IN WORDS OF ONE SYLLABLE
By Mary Godolphin
The production of a book which is adapted to the use of the youngest readers needs but few words of excuse or apology. The nature of the work seems to be sufficiently explained by the title itself, and the author's task has been chiefly to reduce the ordinary language into words of one syllable. But although, as far as the subject matter is concerned, the book can lay no claims to originality, it is believed that the idea and scope of its construction are entirely novel, for the One Syllable literature of the present day furnishes little more than a few short, unconnected sentences, and those chiefly in spelling books.
The deep interest which De Foe's story has never failed to arouse in the minds of the young, induces the author to hope that it may be acceptable in its present form.
It should be stated that exceptions to the rule of using words of one syllable exclusively have been made in the case of the proper names of the boy Xury and of the man Friday, and in the titles of the illustrations that accompany this work.
IN WORDS OF ONE SYLLABLE.
I was born at York on the first of March in the sixth year of the reign of King Charles the First. From the time when I was quite a young child, I had felt a great wish to spend my life at sea, and as I grew, so did this taste grow more and more strong; till at last I broke loose from my school and home, and found my way on foot to Hull, where I soon got a place on board a ship.
When we had set sail but a few days, a squall of wind came on, and on the fifth night we sprang a leak. All hands were sent to the pumps, but we felt the ship groan in all her planks, and her beams quake from stem to stern; so that it was soon quite clear there was no hope for her, and that all we could do was to save our lives.
The first thing was to fire off guns, to show that we were in need of help, and at length a ship, which lay not far from us, sent a boat to our aid. But the sea was too rough for it to lie near our ship's side, so we threw out a rope, which the men in the boat caught, and made fast, and by this means we all got in. Still in so wild a sea it was in vain to try to get on board the ship which had sent out the men, or to use our oars in the boat, and all we could do was to let it drive to shore.
In the space of half an hour our own ship struck on a rock and went down, and we saw her no more. We made but slow way to the land, which we caught sight of now and then when the boat rose to the top of some high wave, and there we saw men who ran in crowds, to and fro, all bent on one thing, and that was to save us.
At last to our great joy we got on shore, where we had the luck to meet with friends who gave us the means to get back to Hull; and if I had now had the good sense to go home, it would have been well for me.
The man whose ship had gone down said with a grave look, "Young lad, you ought to go to sea no more, it is not the kind, of life for you." "Why Sir, will you go to sea no more then?" "That is not the same kind of thing; I was bred to the sea, but you were not, and came on board my ship just to find out what a life at sea was like, and you may guess what you will come to if you do not go back to your home. God will not bless you, and it may be that you have brought all this woe on us."
I spoke not a word more to him; which way he went I knew not, nor did I care to know, for I was hurt at this rude speech. Shall I go home thought I, or shall I go to sea? Shame kept me from home, and I could not make up my mind what course of life to take.
As it has been my fate through life to choose for the worst, so I did now. I had gold in my purse, and good clothes on my back, and to sea I went once more.
But I had worse luck this time than the last, for when we were far out at sea, some Turks in a small ship came on our track in full chase. We set as much sail as our yards would bear, so as to get clear from them. But in spite of this, we saw our foes gain on us, and we felt sure that they would come up with our ship in a few hours' time.
At last they caught us, but we brought our guns to bear on them, which made them shear off for a time, yet they kept up a fire at us as long as they were in range. The next time the Turks came up, some of their men got on board our ship, and set to work to cut the sails, and do us all kinds of harm. So, as ten of our men lay dead, and most of the rest had wounds, we gave in.
The chief of the Turks took me as his prize to a port which was held by the Moors. He did not use me so ill as at first I thought he would have done, but he set me to work with the rest of his slaves. This was a change in my life which I did not think had been in store for me. How my heart sank with grief at the thought of those whom I had left at home, nay, to whom I had not had the grace so much as to say "Good bye" when I went to sea, nor to give a hint of what I meant to do!
Yet all that I went through at this time was but a taste of the toils and cares which it has since been my lot to bear.
I thought at first that the Turk might take me with him when next he went to sea, and so I should find some way to get free; but the hope did not last long, for at such times he left me on shore to see to his crops. This kind of life I led for two years, and as the Turk knew and saw more of me, he made me more and more free. He went out in his boat once or twice a week to catch a kind of flat fish, and now and then he took me and a boy with him, for we were quick at this kind of sport, and he grew quite fond of me.
One day the Turk sent me in the boat to catch some fish, with no one else but a man and a boy. While we were out so thick a fog came on that though we were out not half a mile from the shore, we quite lost sight of it for twelve hours; and when the sun rose the next day, our boat was at least ten miles out at sea. The wind blew fresh, and we were all much in want of food, but at last, with the help of our oars and sail, we got back safe to land.
When the Turk heard how we had lost our way, he said that the next time he went out, he would take a boat that would hold all we could want if we were kept out at sea. So he had quite a state room built in the long boat of his ship, as well as a room for us slaves. One day he sent me to trim the boat, as he had two friends who would go in it to fish with him. But when the time came they did not go, so he sent me with the man and the boy—whose name was Xury—to catch some fish for the guests that were to sup with him.
Now the thought struck me all at once that this would be a good chance to set off with the boat, and get free. So in the first place, I took all the food that I could lay my hands on, and I told the man that it would be too bold of us to eat of the bread that had been put in the boat for the Turk. He said he thought so too, and he brought down a small sack of rice and some rusks.
While the man was on shore I put up some wine, a large lump of wax, a saw, an axe, a spade, some rope, and all sorts of things that might be of use to us. I knew where the Turk's case of wine was, and I put that in the boat while the man was on shore. By one more trick I got all that I had need of. I said to the boy, "the Turk's guns are in the boat, but there is no shot. Do you think you could get some? You know where it is kept, and we may want to shoot a fowl or two." So he brought a case and a pouch which held all that we could want for the guns. These I put in the boat, and then set sail out of the port to fish.
The wind blew, from the North, or North West, which was a bad wind for me; for had it been South I could have made for the coast of Spain. But, blow which way it might, my mind was made up to get off, and to leave the rest to fate. I then let down my lines to fish, but I took care to have bad sport; and when the fish bit, I would not pull them up, for the Moor was not to see them. I said to him, "This will not do, we shall catch no fish here, we ought to sail on a bit." Well, the Moor thought there was no harm in this. He set the sails, and, as the helm was in my hands, I ran the boat out a mile or more, and then brought her to, as if I meant to fish.
Now, thought I, the time has come for me to get free! I gave the helm to the boy, and then took the Moor round the waist, and threw him out of the boat.
Down he went! but soon rose up, for he swam like a duck. He said he would go all round the world with me, if I would but take him in.
I had some fear lest he should climb up the boat's side, and force his way back; so I brought my gun to point at him, and said, "You can swim to land with ease if you choose, make haste then to get there; but if you come near the boat you shall have a shot through the head, for I mean to be a free man from this hour."
He then swam for the shore, and no doubt got safe there, as the sea was so calm.
At first I thought I would take the Moor with me, and let Xury swim to land; but the Moor was not a man that I could trust. When he was gone I said to Xury, "If you will swear to be true to me, you shall be a great man in time; if not, I must throw you out of the boat too."
The poor boy gave me such a sweet smile as he swore to be true to me, that I could not find it in my heart to doubt him.
While the man was still in view (for he was on his way to the land), we stood out to sea with the boat, so that he and those that saw us from the shore might think we had gone to the straits' mouth, for no one went to the South coast, as a tribe of men dwelt there who were known to kill and eat their foes.
We then bent our course to the East, so as to keep in with the shore; and as we had a fair wind and a smooth sea, by the next day at noon, we were not less than 150 miles out of the reach of the Turk.
I had still some fear lest I should be caught by the Moors, so I would not go on shore in the day time. But when it grew dark we made our way to the coast, and came to the mouth of a stream, from which we thought we could swim to land, and then look round us. But as soon as it was quite dark we heard strange sounds—barks, roars, grunts, and howls. The poor lad said he could not go on shore till dawn. "Well," said I, "then we must give it up, but it may be that in the day time we shall be seen by men, who for all we know would do us more harm than wild beasts." "Then we give them the shoot gun," said Xury with a laugh, "and make them run away." I was glad to see so much mirth in the boy, and gave him some bread and rice.
We lay still at night, but did not sleep long, for in a few hours' time some huge beasts came down to the sea to bathe. The poor boy shook from head to foot at the sight. One of these beasts came near our boat, and though it was too dark to see him well, we heard him puff and blow, and knew that he must be a large one by the noise he made. At last the brute came as near to the boat as two oars' length, so I shot at him, and he swam to the shore.
