THE SOLITARY OF JUAN FERNANDEZ;
THE REAL ROBINSON CRUSOE
BY THE AUTHOR OF PICCIOLA.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY ANNE T. WILBUR.
The Royal Salmon.—Pretty Kitty.—Captain Stradling.—William Dampier. —Reveries and Caprices of Miss Catherine.
Alexander Selkirk.—The College.—First Love.—Eight Years of Absence. —Maritime Combats.—Return and Departure.—The Swordfish.
The Tour of the World.—The Way to manufacture Negroes.—California. —The Eldorado.—Revolt of Selkirk.—The Log-Book.—Degradation. —A Free Shore.
Inspection of the Country.—Marimonda.—A City seen through the Fog. —The Sea every where.—Dialogue with a Toucan.—The first Shot. —Declaration of War.—Vengeance.—A Terrestrial Paradise.
Labors of the Colonist.—His Study.—Fishing.—Administration. —Selkirk Island.—The New Prometheus.—What is wanting to Happiness. —Encounter with Marimonda.—Monologue.
The Hammock.—Poison.—Success.—A Calm under the Tropics.—Invasion of the Island.—War and Plunder.—The Oasis.—The Spy-Glass. —Reconciliation.
A Tete-a-tete.—The Monkey's Goblet.—The Palace.—A Removal.—Winter under the Tropics—Plans for the Future.—Property.—A burst of Laughter.—Misfortune not far off.
A New Invasion.—Selkirk joyfully meets an ancient Enemy.—Combat on a Red Cedar.—A Mother and her Little Ones.—The Flock.—Fete in the Island; Pacific Combats, Diversions and Swings.—A Sail.—The Burning Wood.—Presentiments of Marimonda.
The Precipice.—A Dungeon in a Desert Island.—Resignation.—The passing Bird.—The browsing Goat.—The bending Tree.—Attempts at Deliverance. —Success.—Death of Marimonda.
Discouragement.—A Discovery.—A Retrospective Glance.—Project of Suicide.—The Last Shot.—The Sea Serpent.—The Porro. —A Message.—Another Solitary.
The Island of San Ambrosio.—Selkirk at last knows what Friendship is. —The Raft.—Visits to the Tomb of Marimonda.—The Departure.—The two Islands.—Shipwreck.—The Port of Safety.
The Island of Juan Fernandez.—Encounter in the Mountains.—Discussion. —A New Captivity.—Cannon-shot.—Dampier and Selkirk.—Mas a Fuera. —News of Stradling.—Confidences.—End of the History of the real Robinson Crusoe.—Nebuchadnezzar.
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THE SOLITARY OF JUAN FERNANDEZ,
THE REAL ROBINSON CRUSOE.
* * * * *
The Royal Salmon.—Pretty Kitty.—Captain Stradling.—William Dampier. —Reveries and Caprices of Miss Catherine.
About the commencement of the last century, the little town of St. Andrew, the capital of the county of Fife, in Scotland, celebrated then for its University, was not less so for its Inn, the Royal Salmon, which, built in 1681 by a certain Andrew Felton, had descended as an inheritance to his only daughter, Catherine.
This young lady, known throughout the neighborhood under the name of pretty Kitty, had contributed not a little, by her personal charms, to the success and popularity of the inn. In her early youth, she had been a lively and piquant brunette, with black, glossy hair, combed over a smooth and prominent forehead, and dark, brilliant eyes, a style of beauty much in vogue at that period. Though tall and slender in stature, she was, as our ancestors would have said, sufficiently en bon point. In fine, Kitty merited her surname, and more than one laird in the neighborhood, more than one great nobleman even,—thanks to the familiarity which reigned among the different classes in Scotland,—had figured occasionally among her customers, caring as little what people might say as did the brave Duke of Argyle, whom Walter Scott has shown as conversing familiarly with his snuff merchant.
At present Catherine Felton is in her second youth. By a process common enough, but which at first appears contradictory, her attractions have diminished as they developed; her waist has grown thicker, the roses on her cheek assumed a deeper vermilion, her voice has acquired the rough and hoarse tone of her most faithful customers; the slender young girl is transformed into a virago. Fortunately for her, at the commencement of the eighteenth century, and especially in Scotland, reputations did not vanish as readily as in our days. Notwithstanding her increasing size and coarser voice, Catherine still remained pretty Kitty, especially in the eyes of those to whom she gave the largest credit.
Besides, if from year to year her beauty waned, a circumstance which might tend to diminish the attractions of her establishment, like a prudent woman she took care that her stock of ale and usquebaugh should also from year to year improve in quality, to preserve the equilibrium.
Undoubtedly the visits of lairds and great noblemen at her bar were less frequent than formerly, but all the trades-people in town, all the sailors in port, from the Gulf of Tay to the Gulf of Forth, still patronized the pretty landlady.
Meanwhile Catherine was not yet married. The gossips of the town were surprised, because she was rich and suitors were plenty; they fluttered around her constantly in great numbers, especially when somewhat exhilarated with wine. When their gallantry became obtrusive, Kitty was careful not to grow angry; she would smile, and lift up her white hand, tolerably heavy, till the offenders came to order. Catherine possessed in the highest degree the art of restraining without discouraging them, and always so as to forward the interests of her establishment.
To maintain the discipline of the tavern, nevertheless, the presence of a man was desirable; she understood this. Besides, the condition of an old maid did not seem to her at all inviting, and she did not care to wait the epoch of a third youth, before making a choice. But what would the unsuccessful candidates say? Would not this decision be at the risk of kindling a civil war, of provoking perhaps a general desertion? Then, too, accustomed as she was to command, the idea of giving herself a master alarmed her.
She was vacillating amid all these perplexities, when a certain sailor, with cold and reserved manners, whose face bore the mark of a deep sabre cut, and who had for some time past, frequented her inn with great assiduity, without ever having addressed to her a single word, took her aside one fine morning and said:
'Listen to me, Kate, and do not reply hastily. I came here, not like many others, attracted by your beautiful eyes, but because I wished to obtain recruits for an approaching voyage which I expected to undertake at my own risk and peril. I do not know how it has happened, but I now think less about sailing; I seem to be stumbling over roots. Right or wrong, I imagine that a good little wife, who will fill my glass while I am tranquilly smoking my pipe before a blazing fire, may have as many charms as the best brig in which one may sometimes perish with hunger and thirst. Right or wrong, I imagine to myself again that the prattle of two or three little monkeys around me, may be as agreeable as the sound of the wind howling through the masts, or of Spanish balls whistling about one's ears. All this, Kate, signifies that I mean to marry; and who do you suppose has put this pretty whim into my head? who, but yourself?'
Catherine uttered an exclamation of surprise, perfectly sincere, for if she had expected a declaration, it was certainly not from this quarter.
'Do not reply to me yet,' hastily resumed the sailor; 'he who pronounces his decree before he has heard the pleader and maturely reflected on the case, is a poor judge. To continue then. You are no longer a child, Kate, and I am no longer a young man; you are approaching thirty——'
At these words the pretty Kitty made a gesture of surprise and of denial.
'Do not reply to me!' repeated the pitiless sailor. 'You are thirty! I have already passed another barrier, but not long since. We are of suitable age for each other. The man should always have traversed the road before his companion. You are active and genteel; that does very well for women. You have always been an honest girl, that is better still. As for me, my skin is not so white as yours, but it is the fault of a tropic sun. It is possible that I may be a little disfigured by the scar on my cheek; but of this scar I am proud; I had the honor of receiving it, while boarding a vessel, from the hand of the celebrated Jean Bart, who, after having on that occasion lost a fine opportunity of being honorably killed, has just suffered himself to die of a stupid pleurisy; but it is not of him but of myself that we are now to speak. After having fought with Jean Bart, I have made a voyage with our not less celebrated William Dampier, whom I may dare call my friend. You may therefore understand, Kate, that if you have the reputation of an honest girl, I have that of a good sailor. The name of Captain Stradling is favorably known upon two oceans, and it will be to your credit, if ever, with your arm linked in mine, we walk as man and wife, through any port of England or Scotland. I have said. Now, look, reflect; if my proposition suits you, I will settle for life on terra firma, and bid adieu to the sea; if not, I resume my projected expedition, and it will be to you, Kate, that I shall say adieu.'
Catherine opened her mouth to thank him, as was suitable, for his good intentions.
'Do not reply to me!' interrupted he again; 'in three days I will come to receive your decision.'
And he went out, leaving her amazed at having listened to so long a speech from one, who until then, seated motionless in a distant corner of the room, had always appeared to her the most rigid and silent of seamen.
That very day Catherine has come to a decision concerning the captain; she thinks him ugly and disagreeable, coarse and ignorant; he has dared to tell her that she is thirty years old, and she will hardly be so at St. Valentine's Day, which is six weeks ahead, at least. Besides the scar which he has received from the celebrated Jean Bart, his countenance has no beauty to boast of: his face is long and pale, his temples are furrowed with wrinkles, and his lips thick and heavy; his eyebrows, at the top of his forehead, seem to be lost in his hair; his eyes are not mates, his nose is one-sided; his form is perhaps still worse; he walks after the fashion of a duck. Fie! can such a man be a suitable match for the rich landlady of the Royal Salmon, for the beautiful Kitty; for her who, among so many admirers and lovers, has had but the difficulty of a choice?
The next day towards nightfall, Catherine, seated in her bar, in the large leathern arm-chair which served as her throne, with dreamy and downcast brow, and chin resting on her hand, was still thinking of Captain Stradling, but her ideas had assumed a different aspect from those of the evening before.
She was saying to herself: 'If he has thick and heavy lips, it is because he is an Englishman; if he walks like a duck, it is because he is a sailor; if he has taken me to be thirty years old, that proves simply that he is a good physiognomist, and I shall have one painful avowal the less to make after marriage. As for his scar, he has a thousand reasons to be proud of it, and, upon close examination, it is not unbecoming. It would be very difficult for me to choose a husband, on account of the discontented suitors who will be left in the lurch; but I will relinquish my business, and that will put an end to all inconvenience. He is rich, so much for the profit; he is a captain, so much for the honor. Come, come, Mistress Stradling will have no reason to complain!'
