Water, as I said before, to moisten our mouths, was now our greatest hardship, for every man had so often drank his own, that we voided scarce anything but blood, and that but a few drops at a time; our mouths and tongues were quite flayed with drought, and our teeth just fallen from our jaws; for though we had tried, by placing all the dead men's jackets and shirts one over another, to strain some of the sea-water through them by small quantities, yet that would not deprive it of its pernicious qualities; and though it refreshed a little in going down, we were so sick, and strained ourselves so much after it, that it came up again, and made us more miserable than before. Our corpse now stunk so, what was left of it, that we could no longer bear it on board, and every man began to look with an evil eye on his fellow, to think whose turn it would be next; for the carpenter had started the question, and preached us into the necessity of it; and we had agreed, the next morning, to put it to the lot who should be the sacrifice. In this distress of thought it was so ordered by good Providence, that on the twenty-first day we thought we spied a sail coming from the north-west, which caused us to delay our lots till we should see whether it would discover us or not: we hung up some jackets upon our oars, to be seen as far off as we could, but had so little strength left we could make no way towards it; however, it happened to direct its course so much to our relief, that an hour before sunset it was within a league of us, but seemed to bear away more eastward, and our fear was that they should not know our distress, for we were not able to make any noise from our throats that might be heard fifty yards; but the carpenter, who was still the best man amongst us, with much ado getting one of the guns to go off, in less than half-an-hour she came up with us, and seeing our deplorable condition, took us all on board, to the number of eleven. Though no methods were un-essayed for our recovery, four more of us died in as many days. When the remaining seven of us came a little to ourselves, we found our deliverers were Portuguese, bound for Saint Salvadore. We told the captain we begged he would let us work our passage with him, be it where it would, to shore; and then, if we could be of no further service to him, we did not doubt getting into Europe again: but in the voyage, as we did him all the service in our power, we pleased him so well that he engaged us to stay with him to work the ship home again, he having lost some hands by fever soon after his setting sail.
We arrived safe in port; and in a few days the captain, who had a secret enterprise to take in hand, hired a country coasting vessel, and sent her seventeen leagues farther on the coast for orders from some factory or settlement there. I was one of the nine men who were destined to conduct her; but not understanding Portuguese, I knew little of the business we went upon. We were to coast it all the way; but on the tenth day, just at sunrise, we fell in with a fleet of boats which had waylaid us, and were taken prisoners. Being carried ashore, we were conducted a long way up the country, where we were imprisoned, and almost starved, though I never knew the meaning of it; nor did any of us, unless the mate, who, we heard, was carried up the country much farther, to Angola; but we never heard more of him, though we were told he would be sent back to us.
Here we remained under confinement almost three months, at the end of which time our keeper told us we were to be removed; and coupling us two and two together, sent a guard with us to Angola; when, crossing a large river, we were set to work in removing the rubbish and stones of a castle or fortress, which had been lately demolished by an earthquake and lightning. Here we continued about five months, being very sparingly dieted, and locked up every night.
This place, however, I thought a paradise to our former dungeon; and as we were not overworked, we made our lives comfortable enough, having the air all day to refresh us from the heat, and not wanting for company; for there were at least three hundred of us about the whole work; and I often fancied myself at the tower of Babel, each labourer almost speaking in a language of his own.
Towards the latter end of our work our keepers grew more and more remiss in their care of us. At my first coming thither, I had contracted a familiarity with one of the natives, but of a different kingdom, who was then a slave with me; and he and I being able tolerably to understand each other, he hinted to me, one day, the desire he had of seeing his own country and family, who neither knew whether he was dead or alive, or where he was, since he had left them, seven years before, to make war in this kingdom; and insinuated that as he had taken a great liking to me, if I would endeavour to escape with him, and we succeeded, he would provide for me. "For," says he, "you see, now our work is almost over, we are but slightly guarded; and if we stay till this job is once finished, we may be commanded to some new works at the other end of the kingdom, for aught we know, so that our labours will only cease with our lives: and for my part, immediate death in the attempt of liberty is to me preferable to a lingering life of slavery."
These, and such-like arguments, prevailed on me to accompany him, as he had told me he had travelled most of the country before in the wars of the different nations; so having taken our resolution, the following evening, soon after our day's work, and before the time came for locking up, we withdrew from the rest, but within hearing, thinking if we should then be missed and called, we would appear and make some excuse for our absence, but if not, we should have the whole night before us.
When we were first put upon this work, we were called over singly, by name, morning and evening, to be let out and in, and were very narrowly observed in our motions; but not one of us having been ever absent, our actions were at length much less minded than before, and the ceremony of calling us over was frequently omitted; so that we concluded if we got away unobserved the first night, we should be out of the reach of pursuers by the next; which was the soonest it was possible for them to overtake us, as we proposed to travel the first part of our journey with the utmost despatch.
The author escapes with Glanlepze a native—Their hardships in travel—Plunder of a cottage—His fears—Adventure with a crocodile—Passage of a river—Adventure with a lioness and whelps—Arrive at Glanlepzis house—The trial of Glanlepze's wife's constancy—The tender meeting of her and her husband—The author's reflections thereupon.
Having now set out with all possible speed, we seemed to each other as joyful as we could; though it cannot be supposed we had no fears in our minds the first part of our journey, for we had many; but as our way advanced our fears subsided; and having, with scarce any delay, pushed forwards for the first twenty-four hours, nature then began to have two very pressing demands upon us, food and rest; but as one of them was absolutely out of our power to comply with, she contented herself with the other till we should be better able to supply her, and gave a farther time till the next day.
The next morning found us very empty and sharp-set, though a very sound night's rest had contributed its utmost to refresh us. But what added much to our discomfort was, that though our whole subsistence must come from fruits, there was not a tree to be found at a less distance than twelve leagues, in the open rocky country we were then in; but a good draught of excellent water we met with did us extraordinary service, and sent us with much better courage to the woods, though they were quite out of the way of our route: there, by divers kinds of fruits, which, though my companion knew very well, I was quite a stranger to, we satisfied our hunger for the present, and took a moderate supply for another opportunity. This retarded our journey very much, for in so hard travel every pound weighed six before night.
I cannot say this journey, though bad enough, would have been so discouraging, but for the trouble of fetching our provisions so far; and then, if we meant not to lose half the next day in the same manner, we must double load ourselves, and delay our progress by that means; but we still went on, and in about eight days got quite clear of Angola.
On the eighth day, my companion, whose name was Glanlepze, told me we were very near the confines of Congo, but there was one little village still in Angola by which we must pass within half a league; and if I would agree to it, he would go see what might be got here to supply ourselves with. I told him I was in an unknown world, and would follow wherever he should lead me; but asked him if he was not afraid of the people, as he was not of that country. He told me as there had been wars between them and his country for assisting their neighbours of Congo, he was not concerned for any mischief he should do them, or they him. "But," says he, "you have a knife in your pocket, and with that we will cut two stout clubs, and then follow me and fear nothing."
We soon cut our clubs, and marching on, in the midst of some small shrubs and a few scattering trees, we saw a little hovel, larger indeed, but worse contrived, than an English hog-stye, to which we boldly advanced; and Glanlepze entering first, saluted an old man who was lying on a parcel of rushes. The man attempted to run away, but Glanlepze stopped him, and we tied his hands and feet He then set up such a hideous howl, that had not Glanlepze threatened to murder him, and prepared to do it, he would have raised the whole village upon us; but we quieted him, and rummaging to find provision, which was all we wanted, we by good luck spied best part of a goat hanging up behind a large mat at the farther end of the room. By this time in comes a woman with two children, very small. This was the old man's daughter, of about five-and-twenty. Glanlepze bound her also, and laid her by the old man; but the two children we suffered to lie untied. We then examined her, who told us the old man was her father, and that her husband, having killed a goat that morning, was gone to carry part of it to his sister; that they had little or no corn; and finding we wanted victuals, she told us there was an earthen pot we might boil some of the goat in if we pleased.
Having now seen all that was to be had, we were going to make up our bundle, when a muletto very gently put his head into the doorway: him Glanlepze immediately seized; and bidding me fetch the great mat and the goat's flesh, he in the meantime put a long rope he found there about the beast's neck, and laying the mat upon him, we packed up the goat's flesh and a little corn in a calabash-shell; and then turning up the mat round about, skewered it together, and over all we tied the earthen pot; Glanlepze crying out at everything we loaded, "It is no hurt to plunder an enemy!" and so we marched off.
I own I had greater apprehensions from this adventure than from anything before. "For," says I, "if the woman's husband returns soon, or if she or her father can release themselves, they will raise the whole village upon us, and we are undone." But Glanlepze laughed at me, saying we had not an hour's walk out of the Angola dominions, and that the king of Congo was at war with them in helping the king of Loango, whose subject himself was; and that the Angolans durst not be seen out of their bounds on that side the kingdom; for there was a much larger village of Congovians in our way, who would certainly rise and destroy them, if they came in any numbers amongst them; and though the war being carried on near the sea, the borders were quiet, yet, upon the least stir, the whole country would be in arms, whilst we might retire through the woods very safely.