The roar and cries set up by beasts and birds at the noise of my gun would seem to show that we had made a bad choice of a place to land on; but be that as it would, to shore we had to go to find some fresh spring, so that we might fill our casks. Xury said if I would let him go with one of the jars, he would find out if the springs were fit to drink; and, if they were sweet, he would bring the jar back full. "Why should you go?" said I; "Why should not I go, and you stay in the boat?" At this Xury said, "if wild mans come they eat me, you go way." I could not but love the lad for this kind speech. "Well," said I, "we will both go, and if the wild men come we must kill them, they shall not eat you or me."
I gave Xury some rum from the Turk's case to cheer him up, and we went on shore. The boy went off with his gun, full a mile from the spot where we stood, and came back with a hare that he had shot, which we were glad to cook and eat; but the good news which he brought was that he had found a spring, and had seen no wild men.
I made a guess that the Cape de Verd Isles were not far off, for I saw the top of the Great Peak, which I knew was near them. My one hope was that if I kept near the coast, I should find some ship that would take us on board; and then, and not till then, should I feel a free man. In a word, I put the whole of my fate on this chance, that I must meet with some ship, or die.
On the coast we saw some men who stood to look at us. They were black, and wore no clothes. I would have gone on shore to them, but Xury—who knew best—said, "Not you go! Not you go!" So I brought the boat as near the land as I could, that I might talk to them, and they kept up with me a long way. I saw that one of them had a lance in his hand.
I made signs that they should bring me some food, and they on their part made signs for me to stop my boat. So I let down the top of my sail, and lay by, while two of them ran off; and in less than half an hour they came back with some dry meat and a sort of corn which is grown in this part of the world. This we should have been glad to get, but knew not how to do so; for we durst not go on shore to them, nor did they dare to come to us. At last they took a safe way for us all, for they brought the food to the shore, where they set it, down, and then went a long way off while we took it in. We made signs to show our thanks, for we had not a thing that we could spare to give them.
But as good luck would have it, we were at hand to take a great prize for them; for two wild beasts, of the same kind as the first I spoke of, came in, full chase from the hills down to the sea.
They swam as if they had come for sport. The men flew from them in fear, all but the one who held the lance. One of these beasts came near our boat; so I lay in wait for him with my gun; and as soon as the brute was in range, I shot him through the head. Twice he sank down in the sea, and twice he came up; and then just swam to the land, where he fell down dead. The men were in as much fear at the sound of my gun, as they had been at the sight of the beasts. But when I made signs for them to come to the shore, they took heart, and came.
They at once made for their prize; and by the help of a rope, which they slung round him, they brought him safe on the beach.
We now left our wild men, and went on and on, for twelve days more. The land in front of us ran out four or five miles, like a bill; and we had to keep some way from the coast, to make this point, so that we lost sight of the shore.
I gave the helm to Xury and sat down to think what would be my best course to take: when all at once I heard the lad cry out "A ship with a sail! A ship with a sail!" He did not show much joy at the sight, for he thought that this ship had been sent out to take him back: but I knew well, from the look of her, that she was not one of the Turk's.
I made all the sail I could to come in the ship's way, and told Xury to fire a gun, in the hope that if those on deck could not hear the sound, they might see the smoke. This they did see, and then let down their sails so that we might come up to them, and in three hours time we were at the ship's side. The men spoke to us in French, but I could not make out what they meant. At last a Scot on board said in my own tongue, "Who are you? Whence do you come?" I told him in a few words how I had got free from the Moors.
Then the man who had charge of the ship bade me come on board, and took me in with Xury and all my goods. I told him that he might take all I had, but he said "You shall have your goods back when we come to land, for I have but done for you what you would have done for me, had I been in the same plight."
He gave me a good round sum for my boat, and said that I should have the same sum for Xury, if I would part with him. But I told him that as it was by the boy's help that I had got free, I was loath to sell him. He said it was just and right in me to feel thus, but at the same time, if I could make up my mind to part with him, he should be set free in two years' time. So, as the poor slave had a wish to go with him, I did not say "no." I got to All Saints' Bay in three weeks, and was now a free man.
I had made a good sum by all my store, and with this I went on land. But I did not at all know what to do next. At length I met with a man whose case was much the same as my own, and we both took some land to farm. My stock, like his, was low, but we made our farms serve to keep us in food, though not more than that. We both stood in need of help, and I saw now that I had done wrong to part with my boy.
I did not at all like this kind of life. What! thought I, have I come all this way to do that which I could have done as well at home with my friends round me! And to add to my grief, the kind friend, who had brought me here in his ship, now meant to leave these shores.
On my first start to sea when a boy, I had put a small sum in the hands of an aunt, and this my friend said I should do well to spend on my farm. So when he got home he sent some of it in cash, and laid out the rest in cloth, stuffs, baize, and such like goods. My aunt had put a few pounds in my friend's hands as a gift to him, to show her thanks for all that he had done for me, and with this sum he was so kind as to buy me a slave. In the mean time I had bought a slave, so now I had two, and all went on well for the next year.
But soon my plans grew too large for my means. One day some men came to ask me to take charge of a slave ship to be sent out by them. They said they would give me a share in the slaves, and pay the cost of the stock. This would have been a good thing for me if I had not had farms and land; but it was wild and rash to think of it now, for I had made a large sum, and ought to have gone on in the same way for three or four years more. Well, I told these men that I would go with all my heart, if they would look to my farm in the mean time, which they said they would do.
So I made my will, and went on board this ship on the same day on which, eight years since, I had left Hull. She had six guns, twelve men, and a boy. We took with us saws, chains, toys, beads, bits of glass, and such like ware, to suit the taste of those with whom we had to trade.
We were not more than twelve days from the Line, when a high wind took us off we knew not where. All at once there was a cry of "Land!" and the ship struck on a bank of sand, in which she sank so deep that we could not get her off. At last we found that we must make up our minds to leave her, and get to shore as well as we could. There had been a boat at her stern, but we found it had been torn off by the force of the waves. One small boat was still left on the ship's side, so we got in it.
There we were all of us on the wild sea. The heart of each now grew faint, our cheeks were pale, and our eyes were dim, for there was but one hope, and that was to find some bay, and so get in the lee of the land. We now gave up our whole souls to God.
The sea grew more and more rough, and its white foam would curl and boil. At last the waves, in their wild sport, burst on the boat's side, and we were all thrown out.
I could swim well, but the force of the waves made me lose my breath too much to do so. At length one large wave took me to the shore, and left me high and dry, though half dead with fear. I got on my feet and made the best of my way for the land; but just then the curve of a huge wave rose up as high as a hill, and this I had no strength to keep from, so it took me back to the sea. I did my best to float on the top, and held my breath to do so. The next wave was quite as high, and shut me up in its bulk. I held my hands down tight to my side, and then my head shot out at the top of the waves. This gave me heart and breath too, and soon my feet felt the ground.
I stood quite still for a short time, to let the sea run back from me, and then I set off with all my might to the shore, but yet the waves caught me, and twice more did they take me back, and twice more land me on the shore. I thought the last wave would have been the death of me, for it drove me on a piece of rock, and with such force, as to leave me in a kind of swoon, which, thank God, did not last long. At length, to my great joy, I got up to the cliffs close to the shore, where I found some grass, out of the reach of the sea. There, I sat down, safe on land at last.
I could but cry out in the words of the Psalm, "They that go down to the sea in ships, these men see the works of the Lord in the deep. For at His word the storms rise, the winds blow, and lift up the waves; then do they mount to the sky, and from thence go down to the deep. My soul faints, I reel to and fro, and am at my wit's end: then the Lord brings me out of all my fears."
I felt so wrapt in joy, that all I could do was to walk up and down the coast, now lift up my hands, now fold them on my breast, and thank God for all that He had done for me, when the rest of the men were lost. All lost but I, and I was safe! I now cast my eyes round me, to find out what kind of a place it was that I had been thus thrown in, like a bird in a storm. Then all the glee I felt at first left me; for I was wet and cold, and had no dry clothes to put on, no food to eat and not a friend to help me.
There were wild beasts here, but I had no gun to shoot them with, or to keep me from their jaws. I had but a knife and a pipe. It now grew dark; and where was I to go for the night? I thought the top of some high tree would be a good place to keep me out of harm's way; and that there I might sit and think of death, for, as yet, I had no hopes of life. Well, I went to my tree, and made a kind of nest to sleep in. Then I cut a stick to keep off the beasts of prey, in case they should come, and fell to sleep just as if the branch I lay on had been a bed of down.
When I woke up it was broad day; the sky too was clear and the sea calm. But I saw from the top of the tree that in the night the ship had left the bank of sand, and lay but a mile from me; while the boat was on the beach, two miles on my right. I went some way down by the shore, to get to the boat; but an arm of the sea, half a mile broad, kept me from it. At noon, the tide went a long way out, so that I could get near the ship; and here I found that if we had but made up our minds to stay on board, we should all have been safe.
