Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

permitted to talk to me; my dog, who was now grown very old and crazy, sat always at my right hand, and my two cats had their places at either side of the table, receiving, from time to time, pieces of food, as a mark of especial favour.

I now began to be impatient to have the use of my boat, which I had left far up the shore after my disaster among the currents, being afraid of returning home with it, and encountering the same peril. I felt a great desire also to proceed as far as the point of the island, and ascertain how the current set. My appearance at this time would have either frightened any one who met me or caused a hearty laugh, and as I frequently stood still to look at myself, I could not but smile myself at the notion of my travelling through Yorkshire in such a manner. I had a great, high, shapeless cap, made of goat's-skin, with a flap hanging down behind, to keep the sun from me, and to prevent the rain from penetrating. I had a short jacket of goat's-skin, and a pair of

[graphic]

breeches made of the same material, the hair upon it reaching to the middle of my legs. Instead of stockings and shoes, I wore a rude skin covering to my legs, which, like the rest of my clothes, was of a curious shape. Round the waist was a broad belt of skin, containing, on either

a

a

side, a little saw and a hatchet, and from another belt over the shoulder hung two bags containing powder and shot. At my back I carried a basket, and on my shoulder a gun, and I held over my head a great clumsy goat-skin umbrella. My face was not so much changed as one might expect from a man living within nine or ten degrees of the equinox. Both my beard and moustachios were of a length and shape to frighten anybody. In this figure I went upon my new journey, and was absent five or six days.

But now I come to a new scene in my life. It happened one day about noon, going towards my boat, I was thunderstruck on seeing the print of a man's naked foot on the sand. I listened and looked around me, but I could neither hear nor see anything. I went up to a rising ground, and afterwards walked about the shore, but all was still and apparently deserted. I returned to my fortification exceedingly terrified, fancying every bush or tree in the distance was a man. When I arrived at my dwelling, I fled into it like one pursued, and I could not sleep that night, so much was I tormented with conjectures about the footprint. After many fancies, I concluded that some of the savages of the mainland had been driven in their canoes upon the island, but were gone to sea again. At length, when my mind was most greatly disturbed, religion came to my aid, and taking up my Bible I opened it at the following words :-"Wait on the Lord, and be of good cheer, and He shall strengthen thy heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.” It is impossible to express the comfort this gave me, and I began to take courage and to peep abroad again, for I had not stirred out of my castle for three days and nights, so that I began to feel the want of provisions.

Prudence now led me to consider of some safe retreat, in case any savages should in future land upon the spot : and I resolved to make a second fortification, or double wall, the outer one of which was strengthened with pieces of timber and old cables, having in it seven little holes, in which I fastened the muskets I had taken from the wreck. When this was done, I planted the ground without for some space around with at least twenty thousand stakes, so that in albut two years I had a thick grove, which completely concealed my dwelling. Thus I took every precaution for my own preservation, and not without good reason, as I shall presently explain. I considered it would be wise, in case anything should happen to my flock of goats, to enclose two or three portions of land, remote from each other, where I might keep half a dozen young goats; and after securing one part of my living stock, I went about the island searching for another place for the same object. Having wandered more to the western point than I had ever yet been, on looking towards the sea I thought I beheld a boat at a great distance. I had found a perspective glass at the wreck, in one of the seamen's chests, but as I had not brought it with

a

me I could not make out the object afar, and as I descended the hill, I could not see it any longer. When I arrived on the shore, a sight presented itself which convinced me that seeing the print of a man's foot was not such a strange affair in the island as I had imagined ; for, to my great horror, I found the place strewed with skulls, hands, feet, and other bones of human bodies : and I observed a place where a fire had been made and a circle dug in the earth--the spot I supposed where the savage wretches had sat down to their inhuman feastings upon the bodies of their fellow-creatures. With great fear and indignation I turned away from the horrible spectacle, and walked on quickly towards my own habitation. On the road I burst into tears, and thanked God that I was distinguished from such dreadful creatures as these barbarians, and that I had the knowledge of Himself and the hope of His blessing. However, I continued pensive and sad for almost two years after this, until time, and the feeling that I was in no great danger of being discovered by these people, as they resorted to the other side of the island, began to remove my uneasiness. I, however, became more cautious, especially in firing my gun, and never went out without carrying my pistols with me. I was afraid of making any fire, lest the smoke should betray me; so I contrived to burn wood under turf until it became charcoal, which I used for cooking. Once when I was cutting down some wood, I perceived that behind some branches there was a kind of hollow place, and, being curious to see what was inside, I entered, but quickly retraced my steps on observing the broad shining eyes of some creature twinkling in the dark like two stars. Plucking up my courage, however, I took a firebrand and rushed in, but my fright returned on hearing a sigh like that from a man in pain, followed by a sound as of words half expressed. I stepped forward, and holding the brand over my head, I saw lying on the ground a most monstrous, frightful old he-goat, apparently dying of mere old age. I soon recovered from my surprise, and upon looking round, I found myself in a natural cave, about twelve feet long, with an opening beyond that went further, but the roof was so low that I was obliged to creep upon my hands to enter. Determined to see where this passage conducted, I returned the next day, provided with six large candles I had made of goat's tallow, and, pursuing my researches, I found the roof of the cave gradually rose to a height of nearly twenty feet, affording a magnificent spectacle, for the light of my candles was reflected a hundred thousand times from the walls, whether from diamonds or any other precious stones, or gold, I knew not. I was rejoiced at this discovery, and resolved to bring hither my ammunition for security. I now fancied myself like one of the ancient giants, who were said to live in holes in the rocks where none could molest them, for 1 felt certain, that if five hundred

As for my

savages were to hunt me, they could never find me out. The old hegoat died the next day, and I buried him in a great hole at the entrance to the cave.