Well, we marched on as fast as we could all the remainder of that day till moonlight, close by the skirt of a long wood, that we might take shelter therein, if there should be occasion $ and my eyes were the best part of the way behind me; but neither hearing nor seeing anything to annoy us, and finding by the declivity of the ground we should soon be in some plain or bottom, and have a chance of water for us all, and pasture for our muletto, which was now become one of us, we would not halt till we found a bottom to the hill, which in half an hour more we came to, and in some minutes after to a rivulet of fine clear water, where we resolved to spend the night. Here we fastened our muletto by his cord to a stake in the ground; but perceiving him not to have sufficient range to fill his belly in before morning, we, under Glanlepze's direction, cut several long slips from the mat, and soaking them well in water, twisted them into a very strong cord, of sufficient length for the purpose. And now, having each of us brought a bundle of dry fallen sticks from the wood with us, and gathered two or three flints as we came along, we struck fire on my knife upon some rotten wood, and boiled a good piece of our goat's flesh; and having made such a meal as we had neither of us made for many months before, we laid us down and slept heartily till morning.
As soon as day broke we packed up our goods, and filling our calabash with water, we loaded our muletto, and got forward very pleasantly that day and several others following, and had tolerable lodgings.
About noon, one day, travelling with great glee, we met an adventure which very much daunted me, and had almost put a stop to my hopes of ever getting where I intended. We came to a great river whose name I have now forgot, near a league over, but full, and especially about the shores, of large trees that had fallen from the mountains and been rolled down with the floods, and lodged there in a shocking manner. This river, Glanlepze told me, we must pass: for my part, I shrunk at the sight of it, and told him if he could get over, I would not desire to prevent his meeting with his family; but as for my share, I had rather take my chance in the woods on this side than plunge myself into such a stream only for the sake of drowning. "Oh!" says Glanlepze, "then you can't swim?"—"No," says I; "there's my misfortune."—"Well," says the kind Glanlepze, "be of good heart; I'll have you over." He then bade me go cut an armful of the tallest of the reeds that grew there near the shore, whilst he pulled up another where he then was, and bring them to him. The side of the river sloped for a good way with an easy descent, so that it was very shallow where the reeds grew, and they stood very close together upon a large compass of ground. I had no sooner entered the reeds a few yards, to cut some of the longest, but (being about knee-deep in the water and mud, and every step raising my feet very high to keep them clear of the roots, which were matted together) I thought I had trod upon a trunk of one of the trees, of which, as I said, there was such plenty thereabouts; and raising my other foot to get that also upon the tree, as I fancied it, I found it move along with me; upon which I roared out, when Glanlepze, who was not far from me, imagining what was the matter, cried out, "Leap off, and run to shore to the right!" I knew not yet what was the case, but did what I was bid, and gained the shore. Looking back, I perceived the reeds shake and rustle all the way to the shore, by degrees after me. I was terribly frightened, and ran to Glanlepze, who then told me the danger I had escaped, and that what I took for a tree was certainly a large alligator or crocodile.
My blood ran chill within me at hearing the name of such a dangerous creature; but he had no sooner told me what it was, than out came the most hideous monster I had ever seen. Glanlepze ran to secure the muletto; and then taking the cord which had fastened him, and tying it to each end of a broken arm of a tree that lay on the shore, he marched up to the crocodile without the least dismay, and beginning near the tail, with one leg on one side, and the other on the other side, he straddled over him, still mending his pace as the beast crept forward, till he came to his fore-feet; then throwing the great log before his mouth, he, by the cord in his hand, bobbed it against the creature's nose, till he gaped wide enough to have taken in the muletto; then of a sudden, jerking the wood between his jaws with all his force by the cord, he gagged the beast, with his jaws wide open up to his throat, so that he could neither make use of his teeth nor shut his mouth; he then threw one, end of the cord upon the ground, just before the creature's under-jaw, which, as he by degrees crept along over it, came out behind his fore-legs on the contrary side; and serving the other end of it in the same manner, he took up those ends and tied them over the creature's back, just within his forelegs, which kept the gag firm in his mouth; and then calling out to me (for I stood at a good distance), "Peter," says he, "bring me your knife!" I trembled at going so near, for the crocodile was turning his head this way and that very uneasy, and wanting to get to the river again, but yet I carried it, keeping as much behind him as I could, still eyeing him which way he moved, and at length tossed my knife so near that Glanlepze could reach it; and he, just keeping behind the beast's forefeet, and leaning forward, first darted the knife into one eye, and then into the other; and immediately leaping from his back, came running to me. "So, Peter," says he, "I have done the business."—"Aye! business enough, I think," says I, "and more than I would have done to have been king of Congo."—"Why, Peter," says he, "there is nothing but a man may compass by resolution, if he takes both ends of a thing in his view at once, and fairly deliberates on both sides what may be given and taken from end to end. What you have seen me perform is only from a thorough notion I have of this beast and of myself, how far each of us hath power to act and counteract upon the other, and duly applying the means. But,", says he, "this talk will not carry us across the river; come, here are the reeds I have pulled up, which I believe will be sufficient without any more, for I would not overload the muletto."—"Why," says I, "is the muletto to carry them?"—"No, they are to carry you," says he.—"I can never ride upon these," says I.—"Hush!" says he, "I'll not lose you, never fear. Come, cut me a good tough stick, the length of these reeds."—"Well," says I, "this is all conjuration; but I don't see a step towards my getting over the river yet, unless I am to ride the muletto upon these reeds, and guide myself with the stick."
"I must own, Peter," says he, "you have a bright guess." So taking an armful of the reeds, and laying them on the ground, "Now, Peter," says he, "lay that stick upon those reeds and tie them tight at both ends." I did so. "Now, Peter," says he, "lay yourself down upon them." I then laying myself on my back, lengthwise, upon the reeds, Glanlepze laughed heartily at me, and turning me about, brought my breast upon the reeds at the height of my arm-pits; and then taking a handful of the reeds he had reserved by themselves, he laid them on my back, tying them to the bundle close at my shoulders, and again at the ends. "Now, Peter," says he, "stand up;" which I did, but it was full as much as I could do. I then seeing Glanlepze laughing at the figure I cut, desired him to be serious, and not put me upon losing my life for a joke; for I could not think what he would do next with me. He bid me never fear; and looking more soberly, ordered me to walk to the river, and so stand just within the bank till he came; then leading the muletto to me, he tied me to her, about a yard from the tail, and taking the cord in his hand, led the muletto and me into the water. We had not gone far before my guide began to swim, then the muletto and I were presently chin-deep, and I expected nothing but drowning every moment: however, having gone so far, I was ashamed to cry out; when getting out of my depth, and my reeds coming to their bearing, up I mounted, and was carried on with all the ease imaginable; my conductor guiding us between the trees so dexterously, that not one accident happened to either of us all the way, and we arrived safe on the opposite shore.
We had now got into a very low, close, swampy country, and our goat's flesh began to be very stale through the heat, not only of the sun, but the muletto's back: however, we pleased ourselves we should have one more meal of it before it was too bad to eat; so, having travelled about three miles from the river, we took up our lodging on a little rising, and tied our muletto in a valley about half a furlong below us, where he made as good a meal in his way as we did in ours.
We had but just supped, and were sauntering about to find the easiest spot to sleep on, when we heard a rustling and a grumbling noise in a small thicket just on our right, which seeming to approach nearer and nearer, Glanlepze roused himself, and was on his legs just time enough to see a lioness and a small whelp which accompanied her, within thirty yards of us, making towards us, as we afterwards guessed, for the sake of our goat's flesh, which now smelt very strong. Glanlepze whipped on the contrary side of the fire to that where the goat's flesh lay, and fell to kicking the fire about at a great rate, which being made of dry wood, caused innumerable sparks to fly about us; but the beasts still approaching in a couchant manner, and seizing the ribs of the goat and other bones (for we had only cut the flesh off), and grumbling and cracking them like rotten twigs, Glanlepze snatched up a fire-brand, flaming, in each hand, and made towards them; which sight so terrified the creatures that they fled with great precipitation to the thicket again.
Glanlepze was a little uneasy at the thoughts of quitting so good a lodging as we had found, but yet held it best to move farther; for as the lions had left the bones behind them, we must expect another visit if we stayed there, and could hope for no rest; and, above all, we might possibly lose our muletto; so we removed our quarters two miles farther, where we slept with great tranquillity.
