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- Journeys Through Bookland V3 - 40/69 -
guardhouse, the fierce-looking guns, and the waving flag upon the heights. We landed, that she might visit the fortification; when we displayed all our arrangements with great pride. When they and the herd of lovely gazelles had been sufficiently admired, we again embarked, and steered toward Deliverance Bay. On reaching the entrance, a grand salute of twelve shots welcomed us and our fair guest to Rockburg. Not pleased with the even number, however, Ernest insisted upon replying with thirteen guns, an odd number being, he declared, absolutely necessary for form's sake.
As we neared the quay, Fritz and Jack stood ready to receive us, and with true politeness handed their mother and Jenny ashore. They turned and led the way to the house through the gardens, orchards, and shrubberies which lay on the rising ground that sloped gently upward to our dwelling.
Jenny's surprise was changed to wonder as she neared the villa itself --its broad, shady balcony, its fountains sparkling in the sun, the dovecots, the pigeons wheeling above, and the bright, fresh creepers, twined round the columns, delighted her. She could scarcely believe that she was still far from any civilized nation, and that she was among a family wrecked like herself upon a lonely coast.
My amazement, however, fully equaled that of my little daughter when, beneath the shade of the veranda, I saw a table laid out with a delicious luncheon. All our china, silver, and glass had been called into requisition, and was arranged upon the spotless damask cloth.
Wine sparkled in the decanters, splendid pineapples, oranges, guavas, apples, and pears resting on cool green leaves, lay heaped in pyramids upon the porcelain dishes. A haunch of venison, cold fowl, ham, and tongues occupied the ends and sides of the table, while in the center rose a vase of gay flowers, surrounded by bowls of milk and great jugs of mead. It was, indeed, a perfect feast, and the heartiness of the welcome brought tears of joy into the lovely eyes of the fair girl in whose honor it had been devised.
All were soon ready to sit down; and Jenny, looking prettier than ever in the dress for which she had exchanged her sailor's suit, took the place of honor between the mother and me. Ernest and Franz also seated themselves; but nothing would induce Fritz and Jack to follow their example. They considered themselves our entertainers, and waited upon us most attentively, carving the joints, filling our glasses, and changing the plates; for, as Jack declared to Miss Montrose, the servants had all run away in our absence, and, for the next day or two, perhaps we should be obliged to wait upon ourselves.
When the banquet was over, and the waiters had satisfied their appetites, they joined their brothers, and with them displayed all the wonders of Rockburg to their new sister. To the house, cave, stables, gardens, fields and boathouses, to one after the other did they lead her.
Not a corner would they have left unnoticed, had not the mother, fearing they would tire the poor girl out, come to the rescue, and led her back to the house.
On the following day, after an early breakfast, we started, while it was yet cool, for Falconhurst; and as I knew that repairs and arrangements for the coming winter would be necessary, and would detain us for several days, we took with us a supply of tools, as well as baskets of provisions, and other things essential to our comfort.
The whole of our stud, excepting the ostrich, were in their paddocks near the tree; but Jack, saying that his mother and Jenny really must not walk the whole way, to the great amusement of the latter, leaped on Hurry, and fled away in front of us. Before we had accomplished one-quarter of the distance, we heard the thundering tread of many feet galloping down the avenue, and presently espied our motley troop of steeds being driven furiously toward us. Storm, Lightfoot, Swift, Grumble, Stentor, Arrow and Dart were there, with Jack, on his fleet two-legged courser, at their heels. At his saddle-bow hung a cluster of saddles and bridles, the bits all jangling and clanking, adding to the din and confusion, and urging on the excited animals, who thoroughly entered into the fun, and with tails in the air, ears back, and heels ever and anon thrown playfully out, seemed about to overwhelm us. We stepped aside to shelter ourselves behind the trees from the furious onset; but a shout from Fritz brought the whole herd to a sudden halt, and Jack spurred toward us. "Which of the cattle shall we saddle for you, Jenny?" he shouted; "they're all as gentle as lambs, and as active as cats. Every one has been ridden by mother, and knows what a side-saddle means, so you can't go wrong."
To his great delight, Jenny quickly showed her appreciation of the merits of the steeds by picking out Dart, the fleetest and most spirited in the whole stud.