I had now entered the twenty-third year of my residence on the island, and I felt so accustomed to the place and the manner of living, that if it had not been for fear of the savages, I could have been contented to end my days there, like the old goat in the cave. I was not without my amusements, for my parrot, who lived with me no less than twenty-six years, spoke so plain and familiarly, that it was very pleasant to hear him. My dog, also, was a loving and faithful companion for full sixteen years, and he died from old age. cats, they had so multiplied, that I was obliged to drive most of them into the woods, keeping two or three tame favourites. I had, besides, two or three kids, who would feed out of my hand, and I had two more parrots, who could not, however, talk so well as the other. Added to these were several tame sea-fowls I had caught upon the shore, and who now lived and reared their families in the grove surrounding my dwelling. With these distractions from sad thoughts, I should have been contented with the life I led, but God, from whom nothing is concealed, was directing my future lot. On going out early one morning to see after my harvest, I was surprised to see a fire burning on the shore, at the distance of about two miles, on my side of the island. I returned with great fear to my castle, pulling up the ladder after me, and making all things without, look as wild and natural as possible. I then placed myself in a posture of defence within the enclosure, and prayed to God for deliverance from the barbarians.

After waiting for some hours, and feeling impatient to see what was going on, I mounted the hill over my dwelling, and pulling out my perspective glass, I laid myself flat on the ground, and began to look for the place. Il presently found there were no less than nine naked savages, sitting round a small fire-not to warm themselves, for the weather was extremely hot—but to cook, as I supposed, some human flesh which they had brought with them. They had two canoes with them, and appeared to be waiting for the tide, in order to return, which, indeed, was the case, for I saw them all leave about that time, dancing on their way. As soon as they were gone I took two guns upon my shoulders, and after about two hours' walking I mounted the hill whence I had first seen them, and I perceived there had been three canoes at that place ; while, looking out further, I saw that they were all proceeding far out to sea. This was a dreadful sight to me, especially as when I got down to the shore I saw the horrible traces left by these savages, namely, the blood, the bones, and part of the flesh of human bodies, eaten and devoured by them with merriment and sport. I was so filled with indignation at the sight, that I resolved

upon the destruction of the next party I saw there, no matter how numerous they might be.

I spent my days now in great perplexity and anxiety of mind, expecting that I might probably fall into the hands of these merciless creatures. However, a year and three months passed away before I saw any more of them ; but in the month of May, my four-and-twentieth year

of abode on this island, I had a very strange encounter with the barbarians, which I shall presently relate. Some time previous to this, during a heavy storm, I was surprised to hear the sound of a gun, fired, as I thought, at sea. I started up in great haste, and got to the top of the hill at the very moment that a flash of fire bade me listen for a second report, which in about half a minute I heard. I brought together all the dry wood I could obtain, and then made a large fire on the hill, which was no doubt seen from the vessel, for I heard several guns fired in succession. The following day, on looking out, I could plainly perceive the wreck of a ship that had been cast away in the night, and some days afterwards the body of a drowned boy was washed on shore.

The weather being now calm, I ventured in my boat to the vessel, which I found out to be Spanish built, and jammed in between the rocks. When I came close to her, a dog appeared on board, which, seeing me, yelped and cried, and when I called to him he jumped into the sea and swam towards me. I took him into the boat and gave him some food, for he was almost dead with hunger. I contrived to obtain from the wreck many useful articles, such as brass kettles, a copper pot, and a gridiron, with some gunpowder, a little cask full of liquor, shirts, handkerchiefs, and a quantity of money. I was fortunate to reach the island without any accident, but exceedingly wearied with my labours. Having brought away everything of value from the vessel, I lived, quietly engaged in my domestic affairs for nearly two years. This tranquillity, however, was not to last, for I was surprised one morning early at seeing no less than five canoes all on shore together on my side of the island.

After a short time, not hearing any noise, I clambered to the top of the hill, in such a manner that I could not be seen, and I observed, with the aid of my perspective glass, that the barbarians were at least thirty in number, and they had a fire kindled to cook their meat. They were all dancing with horrible gestures round the fire. While I was looking at them, I saw two miserable wretches dragged

I from the boats, apparently intended for slaughter. One of them immediately fell from a blow with a club, and he was cut

up for cooking by the others, while the second victim was left standing by himself until they should be ready for him. In a moment, however, the poor wretch started away from his murderers, and ran directly towards that

a

« AnteriorContinua »