I shed tears at the thought, for I could not help it; yet, as there was no use in that, it struck me that the best thing for me to do was to swim to the ship. I soon threw off my clothes, took to the sea, and swam up to the wreck. But how was I to get on deck? I had swam twice round the ship, when a piece of rope, caught my eye, which hung down from her side so low, that at first the waves hid it. By the help of this rope I got on board. I found that there was a bulge in the ship, and that she had sprung a leak. You may be sure that my first thought was to look round for some food, and I soon made my way to the bin, where the bread was kept, and ate some of it as I went to and fro, for there was no time to lose. There was, too, some rum, of which I took a good draught, and this gave me heart. What I stood most in need of, was a boat to take the goods to shore. But it was vain to wish for that which could not be had; and as there were some spare yards in the ship, two or three large planks of wood, and a spare mast or two, I fell to work with these, to make a raft.
I put four spars side by side, and laid short bits of plank on them, cross ways, to make my raft strong. Though these planks would bear my own weight, they were too slight to bear much of my freight. So I took a saw which was on board, and cut a mast in three lengths, and these gave great strength to the raft. I found some bread and rice, a Dutch cheese, and some dry goat's flesh. There had been some wheat, but the rats had got at it, and it was all gone.
My next task was to screen my goods from the spray of the sea; and it did not take me long to do this, for there were three large chests on board which held all, and these I put on the raft. When the high tide came up it took off my coat and shirt, which I had left on the shore; but there were some fresh clothes in the ship.
"See here is a prize!" said I, out loud, (though there were none to hear me), "now I shall not starve." For I found four large guns. But how was my raft to be got to land? I had no sail, no oars; and a gust of wind would make all my store slide off. Yet there were three things which I was glad of; a calm sea, a tide which set in to the shore, and a slight breeze to blow me there.
I had the good luck to find some oars in a part of the ship, in which I had made no search till now. With these I put to sea, and for half a mile my raft went well; but soon I found it drove to one side. At length I saw a creek, to which, with some toil, I took my raft; and now the beach was so near, that I felt my oar touch the ground.
Here I had well nigh lost my freight, for the shore lay on a slope, so that there was no place to land on, save where one end of the raft would lie so high, and one end so low, that all my goods would fall off. To wait till the tide came up was all that could be done. So when the sea was a foot deep, I thrust the raft on a flat piece of ground, to moor her there, and stuck my two oars in the sand, one on each side of the raft. Thus I let her lie till the ebb of the tide, and when it went down, she was left safe on land with all her freight.
I saw that there were birds on the isle, and I shot one of them. Mine must have been the first gun that had been heard there since the world was made; for at the sound of it, whole flocks of birds flew up, with loud cries, from all parts of the wood. The shape of the beak of the one I shot was like that of a hawk, but the claws were not so large.
I now went back to my raft to land my stores, and this took up the rest of the day. What to do at night I knew not, nor where to find a safe place to land my stores on. I did not like to lie down on the ground, for fear of beasts of prey, as well as snakes, but there was no cause for these fears, as I have since found. I put the chests and boards round me as well as I could, and made a kind of hut for the night.
As there was still a great store of things left in the ship, which would be of use to me, I thought that I ought to bring them to land at once; for I knew that the first storm would break up the ship. So I went on board, and took good care this time not to load my raft too much.
The first thing, I sought for was the tool chest; and in it were some bags of nails, spikes, saws, knives, and such things: but best of all I found a stone to grind my tools on. There were two or three flasks, some large bags of shot, and a roll of lead; but this last I had not the strength to hoist up to the ship's side, so as to get it on my raft. There were some spare sails too which I brought to shore.
I had some fear lest my stores might be run off with by beasts of prey, if not by men; but I found all safe and sound when I went back, and no one had come there but a wild cat, which sat on one of the chests. When I came up I held my gun at her, but as she did not know what a gun was, this did not rouse her. She ate a piece of dry goat's flesh, and then took her leave.
Now that I had two freights of goods at hand, I made a tent with the ship's sails, to stow them in, and cut the poles for it from the wood. I now took all the things out of the casks and chests, and put the casks in piles round the tent, to give it strength; and when this was done, I shut up the door with the boards, spread one of the beds (which I had brought from the ship) on the ground, laid two guns close to my head, and went to bed for the first time. I slept all night, for I was much in need of rest.
The next day I was sad and sick at heart, for I felt how dull it was to be thus cut off from all the rest of the world. I had no great wish for work: but there was too much to be done for me to dwell long on my sad lot. Each day as it came, I went off to the wreck to fetch more things; and I brought back as much as the raft would hold. One day I had put too great a load on the raft, which made it sink down on one side, so that the goods were lost in the sea; but at this I did not fret, as the chief part of the freight was some rope, which would not have been of much use to me.
The twelve days that I had been in the isle were spent in this way, and I had brought to land all that one pair of hands could lift; though if the sea had been still calm, I might have brought the whole ship, piece by piece.
The last time I swam to the wreck, the wind blew so hard, that I made up my mind to go on board next time at low tide. I found some tea and some gold coin; but as to the gold, it made me laugh to look at it. "O drug!" said I, "Thou art of no use to me! I care not to save thee. Stay where thou art, till the ship go down, then go thou with it!"
Still, I thought I might as well just take it; so I put it in a piece of the sail, and threw it on deck that I might place it on the raft. Bye-and-bye, the wind blew from the shore, so I had to swim back with all speed; for I knew that at the turn of the tide, I should find it hard work to get to land at all. But in spite of the high wind, I came to my home all safe. At dawn of day I put my head out, and cast my eyes on the sea. When lo! no ship was there!
This change in the face of things, and the loss of such a friend, quite struck me down. Yet I was glad to think that I had brought to shore all that could be of use to me. I had now to look out for some spot where I could make my home. Half way up a hill there was a small plain, four or five score feet long, and twice as broad; and as it had a full view of the sea, I thought that it would be a good place for my house.
I first dug a trench round a space which took in twelve yards; and in this I drove two rows of stakes, till they stood firm like piles, five and a half feet from the ground. I made the stakes close and tight with bits of rope; and put small sticks on the top of them in the shape of spikes. This made so strong a fence that no man or beast could get in.
The door of my house was on the top, and I had to climb up to it by steps, which I took in with me, so that no one else might come up by the same way. Close to the back of the house stood a high rock, in which I made a cave, and laid all the earth that I had dug out of it round my house, to the height of a foot and a half. I had to go out once a day in search of food. The first time, I saw some goats, but they were too shy and swift of foot, to let me get near them.
At last I lay in wait for them close to their own haunts. If they saw me in the vale, though they might be on high ground, they would run off, wild with fear; but if they were in the vale, and I on high ground, they took no heed of me. The first goat I shot had a kid by her side, and when the old one fell, the kid stood near her, till I took her off on my back, and then the young one ran by my side. I put down the goat, and brought the kid home to tame it; but as it was too young to feed, I had to kill it.
At first I thought that, for the lack of pen and ink, I should lose all note of time; so I made a large post, in the shape of a cross, on which I cut these words, "I came on these shores on the 8th day of June, in the year 1659" On the side of this post I made a notch each day as it came, and this I kept up till the last.
I have not yet said a word of my four pets, which were two cats, a dog, and a bird. You may guess how fond I was of them, for they were all the friends left to me. I brought the dog and two cats from the ship. The dog would fetch things for me at all times, and by his bark, his whine, his growl, and his tricks, he would all but talk to me; yet he could not give me thought for thought.
If I could but have had some one near me to find fault with, or to find fault with me, what a treat it would have been! Now that I had brought ink from the ship, I wrote down a sketch of each day as it came; not so much to leave to those who might read it, when I was dead and gone, as to get rid of my own thoughts, and draw me from the fears which all day long dwelt on my mind, till my head would ache with the weight of them.
I was a long way out of the course of ships: and oh, how dull it was to be cast on this lone spot with no one to love, no one to make me laugh, no one to make me weep, no one to make me think. It was dull to roam, day by day, from the wood to the shore; and from the shore back to the wood, and feed on my own thoughts all the while.
So much for the sad view of my case; but like most things it had a bright side as well as a dark one. For here was I safe on land, while all the rest of the ship's crew were lost. Well, thought I, God who shapes our ways, and led me by the hand then, can save me from this state now, or send some one to be with me; true, I am cast on a rough and rude part of the globe, but there are no beasts of prey on it to kill or hurt me. God has sent the ship so near to me, that I have got from it all things to meet my wants for the rest of my days. Let life be what it may, there is sure to be much to thank God for; and I soon gave up all dull thoughts, and did not so much as look out for a sail.