Reflections on the nature of mankind have often astonished me. I told you at first my thoughts concerning prayer in my journey to Bristol, and of the benefit I received from it, and how fully I was convinced of the necessity of it; which one would think was a sufficient motive to a reasonable creature to be constant in it; and yet, it is too true that, notwithstanding the difficulties I had laboured under, and hardships I had undergone, and the danger of starving at sea or being murdered for food by my fellows, when there was as urgent a necessity of begging Divine assistance as can be conceived, I never once thought of it, nor of the Object of it, nor returned thanks for my being delivered, till the lioness had just left me; and then I felt near the same force urging me to return thanks for my escape, as I had impelling me to prayer before; and I think I did so with great sincerity.
I shall not trouble you with a relation of the common accidents of our journey, which lasted two months and better, nor with the different methods we used to get subsistence, but shall at once conduct you to Quamis; only mentioning that we were sometimes obliged to go about, and were once stopped by a cut that my guide and companion received by a ragged stone in his foot, which growing very bad, almost deprived me of the hopes of his life; but by rest and constant sucking and licking it, which was the only remedy we had to apply, except green leaves chewed, that I laid to it by his direction, to supple and cool it, he soon began to be able to ride upon the muletto, and sometimes to walk a little.
I say we arrived at Quamis, a small place on a river of that name, where Glanlepze had a neat dwelling, and left a wife and five children when he went out to the wars. We were very near the town when the day closed; and as it is soon dark there after sunset, you could but just see your hand at our entrance into it We met nobody in the way, but I went directly to Glanlepze's door, by his direction, and struck two or three strokes hard against it with my stick. On this there came a woman to it stark-naked. I asked her, in her own language, if she knew one Glanlepze. She told me, with a deep sigh, that once she did. I asked then where he was. She said, with their ancestors, she hoped, for he was the greatest warrior in the world; but if he was not dead, he was in slavery. Now you must know Glanlepze had a mind to hear how his wife took his death or slavery, and had put me upon asking these questions before he discovered himself. I proceeded then to tell her I brought some news of Glanlepze, and was lately come from him, and by his order. "And does my dear Glanlepze live!" says she, flying upon my neck, and almost smothering me with caresses, till I begged her to forbear, or she would strangle me, and I had a great deal more to tell her; then ringing for a light, when she saw I was a white man she seemed in the utmost confusion at her own nakedness; and immediately retiring, she threw a cloth round her waist and came to me again. I then repeated to her that her husband was alive and well, but wanted a ransom to redeem himself, and had sent me to see what she could anyways raise for that purpose. She told me she and her children had lived very hardly ever since he went from her, and she had nothing to sell, or make money of, but her five children; that as this was the time for the slaving-trade, she would see what she could raise by them, and if that would not do, she would sell herself and send him the money, if he would let her know how to do it.
Glanlepze, who heard every word that passed, finding so strong a proof of his wife's affection, could hold out no longer, but bursting into the room, clasped her in his arms, crying, "No, Zulika! (for that was her name) I am free; there will be no occasion for your or my dear children's slavery, and rather than have purchased my freedom at that rate, I would willingly have died a slave myself. But my own ears have heard the tender sentiments my Zulika has for me." Then, drowned in tears of joy, they embraced each other so close and so long, that I thought it impertinent to be seen with them till their first transports were over. So I retired without the house, till Glanlepze called me in, which was not less than full half an hour. I admired at the love and constancy of the person I had just left behind me; and, Good Heaven, thinks I to myself, with a sigh, how happy has this our escape rendered Glanlepze and his wife! what a mutual felicity do they feel! And what is the cause of all this? Is it that he has brought home great treasures from the wars? Nothing like it; he is come naked. Is it that, having escaped slavery and poverty, he is returned to an opulent wife, abounding with the good things of life? No such thing. What, then, can be the cause of this excess of satisfaction, this alternate joy, that Patty and I could not have been as happy with each other? Why, it was my pride that interposed and prevented it. But what am I like to get by it, and by all this travel and these hazards? Is this the way to make a fortune, to get an estate? No, surely the very contrary. I could not, forsooth, labour for Patty and her children where I was known; but am I any better for labouring here where I am not known, where I have nobody to assist me, than I could have been where I am known, and where there would have been my friends about me, at least, if they could have afforded no great assistance? I have been deceived, then, and have travelled so many thousand miles, and undergone so many dangers, only to know at last I had been happier at home; and have doubled my misery for want of consideration—that very consideration which, impartially taken, would have convinced me I ought to have made the best of my bad circumstances, and to have laid hold of every commendable method of improving them. Did I come hither to avoid daily labour or voluntary servitude at home? I have had it in abundance. Did I come hither to avoid poverty or contempt? Here I have met with them tenfold And now, after all, was I to return home empty and naked, as Glanlepze has done, should I meet a wife, as bare as myself, so ready to die in my embraces, and to be a slave herself, with her children, for my sake only? I fear not.
These and the like reflections had taken possession of me when Glanlepze called me in; where I found his wife, in her manner, preparing our supper, with all that cheerfulness which gives a true lustre to innocence.
The bustle we made had by this time awakened the children; who, stark-naked as they were born, both boys and girls, came crawling out, black as jet, from behind a curtain at the farther end of the room, which was very long. The father as yet had only inquired after them; but upon sight of them he fell into an ecstasy, kissing one, stroking another, dandling a third, for the eldest was scarce fourteen; but not one of them knew him, for seven years makes a great chasm in young memories. The more I saw of this sport, the stronger impression Patty and my own children made upon me. My mind had been so much employed on my own distresses, that those dear ideas were almost effaced; but this moving scene introduced them afresh, and imprinted them deeply on my imagination, which cherished the sweet remembrance.
How the author passed his time with Glanlepze—His acquaintance with some English prisoners—They project an escape—He joins them—They seize a Portuguese ship and get off.—Make a long run from land—Want water—They anchor at a desert island—The boat goes on shore for water—They lose their anchor in a storm—The author and one Adams drove to sea—A miraculous passage to a rock—Adams drowned there— The author's miserable condition
I passed my time with Glanlepze and his wife, who both really loved me, with sufficient bodily quiet, for about two years: my business was chiefly, in company with my patron, to cultivate a spot of ground wherein we had planted grain and necessaries for the family; and once or twice a week we went a fishing, and sometimes hunted and shot venison. These were our chief employments; for as to excursions for slaves, which is a practice in many of those countries, and what the natives get money by, since our own slavery, Glanlepze and I could not endure it.
Though I was tolerably easy in my external circumstances, yet my mind hankering after England made my life still: unhappy; and that infelicity daily increased as I saw the less probability of attaining my desire. At length, hearing of some European sailors who were under confinement for contraband trade at a Portuguese fort about two miles from Quamis, I resolved to go to see them; and if any of them should be English, at least to inquire after my native country. I went and found two Dutchmen who had been sailors in British pay several years, three Scotchmen, an Irishman, and five Englishmen, but all had been long in English merchants' service. They were taken, as they told me, by a Portuguese vessel, together with their ship, as a Dutch prize under pretence of contraband trade. The captain was known to be a Dutchman, though he spoke good English, and was then in English pay and his vessel English; therefore they would have it that he was a Dutch trader, and so seized his ship in the harbour, with the prisoners in it The captain, who was on shore with several of his men, was threatened to be laid in irons if he was taken, which obliged him and his men to abscond, and fly overland to an English factory for assistance to recover his ship and cargo; being afraid to appear and claim it amongst so many enemies without an additional force. They had been in confinement two months, and their ship confiscated and sold. In this miserable condition I left them, but returned once or twice a week for a fortnight or three weeks to visit them. These instances of regard, as they thought them, created some confidence in me, so that they conversed with me very freely. Amongst other discourse, they told me one day that one of their crew who went with the captain had been taken ill on the way, and being unable to proceed, was returned; but as he talked good Portuguese, he was not suspected to belong to them; and that he had been to visit them, and would be there again that day. I had a mind to see him, so stayed longer than I intended, and in about an hour's time he came. After he was seated he asked who I was, and (privately) if I might be trusted. Being satisfied I might, for that I was a Cornish man, he began as follows, looking narrowly about to see he was not overheard: "My lads," says he, "be of good courage; I have hopes for you; be but men and we shall see better days yet." I wondered to what this preface tended, when he told us that since his return from the captain, as he spoke good Portuguese and had sailed on board Portuguese traders several years, he mixed among that people, and particularly among the crew of the "Del Cruz," the ship which had taken them; that that ship had partly unloaded, and was taking in other goods for a future voyage; that he had informed himself of their strength, and that very seldom more than three men and two boys lay on board; that he had hired himself to the captain, and was to go on board the very next day. "Now," says he, "my lads, if you can break prison any night after to-morrow, and come directly to the ship (telling them how she lay, for, says he, you cannot mistake, you will find two or three boats moored in the gut against the church), I will be ready to receive you, and we will get off with her in lieu of our ship they have taken from us, for there is nothing ready to follow us."
