Willis the Pilot by Johanna Spyri
Three months after leaving the Cape, the coast of New Switzerland was telegraphed from the mast head by Bill Stubbs. A gun was immediately fired, and towards evening the Nelson entered Safety Bay. Fritz, Jack, Captain Littlestone, the missionary, and Willis, were all standing on deck, eagerly scanning the shore.
"There is father!" cried Jack, "armed with a telescope; and now I see Frank and Mrs. Wolston."
"There comes Mr. Wolston and Master Ernest," cried Willis, "as usual, a little behind."
"But I see nothing of my mother and the young ladies!" said Fritz.
"Very odd," said Captain Littlestone, sweeping the horizon with his glass "I can see nothing of them either."
A horrible apprehension here glided into the hearts of the young men. They knew well that, had their mother been able, she would have been the first to welcome them home. Perhaps, under the inspiration of despair, their lips were opening to deny the mercy of that Providence which had hitherto so remarkably befriended them, when at a great distance, and scarcely perceptible to the naked eye, they descried three figures advancing slowly towards the shore.
One of these forms was Mrs. Becker, who was leaning upon the arms of Mary and Sophia Wolston.
"God be thanked, we are still in time," cried Fritz and Jack.
A loud cheer, led by Willis, then rent the air. Half an hour after, the two young men leaped on shore; they did not stay to shake hands with their father and brothers, but ran on to where their mother stood. It was a long time before they could utter a syllable; the greeting of the mother and her children was too affectionate to be expressed in words.
Next morning, at daybreak, preparations for a serious operation were made in Mrs. Becker's room. The entire colony was in a state of intense excitement, and an air of anxiety was imprinted on every countenance. In the room itself the wing of a fly could have been heard, so breathless was the silence that prevailed. The patient's eyes had been bandaged, under pretext of concealing from her sight the surgical instruments and preparations for the operation. The real design, however, was to hide the operator, whom Mrs. Becker supposed to be an expert practitioner from Europe; for it was not thought advisable that a mother's anxieties should be superadded to the patient's sufferings.
At the moment of trial the few persons present had sunk on their knees; Jack alone remained standing at the bedside of his mother. The Jack of the past had entirely disappeared; he was somewhat pale, very grave, but collected, firm, and resolute. It was, perhaps, the first instance on record of a son being called upon to lacerate the body of his mother. But the moment that God imposed such a task upon one of His creatures, it is God himself that becomes the operator.
When, some days after, Mrs. Becker--calm, radiant, and saved--requested to see and thank her deliverer, it was Jack who presented himself. If she had known this sooner, it would, most undoubtedly, have augmented her terror, and increased the fever. As it was, it redoubled her thankfulness, and hastened her recovery.
Frank and Ernest embarked on board the Nelson when she returned to New Switzerland on her way to Europe. Two years afterwards, the former returned in the capacity of a minister of the Church of England, bringing with him a sufficient number of men, women, and children to furnish a respectable congregation; and it was rumored, though with what degree of truth I will not venture to say, that one of the young lady passengers in the ship was his destined bride. Ernest remained some years in Europe, partly to consolidate relations between the colony and the mother country, and partly with a view to realize his pet project of establishing an observatory in New Switzerland.
Willis, instead of being suspended at the yard-arm as he had insisted on prognosticating, received his lieutenancy in due course, accompanied by a highly flattering letter from the Lords of the Admiralty, thanking him, in the name of the captain and crew of the Nelson, for his exertions in their behalf. As soon, however, as peace was proclaimed, he retired on half-pay, and, with his wife and daughter, emigrated to Oceania. He assumed his old post of admiral on Shark's Island, where a commodious house had been erected. We must premise, at the same time, that to his honorary duties as admiral, conjoined the humbler, but not less useful, offices of lighthouse keeper, manager of the fisheries, and harbor-master.
As a country grows rich, and advances in prosperity, it rarely, if ever, happens that the sum of human life becomes happier or better. It is, therefore, not without regret we learn that gold has been discovered in a land so highly favored by nature in other respects; for, if such be the case, then adieu to the peace and tranquillity its inhabitants have hitherto enjoyed. The colony will soon be overrun with Chinamen, American adventurers, and ticket-of-leave convicts. Farewell to the kindliness and hospitality of the community, for they will inevitably be deluged with the refuse of the old, and also, alas! of the new world.