My goods from the wreck had been in the cave for more than ten months; and it was time now to put them right, as they took up all the space, and left me no room to turn in: so I made my small cave a large one, and dug it out a long way back in the sand rock. Then I brought the mouth of it up to the fence, and so made a back way to my house. This done, I put shelves on each side, to hold my goods, which made my cave look like a shop full of stores. To make these shelves I cut down a tree, and with the help of a saw, an axe, a plane, and some more tools, I made boards.
A chair, and a desk to write on, came next. I rose in good time, and set to work till noon, then I ate my meal, then I went out with my gun, and to work once more till the sun had set; and then to bed. It took me more than a week to change the shape and size of my cave, but I had made it far too large; for in course of time the earth fell in from the roof; and had I been in it, when this took place, I should have lost my life. I had now to set up posts in my cave, with planks on the top of them, so as to make a roof of wood.
One day, when out with my gun, I shot a wild cat, the skin of which made me a cap; and I found some birds of the dove tribe, which built their nests in the holes of rocks.
I had to go to bed at dusk, till I made a lamp of goat's fat, which I put in a clay dish; and this, with a piece of hemp for a wick, made a good light. As I had found a use for the bag which had held the fowl's food on board ship, I shook out from it the husks of corn. This was just at the time when the great rains fell, and in the course of a month, blades of rice, corn, and rye, sprang up. As time went by, and the grain was ripe, I kept it, and took care to sow it each year; but I could not boast of a crop of wheat, as will be shown bye-and-bye, for three years.
A thing now took place on the isle, which no one could have dreamt of, and which struck me down with fear. It was this—the ground shook with great force, which threw down earth from the rock with a loud crash—once more there was a shock—and now the earth fell from the roof of my cave. The sea did not look the same as it had done, for the shocks were just as strong there as on land. The sway of the earth made me feel sick; and there was a noise and a roar all around me. The same kind of shock came a third time; and when it had gone off, I sat quite still on the ground, for I knew not what to do. Then the clouds grew dark, the wind rose, trees were torn up by the roots, the sea was a mass of foam and froth, and a great part of the isle was laid waste with the storm. I thought that the world had come to an end. In three hours' time all was calm; but rain fell all that night, and a great part of the next day. Now, though quite worn out, I had to move my goods which were in the cave, to some safe place.
I knew that tools would be my first want, and that I should have to grind mine on the stone, as they were blunt and worn with use. But as it took both hands to hold the tool, I could not turn the stone; so I made a wheel by which I could move it with my foot. This was no small task, but I took great pains with it, and at length it was done.
The rain fell for some days and a cold chill came on me; in short I was ill. I had pains in my head, and could get no sleep at night, and my thoughts were wild and strange. At one time I shook with cold, and then a hot fit came on, with faint sweats, which would last six hours at a time. Ill as I was, I had to go out with my gun to get food. I shot a goat, but it was a great toil to bring it home, and still more to cook it.
I spent the next day in bed, and felt half dead from thirst, yet too weak to stand up to get some drink. I lay and wept like a child. "Lord look on me! Lord look on me!" would I cry for hours.
At last the fit left me, and I slept, and did not wake till dawn. I dreamt that I lay on the ground, and saw a man come down from a great black cloud in a flame of light. When he stood on the earth, it shook as it had done a few days since; and all the world to me was full of fire. He came up and said "As I see that all these things have not brought thee to pray, now thou shalt die." Then I woke, and found it was a dream. Weak and faint, I was in dread all day lest my fit should come on.
Too ill to get out with my gun, I sat on the shore to think, and thus ran my thoughts: "What is this sea which is all round me? and whence is it? There can be no doubt that the hand that made it, made the air, the earth, the sky. And who is that? It is God who hath made all things. Well then, if God hath made all things, it must be He who guides them; and if so, no one thing in the whole range of His works can take place, and He not know it. Then God must know how sick and sad I am, and He wills me to be here. O, why hath God done this to me!"
Then some voice would seem to say, "Dost thou ask why God hath done this to thee? Ask why thou wert not shot by the Moors, who came on board the ship, and took the lives of thy mates. Ask why thou wert not torn by the beasts of prey on the coasts. Ask why thou didst not go down in the deep sea with the rest of the crew, but didst come to this isle, and art safe."
A sound sleep then fell on me, and when I woke it must have been three o'clock the next day, by the rays of the sun: nay, it may have been more than that; for I think that this must have been the day that I did not mark on my post, as I have since found that there was one notch too few.
I now took from my store the Book of God's Word, which I had brought from the wreck, not one page, of which I had yet read. My eyes fell on five words, that would seem to have been put there for my good at this time; so well did they cheer my faint hopes, and touch the true source of my fears. They were these: "I will not leave thee." And they have dwelt in my heart to this day. I laid down the book, to pray. My cry was "O, Lord, help me to love and learn thy ways."
This was the first time in all my life that I had felt a sense that God was near, and heard me. As for my dull life here, it was not worth a thought; for now a new strength had come to me; and there was a change in my griefs, as well as in my joys.
I had now been in the isle twelve months, and I thought it was time to go all round it, in search of its woods, springs, and creeks. So I set off, and brought back with me limes and grapes in their prime, large and ripe. I had hung the grapes in the sun to dry, and in a few days' time went to fetch them, that I might lay up a store. The vale, on the banks of which they grew, was fresh and green, and a clear, bright stream ran through it, which gave so great a charm to the spot, as to make me wish to live there.
But there was no view of the sea from this vale, while from my house, no ships could come on my side of the isle, and not be seen by me; yet the cool, soft banks were so sweet and new to me that much of my time was spent there.
In the first of the three years in which I had grown corn, I had sown it too late; in the next, it was spoilt by the drought; but the third years' crop had sprung up well.
I found that the hares would lie in it night and day, for which there was no cure but to plant a thick hedge all round it; and this took me more than three weeks to do. I shot the hares in the day time; and when it grew dark, I made fast the dog's chain to the gate, and there he stood to bark all night.
In a short time the corn grew strong, and at last ripe but, just as the hares had hurt it in the blade, so now the birds ate it in the ear. At the noise of my gun, whole flocks of them would fly up; and at this rate I saw that there would be no corn left; so I made up my mind to keep a look out night and day. I hid by the side of a hedge, and could see the birds sit on the trees and watch, and then come down, one by one, at first. Now each grain of wheat was, as it were, a small loaf of bread to me. So the great thing was to get rid of these birds. My plan was this, I shot three, and hung them up, like thieves, to scare all that came to the corn; and from this time, as long as the dead ones hung there, not a bird came near. When the corn was ripe, I made a scythe out of the swords from the ship, and got in my crop.
Few of us think of the cost at which a loaf of bread is made. Of course, there was no plough here to turn up the earth, and no spade to dig it with, so I made one with wood; but this was soon worn out, and for want of a rake, I made use of the bough of a tree. When I had got the corn home, I had to thrash it, part the grain from the chaff, and store it up. Then came the want of a mill to grind it, of sieves to clean it, and of yeast to make bread of it.
Still, my bread was made, though I had no tools; and no one could say that I did not earn it, by the sweat of my brow. When the rain kept me in doors, it was good fun to teach my pet bird Poll to talk; but so mute were all things round me, that the sound of my own voice made me start.
My chief wants now were jars, pots, cups, and plates, but I knew not how I could make them. At last I went in search of some clay, and found some a mile from my house; but it was quite a joke to see the queer shapes and forms that I made out of it. For some of my pots and jars were too weak to bear their own weight; and they would fall out here, and in there, in all sorts of ways; while some, when they were put in the sun to bake, would crack with the heat of its rays. You may guess what my joy was when at last a pot was made which would stand the heat of the fire, so that I could boil the meat for broth.
The next thing to be made was a sieve, to part the grain from the husks. Goat's hair was of no use to me, as I could not weave or spin; so I made a shift for two years with a thin kind of stuff, which I had brought from the ship. But to grind the corn with the stones was the worst of all, such hard work did I find it. To bake the bread I burnt some wood down to an ash, which I threw on the hearth to heat it, and then set my loaves on the hearth, and in this way my bread was made.
The next thing to turn my thoughts to was the ship's boat, which lay on the high ridge of sand, where it had been thrust by the storm which had cast me on these shores. But it lay with the keel to the sky, so I had to dig the sand from it, and turn it up with the help of a pole. When I had done this I found it was all in vain, for I had not the strength to launch it. So all I could do now, was to make a boat of less size out of a tree; and I found one that was just fit for it, which grew not far from the shore, but I could no more stir this than I could the ship's boat. What was to be done? I first dug the ground flat and smooth all the way from the boat to the sea, so as to let it slide down; but this plan did not turn out well, so I thought I would try a new way, which was to make a trench, so as to bring the sea up to the boat, as the boat could not be brought to the sea. But to do this, I must have dug down to a great depth, which would take one man some years to do. And when too late, I found it was not wise to work out a scheme, till I had first thought of the cost and toil.