At this moment, Catherine Felton could meditate quite at her ease, without fear of being noticed; for the tobacco smoke, three times as dense and abundant as usual, enveloped her in an almost opaque cloud. There was this evening a grand fete at the tavern of the Royal Salmon. The concourse of customers was immense, and this time, it was neither the beauty of the hostess, nor the quality of the liquors which had attracted them thither.
The serving-men and lasses were going from table to table, multiplying themselves to pour out, not only the golden waves of strong beer and usquebaugh, but the purple waves of claret and port; all faces were smiling, all eyes sparkling, and in the midst of the huzzas and vivas, was heard, with triple applause, the name of William Dampier.
This celebrated man, now a corsair, now a skilful seaman, who had just discovered so many unknown straits and shores, who had just made the tour of the world twice, in an age when the tour of the world did not pass, as at present, for a trifling matter; who had published, upon his return, a narrative full of novel facts and observations; this pitiless and intelligent pirate, who studied the coasts of Peru while he pillaged the cities along its shores, and meditated, in the midst of tempests, his learned theory of winds and tides, William Dampier, had landed, this very day at the little port of St. Andrew.
At the intelligence of his arrival, the whole maritime population of the coast was in commotion; the society of the Old Pilots, with that of the Sea Dogs, had sent to him deputations, headed by the principal ship-owners in the town. Captain Stradling had not failed to be among them, happy at the opportunity of once more meeting and embracing his former friend. Speeches were made, as if to welcome an admiral, speeches in which were passed in review all his noble qualities and the great services rendered by him to the marine interest. To these Dampier replied with simplicity and conciseness, saying to the orators:
'Gentlemen and dear comrades, you must be hoarse, let us drink!'
This first trait of eccentricity could not fail to enlist universal applause.
Commissioned by him to lead the column, Stradling could not do otherwise than to take the road to the Royal Salmon. It was on this occasion that he appeared there before the expiration of the three days: but he had not addressed a word to Catherine, scarcely turned his eyes towards her. Nevertheless the circumstances were favorable to his suit.
Then a millionaire, William Dampier had immediately declared his intentions to treat at his own expense the whole company and even the whole town, if the town would do him the honor to drink with him. Catherine at once took him into favor. When she heard him praise his friend and companion, the brave Captain Stradling, she felt for the latter, not an emotion of tenderness, but a sentiment of respect and even of good-will. Dampier, excited by his audience, did not fail, like other conquerors by land and sea, to recount some of his great deeds. Among others, he recapitulated a certain affair in which he and his friend Stradling had captured a Spanish galleon, laden with piastres. From this moment the beautiful Kitty became more thoughtful, and began to see that the scar was becoming to the face of this good captain. After drinking, when Dampier, still escorted by his fidus Achates, came to settle his account with the hostess, he chucked her familiarly under the chin, as was his custom with landladies in the four quarters of the globe. From any one else, the proud Catherine would not have suffered such a liberty; to this, she replied only by a graceful reverence, and, while the hero and paymaster of the fete shook a rouleau of gold upon her counter, she said, hastily bending towards Stradling:
'To-morrow!' accompanying this word with an expressive look and her most gracious smile.
The enamored Stradling, always impassible, contented himself with replying:
'It is well!'
The day following, the third, the important day, that which Catherine already regarded as her day of betrothal, early in the morning, she dressed herself in her best attire, not doubting the impatience of the captain. Before noon, the latter entered the inn and went directly up to the landlady.
She received him carelessly and coldly; she was nervous, she had not had time for reflection; she did not know what the captain wished; if he would let her alone for the present, by and by she would consider.
'Boy! a new pipe and some ale!' exclaimed Stradling, addressing a waiter.
And, perfectly calm in appearance, he sauntered to his accustomed place at the farther end of the bar-room. However, before leaving the Royal Salmon, approaching Catherine, he said:
'Yesterday, by your voice and gesture you said, or almost said, yes; we sailors know the signals; to-day it is no, or almost no. Very well, I will wait; but reflect, my beauty, we are neither of us young enough to lose our time in this foolish game.'
But what had thus unexpectedly changed, from white to black, the good intentions of Catherine in the captain's behalf? The presence of a young boy whom she had not seen for many years, and towards whom she had, until then, felt only a kindly indifference.
Alexander Selkirk.—The College.—First Love.—Eight Years of Absence. —Maritime Combats.—Return and Departure.—The Swordfish.
Alexander Selkirk,—the name of the principal personage in this narrative,—was born at Largo, in the county of Fife, not far from St. Andrew. Entered as a pupil in the university of the town, he at first distinguished himself by his aptitude and his intelligence, until the day when, hearing of the beauty of the landlady of the Royal Salmon, he was seized with an irresistible desire to see her: he saw her, and became violently enamored. It was one of those youthful passions, springing rather from the effervescence of the age, than from the merit of the object; one of those sudden ebullitions to which the young recluses of science are sometimes subject, from a prolonged compression of the natural and affectionate sentiments.
From this moment, all the words in the Greek and Latin dictionaries, all the principles of natural philosophy, mathematics and history, suddenly taken by storm, whirled confusedly and pell-mell in the head of Selkirk, like the elements of the world in chaos, before the day of creation.
His professors had predicted that at the annual exhibition he would obtain six great prizes; he obtained not even a premium.
As a punishment, he was required to remain within the college grounds during the vacation. But its gates were not strong enough, nor its walls high enough to detain him.
Condemned, for the crime of desertion, to a classic imprisonment, he was shut up in a cellar; he escaped through the window; in a garret; he descended by the roof.
Then, pronounced incorrigible, he was expelled from the university.
He left it joyous and happy, escaped from the tutor commissioned to conduct him to his father, and at last wholly free, his own master, he took lodgings in a cabin, not far from the Royal Salmon, and thought himself monarch of the universe.
As soon as the doors of the inn were opened, he penetrated there with the earliest fogs of morning, with the first beams of day; in the evening he was the last to cross the threshold, after the extinction of the lights.
All day long, seated at a little table opposite the bar, between a pipe and a pewter pot, he watched the movements of Kitty, and followed her with admiring eyes.
Catherine was not slow to perceive this new passion; but she was accustomed to admiring eyes, and therefore paid but little heed to them. She was then at the age of twenty-two, in all the glory of her transient royalty; he, scarcely sixteen, was in her eyes a boy, a raw and awkward boy, like almost all the other students, and she contented herself with now and then bestowing a slight smile upon him, in common with her other customers.
But this mechanical smile, this half extinguished spark, did but increase the flame, by kindling in the young man's soul a ray of hope.
At this age, passion has not yet an oral language; it is in the heart, in the head especially, but not on the lips; one comprehends, experiences, dreams, writes of love in prose and verse, but does not talk of it. Selkirk had twenty times attempted to confess his affection to Catherine; he had as yet succeeded only in a few simple and hasty meteorological sentences, on the rain and fine weather. He therefore wrote.
Unfortunately, Catherine could not easily read writing; she applied to him to interpret his letter. This was a hard task for the poor boy, who, with a tremulous and hesitating voice, saw himself forced to stammer through all that burning phraseology which seemed to congeal under the breath of the reader.
The result however was that Catherine became his friend; she encouraged his confidence, and gave him good advice as an elder sister might have done. She even called him by the familiar name of Sandy, which was a good omen.
Meanwhile his scanty resources became exhausted; he had no longer means to pay for the pot of ale which he consumed daily. The idea of asking credit of his beloved, of opening with her an account, which he might never have means to pay, was revolting to him. On the other hand, the thought of returning home, and asking pardon of his father, was not less repugnant to his feelings. He was endowed with one of those haughty and imperious natures which recognize their faults, not to repair them, but to make of them a starting point, or even a pedestal.
He was rambling about the port, reflecting on his unfortunate situation, when he heard mention made of a ship ready to set sail at high tide, and which needed a reinforcement of cabin-boys and sailors. This was for him an inspiration; he did not hesitate, he hastened to engage. That very evening he had gained the open sea, beyond the Isle of May, and, with his eyes turned towards the Bay of St. Andrew, was attempting, in vain, to recognize among the lights which were yet burning in the city, the fortunate lantern which decorated the sacred door of the Royal Salmon.
At present, Alexander Selkirk is twenty-four years old. He has become a genuine sailor, and he loves his profession; the sea is now his beautiful Kitty. Besides, it is long since he has troubled himself about his heart. It is empty, even of friendship, for, among his numerous companions, the proud young man has not found one worthy of him. After having served two years in the merchant marine, he has entered the navy. Thanks to the war kindled in Europe for the Spanish succession, he has for a long time cruised with the brave Admiral Rooke along the coasts of France; with him, he has fought against the Danish in the Baltic Sea, and in 1702, in the capacity of a master pilot, figured honorably in the expedition against Cadiz, and in the affair of Vigo. Finally, under the command of Admiral Dilkes, he has just taken part in the destruction of a French fleet.
But all these expeditions, rather military than maritime, and circumscribed in the narrow circle of the seas of Europe, have not satisfied the vast desires of the ambitious sailor. He experiences an invincible thirst to apply his knowledge, to exercise his intelligence on a larger scale; he is impatient for a long voyage, a voyage of discovery.
The terrific hurricane of the twenty-seventh of November, 1703, which drove the waves of the Thames even into Westminster, Hall, and covered London almost entirely with the fragments of broken vessels, appeared to Selkirk a favorable occasion for asking his dismissal. He easily obtained it. So many sailors had just been thrown out of employment by the hurricane.
Once more, the undisciplined scholar found himself free and his own master! He profited by this to pay a visit to his birthplace in Scotland. His father was dead, but he had some business to regulate there.
