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- The Swiss Family Robinson Told in Words of One Syllable - 1/12 -
THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
TOLD IN WORDS OF ONE SYLLABLE
by Mary Godolphin
WHEN one has a good tale to tell, he should try to be brief, and not say more than he can help ere he makes a fair start; so I shall not say a word of what took place on board the ship till we had been six days in a storm. The barque had gone far out of her true course, and no one on board knew where we were. The masts lay in splints on the deck, a leak in the side of the ship let more in than the crew could pump out, and each one felt that ere long he would find a grave in the deep sea, which sent its spray from side to side of what was now but a mere hulk.
"Come, boys," said I to my four sons, who were with me, "God can save us if it please Him so to do; but, if this is to be our last hour, let us bow to His will--we shall at least go down side by side."
My dear wife could not hide the tears that fell down her cheeks as I thus spoke to my sons, but she was calm, and knelt down to pray, while the boys clung round her as if they thought she could help them.
Just then we heard a cry of "Land! land!" felt a shock, and it was clear that we had struck on a rock, for we heard a loud cry from one of the men, "We are lost! Launch the boat; try for your lives!"
I went at once on deck, and found that all the boats had been let down, and that the last of the crew had just left the ship. I cried out for the men to come back and take us with them, but it was in vain.
I then thought that our last chance was gone. Still, as I felt the ship did not sink, I went to the stern, and found, to my joy, that she was held up by a piece of rock on each side, and made fast like a wedge. At the same time I saw some trace of land, which lay to the south, and this made me go back with some hope that we had still a faint chance.
As soon as I got down stairs I took my wife by the hand, and said, "Be of good cheer, we are at least safe for some time, and if the wind should veer round, we may yet reach the land that lies but a short way off."
I said this to calm the fears of my wife and sons, and it did so far more than I had a right to hope.
"Let us now take some food," said my wife. "We are sure to need it, for this will no doubt be a night to try our strength."
My wife got some food for her boys, which we were glad to see them eat, poor as it was; but we could not share their meal. Three out of the four were put to bed in their berths, and soon went to sleep; but Fritz, who was our first child, would not leave us. He said, like a good son, that he would try to be of some use, and think what could be done.
"If we could but find some cork," said Fritz to me in a low tone, "we might make floats. You and I will not need them, for we can swim, but the rest will want some such means to keep them up."
"A good thought," said I. "Let us try to find what things there are in the ship that we can thus make use of."
We soon found some casks and ropes, and with these we made a kind of float for each of the three boys, and then my wife made one for her own use. This done, we got some knives, string, and such things as we could make fast to our belts. We did not fail to look for and find a flint and steel, and the box in which the burnt rags were kept, for these were at that time in use as the means to strike a light.
Fritz, who was now well-nigh worn out, lay down on his bed and slept like the rest. As for me and my poor wife, we kept watch, each in fear lest the next wave should lift the ship off the rock and break it up.
I need not tell you how glad we were when we saw the first gleam of light. At dawn the wind did not blow so strong, the sky was clear of clouds, and we saw the sun rise, and with it rose our hopes. I soon had my wife and sons on deck.
"Where are the men?" said they. "How can we steer the ship?"
"My dear boys," said I, "He who has kept us safe till now will still aid us. Let all hands set to work, and leave the rest to God."
At these words we all went to work with a will. My wife went to feed the live stock; Fritz set off in search of arms, and the means to make use of them; and Ernest made his way to the tool chest. Jack ran to pick up what he could find, but as he got to one of the doors he gave it a push, and two huge dogs sprang out and leaped at him. He thought at first that they would bite him, but he soon found that they meant him no harm, and one of them let him get on his back and ride up to me as I came from the hold of the ship.
When the boys had done their search, and the spoil was brought on deck, we thought we had found all that we should need. "As for me," said my wife, "I have brought good news, for I find we have still on board a cow, an ass, two goats, six sheep, a ram, a pig, and a sow, and I have found food for them all."
"All that you bring will be of use," said I; "but I fear that Jack's dogs will do us more harm than good."
"Not at all," said Jack, "for they can help us to hunt when we get to land."
"Well said, Jack. And now let us see what we can do that will aid us to get there."
We then took the casks that we had found, and Ernest and I soon cut them in half. With these tubs we made a kind of raft, though it was no slight task. The tubs, in fact, were a fleet of eight small round boats, made so fast to some planks that no one of them could float from the rest. The next thing to be done was to launch the raft. This we at length did, and when the boys saw it slide down the side of the ship and float on the sea, they gave a loud shout, and each one tried who should be the first to get on it. I made it fast to the ship, and there left it.
I then told my wife to change her dress for that of one of the crew which she had found, as her skirts would have got in her way when she had to climb. She did not at first like this, but did so as soon as she saw the truth of what I told her.
At last, when all was done, we went to bed, and slept as sound as if we had been on land.
WE were all up at the break of day, and knelt down to thank God that He had kept us from harm through the night.
We then put all the things on the raft, and ten live hens and two cocks were put in one of the tubs. Some ducks and geese we let go, in the hope that they would swim to the shore; and a pair of doves were set free, as they could fly to the land.
There was a place in the raft for each of us. In the first tub sat my wife; in the next Frank, who was eight years old; in the third Fritz, not quite twice the age of Frank; in the fourth were the fowls, and some old sails that would make us a tent; the fifth was full of good things in the way of food; in the sixth stood Jack, a bold lad, ten years old; in the next Ernest, twelve years of age, well taught, but too fond of self, and less fond of work than the rest; while I sat in the eighth, to guide the raft that was to save all that was dear to me in the world.
As soon as the dogs (Bill and Turk by name) saw us push off from the ship they leaped in the sea, swam near the raft, and kept well up with us.
The sea was calm; so that we felt quite safe. We made good use of the oars, and the raft bore its freight straight to the land; but as we drew near to the shore the sight of the bare rocks led us to think that we might still be in need of food and drink when that which we had was gone.
As we got near, the coast lost its bare look, and we were glad to see that there was no lack of trees. We soon found a bay, to which the ducks and geese had found their way, and here we saw a place where we could land.
As soon as we had made the raft fast with a strong rope, we took out all our wealth, and made a tent with the old sail cloth we had brought with us, and stuck a pole in the ground to keep it up. This done, I sent the boys to get some moss and dry grass to make our beds with. With the flint and steel we soon set fire to some dry twigs, and my wife made a pot of soup with what she had brought from the ship.
Fritz, who had charge of the guns, chose one, and took a stroll by the side of a stream, while Jack went in search of shell fish, which he thought he might find on the rocks. My share of the work was to save two large casks which were near the shore. While I was up to my knees in the sea I heard a shrill cry, which I knew to come from Jack. I got out at once, took up an axe, and ran to his help. I found him with his legs in a rock pool, where a large crab held him by his toes. It soon made off as I came near; but I struck at it with the axe, and brought it out of the pool. Jack then took it up, though it gave him a pinch or two ere he found out how to hold it, and ran off in high glee to show what he had caught.
When I got back to the tent, I found that Ernest had brought us news that he had seen salt in the chinks of the rocks, and that shell fish were not scarce.
"Well, my boy, if you are sure you saw them, I will ask you to go back for some. We must each do some work for the good of all."
He went, and soon found the salt, left by the sea on the rocks, which the sun had made quite dry. There was some sand with it, but my wife did not take long to find a way to cure that. She had been to a fresh stream with a large jug; from this I saw her pour some on the salt, strain it through a cloth, and let it drip in a cup, so that all the sand was left on the cloth.
When the soup was made hot we had each a taste, and all said that it was good.
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