"Well," thought I, "I must give up the boat, and with it all my hopes to leave the isle. But I have this to think of: I am lord of the whole isle; in fact, a king. I have wood with which I might build a fleet, and grapes, if not corn, to freight it with, though all my wealth is but a few gold coins." For these I had no sort of use, and could have found it in my heart to give them all for a peck of peas and some ink, which last I stood much in need of. But it was best to dwell more on what I had, than on what I had not.
I now must needs try once more to build a boat, but this time it was to have a mast, for which the ship's sails would be of great use. I made a deck at each end, to keep out the spray of the sea, a bin for my food, and a rest for my gun, with a flap to screen it from the wet. More than all, the boat was one of such a size that I could launch it.
My first cruise was up and down the creek, but soon I got bold, and made the whole round of my isle. I took with me bread, cakes, and a pot full of rice, some rum, half a goat, two great coats, one of which was to lie on, and one to put on at night. I set sail in the sixth year of my reign. On the East side of the isle, there was a large ridge of rocks, which lay two miles from the shore; and a shoal of sand lay for half a mile from the rocks to the beach. To get round to this point, I had to sail a great way out to sea; and here I all but lost my life.
But I got back to my home at last. On my way there, quite worn out with the toils of the boat, I lay down in the shade to rest my limbs, and slept. But judge, if you can, what a start I gave, when a voice woke me out of my sleep, and spoke my name three times! A voice in this wild place! To call me by name, too! Then the voice said, "Where are you? Where have you been? How came you here?" But now I saw it all; for at the top of the hedge sat Poll, who did but say the words she had been taught by me.
I now went in search of some goats, and laid snares for them, with rice for a bait I had set the traps in the night, and found they had all stood, though the bait was gone. So I thought of a new way to take them, which was to make a pit and lay sticks and grass on it, so as to hide it; and in this way I caught an old goat and some kids. But the old goat was much too fierce for me, so I let him go. I brought all the young ones home, and let them fast a long time, till at last they fed from my hand, and were quite tame. I kept them in a kind of park, in which there were trees to screen them from the sun. At first my park was three miles round; but it struck me that, in so great a space, the kids would soon get as wild as if they had the range of the whole vale, and that it would be as well to give them less room; so I had to make a hedge which took me three months to plant. My park held a flock of twelve goats, and in two years more there were more than two score.
My dog sat at meals with me, and one cat on each side of me, on stools, and we had Poll to talk to us. Now for a word or two as to the dress in which I made a tour round the isle. I could but think how droll it would look in the streets of the town in which I was born. I wore a high cap of goat's skin, with a flap that hung, down, to keep the sun and rain from my neck, a coat made from the skin of a goat too, the skirts of which came down to my hips, and the same on my legs, with no shoes, but flaps of the fur round my shins. I had a broad belt of the same round my waist, which drew on with two thongs; and from it, on my right side, hung a saw and an axe; and on my left side a pouch for the shot. My beard had not been cut since I came here. But no more need be said of my looks, for there were few to see me. A strange sight was now in store for me, which was to change the whole course of my life in the isle.
One day at noon, while on a stroll down to a part of the shore that was new to me, what should I see on the sand but the print of a man's foot! I felt as if I was bound by a spell, and could not stir from, the spot.
Bye-and-bye, I stole a look round me, but no one was in sight, What could this mean? I went three or four times to look at it. There it was—the print of a man's foot; toes, heel, and all the parts of a foot. How could it have come there?
My head swam with fear; and as I left the spot, I made two or three steps, and then took a look round me; then two steps more, and did the same thing. I took fright at the stump of an old tree, and ran to my house, as if for my life. How could aught in the shape of a man come to that shore, and I not know it? Where was the ship that brought him? Then a vague dread took hold of my mind, that some man, or set of men, had found me out; and it might be, that they meant to kill me, or rob me of all I had.
How strange a thing is the life of man! One day we love that which the next day we hate. One day we seek what the next day we shun. One day we long for the thing which the next day we fear; and so we go on. Now, from the time that I was cast on this isle, my great source of grief was that I should be thus cut off from the rest of my race. Why, then, should the thought that a man might be near give me all this pain? Nay, why should the mere sight of the print of a man's foot, make me quake with fear? It seems most strange; yet not more strange than true.
Once it struck me that it might be the print of my own foot, when first the storm cast me on these shores. Could I have come this way from the boat? Should it in truth turn out to be the print of my own foot, I should be like a boy who tells of a ghost, and feels more fright at his own tale, than those do whom he meant to scare.
Fear kept me in-doors for three days, till the want of food drove me out. At last I was so bold as to go down to the coast to look once more at the print of the foot, to see if it was the same shape as my own. I found it was not so large by a great deal; so it was clear there were men in the isle. Just at this time my good watch dog fell down dead at my feet. He was old and worn out, and in him I lost my best guard and friend.
One day as I went from the hill to the coast, a scene lay in front of me which made me sick at heart. The spot was spread with the bones of men. There was a round place dug in the earth, where a fire had been made, and here some men had come to feast. Now that I had seen this sight, I knew not how to act; I kept close to my home, and would scarce stir from it, save to milk my flock of goats.
To feel safe was now more to me than to be well fed; and I did not care to drive a nail, or chop a stick of wood, lest the sound of it should be heard, much less would I fire a gun. As to my bread and meat, I had to bake it at night when the smoke could not be seen. But I soon found the way to burn wood with turf at the top of it, which made it like chark, or dry coal; and this I could use by day, as it had no smoke.
I found in the wood where I went to get the sticks for my fire, a cave so large that I could stand in it; but I made more haste to get out, than in; for two large eyes, as bright as stars, shone out from it with a fierce glare. I took a torch, and went to see what they could be, and found that there was no cause for fear; for the eyes were those of an old gray goat, which had gone there to die of old age. I gave him a push, to try to get him out of the cave, but he could not rise from the ground where he lay; so I left him there to die, as I could not save his life.
I found the width of the cave was twelve feet; but part of it, near the end, was so low that I had to creep on my hands and feet to go in. What the length of it was I could not tell, for my light went out, and I had to give up my search. The next day, I went to the cave with large lights made of goat's fat; and when I got to the end, I found that the roof rose to two score feet or more.
As my lights shone on the walls and roof of the cave, a sight burst on my view, the charms of which no tongue could tell; for the walls shone like stars. What was in the rock to cause this it was hard to say; they might be gems, or bright stones, or gold. But let them be what they may, this cave was a mine of wealth to me; for at such time as I felt dull or sad, the bright scene would flash on my mind's eye, and fill it with joy.
A score of years had gone by, with no new sight to rest my eyes on, till this scene burst on them. I felt as if I should like to spend the rest of my life here; and at its close, lie down to die in this cave, like the old goat.
As I went home I was struck by the sight of some smoke, which came from a fire no more than two miles off. From this time I lost all my peace of mind. Day and night a dread would haunt me, that the men who had made this fire would find me out. I went home and drew up my steps, but first I made all things round me look wild and rude. To load my gun was the next thing to do, and I thought it would be best to stay at home and hide.
But this was not to be borne long. I had no spy to send out and all I could do was to get to the top of the hill, and keep a good look out. At last, through my glass, I could see a group of wild men join in a dance round their fire. As soon a they had left, I took two guns, and slung a sword on my side; then with all speed, I set off to the top of the hill, once more to have a good view.
This time I made up my mind to go up to the men, but not with a view to kill them, for I felt that it would be wrong to do so. With such a load of arms, it took me two hours to reach the spot where the fire was; and by the time I got there, the men had all gone; but I saw them in four boats out at sea.
Down on the shore, there was a proof of what the work of these men had been. The signs of their feast made me sick at heart, and I shut my eyes. I durst not fire my gun when I went out for food on that side the isle, lest there should be some of the men left, who might hear it, and so find me out. This state of things went on for a year and three months, and for all that time I saw no more men.
On the twelfth of May, a great storm of wind blew all day and night. As it was dark, I sat in my house; and in the midst of the gale, I heard a gun fire! My guess was that it must have been from some ship cast on shore by the storm. So I set a light to some wood on top of the hill, that those in the ship, if ship it should be, might know that some one was there to aid them. I then heard two more guns fire. When it was light, I went to the South side of the isle, and there lay the wreck of a ship, cast on the rocks in the night by the storm. She was too far off for me to see if there were men on board.
Words could not tell how much I did long to bring but one of the ship's crew to the shore! So strong was my wish to save the life of those on board, that I could have laid down my own life to do so. There are some springs in the heart which, when hope stirs them, drive the soul on with such a force, that to lose all chance of the thing one hopes for, would seem to make one mad; and thus was it with me.
