The Swiss Family Robinson – Chapter 4

Next morning all were early awake, and the children sprang about the tree like young monkeys.

`What shall we begin to do, father?’ they cried. `What do you want us to do, today?’

`Rest, my boys,’ I replied, `rest.’

`Rest?’ repeated they. `Why should we rest?’

`”Six days shalt thou labour and do all that thou hast to do, but on the seventh, thou shalt do no manner of work.” This is the seventh day,’ I replied, `on it, therefore, let us rest.’

`What, is it really Sunday?’ said Jack, `How jolly! Oh, I won’t do any work; but I’ll take a bow and arrow and shoot, and we’ll climb about the tree and have fun all day.’

`That is not resting,’ said I, `that is not the way you are accustomed to spend the Lord’s day.’

`No! But then we can’t go to church here, and there is nothing else to do.’

`We can worship here as well as at home,’ said I.

`But there is no church, no clergyman and no organ,’ said Franz.

`The leafy shade of this great tree is far more beautiful than any church,’ I said, `there will we worship our Creator. Come, boys, down with you: turn our dining hall into a breakfast room.’

The children, one by one, slipped down the ladder.

`My dear Elizabeth,’ said I, `this morning we will devote to the service of the Lord, and by means of a parable, I will endeavor to give the children some serious thought; but, without books, or the possibility of any of the usual Sunday occupations, we cannot keep them quiet the whole day; afterward, therefore I shall allow them to pursue any innocent recreation they choose, and in the cool of the evening we will take a walk.’

My wife entirely agreed with my proposal, and having breakfasted, the family assembled round me, as we sat in the pleasant shade on the fresh, soft grass.

After singing some hymns and offering heartfelt prayers to the Almighty Giver of all good, I told the children I would relate to them a parable instead of preaching a sermon.

`Oh, that would be delightful! I like the parables in the Bible better than anything,’ said Franz. `When can we hear you read out of the Bible again, father?’

`Ah, my little boy, your words reproach me,’ returned I. `While eagerly striving to procure from the ship would feed our bodies and provide for their comfort, I blush to think that I have neglected the Bread of Life, the word of God. I shall search for a Bible on my next return to the wreck: although our own books were nearly all destroyed, I am pretty sure to find one.’

At these words my wife arose, and fetching her magic bag, she drew from it a copy of the Holy Scriptures, which I thankfully received from her hand; and after reading aloud from its sacred pages, I spoke as follows:

`A Great King, ruling in power and splendor over a vast realm of light and love, possessed within its boundaries a desolate and unfruitful island. This spot he made the object of his special care; and, lavishing on it all the varied resources of his might and goodness, it bloomed in beauty, and became the happy residence of a band of colonists, who were charged not only with the cultivation and improvement of the soil, but each, individually, was bound to cherish in his soul the spirit of love and true allegiance to his Sovereign.

`While this faithful union was maintained, the colony flourished; and the noblest virtues exalted and rendered happy the existence of every member of the race.

`That a discontented and rebellious spirit should ever have infected these fortunate subjects of so loving a master, seems incredible, yet it was so; disobedience and pride brought misery and punishment, the fair prospects of the colony were blighted, the labours of the colonists were unblessed, and total separation from the parent kingdom seemed inevitable.

`A message of pardon—of free forgiveness—was nevertheless accorded to these rebels; and to all who, humbly accepting it, molded their future lives to the will of the Great King (now revealed in a character even more gracious than before), was held out the promise of removal at last from among the ruins caused by the great rebellion, to the glory and undimmed splendor of the realm of Light and Blessedness.’

Having interested the children, I then, leaving allegory, pressed simply and earnestly home to each young heart the truths I sought to teach; and, with a short prayer for a blessing on my words, brought the service to a close.

After a thoughtful pause, we separated, and each employed himself as he felt disposed.

I took some arrows, and endeavoured to point them with porcupine quills.

Franz came to beg me make a little bow and arrow for him to shoot with, while Fritz asked my advice about the tiger-cat skin and the cases he was to contrive from it. Jack assisted with the arrow-making, and inserting a sharp spine at one end of each reed made it fast with pack-thread, and began to wish for glue to ensure its remaining firm.

`Oh, Jack! Mamma’s soup is as sticky as anything!’ cried Franz. `Shall
I run and ask for a cake of it?’

`No, no, little goose! Better look for some real glue in the tool-box.’

`There he will find glue, to be sure,’ said I, `and the soup would scarcely have answered your purpose. But Jack, my boy, I do not like to hear you ridicule your little brother’s idea. Some of the most valuable discoveries have been the result of thoughts which originally appeared no wiser than his.’

While thus directing and assisting my sons, we were surprised by hearing a shot just over heads; at the same moment two small birds fell dead at our feet, and looking up, we beheld Ernest among the branches, as bending his face joyfully towards us, he cried, `Well hit! Well hit! A good shot, wasn’t it?’

Then slipping down the ladder, and picking up the birds, he brought them to me. One was a kind of thrush, the other a small dove called the ortolan, and esteemed a very great delicacy on account of its exquisite flavour.

As the figs on which these birds came to feed were only just beginning to ripen, it was probable that they would soon flock in numbers to our trees; and by waiting until we could procure them in large quantities, we might provide ourselves with valuable food for the rainy season, by placing them, when half cooked, in casks with melted lard or butter poured over them.

By this time Jack had pointed a good supply of arrows, and industriously practised archery. I finished the bow and arrows for Franz, and expected to be left in peace; but the young man next demanded a quiver, and I had to invent that also, to complete his equipment. It was easily done by stripping a piece of bark from a small tree, fitting a flat side and a bottom to it, and then a string. Attaching it to his shoulders, the youthful hunter filled it with arrows and went off; looking, as his mother said, like an innocent little Cupid, bent on conquest.

Not long after this, we were summoned to dinner, and all right willingly obeyed the call.