On reaching Largo he learned the arrival of William Dampier at St. Andrew. He set sail for that port immediately.
'Ah!' said he on his way, 'if this brave captain should be about to undertake a voyage to the New World, and will let me accompany him, no matter in what capacity, all my wishes will be gratified. I thirst to see tattooed faces, other trees besides beeches, oaks and firs; other shores than those of the Baltic, Mediterranean and Atlantic. Who knows whether I may not aid him in the discovery of some new continent, some unknown island which shall bear my name!'
And, cradled by the wave in the frail canoe that bore him, he dreamed of government, perhaps of royalty, in one of those archipelagoes which he imagined to exist in the bosom of the distant Southern seas, long afterwards explored by Cook, Bougainville and Vancouver.
Once in port, he hastened to inquire for the dwelling occupied by Dampier. The latter was absent; he was in the harbor.
While awaiting his return, our young sailor thought of his old friend Catherine, his pretty black-eyed Kitty, and directed his steps towards the inn.
He found her already enthroned in her leathern arm-chair, her hair neatly braided, with two small curls on her temples; in a toilette which the early hour of the morning did not seem to authorize; but it was the famous third day, and she was awaiting Stradling.
On seeing Selkirk enter, she exclaimed to the boy, pointing to the newly-arrived: 'A pot of ale!'
'No,' cried the young man smiling; 'the ale which I once drank here was for me a philter full of bitterness; a glass of whiskey, if you please,——' and, pointing to the little table opposite the bar at which he was formerly accustomed to place himself, he said:
'Serve me there; I will return to my old habits.'
Catherine looked at him with astonishment.
'Does not pretty Kate recognize me?' said he in a caressing tone, approaching her.
'How! Is it possible! is it you, indeed, Sandy?'
'Yes, Alexander Selkirk, formerly a fugitive from the University of St. Andrew; recently a master pilot in the royal marine; now, as ever, your very humble servant.'
And they shook hands, and examined each other closely, but the impression on both sides was far from being the same.
Catherine finds Selkirk much changed, but for the better; time and navigation have been favorable to him. He is no longer the raw student with embarrassed air, awkward manner, bony frame and dilapidated costume; but a stout young man, with a broad chest, active and graceful form; though his features are decidedly Scotch, they are handsome; his eyes, less brilliant than formerly, are animated with a more attractive thoughtfulness, and the naval uniform, which he still wears, sets off his person to advantage.
On his part, Selkirk finds Catherine also much changed; the rosy complexion, the soft voice, the youthful look, the twenty-two years, all are gone. Her form has assumed a superabundant amplitude.
They drop each other's hands and utter a sigh; he, of regret; she, of surprise.
Both close their eyes, at the same time; she, with the fear of gazing too earnestly; he, to recall the being of his imagination.
However this may be, she is not yet a woman to be despised by a sailor. He therefore prolongs his visit: they come to interrogations, to confidences.
Catherine acquaints him with the situation of her little business affairs; her fortune is improving; she gives him an estimate of it in round numbers, as well as of the suitors she has rejected; but she does not mention Captain Stradling, whose arrival she yet fears every moment.
Selkirk relates to her his campaigns, his combats against the French, against the Danish, the victorious attack of the English ships against the great boom of Vigo; but, when she asks him what motive has brought him back to St. Andrew, he replies boldly that he came to see her and no one else, and says not a word of Captain Dampier, whom he is even now impatient to meet.
At last the old friends say adieu.
Then the gallant sailor, with an apparent effort, goes away, not forgetting, however, to drink his glass of whiskey.
And this is the reason why, on the third day, Catherine has the vapors; this is the reason why, notwithstanding her soft words of the evening before and her grand morning toilette, she receives so coldly the scarred adversary of the celebrated Jean Bart.
During the whole of the week following, Stradling, Dampier and Selkirk, did not fail to meet at the Royal Salmon. Selkirk came to see Dampier; Dampier came to see Stradling; Stradling came to see Catherine Felton.
The latter thought the young man already knew the two others, that he had sailed with them, and was not surprised at their intimacy.
Sometimes Selkirk, leaving his companions in the midst of their bottles and glasses, would describe a tangent towards the counter, and come to converse with the pretty hostess. He no longer felt love for her, and notwithstanding this, perhaps for this very reason, he now talked eloquently.
Kitty blushed, was embarrassed, and poor Captain Stradling, listening with all his ears to the narratives of his illustrious friend William Dampier, or pre-occupied with his pipe, lost in its cloud, saw nothing,—or seemed to see nothing.
Nevertheless one evening, he went, in his turn, to lean on the counter:
'Kate,' said he, 'when is our marriage to take place?'
'Are you thinking of that still?' replied she, with an air of levity which would once have became her better; 'I hoped this fancy had passed out of your head.'
'I may then set out on my voyage, Kate?'
'Why not? We will talk of our plans on your return.'
'But I am going to make the tour of the world, as well as my friend Dampier. Kate, it is the affair of three years!'
'So much the better! it will give us both time for reflection.'
'It is well!' replied the phlegmatic Englishman, and nothing on his polar face betokened an afterthought.
The doors closed, the lights extinguished, Catherine retired to rest the happiest woman in the world. She said to herself: 'Alexander loves me, and has loved me for eight years! he deserves to be rewarded. He has less money than the other, it is a misfortune; but he has more youth and grace, that balances it. As to rank, a master pilot of twenty-four is as far advanced as a captain of forty. Between Selkirk and myself, if the wealth is on my side, on his will be gratitude and little attentions. At all events, I prefer a young husband who will whisper words of love in my ear, to amusing myself by pouring out drink for my lord and master, while he smokes his pipe, with his feet on the brands. Was it not thus that icicle, dressed in blue, called Stradling, talked to me of the pleasures of marriage? And what a name! But Mistress Selkirk!—that sounds well. In our Scotland, there is the county of Selkirk, the town of Selkirk; there is even a great nobleman of this name, who is something like minister to our Queen Anne, I believe. Who knows? we are perhaps of his family! As for walking about the port arm-in-arm with a captain, I am sure my very dear friends and neighbors would die with jealousy if I took, instead of this scarred captain, a young and handsome man. It is settled. I will marry Alexander; to-morrow I will myself announce it to him. I hope he will not die of joy!'
On the morrow she attired herself as on the day of Selkirk's return, in her beautiful dress of cloth and silk, with the two little curls upon her temples. She thus waited a great part of the day. At last, about four o'clock, Selkirk arrives in haste, his face beaming with joy, and a gleam of triumph in his eye.
'Has he then,' thought Catherine, 'a presentiment of the happiness in store for him?'
'Congratulate me, pretty Kitty,' said the young man, almost out of breath; 'I am appointed mate of the brig Swordfish, which I am to join at Dunbar.'
'How! you are going?'
'In an hour.'
'For a long time?'
'For three years at least. In a fortnight we set sail for the East Indies. It will be a great commercial voyage and a voyage of discovery. Unfortunately William Dampier does not accompany us; but he furnishes funds to the brave Captain Stradling.'
'Yes, it is he who has just engaged me, and with whom I am to sail. Our agreement is signed,—I am mate! I am going to explore the New World! Ah! I would not exchange my fate for that of a king. But time presses; adieu, Kitty, till I see you again!'
'Three years!' murmured Catherine.
And her curls grew straight beneath the cold perspiration that covered her forehead.
The Tour of the World.—The Way to manufacture Negroes—California. —The Eldorado.—Revolt of Selkirk.—The Log-Book.—Degradation. —A Free Shore.
The Swordfish, well provisioned, even with guns and ammunition, left Dunbar one morning with a fresh breeze, sailed down the North Sea, passed Ireland, France and Spain, the Azores, Canaries, and Cape Verd Islands on the coast of Africa, and, after having stopped for a short time in the harbors of Guinea and Congo, doubled the Cape of Good Hope, amid the traditional tempest.
Entering the Indian Ocean, and passing through the Straits of Sunda, she touched at Borneo, and at Java, reached the Southern Sea by the Gulf of Siam, passed the Philippine Isles, then, through the vast regions of the Pacific Ocean, pursued the route which had been marked out by the exploring ship of William Dampier in 1686. Like that, the Swordfish remained a few days at the Island of St. Pierre, before launching into that immensity where, during nearly two months, wave only succeeded to wave; at last she reached the coasts of South America, and cast anchor in the Gulf of California.
This gigantic voyage, which seemed as if it must have been attempted under the inspiration of science and with the hope of the most important discoveries, had been undertaken by Stradling with no object but of traffic and even of rapine. These had been the great ends of most of the bold enterprises which had preceded. The Spanish and Portuguese, in their discoveries of new continents, had thought less of glory than of riches; they had conquered the New World only to pillage it; the vanquished who escaped extermination, were forced to dig their native soil, not to render it more fruitful, but to procure from it, for the profit of the vanquisher, the gold it might contain. Among the European nations, those who had had no part in the conquest now sought to share the spoils. For this the least pretext of war or commerce sufficed.
Stradling availed himself of both these pretences; when he touched at the coasts of Guinea and Congo, it was to obtain negroes whom he expected to sell in America. At Borneo, the opportunity presented itself for an advantageous disposal of the greater part of his black merchandize; as he was a man of resources and not at all scrupulous, he soon found means to replace them.
In the Straits of Sunda, several barques, manned by negroes and Malays, had become entangled in the masses of seaweed which are every where floating on the surface of the wave; Stradling encountered them, made the rowers enter his ship, and obligingly took the barques in tow, to extricate them from their difficulty. But those who ascended the side of the Swordfish, descended only to be sold in their turn.