Now, I thought, was the time to use my boat; so I set to work at once to fit it out. I took on board some rum (of which I still had a good deal left), some dry grapes, a bag of rice, some goat's milk, and cheese, and then put out to sea. A dread came on me at the thought of the risk I had run on the same rocks; but my heart did not quite fail me, though I knew that, as my boat was small, if a gale of wind should spring up, all would be lost. Then I found that I must go back to the shore till the tide should turn, and the ebb come on.
I made up my mind to go out the next day with the high tide, so I slept that night in my boat. At dawn I set out to sea, and in less than two hours I came up to the wreck. What a scene was there! The ship had struck on two rocks. The stern was torn by the force of the waves, the masts were swept off, ropes and chains lay strewn on the deck, and all was wrapt in gloom. As I came up to the wreck, a dog swam to me with a yelp and a whine. I took him on board my boat, and when I gave him some bread he ate it like a wolf, and as to drink, he would have burst, if I had let him take his fill of it.
I went to the cook's room, where I found two men, but they were both dead. The tongue was mute, the ear was deaf, the eye was shut, and the lip was stiff; still the sad tale was told, for each had his arm round his friend's neck, and so they must have sat to wait for death. What a change had come on the scene, once so wild with the lash of the waves and the roar of the wind! All was calm now—death had done its work, and all had felt its stroke, save the dog, and he was the one thing that still had life.
I thought the ship must have come from Spain, and there was much gold on board. I took some of the chests and put them in my boat, but did not wait to see what they held, and with this spoil, and three casks of rum, I came back.
I found all things at home just as I had left them, my goats, my cats, and my bird. The scene in the cook's room was in my mind day and night, and to cheer me up I drank some of the rum. I then set to work to bring my freight from the shore, where I had left it. In the chests were two great bags of gold, and some bars of the same, and near these lay three small flasks and three bags of shot which were a great prize.
From this time, all went well with me for two years; but it was not to last. One day, as I stood on the hill, I saw six boats on the shore! What could this mean?
Where were the men who had brought them? And what had they come for? I saw through my glass that there were a score and a half, at least, on the east side of the isle. They had meat on the fire, round which I could see them dance. They then took a man from one of the boats, who was bound hand and foot; but when they came to loose his bonds, he set off as fast as his feet would take him, and in a straight line to my house.
To tell the truth, when I saw all the rest of the men run to catch him, my hair stood on end with fright. In the creek, he swam like a fish, and the plunge which he took brought him through it in a few strokes. All the men now gave up the chase but two, and they swam through the creek, but by no means so fast as the slave had done. Now, I thought, was the time for me to help the poor man, and my heart told me it would be right to do so. I ran down my steps with my two guns, and went with all speed up the hill, and then down by a short cut to meet them.
I gave a sign to the poor slave to come to me, and at the same time went up to meet the two men, who were in chase of him. I made a rush at the first of these, to knock him down with the stock of my gun, and he fell. I saw the one who was left, aim at me with his bow, so, to save my life, I shot him dead.
The smoke and noise from my gun, gave the poor slave who had been bound, such a shock, that he stood still on the spot, as if he had been in a trance. I gave a loud shout for him to come to me, and I took care to show him that I was a friend, and made all the signs I could think of to coax him up to me. At length he came, knelt down to kiss the ground, and then took hold of my foot, and set it on his head. All this meant that he was my slave; and I bade him rise, and made much of him.
But there was more work to be done yet; for the man who had had the blow from my gun was not dead. I made a sign for my slave (as I shall now call him) to look at him. At this he spoke to me, and though I could not make out what he said, yet it gave me a shock of joy; for it was the first sound of a man's voice that I had heard, for all the years I had been on the isle.
The man whom I had struck with the stock of my gun, sat up; and my slave, who was in great fear of him, made signs for me to lend him my sword, which hung in a belt at my side. With this he ran up to the man, and with one stroke cut off his head. When he had done this, he brought me back my sword with a laugh, and put it down in front of me. I did not like to see the glee with which he did it, and I did not feel that my own life was quite safe with such a man.
He, in his turn, could but lift up his large brown hands with awe, to think that I had put his foe to death, while I stood so far from him. But as to the sword, he and the rest of his tribe made use of swords of wood, and this was why he knew so well how to wield mine. He made signs to me to let him go and see the man who had been shot; and he gave him a turn round, first on this side, then on that; and when he saw the wound made in his breast by the shot, he stood quite, still once more, as if he had lost his wits. I made signs for him to come back, for my fears told me that the rest of the men might come in search of their friends.
I did not like to take my slave to my house, nor to my cave; so I threw down some straw from the rice plant for him to sleep on, and gave him some bread and a bunch of dry grapes to eat. He was a fine man, with straight strong limbs, tall, and young. His hair was thick, like wool, and black. His head was large and high; and he had bright black eyes. He was of a dark brown hue; his face was round, and his nose small, but not flat; he had a good mouth with thin lips, with which he could give a soft smile; and his teeth were as white as snow.
I had been to milk my goats in the field close by, and when he saw me, he ran to me, and lay down on the ground to show me his thanks. He then put his head on the ground, and set my foot on his head, as he had done at first. He took all the means he could think of, to let me know that he would serve me all his life; and I gave a sign to show that I thought well of him. The next thing was to think of some name to call him by. I chose that of the sixth day of the week (Friday), as he came to me on that day. I took care not to lose sight of him all that night, and when the sun rose, I made signs for him to come to me, that I might give him some clothes, for he wore none. We then went up to the top of the hill, to look out for the men; but as we could not see them, or their boats, it was clear that they had left the isle.
My slave has since told me that they had had a great fight with the tribe that dwelt next to them; and that all those men whom each side took in war were their own by right. My slave's foes had four who fell to their share, of whom he was one.
I now set to work to make my man a cap of hare's skin, and gave him a goat's skin to wear round his waist. It was a great source of pride to him, to find that his clothes were as good as my own.
At night, I kept my guns, sword, and bow close to my side; but there was no need for this, as my slave was, in sooth, most true to me. He did all that he was set to do, with his whole heart in the work; and I knew that he would lay down his life to save mine. What could a man do more than that? And oh, the joy to have him here to cheer me in this lone isle!
I did my best to teach him, so like a child as he was, to do and feel all that was right, I found him apt, and full of fun; and he took great pains to learn all that I could tell him. Our lives ran on in a calm, smooth way; and, but for the vile feasts which were held on the shores, I felt no wish to leave the isle.
As my slave had by no means lost his zest for these meals, it struck me that the best way to cure him, was to let him taste the flesh of beasts; so I took him with me one day to the wood for some sport. I saw a she-goat, in the shade, with her two kids. I caught Friday by the arm, and made signs to him not to stir, and then shot one of the kids; but the noise of the gun gave the poor man a great shock. He did not see the kid, nor did he know that it was dead. He tore his dress off his breast to feel if there was a wound there; then he knelt down to me, and took hold of my knees to pray of me not to kill him.
To show poor Friday that his life was quite safe, I led him by the hand, and told him to fetch the kid. By and by, I saw a hawk in a tree, so I bade him look at the gun, the hawk, and the ground; and then I shot the bird. But my poor slave gave still more signs of fear this time, than he did at first: for he shook from head to foot. He must have thought that some fiend of death dwelt in the gun, and I think that he would have knelt down to it, as well as to me; but he would not so much as touch the gun for some time, though he would speak to it when he thought I was not near. Once he told me that what he said to it was to ask it not to kill him.
I brought home the bird, and made broth of it. Friday was much struck to see me eat salt with it, and made a wry face; but I, in my turn, took some that had no salt with it, and I made a wry face at that. The next day I gave him a piece of kid's flesh, which I had hung by a string in front of the fire to roast. My plan was to put two poles, one on each side of the fire, and a stick, on the top of them to hold the string. When my slave came to taste the flesh, he took the best means to let me know how good he thought it.
The next day I set him to beat out and sift some corn. I let him see me make the bread, and he soon did all the work. I felt quite a love for his true, warm heart, and he soon learnt to talk to me. One day I said, "Do the men of your tribe win in fight?" He told me, with a smile, that they did. "Well, then," said I, "How came they to let their foes take you?"
"They run one, two, three, and make go in the boat that time."
"Well, and what do the men do with those they take?"
"Eat them all up."
This was not good news for me, but I went on, and said, "Where do they take them?"
"Go to next place where they think."
"Do they come here?"
"Yes, yes, they come here, come else place too."
"Have you been here with them twice?"
"Yes, come there."
He meant the North West side of the isle, so to this spot I took him the next day. He knew the place, and told me he was there once with a score of men. To let me know this, he put a score of stones all of a row, and made me count them.