The prisoners listened to this discourse very attentively; but scratched their heads, fearing the difficulty of it, and severer usage if they miscarried, and made several objections; but at last they all swore to attempt it the night but one following. Upon which the sailor went away to prepare for their reception on board. After he was gone, I surveyed his scheme attentively in my own mind, and found it not so difficult as I first imagined, if the prisoners could but escape cleverly. So before I went away I told them I approved of their purpose; and as I was their countryman, I was resolved, with their leaves, to risk my fortune with them. At this they seemed much pleased, and all embraced me. We then fixed the peremptory night, and I was to wait at the water-side and get the boats in readiness.
The prison they were in was a Portuguese fort, which had been deserted ever since the building a much better on the other side of the river, a gunshot lower. It was built with walls too thick for naked men to storm; the captives were securely locked up every night; and two soldiers, or sentinels, kept watch in an outer-room, who were relieved from the main-guard in the body of the building.
The expected night arrived, and a little before midnight, as had been concerted, one of the prisoners cried out he was so parched up he was on fire, he was on fire! The sentinels were both asleep, but the first that waked called at the door to know what was the matter. The prisoner still crying out, "I am on fire!" the rest begged the sentinel to bring a bowl of water for him, for they knew not what ailed him.
The good-natured fellow, without waking his companion, brought the water, and having a lamp in the guard-room, opened the door; when the prisoners seizing his arms, and commanding him to silence, bound his hands behind him, and his feet together; then serving the other in the same manner, who was now just awake, and taking from them their swords and muskets, they made the best of their way over the fort wall; which being built with buttresses on the inside was easily surmounted. Being got out, they were not long in finding me, who had before this time made the boats ready and was impatiently waiting for them; so in we all got and made good speed to the ship, where we were welcomed by our companion ready to receive us.
Under pretence of being a new-entered sailor, he had carried some Madeira wine on board, and treated the men and boys so freely that he had thrown them into a dead sleep, which was a wise precaution. There being now, therefore, no fear of disturbance or interruption, we drew up the two boats and set all hands at work to put the ship under way; and plied it so closely, the wind favouring us, that by eleven o'clock the next morning we were out of sight of land; but we set the men and boys adrift, in one of the boats, nigh the mouth of the river.
The first thing we did after we had made a long run from shore was to consult what course to steer. Now, as there was a valuable loading on board of goods from Portugal and others taken in since, some gave their opinion for sailing directly for India, selling the ship and cargo there and returning by some English vessel; but that was rejected; for we did not doubt but notice would be given of our escape along the coast, and if we should fall into the Portuguese's hands, we could expect no mercy; besides, we had not people sufficient for such an enterprise. Others, again, were for sailing the directest course for England; but I told them, as our opinions were different, and no time was to be lost, my advice was to stretch southward till we might be quite out of fear of pursuit, and then, whatever course we took, by keeping clear of all coasts, we might hope to come safe off.
My proposal seemed to please the whole crew; so crowding all the sail we could, we pushed southwards very briskly before the wind for several days. We now went upon examining our stores, and found we had flour enough, plenty of fish and salt provisions, but were scant of water and wood; of the first whereof there was not half a ton, and but very little of the latter. This made us very uneasy, and being none of us expert in navigation farther than the common working of the ship, and having no chart on board that might direct us to the nearest land, we were almost at our wits' end, and came to a short allowance of liquor. That we must get water if we could was indisputable; but where to do it puzzled us, as we had determined not to get in with the African shore on any account whatever.
In this perplexity, and under the guidance of different opinions (for we were all captains now), we sometimes steered eastward, and sometimes westward, for about nine days, when we espied a little bluish cloud-like appearance to the southwest; this continuing, we hoped it might be land, and therefore made to it. Upon our nearer approach we found it to be, as we judged, an island; but not knowing its name or whether it was inhabited, we coasted round it two days to satisfy ourselves as to this last particular. Seeing no living creature on it during that time, and the shore being very broken, we came to an anchor about two miles from it, and sent ten of our crew in our best boat with some casks to get water and cut wood. The boat returned at night with six men and the casks filled, having left four behind to go on with the cutting of wood against next day. Accordingly next morning the boat went off again and made two turns with water and wood ere night, which was repeated for two or three days after. On the sixth she went off for wood only, leaving none but me and one John Adams on board.
The boat had scarce reached the island this last turn before the day overcast, and there arose such a storm of wind, thunder, lightning, and hail as I had never before seen. At last our cable broke close to the anchor, and away we went with the wind full southward by west; and not having strength to keep the ship upon a side wind, we were forced to set her head right before it and let her drive. Our hope was, every hour, the storm would abate; but it continued with equal violence for many days, during all which time neither Adams nor I had any rest, for one or other of us was forced, and sometimes both, to keep her right before the wind, or she would certainly have overset. When the storm abated, as it did by degrees, neither Adams nor I could tell where we were, or in what part of the world.
I was sorry I had no better a sailor with me, for neither Adams nor myself had ever made more than one voyage till now, so that we were both unacquainted with the latitude, and scarce knew the use of the compass to any purpose; and being out of all hope of ever reaching the island to our companions, we neither knew which way to steer, nor what to do; and indeed had we known where we were, we two only could not have been able to navigate the ship to any part we desired, or ever to get to the island, unless such a wind as we had before would of itself have driven us thither.
Whilst we were considering, day after day, what to do, though the sea was now very calm and smooth, the ship seemed to sail at as great a rate as before, which we attributed to the velocity she had acquired by the storm, or to currents that had set that way by the violence of the winds. Contenting ourselves with this, we expected all soon to be right again; and as we had no prospect of ever seeing our companions, we kept the best look-out we could to see for any vessel coming that course which might take us in, and resolved to rest all our hopes upon that.
When we had sailed a good while after this manner, we knew not whither, Adams called out, "I see land!" My heart leapt within me for joy, and we hoped the current that seemed to carry us so fast set in for some islands or rivers that lay before us. But still we were exceedingly puzzled at the ship's making such way, and the nearer we approached the land, which was now very visible, the more speed the ship made, though there was no wind stirring. We had but just time to think on this unexpected phenomenon, when we found that what we had taken for land was a rock of an extraordinary height, to which, as we advanced nearer, the ship increased its motion, and all our strength could not make her answer her rudder any other way. This put us under the apprehension of being dashed to pieces immediately, and in less than half an hour I verily thought my fears had not been groundless. Poor Adams told me he would try when the ship struck if he could leap upon the rock, and ran to the head for that purpose; but I was so fearful of seeing my danger that I ran under hatches, resolving to sink in the ship. We had no sooner parted but I felt so violent a shock that I verily thought the ship had brought down the whole rock upon her, and been thereby dashed to pieces, so that I never more expected to see the light.
I lay under this terror for at least half an hour, waiting the ship's either filling with water or bulging every moment. But finding neither motion in her nor any water rise, nor the least noise whatsoever, I ventured with an aching heart from my retreat, and stole up the hatchway as if an enemy had been on deck, peeping first one way then another. Here nothing presented but confusion, the rock hung over the hatchway at about twenty feet above my head, our foremast lay by the board, the mainmast yard-arm was down, and great part of the mainmast snapped off with it, and almost everything upon deck was displaced. This sight shocked me extremely; and calling for Adams, in whom I hoped to find some comfort, I was too soon convinced I had lost him.
Wilkins thinks of destroying himself—His soliloquy—Strange accident in the hold—His surprise—Cannot climb the rock—His method to sweeten his water—Lives many months on board—-Ventures to sea in his boat several times, and takes many fish—Almost overcome by an eel.
After I had stood a while in the utmost confusion of thought, and my spirits began to be a little composed, I was resolved to see what damage the hull of the ship had received. Accordingly I looked narrowly, but could find none, only she was immovably fixed in a cleft of the rock, like a large archway, and there stuck so fast, that though upon fathoming I could find no bottom, she never moved in the least by the working of the water.
