With these thoughts, I resolved to remove my tent from the place where it stood,
which was just under the hanging precipice of the hill; and which, if it should
be shaken again, would certainly fall upon my tent; and I spent the two next days,
being the 19th and 20th of April, in contriving where and how to remove my habitation.
The fear of being swallowed up alive made me that I never slept in quiet; and yet
the apprehension of lying abroad without any fence was almost equal to it; but still,
when I looked about, and saw how everything was put in order, how pleasantly concealed
I was, and how safe from danger, it made me very loath to remove. In the meantime,
it occurred to me that it would require a vast deal of time for me to do this, and
that I must be contented to venture where I was, till I had formed a camp for myself,
and had secured it so as to remove to it. So with this resolution I composed myself
for a time, and resolved that I would go to work with all speed to build me a wall
with piles and cables, &c., in a circle, as before, and set my tent up in it when
it was finished; but that I would venture to stay where I was till it was finished,
and fit to remove. This was the 21st.
APRIL 22. - The next morning I begin to consider of means to put this resolve
into execution; but I was at a great loss about my tools. I had three large axes,
and abundance of hatchets (for we carried the hatchets for traffic with the Indians);
but with much chopping and cutting knotty hard wood, they were all full of notches,
and dull; and though I had a grindstone, I could not turn it and grind my tools
too. This cost me as much thought as a statesman would have bestowed upon a grand
point of politics, or a judge upon the life and death of a man. At length I contrived
a wheel with a string, to turn it with my foot, that I might have both my hands
at liberty. NOTE. - I had never seen any such thing in England, or at least, not
to take notice how it was done, though since I have observed, it is very common
there; besides that, my grindstone was very large and heavy. This machine cost me
a full week's work to bring it to perfection.
APRIL 28, 29. - These two whole days I took up in grinding my tools, my machine
for turning my grindstone performing very well.
APRIL 30. - Having perceived my bread had been low a great while, now I took
a survey of it, and reduced myself to one biscuit cake a day, which made my heart
MAY 1. - In the morning, looking towards the sea side, the tide being low, I
saw something lie on the shore bigger than ordinary, and it looked like a cask;
when I came to it, I found a small barrel, and two or three pieces of the wreck
of the ship, which were driven on shore by the late hurricane; and looking towards
the wreck itself, I thought it seemed to lie higher out of the water than it used
to do. I examined the barrel which was driven on shore, and soon found it was a
barrel of gunpowder; but it had taken water, and the powder was caked as hard as
a stone; however, I rolled it farther on shore for the present, and went on upon
the sands, as near as I could to the wreck of the ship, to look for more.
CHAPTER VI - ILL AND CONSCIENCE-STRICKEN
WHEN I came down to the ship I found it strangely removed. The forecastle, which
lay before buried in sand, was heaved up at least six feet, and the stern, which
was broke in pieces and parted from the rest by the force of the sea, soon after
I had left rummaging her, was tossed as it were up, and cast on one side; and the
sand was thrown so high on that side next her stern, that whereas there was a great
place of water before, so that I could not come within a quarter of a mile of the
wreck without swimming I could now walk quite up to her when the tide was out. I
was surprised with this at first, but soon concluded it must be done by the earthquake;
and as by this violence the ship was more broke open than formerly, so many things
came daily on shore, which the sea had loosened, and which the winds and water rolled
by degrees to the land.
This wholly diverted my thoughts from the design of removing my habitation, and
I busied myself mightily, that day especially, in searching whether I could make
any way into the ship; but I found nothing was to be expected of that kind, for
all the inside of the ship was choked up with sand. However, as I had learned not
to despair of anything, I resolved to pull everything to pieces that I could of
the ship, concluding that everything I could get from her would be of some use or
other to me.
MAY 3. - I began with my saw, and cut a piece of a beam through, which I thought
held some of the upper part or quarter-deck together, and when I had cut it through,
I cleared away the sand as well as I could from the side which lay highest; but
the tide coming in, I was obliged to give over for that time.
MAY 4. - I went a-fishing, but caught not one fish that I durst eat of, till
I was weary of my sport; when, just going to leave off, I caught a young dolphin.
I had made me a long line of some rope-yarn, but I had no hooks; yet I frequently
caught fish enough, as much as I cared to eat; all which I dried in the sun, and
ate them dry.