Although he had received an education superior to that of his companions, Selkirk shared in the prejudices of his times; he had therefore found nothing objectionable in seeing his captain exchange at Congo little mirrors, a few glass beads, half a dozen useless guns, and some gallons of brandy, for men still young and vigorous, torn from their country and their families. Their skin was of another color, their heads woolly; this was a profitable traffic, recognized by governments; but when he saw Stradling seize the property of others to refill his empty hold, he could not control his indignation and boldly expressed it:
'It is for their salvation,' replied the captain, without emotion; 'we will make Christians of them.'
On approaching the Vermilion Sea, a deep gulf which separates California from the American continent, and makes it almost an island, the Malays were rubbed with a mixture of tar and dragon's blood, dissolved in a caustic oil, to give to their olive skins a deeper shade, and their flat noses and silky hair making them pass for Yolof negroes, they were exchanged at Cape St. Lucas, along with the rest, for pearls and native productions.
The young mate thought this proceeding not less mean and dishonorable than the first; he made new observations.
'Nothing now remains to be done, captain,' said he, 'but to shave and besmear with tar the monkey you have just bought, and to include it among your new race of negroes.'
This time, the captain looked at him askance, and shrugged his shoulders without replying.
The storm was beginning to growl in the distance.
It was not without a secret object that, in his course through the Southern Sea, Stradling had first of all aimed at California.
He devoted an entire month to cruising along both shores of this almost island, and penetrating all the bays of the Vermilion Sea; he hoped to find there a passage to an unknown land, then predicted and coveted by all navigators. What was this land? The Eldorado!
Although I would hasten over these details of the voyage to arrive at the more important events of this history; now that the recent discovery of the immense mines of gold buried beneath the hills of California has aroused the entire world, that the name alone of Sacramento seems to fill with gold the mouth which pronounces it, there is a curious fact, perhaps entirely unknown, which I cannot pass over in silence.
After the middle of the sixteenth century, and long before the seventeenth, a vague rumor, a confused tradition, had located, in the neighborhood of the Vermilion Sea, a famed land, whose rivers rolled over gold, and whose mountains rested on golden foundations; the treasures of Mexico and Peru were nothing in comparison with those which were to be gathered there. An ingot of native gold was talked of, of a pepite or eighty pounds weight.
It was a grape from the promised land.
This marvellous country had been named, in advance, Eldorado.
Among the bold Argonauts of these two centuries, there was a contest as to who should first raise his flag over this new Colchis, defended, it was said, by the Apaches, a terrible, sanguinary and cannibal race, whom Cortez himself could not subdue. This land of gold some had located in New Biscay or New Mexico; others, in the pretended kingdoms of Sonora and Quivira; then, after several ineffectual attempts, the possibility of reaching it was denied; learned men, from the various academies of Europe, proved that the Eldorado was not a country, but a dream; on this subject the Old World laughed at the New; the Argonauts became discouraged, and during a century the subject was named only to be ridiculed.
And yet, in spite of sceptics and scoffers, the Eldorado existed. It existed where tradition had placed it, on the shores of this Vermilion Sea, now the Gulf of California. For once, popular opinion had the advantage over scientific dissertations and philosophic denials; there, where, according to the Dictionary of Alcedo, nothing had been discovered but mines of pewter! where Jacques Baegert had indeed acknowledged the presence of gold, but in meagre veins; where Raynal had named as curiosities only fishes and pearls, declaring, in California, the sea richer than the land; where in our own times M. Humboldt discovered nothing but cylindrical cacti, on a sandy soil, remained buried, as a deposit for future ages, this treasure of the world, which seemed to be waiting in order to leave its native soil, the moment of falling into the hands of a commercial and industrious people, that of the United States.
This Eldorado, Stradling sought in vain; he therefore decided to pursue his route along the coast of Mexico, now under the French flag, when he found an opportunity for traffic with the natives, colonists or savages; now under the English flag, when he wished to exercise his trade of corsair, an easy profession, for since the disaster of Vigo, the Spanish had abandoned their transatlantic possessions to themselves.
The Spanish soldiery of America then found themselves, in the presence of European adventurers, in that state of pusillanimous inferiority in which had been, at the period of the conquest, the subjects of the Incas and Montezuma before the soldiers of Cortez and Pizarro. The time was not already far passed, when a few bands of freebooters, from France, England and Holland, had well nigh wrested from his Majesty, the King of Spain and the Indies, the most extensive and wealthy of his twenty-two hereditary kingdoms.
Stradling was following in the footsteps of these freebooters.
Recently, two little cities on the coast had been put under contribution for the supplies of the Swordfish; there had been resistance, a threatened attack, a parley, and capitulation; in this affair, the young mate had nobly distinguished himself both as a combatant and a negotiator, and yet the captain had not deigned to give him a share in his distribution of compliments.
Selkirk felt an irritation the more lively that this shore life began to be irksome. Not that his conscience disturbed him any more than in the treatment of the blacks; he thought it as honorable to war with the Spaniards in the New World, as to be beaten by them in the Old; but he compared his present chief, Captain Stradling, with his former commander, the noble and brave Admiral Rooke; the parallel extended in his mind to his old companions in the royal navy, all so frank, so gay, so loyal,—among whom he had yet never found a friend,—and his new companions of to-day, recruited for the most part in the marshy lowlands of the merchant marine of Scotland; his thoughts became overshadowed, and his desires for independence, which dated from his college life, returned in full force.
As much as his duties permitted, he loved to isolate himself from all; when he could remain some time alone in his cabin, or gaze upon the sea from a retired corner of the deck and watch the ploughing of the vessel, then only he was happy.
As if to increase his uneasiness, Stradling became daily more severe and more exacting towards his chief officer; he imposed upon him rude labors foreign to his station. It seemed as if he were determined to drive him to desperation.
Selkirk protested against such treatment, and recapitulated his subjects of complaint. The other paid no more attention than he would have done to the buzzing of a fly.
Irritated by this outrageous impassibility, the young man declared that there should no longer be any thing in common between them, and that, whatever fate might await him, he demanded to be set on shore.
Stradling touched his forehead:
'That is a good idea,' said he, and he turned away.
The next day, they reached the Isthmus of Panama; the persevering Selkirk returned to the charge: 'The moment is favorable for ridding yourself of me, and me of you,' said he to the captain; 'let the boat convey me to the shore; I will cross the Isthmus, reach the Gulf of Darien, the North Sea, and return to Scotland, even before the Swordfish!'
This time the honest corsair listened attentively, then shaking his head and winking his eye, with the smile of a hungry vampire, replied:
'You are then in great haste to be married, comrade.'
It was the first word he had addressed to him relative to Catherine during this long voyage, and this word Selkirk had not even understood.
They were about passing Panama: the vessel continuing her voyage, Selkirk interposed his authority, ordered the men to put about, take in sail and approach the shore.
This Stradling prohibited, uttered a formidable oath, and commanded the young man to bring the log-book. When it was brought, he made the following entry:
'To-day, Sept. 24th, 1704, Alexander Selkirk, mate of this vessel, having mutinied and attempted to desert to the enemy, we have deprived him of his title and his office; in case of obstinacy we shall hang him to the yard-arm.'
And he read the sentence to the offender.
From this day, the rebel saw himself compelled to serve in the Swordfish as a simple sailor, and his subordinates of yesterday, to-day his equals, indemnified themselves for the authority he had exercised over them, which did not cure him of that native contempt he had always felt for mankind.
A month passed away thus, during which the Swordfish several times touched the shores of Peru, now to renew her supplies of provisions and water, now to exchange with the Indians, nails, hatchets, knives, and necklaces of beads, for gold dust, furs, and garments trimmed with colored feathers.
During one of these pauses, Selkirk, left on the ship, accosted the captain once more. He knew that the remains of some bands of freebooters were colonized there, leading a peaceful and agricultural life; this fact was known to all. At Coquimbo in Chili, some English and Dutch pirates had formed a settlement of this kind, now in the full tide of prosperity. Selkirk, who, during an entire month, had not spoken to the captain, now demanded, in a voice which he attempted to render calm and almost supplicating, to be landed at Coquimbo, from which they were only a few days sail.
'You will not this time accuse me of wishing to desert to the enemy; they are the English, Scotch, Dutch, our countrymen and allies whom I wish to join! Do you still suspect me? Well, do not content yourself with setting me on shore; place me in the hands of the chief men of the settlement. Will that suit you?'
Stradling winked significantly; but this was all.
'Ah!' resumed the young man with increasing emotion, 'do not think to detain me longer on board, to crush me beneath this humiliation! I consented to serve under your orders as mate, and you have made me the lowest of your sailors; this you had no right to do.'
Stradling took his glass and directed it towards the shore, where his people were engaged in trafficking their beads and hardware.
Raising his head and folding his arms:
'Captain,' pursued Selkirk with vehemence, 'some day or other we shall return to England, where the laws protect all; there, I shall have the right of complaint, and Queen Anne loves to render justice; beware!'
Stradling, still spying, began to whistle God save the Queen; then he called his monkey and made it gambol before him.
'I will depart, I will free myself from your presence, and that of your worthy companions; I will do so at all events, do you understand!' exclaimed Selkirk exasperated, 'I will not endure your infamous treatment another week! If you refuse to consent to my demand, I will leave without your permission; were the vessel twenty miles from the land, and were I to perish twenty times on the way, I will attempt to swim ashore. Will you land me at Coquimbo, yes or no? Reply!'
By way of reply, Stradling ordered him to be confined in the hold.
Poor Selkirk! Ah! if pretty Kitty, if the beautiful landlady of the Royal Salmon could know all thou hast endured for her sake, how many tears would her fine eyes shed over thy fate! But who knows whether she will ever hear of thee? Who can tell whether any human being will learn the sufferings in reserve for thee?
Poor Selkirk! you who painted to yourself so smiling a picture of this grand voyage to America; who hoped to leave, like Dampier, your name to some strait, some newly discovered island; you who dreamed of scientific walks in vast prairies and under the arches of virgin forests, you have shared only in the career of a trafficker and a pirate; of this New World, full of marvellous sights, you have seen only the shore, the fringe of the mantle, the margin of this last work of God!