I now began to look upon Adams as a happy man, being delivered by an immediate death from such an inextricable scene of distress, and wished myself with him a thousand times. I had a great mind to have followed him into the other world; yet I know not how it is, there is something so abhorrent to human nature in self-murder, be one's condition what it will, that I was soon determined on the contrary side. Now again I perceived that the Almighty had given me a large field to expatiate in upon the trial of His creatures, by bringing them into imminent dangers ready to overwhelm them, and at the same time, as it were, hanging out the flag of truce and mercy to them. These thoughts brought me to my knees, and I poured out my soul to God in a strain of humiliation, resignation to His will, and earnest petitions for deliverance or support in this distress. Having finished, I found myself in a more composed frame; so having eaten a biscuit and drank a can of water, and not seeing anything to be done whereby I could better my condition, I sat me down upon the deck, and fell into the following soliloquy—
Peter, says I, what have you to do here?—Alas! replied I to myself, I am fixed against my will in this dismal mansion, destined, as rats might be, to devour the provisions only, and having eaten all up, to perish with hunger for want of a supply.—Then, says I, of what use are you in the world, Peter?—Truly, answered I, of no other use that I can see but to be an object of misery for Divine vengeance to work upon, and to show what a deplorable state human nature can be reduced to; for I cannot think any one else can be so wretched.—And again, Peter, says I, what have you been doing ever since you came into the world?—I am afraid, says I, I can answer no better to this question than to either of the former; for if only reasonable actions are to be reckoned among my doings, I am sure I have done little worth recording; for let me see what it all amounts to. I spent my first sixteen years in making a fool of my mother; my three next in letting her make a fool of me, and in being fool enough myself to get me a wife and two children before I was twenty. The next year was spent in finding out the misery of slavery from experience. Two years more I repined at the happiness of my benefactor, and at finding it was not my lot to enjoy the same. This year is not yet spent, and how many more are to come, and where they may be passed, and what they may produce, requires a better head than mine even to guess at; but certainly my present situation seems to promise nothing beside woe and misery.—But hold a little, says I, and let me clearly state my own wretchedness. I am here, it is true; but for any good I have ever done or any advantage I have reaped in other places, I am as well here as anywhere. I have no present want of food or unjust or cruel enemy to annoy me; so as long as the ship continues entire and provisions last, I shall do tolerably. Then why should I grieve or terrify myself about what may come? What my frighted imagination suggests may perhaps never happen. Deliverance, though not to be looked for, is yet possible; and my future fate may be as different from my present condition as this is from the hopes with which I lately flattered myself. And why, after all, may I not die a natural death here as well as anywhere? All mankind die, and then there is an end of all——An end of all! did I say? No, there is something within that gives me the lie when I say so. Let me see; Death, my master used to say, is not an end, but a beginning of real life: and may it not be so? May I not as well undergo a change from this to a different state of life when I leave this world, as be born into it I know not from whence? Who sent me into this world? Who framed me of two natures so unlike, that death cannot destroy but one of them? It must be the Almighty God. But all God's works tend to some end; and if He has given me an immortal nature, it must be His intention that I should live somewhere and somehow for ever. May not this stage of being then be only an introduction to a preparative for another? There is nothing in this supposition repugnant to reason. Upon the whole, if God is the author of my being, He only has a right to dispose of it, and I may not put an end thereto without His leave. It is no less true that my continuing therein during His pleasure, and because it is so, may turn vastly to my advantage in His good time; it may be the means of my becoming happy for even when it is His will that I go hence. It is no less probable that, dismal as my present circumstances appear, I may be even now the object of a kind Providence: God may be leading me by affliction to repentance of former crimes; destroying those sensual affections that have all my days kept me from loving and serving Him. I will therefore submit myself to His will, and hope for His mercy.
These thoughts, and many others I then had, composed me very much, and by degrees reconciled me to my destined solitude. I walked my ship, of which I was now both master and owner, and employed myself in searching how it was fastened to the rock, and where it rested; but all to no purpose as to that particular. I then struck a light and went into the hold, to see what I could find useful, for we had never searched the ship since we took her.
In the hold I found abundance of long iron bars, which I suppose were brought out to be trafficked with the blacks. I observed they lay all with one end close to the head of the ship, which I presumed was occasioned by the violent shock they received when she struck against the rock; but seeing one short bar lying out beyond the rest, though touching at the end of one of the long bars, I thought to take it up, and lay it on the heap with the others; but the moment I had raised the end next the other bars, it flew out of my hand with such violence, against the head of the ship, and with such a noise, as greatly surprised me, and put me in fear it had broke through the plank.
I just stayed to see no harm was done, and ran upon deck with my hair stiff on my head; nor could I conceive less than that some subtle spirit had done this prank merely to terrify me.
It ran in my pate several days, and I durst upon no account have gone into the hold again, though my whole support had lain there; nay, it even spoiled my rest, for fear something tragical should befall me, of which this amazing incident was an omen.
About a week after, as I was shifting myself (for I had not taken my clothes off since I came there), and putting on a new pair of shoes which I found on board, my own being very bad, taking out my iron buckles, I laid one of them upon a broken piece of the mast that I sat upon; when to my astonishment, it was no sooner out of my hand but up it flew to the rock and stuck there. I could not tell what to make of it, but was sorry the devil had got above deck. I then held several other things one after another in my hand, and laid them down where I laid the buckle, but nothing stirred till I took out the fellow of that from the shoes; when letting it go away, it jumped also to the rock.
I mused on these phenomena for some time, and could not forbear calling upon God to protect me from the devil; who must, as I imagined, have a hand in such unaccountable things as they then seemed to me. But at length reason got the better of these foolish apprehensions, and I began to think there might be some natural cause of them, and next to be very desirous of finding it out In order to this I set about making experiments to try what would run to the rock and what would not. I went into the captain's cabin, and opening a cupboard, of which the key was in the door, I took out a pipe, a bottle, a pocket-book, a silver spoon, a tea-cup, &c, and laid them successively near the rock; when none of them answered, but the key which I had brought out of the cupboard on my finger dropping off while I was thus employed, no sooner was it disengaged but away it went to it. After that I tried several other pieces of iron-ware with the like success. Upon this, and the needle of my compass standing stiff to the rock, I concluded that this same rock contained great quantity of loadstone, or was itself one vast magnet, and that our lading of iron was the cause of the ship's violent course thereto, which I mentioned before.
This quite satisfied me as to my notions of spirits, and gave me a more undisturbed night's rest than I had had before, so that now, having nothing to affright me, I passed the time tolerably well in my solitude, as it grew by degrees familiar to me.
I had often wished it had been possible for me to climb the rock, but it was so smooth in many places and craggy in others, and over-hanging, continuing just the same to the right and left of me as far as ever I could see, that from the impossibility of it, I discharged all thoughts of such an attempt.
I had now lived on board three months, and perceived the days grow shorter and shorter, till, having lost the sun for a little time, they were quite dark: that is, there was no absolute daylight, or indeed visible distinction between day and night; though it was never so dark but I could see well enough upon deck to go about.
What now concerned me the most was my water, which began to grow very bad (though I had plenty of it) and unsavoury, so that I could scarce drink it, but had no prospect of better. Now and then indeed it snowed a little, which I made some use of, but this was far from contenting me. Hereupon I began to contrive; and having nothing else to do, I set two open vessels upon deck, and drawing water from the hold I filled one of my vessels, and letting it stand a day and a night I poured it into the other, and so shifted it every twenty-four hours; this, I found, though it did not bring it to the primitive taste and render it altogether palatable, was nevertheless a great help to it, by incorporating the fresh air with it, so that it became very potable, and this method I constantly used with my drinking-water, so long as I stayed on board the ship.
It had now been sharp weather for some time, and the cold still increasing, this put me upon rummaging the ship farther than ever I thought to do before; when opening a little cabin under deck, I found a large cargo of fine French brandy, a great many bottles, and some small casks of Madeira wine, with divers cordial waters. Having tasted these, and taken out a bottle or two of brandy, and some Madeira, I locked up my door and looked no farther that time.
The next day I inquired into my provisions, and some of my flesh having soaked out the pickle, I made fresh pickle and closed it up again. I that day also found several cheeses cased up in lead, one of which I then opened and dined upon: but what time of day or night it was when I eat this meal I could not tell. I found a great many chests well filled, and one or two of tools which some years after stood me in a very good stead, though I did not expect they would ever be of that service when I first met with them.
In this manner I spent my time till I began to see broad daylight again, which cheered me greatly. I had been often put in hopes during the dark season that ships were coming towards me, and that I should once more have the conversation of mankind, for I had by the small glimmering seen many large bodies (to my thinking) move at a little distance from me, and particularly toward the reappearing of the light, but though I hallooed as loud as I could, and often fired my gun, I never received an answer.
When the light returned, my days increased in proportion as they had before decreased; and gathering comfort from that, I determined to launch my small boat and to coast along the island, as I judged it, to see if it was inhabited and by whom; I determined also to make me some lines for fishing, and carry my gun to try for other game, if I found a place for landing; for though I had never, since my arrival, seen a single living creature but my cat, except insects, of which there were many in the water and in the air before the dark weather, and then began to appear again, yet I could not but think there were both birds and beasts to be met with.
Upon launching my boat I perceived she was very leaky, so I let her fill and continue thus a week or more to stop her cracks, then getting down the side of my ship I scooped her quite dry and found her very fit for use; so putting on board my gun, lines, brandy bottles, and clothes chest for a seat, with some little water and provisions for a week, I once more committed myself to the sea, having taken all the observation I could to gain my ship again if any accident should happen, though I resolved upon no account to quit sight of the rock willingly.
I had not rowed very long before I thought I saw an island to my right about a league distant, to which I inclined to steer my course, the sea being very calm; but upon surveying it nearer, I found it only a great cake of ice, about forty yards high above the water and a mile or two in length. I then concluded that what I had before taken for ships were only these lumps of ice. Being thus disappointed as to my island, I made what haste I could back to the rock again and coasted part of its circumference; but though I had gone two or three leagues of its circuit, the prospect it afforded was just the same.