MAY 5. - Worked on the wreck; cut another beam asunder, and brought three great
fir planks off from the decks, which I tied together, and made to float on shore
when the tide of flood came on.
MAY 6. - Worked on the wreck; got several iron bolts out of her and other pieces
of ironwork. Worked very hard, and came home very much tired, and had thoughts of
giving it over.
MAY 7. - Went to the wreck again, not with an intent to work, but found the weight
of the wreck had broke itself down, the beams being cut; that several pieces of
the ship seemed to lie loose, and the inside of the hold lay so open that I could
see into it; but it was almost full of water and sand.
MAY 8. - Went to the wreck, and carried an iron crow to wrench up the deck, which
lay now quite clear of the water or sand. I wrenched open two planks, and brought
them on shore also with the tide. I left the iron crow in the wreck for next day.
MAY 9. - Went to the wreck, and with the crow made way into the body of the wreck,
and felt several casks, and loosened them with the crow, but could not break them
up. I felt also a roll of English lead, and could stir it, but it was too heavy
MAY 10-14. - Went every day to the wreck; and got a great many pieces of timber,
and boards, or plank, and two or three hundredweight of iron.
MAY 15. - I carried two hatchets, to try if I could not cut a piece off the roll
of lead by placing the edge of one hatchet and driving it with the other; but as
it lay about a foot and a half in the water, I could not make any blow to drive
MAY 16. - It had blown hard in the night, and the wreck appeared more broken
by the force of the water; but I stayed so long in the woods, to get pigeons for
food, that the tide prevented my going to the wreck that day.
MAY 17. - I saw some pieces of the wreck blown on shore, at a great distance,
near two miles off me, but resolved to see what they were, and found it was a piece
of the head, but too heavy for me to bring away.
MAY 24. - Every day, to this day, I worked on the wreck; and with hard labour
I loosened some things so much with the crow, that the first flowing tide several
casks floated out, and two of the seamen's chests; but the wind blowing from the
shore, nothing came to land that day but pieces of timber, and a hogshead, which
had some Brazil pork in it; but the salt water and the sand had spoiled it. I continued
this work every day to the 15th of June, except the time necessary to get food,
which I always appointed, during this part of my employment, to be when the tide
was up, that I might be ready when it was ebbed out; and by this time I had got
timber and plank and ironwork enough to have built a good boat, if I had known how;
and also I got, at several times and in several pieces, near one hundredweight of
the sheet lead.
JUNE 16. - Going down to the seaside, I found a large tortoise or turtle. This
was the first I had seen, which, it seems, was only my misfortune, not any defect
of the place, or scarcity; for had I happened to be on the other side of the island,
I might have had hundreds of them every day, as I found afterwards; but perhaps
had paid dear enough for them.
JUNE 17. - I spent in cooking the turtle. I found in her three-score eggs; and
her flesh was to me, at that time, the most savoury and pleasant that ever I tasted
in my life, having had no flesh, but of goats and fowls, since I landed in this
JUNE 18. - Rained all day, and I stayed within. I thought at this time the rain
felt cold, and I was something chilly; which I knew was not usual in that latitude.
JUNE 19. - Very ill, and shivering, as if the weather had been cold.
JUNE 20. - No rest all night; violent pains in my head, and feverish.
JUNE 21. - Very ill; frighted almost to death with the apprehensions of my sad
condition - to be sick, and no help. Prayed to God, for the first time since the
storm off Hull, but scarce knew what I said, or why, my thoughts being all confused.
JUNE 22. - A little better; but under dreadful apprehensions of sickness.
JUNE 22. - Very bad again; cold and shivering, and then a violent headache.
JUNE 24. - Much better.
JUNE 25. - An ague very violent; the fit held me seven hours; cold fit and hot,
with faint sweats after it.
JUNE 26. - Better; and having no victuals to eat, took my gun, but found myself
very weak. However, I killed a she-goat, and with much difficulty got it home, and
broiled some of it, and ate, I would fain have stewed it, and made some broth, but
had no pot.