"Are not the boats lost on your shore now and then?" He said that there was no fear, and that no boats were lost. He told me that up a great way by the moon—that is where the moon then came up—there dwelt a tribe of white men like me, with beards. I felt sure that they must have come from Spain, to work the gold mines. I put this to him: "Could I go from this isle and join those men?"
"Yes, yes, you may go in two boats."
It was hard to see how one man could go in two boats, but what he meant was, a boat twice as large as my own.
One day I said to my slave, "Do you know who made you?"
But he could not tell at all what these words meant. So I said, "Do you know who made the sea, the ground we tread on, the hills, and woods?" He said it was Beek, whose home was a great way off, and that he was so old that the sea and the land were not so old as he.
"If this old man has made all things, why do not all things bow down to him?"
My slave gave a grave look, and said, "All things say 'O' to him."
"Where do the men in your land go when they die?"
"All go to Beek."
I then held my hand up to the sky to point to it, and said, "God dwells there. He made the world, and all things in it. The moon and the stars are the work of his hand. God sends the wind and the rain on the earth, and the streams that flow: He hides the face of the sky with clouds, makes the grass to grow for the beasts of the field, and herbs for the use of man. God's love knows no end. When we pray, He draws near to us and hears us."
It was a real joy to my poor slave to hear me talk of these things. He sat still for a long time, then gave a sigh, and told me that he would say "O" to Beek no more, for he was but a short way off, and yet could not hear, till men went up the hill to speak to him.
"Did you go up the hill to speak to him?" said I.
"No, Okes go up to Beek, not young mans."
"What do Okes say to him?"
"They say 'O.'"
Now that I brought my man Friday to know that Beek was not the true God, such was the sense he had of my worth, that I had fears lest I should stand in the place of Beek. I did my best to call forth his faith in Christ, and make it strong and clear, till at last—thanks be to the Lord—I brought him to the love of Him, with the whole grasp of his soul.
To please my poor slave, I gave him a sketch of my whole life; I told him where I was born, and where I spent my days when a child. He was glad to hear tales of the land of my birth, and of the trade which we keep up, in ships, with all parts of the known world. I gave him a knife and a belt, which made him dance with joy.
One day as we stood on the top of the hill at the east side of the isle, I saw him fix his eyes on the main land, and stand for a long time to, gaze at it; then jump and sing, and call out to me.
"What do you see?" said I.
"Oh joy!" said he, with a fierce glee in his eyes, "Oh glad! There see my land!"
Why did he strain his eyes to stare at this land, as if he had a wish to be there? It put fears in my mind which made me feel far, less at my ease with him. Thought I, if he should go back to his home, he will think no more of what I have taught him, and done for him. He will be sure to tell the rest of his tribe all my ways, and come back with, it may be, scores of them, and kill me, and then dance round me, as they did round the men, the last time they came on my isle.
But these were all false fears, though they found a place in my mind a long while; and I was not so kind to him now as I had been. From this time I made it a rule, day by day, to find out if there were grounds for my fears or not. I said, "Do you not wish to be once more in your own land?"
"Yes! I be much O glad to be at my own land."
"What would you do there? Would you turn wild, and be as you were?"
"No, no, I would tell them to be good, tell them eat bread, corn, milk, no eat man more!"
"Why, they would kill you!"
"No, no, they no kill; they love learn."
He then told me that some white men, who had come on their shores in a boat, had taught them a great deal.
"Then will you go back to your land with me?"
He said he could not swim so far, so I told him he should help me to build a boat to go in. Then he said, "If you go, I go."
"I go? why they would eat me!"
"No, me make them much love you."
Then he told me as well as he could, how kind they had been to some white men. I brought out the large boat to hear what he thought of it, but he said it was too small. We then went to look at the old ship's boat, which, as it had been in the sun for years, was not at all in a sound state. The poor man made sure that it would do. But how were we to know this? I told him we should build a boat as large as that, and that he should go home in it. He spoke not a word, but was grave and sad.
"What ails you?" said I.
"Why, you grieve mad with your man?"
"What do you mean? I am not cross with you."
"No cross? no cross with me? Why send your man home to his own land, then?"
"Did you not tell me you would like to go back?"
"Yes, yes, we both there; no wish self there, if you not there!"
"And what should I do there?"
"You do great deal much good! you teach wild men be good men; you tell them know God, pray God, and lead new life."
We soon set to work to make a boat that would take us both. The first thing was to look out for some large trees that grew near the shore, so that we could launch our boat when it was made. My slave's plan was to burn the wood to make it the right shape; but as mine was to hew it, I set him to work with my tools; and in two months' time we had made a good strong boat; but it took a long while to get her down to the shore.
Friday had the whole charge of her; and, large as she was, he made her move with ease, and said, "he thought she go there well, though great blow wind!" He did not know that I meant to make a mast and sail. I cut down a young fir tree for the mast, and then I set to work at the sail. It made me laugh to see my man stand and stare, when he came to watch me sail the boat. But he soon gave a jump, a laugh, and a clap of the hands when he saw the sail jibe and fall, first on this side, then on that.
The next thing to do was to stow our boat up in the creek, where we dug a small dock; and when the tide was low, we made a dam, to keep out the sea. The time of year had now come for us to set sail, so we got out all our stores, to put them in the boat.
One day I sent Friday to the shore, to get a sort of herb that grew there. I soon heard him cry out to me, "O grief! O bad! O bad! O out there boats, one, two, three!" "Keep a stout heart," said I, to cheer him. The poor man shook with fear; for he thought that the men who brought him here, had now come back to kill him.
"Can you fight?" said I.
"Me shoot; but me saw three boats; one, two, three!"
"Have no fear; those that we do not kill, will be sure to take fright at the sound of our guns. Now will you stand by me, and do just as you are bid?"
"Me die when you bid die."
I gave him a good draught of rum; and when he had drunk this, he took up an axe and two guns, each of which had a charge of swan shot. I took two guns as well, and put large shot in them, and then hung my great sword by my side. From the top of the bill, I saw with the help of my glass, that the boats had each brought eight men, and one slave. They had come on shore near the creek, where a grove of young trees grew close down to the sea.
They had with them three slaves, bound hand and foot, and you who read this, may guess what they were brought here for. I felt that I must try and save them from so hard a fate, and that to do this, I should have to put some of their foes to death. So we set forth on our way. I gave Friday strict charge to keep close to me, and not to fire till I told him to do so.
We went full a mile out of our way, that we might get round to the wood to bide there. But we had not gone far, when my old qualms came back to me, and I thought, "Is it for me to dip my hands in man's blood? Why should I kill those who have done me no harm, and mean not to hurt me? Nay, who do not so much as know that they are in the wrong, when they hold these feasts. Are not their ways a sign that God has left them (with the rest of their tribe) to their own dull hearts? God did not call me to be a judge for Him. He who said, 'Thou shalt not kill,' said it for me, as well as the rest of the world."
A throng of thoughts like these would rush on my mind, as if to warn me to pause, till I felt sure that there was more to call me to the work than I then knew of. I took my stand in the wood, to watch the men at their feast, and then crept on, with Friday close at my heels. Thus we went till we came to the skirts of the wood. Then I said to. Friday, "Go up to the top of that tree, and bring me word if you can see the men."
He went, and quick as thought, came back to say that they were all round the fire, and that the man who was bound on the sand would be the next they would kill. But when he told me that it was a white man, one of my own race, I felt the blood boil in my veins. Two of the gang had gone to loose the white man from his bonds; so now was the time to fire.
At the sound of our guns, we saw all the men jump up from the ground where they sat. It must have been the first gun the I had heard in their lives. They knew not which way to look. I now threw down my piece, and took up a small gun; Friday did the same; and I gave him the word to fire! The men ran right and left, with yells and screams.
I now made a rush out of the wood, that they might see me, with my man Friday at my heels, of course. We gave a loud shout, and ran up to the white man as fast as we could. There he lay on the hot sand. I cut the flag, or rush, by which he was bound, but he was too weak to stand or speak, so I gave him some rum. He let me know by all the signs that he could think of, how much he stood in my debt for all that I had done for him.
I said, "We will talk of that bye and bye; but now we must do what we can to save our lives." Friday, who was free to go where he chose, flew here and there, and put all the men to the rout. They fled in full haste to their boats, and were soon out at sea; and so we got rid of our foes at last.
The man whom we had found on the sand told us that his name was Carl, and that he came from Spain. But there was one more man to claim our care; for the black men had left a small boat on the sands, and in this I saw a poor wretch who lay half dead. He could not so much as look up, so tight was he bound, neck and heels. When I cut the bonds from him he gave a deep groan, for he thought that all this was but to lead him out to die.