I then tried my lines by fastening several very long ones, made of the log-line, to the side of the boat, baiting them with several different baits, but took only one fish of about four pounds weight, very much resembling a haddock, part of which I dressed for my supper after my return to the ship, and it proved very good. Towards evening I returned to my home, as I may call it.
The next day I made a voyage on the other side of the rock, though but to a small distance from the ship, with intent only to fish, but took nothing. I had then a mind to victual my boat or little cruiser, and prepare myself for a voyage of two or three days, which I thought I might safely undertake, as I had never seen a troubled sea since I came to the island; for though I heard the wind often roaring over my head, yet it coming always from the land-side, it never disturbed the water near the shore. I set out the same way I went at first, designing to sail two or three days out and as many home again, and resolved if possible to fathom the depth as I went. With this view I prepared a very long line with a large shot tied in a rag at the end of it, by way of plummet, but I felt no ground till the second night The next morning I came into thirty fathom water, then twenty, then sixteen. In both tours I could perceive no abatement in the height or steepness of the rock.
In about fourteen fathom water I dropped my lines, and lay by for an hour or two. Feeling several jars as I sat on my chest in the boat, I was sure I had caught somewhat, so pulling up my lines successively, I brought first a large eel near six feet long and almost as thick as my thigh, whose mouth, throat, and fins, were of a fine scarlet, and the belly as white as snow: he was so strong while in the water, and weighty, I had much ado to get him into the boat, and then had a harder job to kill him; for though, having a hatchet with me to cut wood in case I met with any landing-place, I chopped off his head the moment I had him on board, yet he had several times after that have like to have broken my legs and beat me overboard before I had quite taken his life from him, and had I not whipped off his tail and also divided his body into two or three pieces, I could not have mastered him. The next I pulled up was a thick fish like a tench, but of another colour and much bigger. I drew up several others, flat and long fish, till I was tired with the sport; and then I set out for the ship again, which I reached the third day.
During this whole time, I had but one shot, and that was as I came homewards, at a creature I saw upon a high crag of the rock, which I fired at with ball, fearing that my small shot would not reach it The animal, being mortally wounded, bounded up, and came tumbling down the rock, very near me. I picked it up, and found it to be a creature not much unlike our rabbits, but with shorter ears, a longer tail, and hoofed like a kid, though it had the perfect fluck of a rabbit I put it into my boat, to contemplate on when I arrived at the ship; and, plying my oars, got safe, as I said, on the third day.
I made me a fire to cook with as soon as I had got my cargo out of the boat into my ship, but was under debate which of my dainties to begin upon. I had sometimes a mind to have broiled my rabbit, as I called it, and boiled some of my fish; but being tired, I hung up my flesh till the next day, and boiled two or three sorts of my fish, to try which was best. I knew not the nature of most of them, so I boiled a piece of my eel, to be sure, judging that, however I might like the others, I should certainly be able to make a good meal of that. This variety being ready, I took a little of my oil out of the hold for sauce, and sat down to my meal, as satisfied as an emperor. But upon tasting my several messes, though the eel was rather richer than the smaller fishes, yet the others were all so good, I gave them the preference for that time, and laid by the rest of the eel, and of the other fish, till the next day, when I salted them for future use.
I kept now a whole week or more at home, to look farther into the contents of the ship, bottle off a cask of Madeira, which I found leaking, and to consume my new stores of fish and flesh, which, being somewhat stale when first salted, I thought would not keep so well as the old ones that were on board. I added also some fresh bread to my provision, and sweetened more water by the aforementioned method; and when my necessary domestic affairs were brought under, I then projected a new voyage.
Lays in great store of provisions—Resolves to traverse the rock—Sails for three weeks, still seeing it only—Is sucked under the rock, and hurried down a cataract—Continues there five weeks—His description of the cavern—His thoughts and difficulties—His arrival at a great lake—And his landing in the beautiful country of Graundevolet
I had for a long time wanted to see the other side of the rock, and at last resolved to try if I could not coast it quite round; for, as I reasoned with myself, I might possibly find some landing-places, and perhaps a convenient habitation on shore. But as I was very uncertain what time that might take up, I determined on having provisions, instruments of divers kinds, and necessary utensils in plenty, to guard against accidents as well as I could. I therefore took another sea-chest out of the hold of the ship, and letting it into my boat, replenished it with a stock of wine, brandy, oil, bread, and the like, sufficient for a considerable voyage. I also filled a large cask with water, and took a good quantity of salt to cure what fish I should take by the way. I carried two guns, two brace of pistols, and other arms, with ammunition proportionable; also an axe or two, a saw to cut wood if I should see any, and a few other tools, which might be highly serviceable if I could land. To all these I added an old sail, to make a covering for my goods and artillery against the weather. Thus furnished and equipped, having secured my hatches on board, and everything that might spoil by wet, I set out, with a God's speed, on my expedition, committing myself once more to Providence and the main ocean, and proceeding the same way I went the first time.
I did not sail extraordinary fast, but frequently fished in proper places, and caught a great deal, salting and drying the best of what I took. For three weeks' time and more, I saw no entrance into the island, as I call it, nor anything but the same unscalable rock. This uniform prospect gave me so little hopes of landing, that I was almost of a mind to have returned again. But, on mature deliberation, resolving to go forward a day or two more, I had not proceeded twenty-four hours, when, just as it was becoming dark, I heard a great noise, as of a fall of water, whereupon I proposed to lie by and wait for day, to see what it was; but the stream insensibly drawing me on, I soon found myself in an eddy; and the boat drawing forward beyond all my power to resist it, I was quickly sucked under a low arch, where, if I had not fallen flat in my boat, having barely light enough to see my danger, I had undoubtedly been crushed to pieces or driven overboard. I could perceive the boat to fall with incredible violence, as I thought, down a precipice, and suddenly whirled round and round with me, the water roaring on all sides, and dashing against the rock with a most amazing noise.
I expected every moment my poor little vessel would be staved against the rock, and I overwhelmed with waters; and for that reason never once attempted to rise up, or look upon my peril, till after the commotion had in some measure ceased. At length, finding the perturbation of the water abate, and as if by degrees I came into a smoother stream, I took courage just to lift up my affrighted head; but guess, if you can, the horror which seized me, on finding myself in the blackest of darkness, unable to perceive the smallest glimmer of light.
However, as my boat seemed to glide easily, I roused myself and struck a light; but if I had my terrors before, what must I have now! I was quite stupefied at the tremendous view of an immense arch over my head, to which I could see no bounds; the stream itself, as I judged, was about thirty yards broad, but in some places wider, in some narrower. It was well for me I happened to have a tinder-box, or, though I had escaped hitherto, I must have at lust perished; for in the narrower parts of the stream, where it ran swiftest, there were frequently such crags stood out from the rock, by reason of the turnings and windings, and such sets of the current against them, as, could I not have seen to manage my boat, which I took great care to keep in the middle of the stream, must have thrown me on them, to my inevitable destruction.
Happy it was for me, also, I was so well victualled, and that I had taken with me two bottles of oil (as I supposed, for I did not imagine I had any more), or I had certainly been lost, not only through hunger, for I was, to my guess, five weeks in the vault or cavern, but for want of light, which the oil furnished, and without which all other conveniences could have been of no avail to me. I was forced to keep my lamp always burning; so, not knowing how long my residence was to be in that place, or when I should get my discharge from it, if ever, I was obliged to husband my oil with the utmost frugality; and notwithstanding all my caution, it grew low, and was just spent, in little above half the time I stayed there.
I had now cut a piece of my shirt for a wick to my last drop of oil, which I twisted and lighted. I burnt the oil in my brass tobacco-box, which I had fitted pretty well to answer the purpose Sitting down, I had many black thoughts of what must follow the loss of my light, which I considered as near expiring, and that, I feared, for ever. I am here, thought I, like a poor condemned criminal, who knows his execution is fixed for such a day, nay, such an hour, and dies over and over in imagination, and by the torture of his mind, till that hour comes: that hour, which he so much dreads! and yet that very hour which releases him from all farther dread! Thus do I—my last wick is kindled—my last drop of fuel is consuming!—and I am every moment apprehending the shocks of the rock, the suffocation of the water; and, in short, thinking over my dying thoughts, till the snuff of my lamp throws up its last curling, expiring flame, and then my quietus will be presently signed, and I released from my tormenting anxiety! Happy minute! Come then; I only wait for thee! My spirits grew so low and feeble upon this, that I had recourse to my brandy bottle to raise them; but, as I was just going to take a sip, I reflected that would only increase thirst, and, therefore, it were better to take a little of my white Madeira; so, putting my dram-bottle again into the chest, I held up one of Madeira, as I fancied, to the lamp, and seeing it was white (for I had red too) I clapped it eagerly to my mouth, when the first gulp gave me a greater refreshment, and more cheered my heart, than all the other liquors I had put together could have done; insomuch, as I had almost leaped over the boat's side for joy. "It is oil!" cried I aloud, "it is oil!" I set it down carefully, with inexpressible pleasure; and examining the rest of the bottles I had taken for white Madeira, I found two more of those to be filled with oil. "Now," says I, "here is the counterpart of my condemned prisoner! For let but a pardon come, though at the gallows, how soon does he forget he has been an unhappy villain! And I, too, have scarce a notion now, how a man, in my case, could feel such sorrow as I have for want of a little oil."