The ostrich was then relieved of his unusual burden, the animals were speedily equipped, and Lightfoot bearing the baskets and hampers, the whole party mounted and trotted forward. Jenny was delighted with her palfry, and henceforward he was reserved for her special use.
The work at Falconhurst, as I had expected, occupied us for some time, and it was a week before we could again return to Rockburg. Yet the time passed pleasantly; for though the young men were busy from morning to night, the presence of their new companion, her lively spirits and gay conversation, kept them in constant good humor.
When the repairs were all finished, we remained yet a day or two longer, that we might make excursions in various directions to bring in poultry from Woodlands, stores of acorns for the pigs, and grass, willows, and canes, to be manufactured during the winter into mats, baskets, hurdles, and hen-coops.
Many a shower wetted us through during these days, and we had scarcely time to hurry back to Rockburg and house our cattle and possessions before the annual deluge began.
Never before had this dreary season seemed so short and pleasant; with Jenny among us, the usual feeling of weariness and discontent never appeared; the English language was quickly acquired by all hands, Fritz, in particular, speaking it so well that Jenny declared she could scarcely believe he was not an Englishman. She herself already spoke French, and therefore easily learned our native language and spoke it fluently before we were released from our captivity.
THE ENGLISH WARSHIP
Many wondrous tales were told or read in turn by the boys and Jenny during the long evenings as we sat drawing, weaving and plaiting in our cozy study. In fact, this winter was a truly happy time, and when at length the rain ceased and the bright sun again smiled upon the face of nature, we could scarcely believe, as we stepped forth and once more felt the balmy breath of spring, that, for so many weeks, we had been prisoners within our rocky walls.
All was once more activity and life; the duties in field, garden, and orchard called forth the energy of the lads, while their mother and sister found abundant occupation in the poultry yard and house. Our various settlements and stations required attention. Falconhurst, Woodlands, Prospect Hill, Shark and Whale Islands were in turn visited and set in order. The duty of attending to the island battery fell to Jack and Franz.
They had been busy all day repairing the flagstaff, rehoisting the flag, and cleaning and putting into working order the two guns.
Evening was drawing on and our day's work was over; the rest of us were strolling up and down upon the beach, enjoying the cool sea breeze. They loaded and ran out their guns, and paddling off with an empty tub in the cajack, placed it out at sea as a mark for practice. They returned and fired, and the barrel flew in pieces, and then, with a shout of triumph, they cleaned the guns and ran them in.
Scarcely had they done so when, as though in answer to their shots, came the sound of three guns booming across the water from the westward.
We stopped speechless. Was it fancy? Had we really heard guns from a strange ship? Or had the boys again fired? No! there were the lads leaping into their canoe, and paddling in hot haste toward us. They, too, had heard the sound.
A tumult of feelings rushed over us--anxiety, joy, hope, doubt, each in turn took possession of our minds. Was it a European vessel close upon our shores, and were we about to be linked once more to civilized life? Or did those sounds proceed from a Malay pirate, who would rob and murder us? What was to be the result of meeting with our fellow beings; were they to be friends who would help us, enemies who would attack us, or would they prove unfortunate creatures in need of our assistance? Who could tell?
Before we could express these thoughts in words the cajack had touched the shore, and Jack and Franz were among us.
"Did you hear them? Did you hear them?" they gasped. "What shall we do? Where shall we go?"
"O Fritz," continued my youngest son, "it must be a European ship. We shall find her. We shall see our Fatherland once more," and in an emotion of joy he grasped his brother's hands.
Till then I knew not what a craving for civilized life had been aroused in the two young men by the appearance of their European sister.
All eyes were turned toward me. What would I advise?
"At present," I said, "we can do nothing, for night is drawing on. We must make what preparations we can, and pray for guidance."
In the greatest excitement we returned to the house, all talking eagerly, and till late no one could be persuaded to retire to rest.
Few slept that night. The boys and I took it in turn to keep watch from the veranda, lest more signals might be fired, or a hostile visit might be paid us. But about midnight the wind began to rise, and before we reassembled to discuss our plans a fearful storm was raging; so terrific was the sea that I knew no boat could live, and had a broadside been fired at the entrance of the bay we should not have heard it through the howling of the blast. For two days and two nights the hurricane continued, but on the third day the sun again appeared, and the wind lulling, the sea went rapidly down. Full of anxiety, I readily complied with the boys' desire to put off to Shark Island and discharge the guns; for who could tell what had been the result of the
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