Poor Selkirk, must you then return to your cold and foggy Scotland, without having contemplated at your ease, beneath the brilliant sun of the tropics, one of those Edens overshadowed by the luxuriant verdure of palm-trees, bananas, mimosas and gigantic ferns? In your country, the bark of the trees is clad with lichens and mosses, and the parasite mistletoe suspends itself to the branches, more as a burden than as an ornament; here, numerous families of the orchis, with their singular forms, showy and variegated blossoms, climb along the knotty stems of the tall monarchs of the forests; from their feet spring up, as if to enlace them with a magic network, the brilliant passiflora, the vanilla with its intoxicating perfume, the banisteria whose roots seem to have dived into mines of gold and borrowed from thence the color of its petals! Hither the birds of Paradise and Brazilian parrots come to build their nests; here the bluebird and the purple-necked wood-pigeon coo and sing; here, like swarms of bees, thousands of humming-birds of mingled emerald and sapphire, warble and glitter as they suck the nectar from the flowers. This was what you hoped to contemplate, poor Selkirk! and this joy, like many others, is henceforth forbidden.
In his floating prison, in his submarine cell, his only employment is to listen to the dashing of the waves against the ship, or now and then to catch a glimpse of the blue sky through the hatchways.
What cares he? He does not complain; he has learned to abhor mankind, and he loves to be alone, in company with himself and his own thoughts.
Several days passed in this manner.
One morning he felt the brig slacken its speed; the dashing of the wave against the prow diminished, and the Swordfish, suddenly furling its sails, after having slightly rocked hither and thither, stopped. They had just cast anchor. Where? he knows not.
Soon he hears the rattling of the rope-ladder which serves as a stairway to those above who would communicate with his prison. They come, on the part of the captain, to seek him.
He finds the latter seated on the deck, surrounded by his principal men.
'Young man,' said Stradling, 'I have been obliged to be severe for the sake of an example; but you have been sufficiently punished by the time you have passed below there,'—and he pointed to the ship's hold. 'Now, your wish shall be granted. You shall be allowed to land.'
And the rare smile which sometimes hovered on his lips, stole over his rigid face.
'So much the better,' replied Selkirk, laconically.
The boat was let down; he entered it, and ten minutes afterwards disembarked on a green shore, where the waves, as they broke upon it, seemed to murmur softly in his ear the word, liberty!
The boat immediately rejoined the ship, which set sail, coasted along Chili and Patagonia, and re-entered the Northern Sea by the Straits of Magellan.
Inspection of the Country.—Marimonda.—A City seen through the Fog. —The Sea every where.—Dialogue with a Toucan.—The first Shot. —Declaration of War.—Vengeance.—A Terrestrial Paradise.
While watching the departure of the Swordfish, Alexander Selkirk felt the same sensation as on that day when he had seen the doors of the college of St. Andrew thrown open for his exit; once more he was his own master. Now, however, it is at some thousands of miles from his country that he must reap the benefits of his independence, and this idea embitters his emotions of joy.
But is he not about to find countrymen at Coquimbo? And if their society should be unpleasing?—if their habits, their mode of life, their persons, should become objects of antipathy to the misanthropic Selkirk, as it is but natural to fear? Well! after all, no engagement binds him to them; he will be always free to enter, in the capacity of a sailor, the first vessel which may leave for Europe.
Determined to act as shall seem good to him,—to make some excursions into the interior of the continent, if an opportunity presents itself, and he will know how to make one,—he casts a first glance at the land of his adoption.
Before him extends a vast shore, studded with groves of trees, covered with fine turf and little flowers joyfully unfolding their petals to the sun: two streams, having their source at the very base of the opposite hills, after having meandered around this immense lawn, unite almost at his feet.
He bends down to one of these streams, fills the hollow of his hand with water, and tastes it, as a libation, and as a toast to the generous land which has just received him; the water is excellent; he plucks a flower, and continues his inspection.
On his left rise high mountains, terraced and verdant, excepting at their summits, on one of which he perceives a goat, with long horns, stationed there immovable like a sentinel, and whose delicate profile is clearly defined on the azure of the sky. On the side towards the sea, the mountains, bending their gray and naked heads, resemble stone giants, watching the movements of the wave which dashes at their feet.
On his right, where the land declines, he sees little valleys linked together with charming undulations; but on the mountains at his left, in the valleys at his right, among the hills in the distance, his eye vainly seeks the vestige of a human habitation.
He sets out in search of one. The boat from which he landed has deposited on the shore his effects—his arms, his nautical instruments, his charts, a Bible, and provisions of various kinds. Notwithstanding his piratical sentiments, the captain of the Swordfish has not designed to precede exile by confiscation. Selkirk takes his gun, his gourd; but, unable to carry all his riches, he conceals them behind a stony thicket, well defended by the darts of the cactus, and the sword-like leaves of the aloe, not caring to have the first comer seize them as his booty.
As he is occupied with this duty, he feels himself suddenly clasped by two long hairy arms; he turns his head, it is Marimonda, the captain's monkey, a female of the largest species.
How came she there? Selkirk does not know.
Disgusted with her sea-voyages, with the intelligence natural to her race, Marimonda has undoubtedly profited by the moment of the boat's leaving the ship to conceal herself in it and gain the shore along with the prisoner, which she might easily have done, unseen by all, during the transporting of the effects and provisions.
However this may be, Selkirk begins by freeing himself from her grasp, repulses the monkey and sets out: but the latter perseveres in following, and after having, by her most graceful grimaces, sought to conciliate him, marches beside him. Not caring to arrive at Coquimbo escorted by such a companion, which would give him in a city the appearance of a mountebank and showman of monkeys, Selkirk, this time, repulses her rudely, not with his hand, but with the butt of his gun.
Struck in the breast by this home thrust, the poor monkey stops, rolls up her eyes, moves her lips, and growling confusedly her complaints and reproaches, crouches beneath a tuft of the sapota, leaving the man to pursue his way alone.
Selkirk has at first directed his steps toward the valleys; after having traversed these, he arrives at the margin of a sandy plain, and as far as the eye can reach, perceives neither city, village, house, tent nor hut, nothing which can indicate the presence of inhabitants.
Nevertheless, a little grove which he has just traversed, seems to have recently, in its principal path, passed under the shears of a gardener; the foliage presents a certain symmetry; fragments of branches are strewed, on the ground, which seem to have been freshly cut; he even thinks he sees vestiges of the passage of a flock. On the lawn of the shore, he has seen, and still sees around him, trees with tufted heads, which must owe this form to art. He continues his researches.
At last, in the distance, beneath a fog which is just beginning to dissolve, he perceives a vast mass of white and red houses, some with terraced roofs, others covered with thatch; through the humid veil which envelopes them, he sees the glistening of the glass in the windows; already he hears at his feet the confused noise of cities; murmuring voices reply; the measured sound of hammers and of mills even reaches his ear.
It is Coquimbo! he cannot doubt it, and shortening his route by a path across the hill, he quickens his pace.
Meanwhile an east wind arises, the fog disappears; when he thinks he has reached the suburbs of the city, Selkirk sees before him only an irregular assemblage of calcareous stones, crowned with dry herbs, or reddish, arid, angular rocks, flattened at their summits, tessellated with fragments of silex and mica, on which the sun is just pouring his rays; a company of goats, which the mist had condemned to a momentary repose, are bounding here and there, startling flocks of clamorous black-birds and plaintive sea-gulls; the fearless and yellow-crested woodpeckers alone do not stir, but continue to hammer with their sharp beaks at some old stunted trees.
The disenchantment is painful for our sailor; the fog has deceived him with the semblance of a city, as it has more than once deluded us in the midst of plains and woods, by the appearance of an ocean with its white waves, its great capes, its bold shores, and its vessels at anchor.
Perhaps Coquimbo is still beyond. Fearing to lose himself if he ventures farther in an unknown land, he resolves to explore it first by a look. Returning to the shore upon which he had landed, he scales the mountains on the north, reaches the first platform, and from thence seeks to discover some indications of a city. Nothing! he still ascends, the circle enlarges around him, but with no better result. Summoning all his courage, through a thousand difficulties, climbing, drawing himself up by the arid and abrupt rocks, piled one upon another, he at last attains a culminating point of the mountain. He can now embrace with his eye an immense horizon, but this immense horizon is the sea! On his right, on his left, before him, behind him, every where the sea!
He is not on the continent, but on an island.
This evening, exhausted with fatigue, he lies down in a grotto at the foot of the mountain, where he passes a night full of agitation and anxiety.
Rising with the sun, his first care, the next morning, is to examine his riches and his provisions. He returns to the thicket of cactus and aloes.
Besides two guns, two hatchets, a knife, an iron pot, a Bible and nautical instruments, all articles belonging to him, he finds there a quantity of nails, a large fragment of a sail, several horns of powder and shot; a bag of ship biscuit, a salted quarter of pork, a little cask of pickled fish, and a dozen cocoa-nuts.
The night before, at sight of these articles, he had supposed a sentiment of justice and humanity to exist in the soul of the corsair. Just now, he had said to himself that Stradling, deceived by a false reckoning of latitude, had landed him on an island, perhaps believing it to be a projecting shore of the continent. Now, the abundance of his supplies, this biscuit, these salt provisions, these fruits of the cocoa, all valueless if he had really landed at Coquimbo, lead him to suspect that the vindictive Englishman has designedly chosen the place of his exile.
But this exile, is it complete isolation? Is the island inhabited or deserted? If it is inhabited, as he still believes he has reason to suppose, by whom is it so?
That he may obtain a reply to this double question, he resolves to traverse the country in its whole extent. At the very commencement of his journey, the immobility of a bird suffices to give to the doubt, on which his thoughts vacillate, the appearance almost of a certainty.