After my first transport, I found myself grow serious, reflecting upon the vigilance of Providence over us poor creatures, and the various instances wherein it interposes to save or relieve us in cases of the deepest distress, where our own foresight, wisdom, and power have utterly failed, and when, looking all around, we could discover no means of deliverance. And I saw a train of circumstances leading to the incident I have just mentioned, which obliged me to acknowledge the superintendence of Heaven over even my affairs; and as the goodness of God had cared for me thus far, and manifested itself to me now, in rescuing me, as it were, from being swallowed up in darkness, I had ground to hope He intended a complete deliverance of me out of that dismal abyss, and would cause me yet to praise Him in the full brightness of day.
A series of these meditations brought me (at the end of five weeks, as nearly as I could compute it by my lamp) to a prodigious lake of water, bordered with a grassy down, about half a mile wide, of the finest verdure I had ever seen: this again was flanked with a wood or grove, rising like an amphitheatre, of about the same breadth; and behind, and above all, appeared the naked rock to an immense height.
His joy on his arrival at land—A description of the place— No inhabitants—Wants fresh water—Resides in a grotto— Finds water—Views the country—Carries his things to the grotto.
It is impossible to express my joy at the sight of day once more. I got on the land as soon as possible after my dismission from the cavern, and, kneeling on the ground, returned hearty thanks to God for my deliverance, begging, at the same time, grace to improve His mercies, and that I might continue under His protection, whatever should hereafter befall me, and at last die on my native soil.
I unloaded my vessel as well as I could, and hauled her up on the shore; and, turning her upside down, made her a covering for my arms and baggage. I then sat down to contemplate the place, and eat a most delightful meal on the grass, being quite a new thing to me.
I walked over the greensward to the wood, with my gun in my hand, a brace of pistols in my girdle, and my cutlass hanging before me; but, when I was just entering the wood, looking behind me and all around the plain, "Is it possible," says I, "that so much art (for I did not then believe it was natural) could have been bestowed upon this place, and no inhabitant in it? Here are neither buildings, huts, castle, nor any living creature to be seen! It cannot be," says I, "that this place was made for nothing!"
I then went a considerable way into the wood, and inclined to have gone much farther, it being very beautiful, but, on second thoughts, judged it best to content myself at present with only looking out a safe retreat for that night; for, however agreeable the place then seemed, darkness was at hand, when everything about me would have more or less of horror in it.
The wood, at its first entrance, was composed of the most charming flowering shrubs that can be imagined; each growing upon its own stem, at so convenient a distance from the other, that you might fairly pass between them any way without the least incommodity. Behind them grew numberless trees, somewhat taller, of the greatest variety of shapes, forms, and verdures the eye ever beheld; each, also, so far asunder as was necessary for the spreading of their several branches and the growth of their delicious fruits, without a bush, briar, or shrub amongst them. Behind these, and still on the higher ground, grew an infinite number of very large, tall trees, much loftier than the former, but intermixed with some underwood, which grew thicker and closer the nearer you approached the rock. I made a shift to force my way through these as far as the rock, which rose as perpendicular as a regular building, having only here and there some crags and unevennesses. There was, I observed, a space all the way between the underwood and the rock, wide enough to drive a cart in; and, indeed, I thought it had been left for that purpose.
I walked along this passage a good way, having tied a rag of the lining of my jacket at the place of my entrance, to know it again at my coming back, which I intended to be ere it grew dark; but I found so much pleasure in the walk, and surveying a small natural grotto which was in the rock, that the daylight forsook me unawares: whereupon I resolved to put off my return unto the boat till next morning, and to take up my lodging for that night in the cave.
I cut down a large bundle of underwood with my cutlass, sufficient to stop up the mouth of the grotto, and laying me down to rest, slept as sound as if I had been on board my ship; for I never had one hour's rest together since I shot the gulf till this. Nature, indeed, could not have supported itself thus long under much labour; but as I had nothing to do but only keep the middle stream, I began to be as used to guide myself in it with my eyes almost closed, and my senses retired, as a higgler is to drive his cart to market in his sleep.
The next morning I awaked sweetly refreshed; and, by the sign of my rag, found the way again through the underwood to my boat I raised that up a little, took out some bread and cheese, and, having eat pretty heartily, laid me down to drink at the lake, which looked as clear as crystal, expecting a most delicious draught; but I had forgot it brought me from the sea, and my first gulp almost poisoned me. This was a sore disappointment, for I knew my water-cask was nigh emptied; and, indeed, turning up my boat again, I drew out all that remained, and drank it, for I was much athirst.
However, I did not despair; I was now so used to God's providence, and had a sense of its operations so riveted in my mind, that though the vast lake of salt water was surrounded by an impenetrable rock or barrier of stone, I rested satisfied that I should rather find even that yield me a fresh and living stream, than that I should perish for want of it.
With this easy mind did I travel five or six miles on the side of the lake, and sometimes stepped into the wood, and walked a little there, till I had gone almost half the diameter of the lake, which lay in a circular or rather an oval figure. I had then thoughts of walking back, to be near my boat and lodging, for fear I should be again benighted if I went much farther; but, considering I had come past no water, and possibly I might yet find some if I went quite round the lake, I rather chose to take up with a new lodging that night, than to return; and I did not want for a supper, having brought out with me more bread and cheese than had served for dinner, the remainder of which was in the lining of my jacket. When it grew darkish, I had some thoughts of eating; but I considered, as I was then neither very hungry nor dry, if I should eat it would but occasion drought, and I had nothing to allay that with; so I contented myself for that night to lay me down supperless.
In the morning I set forward again upon my water search, and hoped to compass the whole lake that day. I had gone about seven miles more, when, at a little distance before me, I perceived a small hollow or cut in the grass from the wood to the lake; thither I hasted with all speed, and blessed God for the supply of a fine fresh rill, which, distilling from several small clefts in the rock, had collected itself into one stream, and cut its way through the green sod to the lake.
I lay down with infinite pleasure, and swallowed a most cheering draught of the precious liquid; and, sitting on the brink, made a good meal of what I had with me, and then drank again. I had now got five-sixths of the lake's circumference to go back again to my boat, for I did not suspect any passage over the cavern's mouth where I came into the lake; and I could not, without much trouble, consider that, if I would have this water for a constant supply, I must either come a long way for it, or fix my habitation near it. I was just going back again, revolving these uneasy thoughts in my breast, when this rose suddenly in my mind, that, if I could possibly get over the mouth of the cavern, I should not have above three miles from my grotto to the water. Now, as I could not get home that night otherwise than by crossing it, and as, if I lost my labour, I should be but where I was, whereas if I should get over it, it would very much shorten my journey, I resolved to try whether the thing was practicable, first, however, looking out for a resting-place somewhere near my water, if I should meet with a disappointment.
I then walked into the wood, where, meeting with no place of retreat to my liking, I went to my rill, and taking another sup, determined not to leave that side of the lake till morning; but having some time to spare, I walked about two miles to view the inlet of the lake, and was agreeably surprised, just over the mouth of the cavern, to see a large stone arch like a bridge, as if it had been cut out of the rock, quite across the opening: this cheered me vastly, and, pushing over it, I found a path that brought me to my boat before night.
I then went up to my grotto for the third night in this most delightful place; and the next morning early I launched my boat, and taking my water-cask and a small dipping bucket with me, I rowed away for the rill, and returned highly pleased with a sufficiency of water, whereof I carried a bucket and a copper kettle full up with me to the grotto. Indeed, it was not the least part of my satisfaction that I had this kettle with me; for though I was in hopes, in my last voyage, I should have come to some shore, where I could have landed and enjoyed myself over some of my fish, and for that reason had taken it, notwithstanding things did not turn out just as I had schemed, yet my kettle proved the most useful piece of furniture I had.
Having now acquainted myself with the circumference of the lake, and settled a communication with my rill, I began to think of commencing housekeeper. In order thereunto, I set about removing my goods up to the grotto. By constant application, in a few days I had gotten all thither but my two great chests and my water-cask; and how to drag or drive any of those to it, I was entirely at a loss. My water-cask was of the utmost importance to me, and I had thoughts sometimes of stopping it close, and rolling it to the place; but the ascent through the wood to the grotto was so steep, that, besides the fear of staving it, which would have been an irreparable loss, I judged it impossible to accomplish it by my strength; so with a good deal of discontent, I determined to remit both that and the chests to future consideration.
