but not at present. Suppose, as we have nothing particular to do, you tell me all you know about yourself from Jackson, and all that happened while you lived with him. I have heard only part, and I should like to know all."
"Very well," replied I. "I will tell you everything, but it will take a long while."
"We shall have plenty of time to spare, my dear boy, I fear, before we leave this place; so, never mind time--tell me everything."
I commenced my narrative, but I was interrupted.
"Have you never been able to call your own mother to your memory?" said she.
"I think I can now, since I have seen you, but I could not before. I now can recollect a person dressed like you, kneeling down and praying by my side; and I said before, the figure has appeared in my dreams, and much oftener since you have been here."
"And your father?"
"I have not the slightest remembrance of him, or anybody else except my mother."
I then proceeded, and continued my narrative until it was time to go to bed; but as I was very circumstantial, and was often interrupted by questions, I had not told a quarter of what I had to say.
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