Friday then came up, and I bade him speak to the old man in his own tongue, and tell him that he was free. This good news gave him strength, and he sat up in the boat. But when Friday came to hear him talk, and to look him in the face, it brought the tears to my eyes to see him kiss and hug the poor old man, and dance round him with joy, then weep, wring his hands, and beat his own face and head, and then laugh once more, sing, and leap. For a long time he could not speak to me, so as to, let me know what all this meant. But at length he told me that he was the son of this poor old man, and that his name was Jaf.
It would be a hard task for me to tell of all the quaint, signs Friday made to show his joy. He went in and out of the boat five or six times, sat down by old Jaf, and held the poor old man's head close to his breast to warm it; then he set to work to rub his arms and feet, which were cold and stiff from the bonds. I told Friday to give him some rum and bread; but he said, "None! Bad dog eat all up self." He then ran off straight to the house, and took no heed of my calls, but went as swift as a deer.
In an hour's time, he came back with a jug in his hand. The good soul had gone all the way to the house, that Jaf might have a fresh draught from my well; and with it he brought two cakes, one of which I bade him take to Carl, who lay in the shade of a tree. His limbs were stiff and cold, and he was too weak to say a word.
I set my man to rub his feet with rum, and while he did so, I saw Friday turn his head round from time to time, to steal a look at the old man. Then we brought Carl and Jaf home from the boat on our backs, as they could not walk. The door of my house was at the top, and the poor sick men could not climb the steps by which I got in, so we made for them a tent of old sails.
I was now a king of these three men, as well as Lord of the isle; and I felt proud to say, "They all owe their lives to their king, and would lay them down for him if he bade them do so." But I did not think that my reign was so soon to come to an end. The next thing for us to do was to give Carl and Jaf some food, and to kill and roast a kid, to which we all four sat down, and I did my best to cheer them.
Carl in a few days grew quite strong, and I set him to work to dig some land for seed; for it was clear we should want more corn now that we had two more mouths to fill. So we put in the ground all the stock of grain I had, and thus we all four had as much work as we could do for some time. When the crop grew, and was ripe, we found we had a good store of grain.
We made a plan that Carl and Jaf should go back to the main land, to try if they could get some of the white men who had been cast on shore there, to come and live with us; so they got out the boat, and took with them two guns and food for eight days. They were to come back in a week's time, and I bade them hang out a sign when they came in sight, so that we might know who they were.
One day, Friday ran up to me in great glee, and said, "They are back! They are back!" A mile from shore, there was a boat with a sail, which stood in for the land; but I knew it could not be the one which our two friends had gone out in, for it was on the wrong side of the isle for that. I saw too, through my glass, a ship out at sea. There were twelve men in the boat, three of whom were bound in chains, and four had fire arms.
Bye and bye, I saw one of the men raise his sword to those who were in chains, and I felt sure that all was not right. Then I saw that the three men who had been bound were set free; and when they had come on shore they lay on the ground, in the shade of a tree. I was soon at their side, for their looks, so sad and worn, brought to my mind the first few hours I had spent in this wild spot, where all to me was wrapt in gloom.
I went up to these men, and said:
"Who are you, Sirs?"
They gave a start at my voice and at my strange dress, and made a move as if they would fly from me. I said, "Do not fear me, for it may be that you have a friend at hand, though you do not think it." "He must be sent from the sky then," said one of them with a grave look; and he took off his hat to me at the same time. "All help is from thence, Sir," I said; "but what can I do to aid you? You look as if you had some load of grief on your breast. I saw one of the men lift his sword as if to kill you."
The tears ran down the poor man's face, as he said,
"Is this a god, or is it but a man?" "Have no doubt on that score, Sir," said I, "for a god would not have come with a dress like this. No, do not fear—nor raise your hopes too high; for you see but a man, yet one who will do all he can to help you. Your speech shows me that you come from the same land as I do. I will do all I can to serve you. Tell me your case." "Our case, Sir, is too long to you while they who would kill us are so near. My name is Paul. To be short, Sir, my crew have thrust me out of my ship, which you see out there, and have left me here to die. It was as much as I could do to make them sheath their swords, which you saw were drawn to slay me. They have set me down in this isle with these two men, my friend here, and the ship's mate."
"Where have they gone?" said I.
"There, in the wood, close by. I fear they may have seen and heard us. If they have, they will be sure to kill us all."
"Have they fire-arms?"
"They have four guns, one of which is in the boat."
"Well then, leave all to me!"
"There are two of the men," said he, "who are worse than the rest. All but these I feel sure would go back to work the ship."
I thought it was best to speak out to Paul at once, and I said, "Now if I save your life, there are two things which you must do." But he read my thoughts, and said, "If you save my life, you shall do as you like with me and my ship, and take her where you please."
I saw that the two men, in whose charge the boat had been left, had come on shore; so the first thing I did was to send Friday to fetch from it the oars, the sail, and the gun. And now the ship might be said to be in our hands. When the time came for the men to go back to the ship, they were in a great rage; for, as the boat had now no sail nor oars, they knew not how to get out to their ship.
We heard them say that it was a strange sort of isle, for that sprites had come to the boat, to take off the sails and oars. We could see them run to and fro, with great rage; then go and sit in the boat to rest, and then come on shore once more. When they drew near to us, Paul and Friday would fain have had me fall on them at once. But my wish was to spare them, and kill as few as I could. I told two of my men to creep on their hands and feet close to the ground, so that they might not be seen, and when they got up to the men, not to fire till I gave the word.
They had not stood thus long, when three of the crew came up to us. Till now, we had but heard their voice, but when they came so near as to be seen, Paul and Friday stood up and shot at them. Two of the men fell dead, and they were the worst of the crew, and the third ran off. At the sound of the guns I came up, but it was so dark that the men could not tell if there were three of us or three score.
It fell out just as I could wish, for I heard the men ask, "To whom must we yield, and where are they?" Friday told them that Paul was there with the king of the isle, who had brought with him a crowd of men! At this one of the crew said, "If Paul will spare our lives, we will yield." "Then," said Friday, "you shall know the king's will." Then Paul said to them, "You know my voice; if you lay down your arms the king will spare your lives!"
They fell on their knees to beg the same of me. I took good care that they did not see me, but I gave them my word that they should all live, that I should take four of them to work the ship, and that the rest would be bound hand and foot, for the good faith of the four. This was to show them what a stern king I was.
Of course I soon set them free, and I put them in a way to take my place on the isle. I told them of all my ways, taught them how to mind the goats, how to work the farm, and make the bread. I gave them a house to live in, fire arms, tools, and my two tame cats, in fact, all but Poll and my gold.
As I sat on the top of the hill, Paul came up to me. He held out his hand to point to the ship, and with much warmth took me to his arms, and said, "My dear friend, there is your ship! For she is all yours, and so are we, and all that is in her."
I cast my eyes to the ship, which rode half a mile off the shore, at the mouth of the creek, and near the place where I had brought my rafts to the land. Yes, there she stood, the ship that was to set me free, and to take me where I might choose to go. She set her sails to the wind, and her flags threw out their gay stripes in the breeze. Such a sight was too much for me, and I fell down faint with joy. Paul then took out a flask which he had brought for me, and gave me a dram, which I drank, but for a good while I could not speak to him.
Friday and Paul then went on board the ship, and Paul took charge of her once more. We did not start that night, but at noon the next day I left the isle!
That lone isle, where I had spent so great a part of my life—not much less than thrice ten long years.
When I came back to the dear land of my birth, all was strange and new to me. I went to my old home at York, but none of my friends were there, and to my great grief I saw, on the stone at their grave, the sad tale of their death.
As they had thought, of course, that I was dead, they had not left me their wealth and lands, so that I stood much in want of means, for it was but a small sum that I had brought with me from the isle. But in this time of need, I had the luck to find my good friend who once took me up at sea. He was now grown too old for work, and had put his son in the ship in his place. He did not know me at first, but I was soon brought to his mind when I told him who I was. I found from him that the land which I had bought on my way to the isle was now worth much.
As it was a long way off, I felt no wish to go and live there so I made up my mind to sell it, and in the course of a few months, I got for it a sum so large as to make me a rich man all at once.
Weeks, months, and years went by; I had a farm, a wife, and two sons, and was by no means young; but still I could not get rid of a strong wish which dwelt in my thoughts by day and my dreams by night, and that was to set foot once more in my old isle.
I had now no need to work for food, or for means of life; all I had to do was to teach my boys to be wise and good, to live at my ease, and see my wealth grow day by day. Yet the wish to go back to my wild haunts clung round me like a cloud, and I could in no way drive it from me, so true is it that "what is bred in the bone will not come out of the flesh."
At length I lost my wife, which was a great blow to me, and my home was now so sad, that I made up my mind to launch out once more on the broad sea, and go with my man Friday to that lone isle where dwelt all my hopes.