« AnteriorContinuar »
me a raising me from death to life, and the greatest blessing that Heaven itself, next to the supreme blessing of Salvation, could bestow; I say, that I should now tremble at the very apprehension of seeing a man, and was ready to sink into the ground at but the shadow or silent appearance of a man's having set his foot on the island.
HE SEES SAVAGES ON THE ISLAND, AND OBTAINS A SERVANT.
In the middle of these cogitations, apprehensions, and reflections, it came into my thoughts one day, that all this might be a mere chimera of my own, and that this foot might be the print of my own foot, when I came on shore from my boat. This cheered me up a little too, and I began to persuade myself it was all a delusion ; that it was nothing else but my own foot; and why might not I come that way from the boat, as well as I was going that way to the boat ? Again I considered also, that I could by no means tell for certain where I had trod, and where I had not; and that if at last this was only the print of my own foot, I had played the part of those fools who strive to make stories of spectres and apparitions, and then are themselves frighted at them more than anybody else.
Now 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 starve for provision; for I had little or nothing within doors, but some barley-cakes and water. Then I knew that my goats wanted to be milked, too, which usually was my evening diversion; and the poor creatures were in great pain and inconvenience for want of it; and indeed it almost spoiled some of them, and almost dried up their milk.
Heartening myself therefore with the belief that this
was nothing but the print of one of my own feet (and so I might be truly said to start at my own shadow), I began to go abroad again, and went to my country house to milk my flock. But to see with what fear I went forward, how often I looked behind me, how I was ready every now and then to lay down my basket and run for my life, it would have made any one have thought I was haunted with an evil conscience, or that I had been lately most terribly frighted; and so indeed I had.
However, as I went down thus two or three days, and having seen nothing, I began to be a little bolder, and to think there was really nothing in it but my own imagination ; but I could not persuade myself fully of this, till I should go down to the shore again, and see this print of a foot, and measure it by my own, and see if there was any similitude or fitness, that I might be assured it was my own foot : but when I came to the place, first it appeared evidently to me that when I laid up my boat, I could not possibly be on shore any where thereabouts; secondly, when I came to measure the mark with my own foot, I found my foot not so long by a great deal. Both these things filled my head with new imaginations, and gave me the vapours again to the highest degree ; so that I shook with cold, like one in an ague; and I went home again filled with a belief, that some man or men had been on shore there; or, in short, that the island was inhabited, and I might be surprised before I was aware; and what course to take for my security I knew not.
About a year and a half after I had entertained these notions, and by long musing had, as it were, resolved them all into nothing, I was surprised one morning early with seeing no less than five canoes all on shore together, on my side the island, and the people who belonged to them all landed and out of my sight. The number of them broke all my measures; for seeing so many, and knowing that they always came four or six or sometimes more in a boat, I could not tell what to think of it, or how to take my measures, to attack twenty or thirty men single-handed ; so I lay still in my castle, perplexed and discomforted; hewever, I put myself into all the same postures for an attack that I had formerly provided, and was just ready for action, if anything had presented itself, having waited a good while listening to hear if they made any noise. At length, being very impatient, I set my guns at the foot of my ladder, and clambered up to the top of the hill by my two stages as usual; standing so, however, that my head did not appear above the hill : so that they could not perceive me by any means. Here I observed, by the help of my perspective glass, that there were no less than thirty in number, that they had a fire kindled, and that they had meat dressed; how they cooked it, that I knew not, or what it was; but they were all dancing in I know not how many barbarous gestures and figures, their own way, round the fire.
When I was thus looking on them, I perceived by my perspective two miserable wretches dragged from the boats, where it seems they were laid by, and were now brought out for the slaughter. I perceived one of them immediately fall, being knocked down, I suppose, with a club or wooden sword, for that was their way; and two or three others were at work immediately, cutting him open for their cookery, while the other victim was left standing by himself till they should be ready for him. In that very moment, this poor wretch seeing himself a little at liberty, nature inspired him with hopes of life, and he started away from them, and ran along the sands with incredible swiftness directly towards me; I mean towards that part of the coast where my habitation was.
I was dreadfully frighted (that I must acknowledge) when I perceived him to run my way; and especially when, as I thought, I saw him pursued by the whole body. There was between them and my castle the creek, which I mentioned often at the first part of my story, when I landed my cargoes out of the ship; and this I knew he must necessarily swim over, or the poor wretch would be taken there; but when the savage escaping came thither, he made nothing of it, though the tide was then up; but plunging in, swam through in about thirty strokes or thereabouts, landed, and ran on with exceeding strength and swiftness. When the three pursuers came to the creek, I found that two of them could swim, but the third could not, and that he, standing on the other side, looked at the others, but went no farther, and soon after went softly back again; which, as it happened, was very well for him in the main.
I observed that the two who swam were yet more than twice as long swimming over the creek than the fellow was that fled from them ; it came now very warmly upon my thoughts, and indeed irresistibly, that now was my time to get me a servant, and perhaps a companion or assistant, and that I was called plainly by Providence to save this poor creature's life. I immediately got down the ladder with all possible expedition, fetched my two guns, for they were both at the foot of the ladder, as I observed above; and getting up again with the same haste to the top of the hill, I crossed towards the sea; and, having a very short cut, and all down hill, clapped myself in the way between the pursuers and the pursued, hallooing aloud to him that fled, who looking back, was at first perhaps as much frightened at me as at them; but I beckoned with my hand to
him to come back; and in the meantime I slowly advanced towards the two that followed ; then rushing at once upon the foremost, I knocked him down with the stock of my piece: I was loath to fire, because I would not have the rest hear; though at that distance it would not have been easily heard ; and being out of sight of the smoke too, they would not have easily known what to make of it. Having knocked this fellow down, the other who pursued him stopped, as if he had been frightened, and I advanced a pace towards him ; but as I came nearer, I perceived presently he had a bow and
arrow, and was fitting it to shoot at me; so I was then necessitated to shoot at him first, which I did, and killed him at the first shot. The poor savage who fled but had stopped, though he saw both his enemies fallen and killed (as he thought), yet was so frighted with the fire and noise of my piece, that he stood stock-still, and neither came forward nor went backward, though he seemed rather inclined to fly still than to come on. I hallooed again to him and made signs to come forward, which he easily understood, and came a little way, then stopped again, and then a little farther, and then stopped again; and I could then perceive that he stood trembling, as if he had been taken prisoner, and had just been to be killed, as his two enemies were. I beckoned him again to come to me, and gave him all the signs of encouragement that I could think of; and he came nearer and nearer, kneeling down every ten or twelve steps, in token of acknowledgment for saving his life. I smiled at him and looked pleasantly, and beckoned to him to come still nearer. At length he came close to me, and then he kneeled down again, kissed the ground, and laid his head upon the ground, and taking me by the foot,-set my foot upon his head : this, it seems, was in token of swearing to be slave for ever.
I took him