JUNE 27. - The ague again so violent that I lay a-bed all day, and neither ate
nor drank. I was ready to perish for thirst; but so weak, I had not strength to
stand up, or to get myself any water to drink. Prayed to God again, but was light-headed;
and when I was not, I was so ignorant that I knew not what to say; only I lay and
cried, "Lord, look upon me! Lord, pity me! Lord, have mercy upon me!" I suppose
I did nothing else for two or three hours; till, the fit wearing off, I fell asleep,
and did not wake till far in the night. When I awoke, I found myself much refreshed,
but weak, and exceeding thirsty. However, as I had no water in my habitation, I
was forced to lie till morning, and went to sleep again. In this second sleep I
had this terrible dream: I thought that I was sitting on the ground, on the outside
of my wall, where I sat when the storm blew after the earthquake, and that I saw
a man descend from a great black cloud, in a bright flame of fire, and light upon
the ground. He was all over as bright as a flame, so that I could but just bear
to look towards him; his countenance was most inexpressibly dreadful, impossible
for words to describe. When he stepped upon the ground with his feet, I thought
the earth trembled, just as it had done before in the earthquake, and all the air
looked, to my apprehension, as if it had been filled with flashes of fire. He was
no sooner landed upon the earth, but he moved forward towards me, with a long spear
or weapon in his hand, to kill me; and when he came to a rising ground, at some
distance, he spoke to me - or I heard a voice so terrible that it is impossible
to express the terror of it. All that I can say I understood was this: "Seeing all
these things have not brought thee to repentance, now thou shalt die;" at which
words, I thought he lifted up the spear that was in his hand to kill me.
No one that shall ever read this account will expect that I should be able to
describe the horrors of my soul at this terrible vision. I mean, that even while
it was a dream, I even dreamed of those horrors. Nor is it any more possible to
describe the impression that remained upon my mind when I awaked, and found it was
but a dream.
I had, alas! no divine knowledge. What I had received by the good instruction
of my father was then worn out by an uninterrupted series, for eight years, of seafaring
wickedness, and a constant conversation with none but such as were, like myself,
wicked and profane to the last degree. I do not remember that I had, in all that
time, one thought that so much as tended either to looking upwards towards God,
or inwards towards a reflection upon my own ways; but a certain stupidity of soul,
without desire of good, or conscience of evil, had entirely overwhelmed me; and
I was all that the most hardened, unthinking, wicked creature among our common sailors
can be supposed to be; not having the least sense, either of the fear of God in
danger, or of thankfulness to God in deliverance.
In the relating what is already past of my story, this will be the more easily
believed when I shall add, that through all the variety of miseries that had to
this day befallen me, I never had so much as one thought of it being the hand of
God, or that it was a just punishment for my sin - my rebellious behaviour against
my father - or my present sins, which were great - or so much as a punishment for
the general course of my wicked life. When I was on the desperate expedition on
the desert shores of Africa, I never had so much as one thought of what would become
of me, or one wish to God to direct me whither I should go, or to keep me from the
danger which apparently surrounded me, as well from voracious creatures as cruel
savages. But I was merely thoughtless of a God or a Providence, acted like a mere
brute, from the principles of nature, and by the dictates of common sense only,
and, indeed, hardly that. When I was delivered and taken up at sea by the Portugal
captain, well used, and dealt justly and honourably with, as well as charitably,
I had not the least thankfulness in my thoughts. When, again, I was shipwrecked,
ruined, and in danger of drowning on this island, I was as far from remorse, or
looking on it as a judgment. I only said to myself often, that I was an unfortunate
dog, and born to be always miserable.
It is true, when I got on shore first here, and found all my ship's crew drowned
and myself spared, I was surprised with a kind of ecstasy, and some transports of
soul, which, had the grace of God assisted, might have come up to true thankfulness;
but it ended where it began, in a mere common flight of joy, or, as I may say, being
glad I was alive, without the least reflection upon the distinguished goodness of
the hand which had preserved me, and had singled me out to be preserved when all
the rest were destroyed, or an inquiry why Providence had been thus merciful unto
me. Even just the same common sort of joy which seamen generally have, after they
are got safe ashore from a shipwreck, which they drown all in the next bowl of punch,
and forget almost as soon as it is over; and all the rest of my life was like it.
Even when I was afterwards, on due consideration, made sensible of my condition,
how I was cast on this dreadful place, out of the reach of human kind, out of all
hope of relief, or prospect of redemption, as soon as I saw but a prospect of living
and that I should not starve and perish for hunger, all the sense of my affliction
wore off; and I began to be very easy, applied myself to the works proper for my
preservation and supply, and was far enough from being afflicted at my condition,
as a judgment from heaven, or as the hand of God against me: these were thoughts
which very seldom entered my head.