This bird is a toucan, of brilliant plumage and monstrous beak. Selkirk passes near it, with his eyes fixed on the branch which serves as a perch, and the toucan, without stirring, looks at him with a species of calm and placid astonishment.
Selkirk stops; he comprehends the mute language of the bird.
'You do not know then what a man is! He is the enemy of every creature to whom God has given life, the enemy even of his kind! You have then never been threatened by the arms that I bear!'
And with the palm of his hand, striking the butt of his gun, he made the hammer click.
At the sound of his voice, as at the noise of the hammer, the bird raised its head, manifesting new and redoubled surprise, but without any other movement. It seemed to think that the man and the gun were one, and that its strange interlocutor possessed two different voices.
At last, by way of reply, it uttered a few shrill and prolonged cries, accompanied by the rattling of its two horny mandibles. After which, acting the great nobleman, cutting short the audience he has deigned to grant, the toucan is silent, turns its head, proudly raises one of its wings and busies itself in smoothing, with the point of its large beak, its beautiful greenish feathers, variegated with purple.
At some distance from this spot, still following the margin of a wooded hill, Selkirk sees other birds, some in their nests, others warbling in the shade; all manifesting no more alarm at his presence than did the toucan. Crested orioles, hooded bullfinches, alight to pick up little grains or insects almost at his feet; humming-birds, variegated cotingas, red manaquins flutter before him in the sunbeams, pursuing invisible flies; little wood-peckers, black or green, hop around the trunks of the trees, stopping a moment to see him pass and then resuming their spiral ascent.
The confidence which he inspires is not confined to these winged people. Upon a hillock of turf he perceives an animal, with pointed nose, brown fur enamelled with red spots, and of the size of a hare; seated on its hind paws, longer than those in front, it uses these, after the manner of squirrels, to carry to its mouth some nuts of the maripa, which constitute its breakfast. It is an agouti, a mother, her little ones are near. At sight of the stranger they run to her, but quickly re-assured, quietly finish their morning repast.
Farther on, coatis, with short ears, and long tails; companies of little Guinea pigs; armadillos, a species of hedge-hog without the quills, but covered with an armor of scales, more compact and impervious than that of the ancient knights of the Middle Ages, arrange themselves along the line of his route, as if to pass him in review.
[Footnote 1: Agouti. An animal of the bigness of a rabbit, with bright red hair, and a little tail without hair. He has but two teeth in each jaw; holds his meat in his forepaws like a squirrel, and has a very remarkable cry: when he is angry, his hair stands on end, and he strikes the earth with his hind feet; and when chased, he flies to a hollow tree, whence he is expelled by smoke.—Trevoux.]
[Footnote 2: The coati is a native of Brazil, not unlike the racoon in the general form of the body, and, like that animal, it frequently sits up on the hinder legs, and in this position carries its food to its mouth. If left at liberty in a state of tameness, it will pursue poultry, and destroy every living thing that it has strength to conquer. When it sleeps it rolls itself into a lump, and remains immovable for fifteen hours together. His eyes are small, but full of life; and when domesticated, this creature is very playful and amusing. A great peculiarity belonging to this animal is the length of his snout, which resembles in some particulars the trunk of the elephant, as it is movable in every direction. The ears are round, and like those of a rat; the forefeet have five toes each. The hair is short and rough on the back, and of a blackish color; the tail is marked with rings of black, like the wild cat; the rest of the animal is a mixture of black and red.]
Alas! this general quiet does but deepen in the heart of Selkirk the certainty of his isolation.
Nevertheless, yesterday, said he to himself, in this thick wood, did I not see alleys trimmed with the shears, trees shaped by the pruning-knife?
And the little grove which he visited the evening previous, at that instant presents itself before him. He examines the trees; they are myrtles of various heights; but among their glossy branches, he in vain seeks traces of the pruning-knife or shears; nature alone has thus disposed in spheroids or umbels the extremities of this rich vegetation.
The same disappointment awaits him in the underwood. The only pruners have been goats, or other animals, daintily cropping the green shoots.
Then only does the complete and terrible certainty of his disaster fall on him and crush him. Behold him blotted from the number of men, perhaps condemned to die of misery and of hunger! more securely imprisoned, more entirely forgotten by the world than the most hardened criminal plunged in the lowest depths of the Bastile! He at least, has a jailor! Miserable Stradling!
At this moment he hears a noise above his head: it is the monkey.
Marimonda, on her side, has also inspected the island; she has already tasted its productions. Whether she is satisfied with her discoveries, or whether forgiveness and forgetfulness of injuries are natural to her, on perceiving her old companion, wagging her head in token of good-will, she descends towards him from the tree on which she is perched.
But Marimonda is the captain's monkey; she has been his property, his favorite, his flatterer! In the disposition of mind in which Selkirk finds himself, he does not need these thoughts to make him pitiless. Marimonda reminds him of Stradling; the monkey shall pay for the man!
He lowers his gun, and fires. The monkey has seen the movement and divined his intentions; she has only time to retreat behind her tree, which does not prevent her receiving in her side a part of the charge.
This detonation of fire-arms, the first perhaps which has resounded in this corner of the earth since the creation of the world, as it is prolonged from echo to echo, even to the highest mountains, awakens in every part of the island as it were a groan of distress. Instinct, that sublime prescience, has revealed to all that a great peril has just been born.
To the cries of affright from birds of every species, to the uneasy and distant bleating of the goats, succeeds a plaintive moaning, like the voice of a wailing infant.
It is Marimonda lamenting over her wound.
At nightfall, after an entire day of walks and explorations, Selkirk is returning to his grotto on the shore, when he sees a stone fall at his feet, then another.
While he, astonished, is seeking to divine the direction from which this invisible battery plays, a little date-stone hits him on the cheek. He immediately hears as it were a joyous whistling in the foliage, which is agitated at his right, and sees Marimonda leaping from tree to tree, using for this movement her feet, her tail, and one hand; for she holds the other to her side. It is a compress on her wound.
War is already in the island! Selkirk has a declared enemy here! And this island, is it deserted? He has just traversed it in every direction without seeing any thing which betokens the existence of a human being.
His disaster is then complete; henceforth not a doubt of it can exist. And yet his forehead wears rather the character of hope and fortitude than of discouragement; it is more than resignation, it is pride.
He has just visited his empire. The island, irregular in form, is from four to five leagues in length; in breadth it is from one and a half to two leagues. This abode to which he is condemned, is the most enchanting retreat he could have chosen; a luxuriant park cradled upon the waves.
If sometimes, in the mountainous parts, he has encountered sterile and rugged rocks, even abysses and precipices, they seem to be placed there only as a contrast to the fresh and green valleys which encircle them. If he has seen some dark, dense, inaccessible forests, entangled in the thousand arms of interwoven vines, he has not discovered a single reptile.
Every where, springs of living water, little streams which are lost under a thick verdure, or fall in cascades from the summits of the hills; every where a luxuriant vegetation; esculent and refreshing plants, celery, cresses, sorrel, spring in profusion beneath his feet; over his head, and almost within reach of his hand, palm-cabbages, and unknown fruits of succulent appearance: on the margin of the shores, muscles, periwinkles, shell-fish of every species, crabs crawling in the moist sand; beneath the transparent waters, innumerable shoals of fishes of all colors, all forms. Will game be wanting here? After what he has seen this morning, he will not even need his gun to obtain it. Oh! his provision of powder will last him a long time.
What has he to desire more in this terrestrial Paradise? The society of men? Why? That he may find a master, a chief, under whose will he must bend? Men! but he despises, detests them! Is he not then sufficient for himself? Yes! this shall be his glory, his happiness! To live in entire liberty, to depend only upon himself, will not this impart to his soul true dignity? Besides, this island cannot be so far from the coast, but, from time to time, ships, or at least boats must come in sight. This is then for him but a transient seclusion; but were he even condemned to eternal isolation, this isolation has ceased to terrify him, he accepts it! Has he not almost always lived alone, in spirit at least? When he was in the depths of the hold, was he not better satisfied with his fate than when surrounded by those coarse sailors who composed the worthy crew of the Swordfish?
To-day he is no longer the prisoner of Stradling, he is the prisoner of God! and this thought reassures him.
A sailor, he has never loved but the sea; well! the sea surrounds him, guards him! He has then only thanks to render to God.
Arrived at his grotto, he takes his Bible, opens it; but the sun, suddenly sinking below the horizon, permits him to read only this passage on which his finger is placed: 'Thou shalt perish in thy pride!'
Labors of the Colonist.—His Study.—Fishing.—Administration. —Selkirk Island.—The New Prometheus.—What is wanting to Happiness. —Encounter with Marimonda.—Monologue.
Three months have passed away.
Thanks to Selkirk, the shore which received him at his disembarkation, presents to-day an aspect not only picturesque, but animated. The hand of man has made itself felt there.
The bushes and tufts of trees which hid the view of the hills in the distance, have been uprooted and cut down; pretty paths, covered with gravel, wind over the vast lawn; one in the direction of the valleys at the right, another towards the mountains at the left; a third leads to a tall mimosa, whose topmost boughs and dense foliage spread out like a parasol. A wooden bench, composed of some round sticks, driven into the earth, with branches interwoven and covered with bark, surrounds it; a rustic table, constructed in the same manner, stands at the foot of the tree. This is the study and place of meditation of the exile; here also he comes to take his meals, in sight of the sea.
All three paths terminate in the grotto which Selkirk continues to make his residence. This grotto he has enlarged, quarried out with his hatchet, to make room for himself, his furniture, and provisions. He has even attempted to decorate its exterior with a bank of turf, and several species of creeping plants, trained to cover its calcareous nudity. At the entrance of his habitation, rise two young palm-trees, transplanted there by him, to serve as a portico. But nature is not always obedient to man; the vines and palm-trees do not prosper in their new location, and now the long flexible branches of the one, and the broad leaves of the other, droop half withered above the grotto, which they disfigure rather than decorate.
