The Swiss Family Robinson

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Author: Johann Wyss  | Date: 1813

16

Another Trip to the Wreck

I ROSE BEFORE day to go to the sea-side, and inspect our two vessels. I gently descended the ladder without awaking my family. Above, the scene was all repose; below, everything was in life and motion. The dogs jumped about me, the cock and the hens flapped their wings and chuckled, and our goats shook their long beards as they browsed. I quickly roused and harnessed the ass, and the dogs followed without bidding. As I approached the shore, animated at different moments by hope and fear, I soon saw that the boat and raft had resisted the tide, though it had partially heaved them up. I got quickly on the raft, took a small loading, and returned to Falcon’s Stream in time for breakfast.

Breakfast over, we returned to the sea-side to complete the unloading of the raft that it might be ready for sea on the ebbing of the tide. We were not long in taking two cargoes to Falcon’s Stream. At our last trip the water was nearly up to our craft. I sent back my wife and the boys, and remained with Fritz till we were quite afloat; when observing Jack still loitering near, I guessed at his wish, and consented to his embarking with us. Shortly after, the tide was high enough for us to row off. Instead of steering for Safety Bay, to moor our vessels there securely, I was tempted by a fresh sea-breeze to go out again to the wreck; but it was too late to undertake much, and I was unwilling to cause my dear partner uneasiness by passing another night on board. I therefore determined to bring away only what could be obtained with ease and speed; we searched hastily through the ship for any trifling articles that might be readily removed. Jack was up and down everywhere, at a loss what to select; and when I saw him again, he drew a wheel-barrow after him, shouting that he had found a vehicle for carrying our wild roots.

But Fritz next disclosed still better news, which was, that he had discovered behind the bulk-head, amid-ship, a pinnace (i.e. a small craft, the fore part of which is square), taken to pieces, with all its appurtenances, and even two small guns for its defence. This intelligence so delighted me that I quitted everything else to run to the bulk-head, when I was convinced of the truth of the lad’s assertion; but I instantly perceived that to put it together, and launch it, would be an Herculean task. I collected various utensils, a copper boiler, some plates of iron, tobacco-graters, two grinding-stones, a small barrel of gunpowder, and another full of flints, which I much valued. Jack’s barrow was not forgotten; two more were afterwards found and added, with straps belonging to them. All these articles were hurried into the boat, and we re-embarked with speed, to avoid the land-wind that rises in the evening. As we were drawing near to shore, we were struck with the appearance of an assemblage of small figures ranged in a long line on the strand that seemed to be viewing us attentively; they were dressed in black, and all uniform, with white waistcoats and full cravats: the arms of these beings hung down carelessly; now and then, however, they seemed to extend them tenderly, as if they wished to embrace or offer us a token of friendship.

’I really think,’ said I to the boys, who were steadfastly gazing at them, ’that we are in the country of the pigmies, and that they wish to form a friendly alliance with us.’

JACK.- Oh, no, father! they are certainly Lilliputians, though somewhat bigger than those of whom I read the description in Gulliver’s Travels.

’You then, child,’ said I, ’consider those travels as true; that there is an island of Lilliput, and inhabited by dwarfs?’

JACK.- Gulliver says so. He met also with men of an immense stature, besides an island inhabited by horses-

’And yet I must tell you that the only reality in all his discoveries is the rich imagination of the author, whose taste and feeling led him to resort to allegory for the purpose of revealing grand truths. Do you know, Jack, what an allegory is?’

JACK.- It somewhat resembles a parable, I presume?

’Right, one is very similar to the other.’

JACK.- And the pigmies you mentioned, are any to be found?

’No more than there are Lilliputians; they exist only in poetical fiction, or in the erroneous account of some ancient navigators, in which a group of monkeys has been fallaciously described as diminutive men.’

FRITZ.- Such probably are the mannikins that we see now stretching out their arms towards us. Ah, now I begin to perceive that they have beaks, and that their arms are short drooping wings;- what strange birds!

’You are right, son, they are penguins, or ruffs; Ernest killed one soon after our arrival. They are excellent swimmers, but cannot fly; and so confused are they when on land, that they run in the silliest way into danger.’

While we were talking I steered gently towards shore, to enjoy the uncommon sight the longer; but the very moment we got into shallow water, my giddy Jack leaped up to his waist into it, and was quickly on land, battering with his stick among the penguins, before they were aware of his approach, so that half a dozen of them were immediately laid flat; the remainder, seeing they were so roughly accosted, plunged into the sea, dived, and disappeared.

As the sun declined, and we despaired of finishing before night set in, each of us filled a barrow, in order to take home something. I requested that the tobacco-graters and iron plates might be in the first load.

Arrived at Falcon’s Stream, my wife exhibited a good store of tuberous roots, which she had got in during our absence, and a quantity of the roots I had taken for manioc, and in which I was not mistaken; I much applauded her diligence and foresight, and gave Ernest and little Francis their share of approbation.

The first thing we did was to visit our fowls. Those which had eaten the manioc were in excellent condition, and no less so the monkey. ’Now then to the bakehouse, young ones,’ said I, ’as fast as you can scamper.’ The grated manioc was soon emptied out of the bag, a large fire was quickly lighted, and I placed the boys where a flat surface had been prepared for them, and gave to each a plate of iron and the quantity of a cocoa-nut-ful to make a cake apiece, and they were to try who could succeed the best. They were ranged in a half circle round me, that they might observe how I proceeded, and adopt the same method for themselves. The result was not discouraging for a first experiment, though it must be confessed we were now and then so unlucky as to burn a cake; but there was not a greater number of these than served to feed the pigeons and the fowls, which hovered round us to claim their share of the treat. My little rogues could not resist the pleasure of frequently tasting their cake, a little bit at a time, as they went on. At length the undertaking was complete; the cakes were put in a dish, and served, in company with a handsome share of milk, to each person; and with this addition they furnished us with an excellent repast; what remained we distributed among our animals and fowls.

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Chicago: Johann Wyss, "16," The Swiss Family Robinson Original Sources, accessed October 1, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L9C58ZAAGBMGTJF.

MLA: Wyss, Johann. "16." The Swiss Family Robinson, Original Sources. 1 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L9C58ZAAGBMGTJF.

Harvard: Wyss, J, '16' in The Swiss Family Robinson. Original Sources, retrieved 1 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L9C58ZAAGBMGTJF.