An account of the grotto—A room added to it—-A view of that building—The author makes a little cart—Also a wet dock for his boat—Goes in quest of provision—A description of divers fruits and plants—He brings home a cart-load of different sorts—Makes experiments on them—Loads his cart with others—A great disappointment—Makes good bread—Never sees the sun—The nature of the light
Having come to a full resolution of fixing my residence at the grotto, and making that my capital seat, it is proper to give you some description of it.
This grotto, then, was a full mile from the lake, in the rock which encompassed the wood. The entrance was scarcely two feet wide, and about nine feet high, rising from the height of seven feet upward to a point in the middle. The cavity was about fifteen feet long within, and about five wide. Being obliged to lie lengthwise in it, full six feet of it were taken up at the farther end for my lodging only, as nothing could stand on the side of my bed that would leave me room to come at it. The remaining nine feet of the cave's length were taken up, first, by my fireplace, which was the deepest side of the doorway, ranging with my bed (which I had set close to the rock on one side), and took up near three feet in length; and my furniture and provisions, of one sort or other, so filled up the rest, that I had much ado to creep between them into my bed.
In the chest which I had taken for a seat in the boat, as aforesaid, upon breaking it open by the water-side, I found a mattress, some shirts, shoes, stockings, and several other useful things; a small case of bottles with cordials in them, some instruments of surgery, plasters and salves; all which, together with a large quantity of fish that I had salted, I carried to the grotto.
My habitation being thus already overcharged, and as I could not, however, bear the thoughts of quitting it, or of having any of my goods exposed to the weather on the outside, I was naturally bent on contriving how I should increase my accommodations. As I had no prospect of enlarging the grotto itself, I could conceive no other way of effecting my desire but by the addition of an outer room. This thought pleased me very much, so that the next day I set myself to plan out the building, and trace the foundation of it.
I told you before there was about the space of a cart-way between the wood and the rock clear; but this breadth, as I was building for life (so I imagined), not appearing to me spacious enough for my new apartment, I considered how I should extend its bounds into the wood. Hereupon I set myself to observe what trees stood at a proper distance from my grotto, that might serve as they stood, with a little management of hewing and the like, to compose a noble doorway, posts, and supporters; and I found, that upon cutting down three of the nearest trees, I should answer my purpose in this respect; and there were several others, about twenty feet from the grotto, and running parallel with the rock, the situation of which was so happily adapted to my intention, that I could make them become, as I fancied, an out-fence or wall; so I took my axe and cut down my nearest trees, but as I was going to strike, a somewhat different scheme presented itself to my imagination that altered my resolution.
In conformity with this new plan, I fixed the height of my intended ceiling, and sawed off my nearest trees to that, sloping from the sides to the middle, to support cross-beams for the roof to rest on, and left the trunks standing, by way of pillars, both for the use and ornament of the structure. In short, I worked hard every day upon my building for a month, in which time I had cut all my timber into their proper lengths for my outworks and covering, but was at a great stand how to fix my side-posts, having no spade or mattock, and the ground almost as hard as flint, for to be sure it had never been stirred since the creation. I then thought I had the worst part of my job to get over; however, I went on, and having contrived, in most of my upright side-quarters, to take the tops of trees, and leave on the lower parts their cleft, where they began to branch out and divide from the main stem, I set one of them upright against the rock, then laid one end of my long ceiling-pieces upon the cleft of it, and laid the other end upon a tree on the same side, whose top I had also sawed off with a proper cleft I then went and did the same on the other side; after this I laid on a proper number of cross-beams, and tied all very firmly together with the bark of young trees stripped off in long thongs, which answered that purpose very well. Thus I proceeded, crossing, joining, and fastening all together, till the whole roof was so strong and firm that there was no stirring any part of it I then spread it over with small lop wood, on which I raised a ridge of dried grass and weeds, very thick, and thatched over the whole with the leaves of a tree very much resembling those of a palm, but much thicker, and not quite so broad; the entire surface, I might say, was as smooth as a die, and so ordered, by a gentle declivity every way, as to carry off the wet.
Having covered in my building, I was next to finish and close the walls of it; the skeleton of these was composed of sticks, crossing one another checker-wise and tied together; to fill up the voids, I wove upon them the longest and most pliable twigs of the underwood I could find, leaving only a doorway on one side, between two stems of a tree which, dividing in the trunk at about two feet from the ground, grew from thence, for the rest of its height, as if the branches were a couple of trees a little distance from one another, which made a sort of stile-way to my room. When this was all done, I tempered up some earth by the lake-side, and mixing it to a due consistence with mud, which I took from the lake, applied it as a plastering in this manner: I divided it into pieces, which I rolled up of the size of a foot-ball; these lumps I stuck close by one another on the lattice, pressing them very hard with my hands, which forced part of them quite through the small twigs, and then I smoothed both sides with the back of my saw, to about the thickness of five or six inches; so that by this means I had a wall round my new apartment a foot thick. This plaster-work cost me some time and a great deal of labour, as I had a full mile to go to the lake for every load of stuff, and could carry but little at once, it was so heavy; but there was neither water for tempering, nor proper earth to make it with any nearer. At last, however, I completed my building in every respect but a door, and for this I was forced to use the lid of my sea chest; which indeed I would have chosen not to apply that way, but I had nothing else that would, do; and there was, however, this conveniency, that it had hinges ready fixed thereon.
I now began to enjoy myself in my new habitation, like the absolute and sole lord of the country, for I had neither seen man nor beast since my arrival, save a few animals in the trees like our squirrels, and some water-rats about the lake; but there were several strange kinds of birds I had never before seen, both on the lake and in the woods.
That which now troubled me most was how to get my water nearer to me than the lake, for I had no lesser vessel than the cask, which held above twenty gallons, and to bring that up was a fatigue intolerable. My next contrivance, therefore, was this: I told you I had taken my chest-lid to make a door for my ante-chamber, as I now began to call it; so I resolved to apply the body of the chest also to a purpose different from that it originally answered. In order to this, I went to the lake where the body of the chest lay, and sawed it through within about three inches of the bottom. Of the two ends, having rounded them as well as I could, I made two wheels; and with one of the sides I made two more. I burnt a hole through the middle of each; then preparing two axle-trees, I fastened them, after putting on the wheels, to the bottom of the chest with the nails I had drawn out, of it. Having finished this machine, on which I bestowed no small labour, I was hugely pleased with it, and only wished I had a beast, if it were but an ass, to draw it; however, that task I was satisfied to perform myself, since there was no help for it; so I made a good strong cord out of my fishing-lines, and fixed that to drag it by. When all was thus in readiness, filling my water-cask, I bound it thereon, and so brought it to the grotto with such ease, comparatively, as quite charmed me. Having succeeded so well in the first essay, I no sooner unloaded but down went I again with my cart, or truckle rather, to the lake, and brought from thence on it my other chest, which I had left entire.
I had now nothing remaining near the lake but my boat, and had half a mind to try to bring that up too; but having so frequent occasion for her to get my water in, which I used in greater abundance now than I had done at first, a great part going to supply my domestic uses, as well as for drinking, I resolved against that, and sought out for a convenient dock to stow it in as a preservative against wind and weather, which I soon after effected; for having pitched upon a swampy place, overgrown with a sort of long flags or reeds, I soon cut a trench from the lake, with a sort of spade or board that I had chopped and sharpened for that use.
Thus having stowed my boat and looked over all my goods and sorted them, and taken a survey of my provisions, I found I must soon be in want of the last if I did not forthwith procure a supply; for though I had victualled so well at setting out, and had been very sparing ever since, yet had it not been for a great quantity of fish I took and salted in my passage to the gulf, I had been to seek for food much sooner. Hereupon I thought it highly prudent to look out before I really wanted.
With this resolution I accoutred myself, as in my first walk, with my instruments and arms; but instead of travelling the lake-side, I went along the wood, and therein found great plenty of divers kinds of fruits though I could scarce persuade myself to taste or try the effects of them, being so much unlike our own, or any I had seen elsewhere. I observed amongst the shrubs abundance of a fruit, or whatever else you may call it, which grew like a ram's-horn; sharp at the point next the twig it was fastened to, and circling round and round, one fold upon another, which gradually increased to the size of my wrist in the middle, and then as gradually decreased till it terminated in a point again at the contrary extreme; all which spiral, if it were fairly extended in length, might be a yard or an ell long. I surveyed this strange vegetable very attentively; it had a rind, or crust, which I could not break with my hand, but taking my knife and making an opening therewith in the shell, there issued out a sort of milky liquor in great quantity, to at least a pint and half, which having tasted, I found as sweet as honey, and very pleasant: however, I could not persuade myself any more than just to taste it. I then found on the large trees several kinds of fruit, like pears or quinces, but most of them exceeding hard and rough, and quite disagreeable; so I quitted my hopes of them.