By constant care, and with the aid of his streams, Selkirk hopes to be able to restore them to life and health. He has imposed on his two streams another duty, that of supplying a bed of water-cresses and a fish-pond, both provident establishments, the first of which has succeeded perfectly. As for the second, his most arduous task has been, not to dig the fish-pond, but to people it. For this purpose he has been compelled to become a fisherman, to manufacture a net. He has succeeded, with some threads from his fragment of a sail, the fibres of his cocoa-nuts, and tough reeds, woven in close meshes; unfortunately those fine fishes, breams, eels and angel-fish, which show themselves so readily through the limpid wave, are not as easy to catch as to see. Under the surface, almost at a level with the water, there is a ledge of rocks, upon which the net cannot be managed. After several fruitless attempts, he is obliged to content himself with the insignificant employment of fishing with a line; a nail flattened, sharpened and bent, performs the office of a hook. Success ensues, but only with time and patience; fortunately the sea-crabs allow themselves to be caught with the hand, and the fish-pond does not long remain useless and deserted.
Besides, has not our fortunate Selkirk the resource of hunting? The chase he had commenced generously, like a wise monarch, who wages war only for the general interest. It is true, that as it happens with most wise monarchs, his own private interest is also to be consulted, at least he thinks so.
Wild cats existed in the island, destroying young broods, agoutis, and other small game; he has almost entirely rid it of these pirates, reserving to himself only the right of levying upon his subjects the tribute of blood. He has already signalized his administration by acts of an entirely different nature.
This king without a people, is ignorant in what part of the great ocean, and at what distance from its shores, is situated his nameless kingdom.
Armed with his spy-glass, by the aid of his nautical charts, he attempts to ascertain, by the position of the stars, its longitude and latitude. He at first believes himself to be in one of the islands forming the group of Chiloe; his calculations rectified, he afterwards thinks it the Island of Juan Fernandez, then San Ambrosio, or San Felix. Unable to determine the location exactly, for want of correct instruments, he persuades himself that the country he inhabits has never been surveyed, that it is really a land without a name, and he gives it his own; he calls it Selkirk Island.
Ambitious youth, thou hast thus realized one of thy brightest dreams! Dost thou remember the day when, on the way from Largo to St. Andrew, to join William Dampier, thou didst already see thyself the chief of a new country, discovered and baptized by thee?
Well! has he not more than discovered this country? He inhabits it, he governs it, he reigns in it! Not satisfied with giving his name to the island, he soon creates a special nomenclature for its various localities. To the shore upon which he landed, he gives the name of Swordfish Beach; the pile of white and red rocks, which he saw through the fog, is the False Coquimbo; he calls Toucan Forest, the wood where he saw that bird for the first time; the Defile of Attack, is that where Marimonda assaulted him with stones; upon these arid rocks, furrowed by deep ravines and abounding in precipices, he has imposed the odious name of Stradling! In his mountains he has the Oasis; it is a little shady valley, enlivened by the murmur of a streamlet, and with one extremity opening to the sea. There he often goes to watch the game and the goats, which come to drink at the brook. Above it rises the table-land, with difficulty scaled by him on the day of his arrival, and from whence he became convinced that he had landed on an island. This table-land, he has named The Discovery.
The two streams which meander over his lawn, and before his grotto, have also received names. This, commissioned to feed the fish-pond, and which gently warbles through the grass, he calls The Linnet; the other, interrupted by little cascades, and whose course is more rapid and impetuous, he calls The Stammerer.
He has now destroyed the noxious animals, administered government, opened ways of communication, given a name to every part of his island. How many great rulers have done no more!
But his labors have not been confined to his fish-pond, his bed of water-cresses, his hunting, fishing, building, felling of trees; it has become necessary to procure that essential element of civilization, of comfort, fire.
What could the opulent proprietor of this enchanting abode do without fire? Is it not necessary, if he would open a passage through the dense woods? Is it not indispensable to his kitchen? Some of his trees, it is true, afford fruits in abundance; but most of these fruits are of a dry and woody nature; besides, young and vigorous, easily acquiring an appetite by labor and exercise, can he content himself with a dinner which is only a dessert? Surrounded with fishes of all colors, with feathered and other game, must he then be reduced to dispute with the agoutis, their maripa-nuts?
He reflects; armed with a bit of iron, he strikes the flinty rocks of the mountains, to elicit from them useless sparks. He then remembers that savages obtain fire without flint and matches, by the friction of two pieces of dry wood; he tries, but in vain; he exhausts the strength of his arms, without being discouraged; he tries each tree, wishing even that a thunderbolt might strike the island, if it would leave there a trace of burning. At last, almost discouraged, he attacks the pimento-myrtle; he recommences his customary efforts of rubbing. The twigs grow warm with the friction; a little white smoke appears, fluttering to and fro between his hands, rapid and trembling with emotion. The flame bursts forth! He utters a cry of triumph, and, hastily collecting other twigs and dry reeds, he leaps for joy around his fire, which, like another Prometheus, he has just stolen, not from heaven, but from earth!
[Footnote 1: Myrtus aromatica; its berries are known under the name of Jamaica pepper.]
Afterwards, in his gratitude, he runs to the myrtle, embraces it, kisses it. An act of folly, perhaps; perhaps an act of gratitude, which ascended higher than the topmost branches of the trees, higher than the culminating summits of the mountains of the island.
But this fire, must he, each time he may need it, go through the same tedious process? Not far from his grotto, in a cavity which a projecting rock protects from the sea breeze, he piles up wood and brush, sets fire to it, keeps it alive from time to time, by the addition of combustibles, and comprehends why, among primitive nations, the earliest worship should have been that of fire; why, from Zoroaster to the Vestals, the care of preserving it should have been held sacred.
At a later period, in the ordinary course of things, he simplified his means of preservation. With some threads and the fat of his game, he contrived a lamp; still later, he had oil, and reeds served him for wicks.
Dating from this moment, the entire island paid tribute to him; the crabs, the eels, the flesh of the agouti, savory like that of the rabbit, by turns figured on his table. When he seasoned them with some morsels of pork, substituting ship biscuit for bread, his repasts were fit for an admiral.
Although the goats had become wild, like the other inhabitants of the island, since all had learned the nature of man, and of the thunder, which he directed at his will, Selkirk still surprised them within gun-shot. Not only was their flesh profitable for food; their horns, long and hollow, served to contain powder and other small articles necessary to his house-keeping; of their skins he made carpets, coverings, and bags to protect his provisions from dampness. He even manufactured a game-pouch, which he constantly carried when hunting.
His salt fish, his biscuit, some well smoked quarters of goat's flesh, and the productions of his fish-pond, at present constitute a store on which he can live for a long time, without any care, but to ameliorate his condition.
He is now in possession of all the enjoyments he has coveted, abundance, leisure, absolute freedom.
And yet, his brow is sometimes clouded, and an unaccountable uneasiness torments him; something seems wanting; his appetite fails, his courage grows feeble, his reveries are painfully prolonged. But, by mature reflection, he has discovered the cause of the evil.
What is it that is so essential to his happiness? Tobacco.
Our factitious wants often exercise over us a more tyrannical empire, than our real ones; it seems as if we clung with more force and tenacity to this second nature, because we have ourselves created it; it originates in us; the other originates with God, and is common to all!
Selkirk now persuades himself that tobacco alone is wanting to his comfort; it is this privation which throws him into these sorrowful fits of languor. If Stradling had only given him a good stock of tobacco, he would have pardoned all; he no longer feels courage to hate him. What to him imports the plenty which surrounds him, if he has no tobacco? of what use is his leisure, if he cannot spend it in smoking? what avails even this fire, which he has just conquered, if he is prevented from lighting his pipe at it?
Careworn and dissatisfied, he was wandering one morning through his domains, with his gun on his shoulder, his hatchet at his belt, when he perceived something dancing on a point of land, shadowed by tall canes.
It was Marimonda.
At sight of her enemy, she darted lightly and rapidly behind a woody hillock. An instant afterwards, he saw her tranquilly seated on the topmost branch of a tree, holding in each of her hands fruits which she was alternately striking against the branch, and against each other, to break their tough envelope.
The sight of Marimonda has always awakened in Selkirk a sentiment of repulsion; she not only reminds him of Stradling, but with her withered cheeks, projecting jaw, and especially her dancing motion, he now imagines that she resembles him; and yet, pausing before her, he contemplates her not without a lively emotion of surprise and interest.
He had already encountered her within gun-shot, when engaged in the destruction of the wild cats, and had asked himself whether he should not reckon her among noxious animals. But then Marimonda, with her hand constantly pressed against her side, was with the other seizing various herbs, which she tasted, bruised between her teeth, and applied to her wound; useless remedies, doubtless, for, grown meagre, her hair dull and bristling, she seemed to have but a few days to live, and Selkirk thought her not worth a charge of powder and shot.
And here he finds her alert and healthy, holding in the same hand which had served as a compress, no longer the plant necessary for her cure, but the fruit desirable for her sustenance.
'What,' said Selkirk to himself, 'in an island where this frightful monkey has never before been, she has succeeded in finding without difficulty the herba sacra, that which has restored her to health and strength! and I, Selkirk, who have studied at one of the principal universities of Scotland, I am vainly sighing for the plant which would suffice to render me completely happy! Is instinct then superior to reason? To believe this, would be ingratitude to Providence. Instinct is necessary, indispensable to animals, because they cannot benefit by the traditions of their ancestors. The monkey has consulted her instinct, and it has inspired her; if I consult reason, what will be her counsel? She will advise me to do like the monkey; to seek the herb of which I feel so great a want, or at least to endeavor to substitute for it something analogous; to choose, try, and taste, in short, to follow the example of Marimonda! I will not fail to do so; but it is nature reversed, and, for a man, it is too humiliating to see himself reduced to imitate a monkey!'
The Hammock.—Poison.—Success.—A Calm under the Tropics.—Invasion of the Island.—War and Plunder.—The Oasis.—The Spy-Glass. —Reconciliation.
Do you see, upon a carpet of fresh verdure, the sandy margin of which is bathed by a caressing wave, that hammock suspended to the branches of those fine trees? What happy mortal, during the heat of the day, is there gently rocked, gently refreshed, by a light sea breeze? It is Selkirk; and this hammock is his sail, attached to his tall myrtles by strips of goat-skin. Perhaps he is resting after the fatigues of the day? No, it is the day of the Lord, and Selkirk now can consecrate the Sabbath to repose. With his eyes half closed, he is inhaling, undoubtedly, the perfume of his myrtles, the soft fragrance of his heliotropes? No, something sweeter still pre-occupies him. Is he dreaming of his friends in Scotland, of his first love? He has never known friendship, and the beautiful Catherine is far from his memory. What is he then doing in his hammock? He is smoking his pipe.
His pipe! Has he a pipe? He has them of all forms, all sizes—made of spiral shells of various kinds, of maripa-nuts, of large reeds; all set in handles of myrtle, stalks of coarse grain, or the hollow bones of birds. In these he is luxurious; he has become a connoisseur; but this has not been the difficulty. Before every thing else, tobacco was wanting.
In consequence of his encounter with Marimonda, he ransacked the woods and meadows, seeking among all plants those which approximated nearest to the nature of the nicotiana. As it was necessary to judge by their taste, he bit their leaves—chewed them, still in imitation of the monkey: but, to his new and profound humiliation, less skilful or less fortunate than the latter, he obtained at first no other result than a sort of poisoning: one of these plants being poisonous.
For several days he saw himself condemned to absolute repose and a spare diet. His mouth, swollen, excoriated, refused all nourishment; his throat was burning; his body was covered with an eruption, and his languid and trembling limbs scarcely permitted him to drag himself to the stream to quench there the thirst by which he was devoured.
He believed himself about to die; and grief then imposing silence on pride, with his eyes turned towards the sea, he allowed a long-repressed sigh to escape his heart. It was a regret for his absent country.
Very soon these alarming symptoms disappeared; his strength returned; his water-cresses and wild sorrel completed the cure. Would he have dared to ask it of the other productions of his island? He had become suspicious of nature; these, at least, he had long known.
Scarcely had he recovered, when the want of tobacco made itself felt anew with more force than ever. What to him imports experiment, what imports danger? Is it not to procure this precious, indispensable herb,—which the world had easily done without for thousands of years?
This time, nevertheless, become more prudent, he no longer addresses himself to the sense of taste; but to odor, to that of smell. He has resolved to dry the different plants which appear to him most proper for the use to which he destines them, and to submit them afterwards to a trial by fire. Will not the smoke which escapes from them easily enable him to discover the qualities which he requires, since it is in smoke that they are to evaporate, if he succeeds in his researches?
Of this grand collection of aromatics, two plants, at last, come off victorious. One is the petunia, that charming flower which at present decorates all our gardens, whence the enemies of tobacco may one day banish it; so it is only with trembling that I here announce its relationship to the nicotiana; the other, which, like the petunia, grows in profusion in the islands as well as on the continent of Southern America, is the herb coca, improperly so called, for its precious leaves, which are to the natives of Peru and Chili, what the betel is for the Indians of Malabar, grow on an elegant shrub.
[Footnote 1: The erythroxylum coca.]
These two plants, separately or together, composed, thanks to a slight amalgam of chalk, sea-water, and bruised pepper-corns, the most delicious tobacco.
Now, half awake, Selkirk smokes, as he busies himself with constructing some necessary article, such as a ladder, a stool, a basket of rushes, with which he is completing the furniture of his house; he smokes while fishing, and while hunting; on his return to his dwelling, he lies down at the entrance of his grotto, on his bank of turf, re-lights his pipe at his fire, and smokes; at the hour of breakfast or of dinner, seated beneath the shade of his mimosa, his elbow on the table, his Bible open before him, he smokes still.
Well! notwithstanding these pleasures so long desired, notwithstanding this addition to his comfort, notwithstanding his pipe, this vague uneasiness sometimes assails him anew.
He ascribes it to enfeebled health; and yet he remains active and vigorous; he ascribes it to the powerful odors of certain trees which affect his brain. These trees he destroys around him, but his uneasiness continues; he ascribes it to his food, the insipidity of the fish which he has eaten without salt, since his quarter of pork is consumed, and his stores of pickled fish exhausted. In fact, the flesh of fish has for some time given him a nausea, occasioned frequent indigestions; he renounces it; his stomach recovers its tone; but his fits of torpor and melancholy continue.
This state of suffering is most painful at those moments of profound calm, common between the tropics, when the birds are silent, when from the thickets and burrows issue no murmurs, when the insect seems to sleep within the closed corollas of the flowers; when the leaves of the mimosa fold themselves; when the tree-tops are not swayed by the slightest breath of air, and the sea, motionless, ceases to dash against the shore. What an inexpressible weight such a silence adds to isolation! And yet it is not an unbroken silence, for then a shrill and harsh sound seems to grate upon the ear. It is as if in this muteness of nature, one could hear the motion of the earth on its axis; then, above his head, in the depths of immensity, the whirling of the celestial spheres and myriads of worlds which gravitate in space. Thought becomes troubled and exhausted before this overwhelming and terrible immobility, and the man who, at such a moment, cannot have recourse to his kind, to distract or re-assure him, is overpowered with his own insignificance.
Sometimes the solitary calls on himself to break this oppressive and painful silence; he articulates a few words aloud, and his voice inspires him with fear; it seems formidable and unnatural.
During one of these sinister calms, in which every thing in creation seemed to pause, even the heart of man, seated on the shore, not having even strength to smoke, Selkirk was vainly awaiting the evening breeze; nothing came, but the obscurity of night. The moon, delaying her appearance, submitting in her turn to the sluggishness of all things, seemed detained below the circle of the horizon by some fatal power; the sea was dull, gloomy, and as it were congealed.
Suddenly, though there was not a breath of air, Selkirk saw at his right, on a vast but limited tract of ocean, the waves violently agitated and foaming. He thought he distinguished a multitude of barques and canoes furrowing the surface of the waters; not far from Swordfish Beach, the flotilla enters a little cove running up into the mountains.
He no longer sees any thing; but he hears a frightful tumult of discordant cries.
There is no room for doubt! some Indian tribes, pursued perhaps by new conquerors from Europe, have just disembarked on the shore. Wo to him! he can hope from them neither pity nor mercy. A cold sweat bathes his forehead; he runs to his grotto, takes his gun, puts in his goatskin pouch some horns of powder and shot, a piece of smoked meat, not forgetting his Bible! and passes the night wandering in the woods, in the mountains, a prey to a thousand terrors; hearing without cessation the steps of pursuers behind him, and seeing fiery eyes glaring at him through the thickets.
At day-break, with a thousand precautions, he returns to his grotto. He finds the beach covered with seals.
These were the enemies whose invasion had so alarmed him.
It is now the middle of the month of February, the period of the greatest tropical heats, and these amphibia, having left the shores of Chili or Peru, are accomplishing one of their periodical migrations. They have just taken possession of the island, one of their accustomed stations. But the island has now a master.
Where he expected to encounter a peril, Selkirk finds amusement, a subject of study, perhaps a resource.
A long time ago he has read, in the narratives of voyagers, singular stories concerning these marine animals, these lions, these sea-elephants, flocks of old Neptune, who have their chiefs, their pacha; who are acquainted with and practise the discipline of war; stationing vigilant sentinels in the spots they occupy, communicating to each other a pass-word, and attentive to the Qui vive?
He spies them, he watches them, he takes pleasure in examining their grotesque forms,—half quadruped, half fish; their feet encased in a sort of web, and terminated by crooked claws, with which they creep on the earth; their skins, covered with short and glossy hair; their round heads and eyes.
He is a witness of their sports, their combats; but very soon their frightful roaring and bellowing annoys him, and makes him regret the silence of his solitude. Another cause of complaint against them soon arises.
One morning, Selkirk finds his fish-pond and bed of water-cresses devastated.
Exasperated, he declares war against the invaders: during three days he tracks them, pursues them; ten of them fall beneath his balls, leaving the shore bathed in their blood. The rest at last take flight, and the army of seals, regaining the sea with despairing cries, goes to establish itself at the other extremity of the island.
This war has been profitable to the conqueror. With the skin of the vanquished he makes himself a new hammock, which permits him to employ his sail for other uses; he also makes leather bottles, in which he preserves the oil which he extracts in abundance from their fat. Now he can have a lamp constantly burning, even by night. He has all the comforts of life. Of the hairy skin of the seals, he manufactures a broad-brimmed hat, which shields him from the burning rays of the sun. He tastes their flesh; it appears to him insipid and nauseous, like that of the fish; but the tongue, the heart, seasoned with pepper, are for him quite a luxury.
Days, weeks, months roll away in the same toils, the same recreations. Whatever he may do to drive it away, this apathetic sadness, this sinking of soul, which has already tormented him at different periods, becomes with Selkirk more and more frequent; he cannot conquer it as he did the seals. His seals, he now regrets. When they were encamped on the shore, they at least gave him something to look at, an amusement; something lived, moved, near him.
When he finds himself a prey to these fits, which, in his pride, he persists in attributing to transient indisposition, he goes to walk in the mountains, taking with him only his pipe, his Bible, and his spy-glass.
He often pursues his journey as far as the oasis; there, he seats himself at the extremity of the little valley, opposite the sea, from which his eye can traverse its immense extent. He opens the holy book, and closes it immediately; then, his brow reddening, he seizes his spy-glass, levels it, and remains entire hours measuring the ocean, wave by wave.
What is he looking for there? He seeks a sail, a sail which shall come to his island and bear him from his desert, from his ennui. His ennui he can no longer dissimulate; this is the evil of his solitude.