Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
 

CHAPTER VIII - SURVEYS HIS POSITION


I MENTIONED before that I had a great mind to see the whole island,
and that I had travelled up the brook, and so on to where I built
my bower, and where I had an opening quite to the sea, on the other
side of the island. I now resolved to travel quite across to the
sea-shore on that side; so, taking my gun, a hatchet, and my dog,
and a larger quantity of powder and shot than usual, with two
biscuit-cakes and a great bunch of raisins in my pouch for my
store, I began my journey. When I had passed the vale where my
bower stood, as above, I came within view of the sea to the west,
and it being a very clear day, I fairly descried land - whether an
island or a continent I could not tell; but it lay very high,
extending from the W. to the W.S.W. at a very great distance; by my
guess it could not be less than fifteen or twenty leagues off.

I could not tell what part of the world this might be, otherwise
than that I knew it must be part of America, and, as I concluded by
all my observations, must be near the Spanish dominions, and
perhaps was all inhabited by savages, where, if I had landed, I had
been in a worse condition than I was now; and therefore I
acquiesced in the dispositions of Providence, which I began now to
own and to believe ordered everything for the best; I say I quieted
my mind with this, and left off afflicting myself with fruitless
wishes of being there.

Besides, after some thought upon this affair, I considered that if
this land was the Spanish coast, I should certainly, one time or
other, see some vessel pass or repass one way or other; but if not,
then it was the savage coast between the Spanish country and
Brazils, where are found the worst of savages; for they are
cannibals or men-eaters, and fail not to murder and devour all the
human bodies that fall into their hands.

With these considerations, I walked very leisurely forward. I
found that side of the island where I now was much pleasanter than
mine - the open or savannah fields sweet, adorned with flowers and
grass, and full of very fine woods. I saw abundance of parrots,
and fain I would have caught one, if possible, to have kept it to
be tame, and taught it to speak to me. I did, after some
painstaking, catch a young parrot, for I knocked it down with a
stick, and having recovered it, I brought it home; but it was some
years before I could make him speak; however, at last I taught him
to call me by name very familiarly. But the accident that
followed, though it be a trifle, will be very diverting in its
place.

I was exceedingly diverted with this journey. I found in the low
grounds hares (as I thought them to be) and foxes; but they
differed greatly from all the other kinds I had met with, nor could
I satisfy myself to eat them, though I killed several. But I had
no need to be venturous, for I had no want of food, and of that
which was very good too, especially these three sorts, viz. goats,
pigeons, and turtle, or tortoise, which added to my grapes,
Leadenhall market could not have furnished a table better than I,
in proportion to the company; and though my case was deplorable
enough, yet I had great cause for thankfulness that I was not
driven to any extremities for food, but had rather plenty, even to
dainties.

I never travelled in this journey above two miles outright in a
day, or thereabouts; but I took so many turns and re-turns to see
what discoveries I could make, that I came weary enough to the
place where I resolved to sit down all night; and then I either
reposed myself in a tree, or surrounded myself with a row of stakes
set upright in the ground, either from one tree to another, or so
as no wild creature could come at me without waking me.

As soon as I came to the sea-shore, I was surprised to see that I
had taken up my lot on the worst side of the island, for here,
indeed, the shore was covered with innumerable turtles, whereas on
the other side I had found but three in a year and a half. Here
was also an infinite number of fowls of many kinds, some which I
had seen, and some which I had not seen before, and many of them
very good meat, but such as I knew not the names of, except those
called penguins.

I could have shot as many as I pleased, but was very sparing of my
powder and shot, and therefore had more mind to kill a she-goat if
I could, which I could better feed on; and though there were many
goats here, more than on my side the island, yet it was with much
more difficulty that I could come near them, the country being flat
and even, and they saw me much sooner than when I was on the hills.

I confess this side of the country was much pleasanter than mine;
but yet I had not the least inclination to remove, for as I was
fixed in my habitation it became natural to me, and I seemed all
the while I was here to be as it were upon a journey, and from
home. However, I travelled along the shore of the sea towards the
east, I suppose about twelve miles, and then setting up a great
pole upon the shore for a mark, I concluded I would go home again,
and that the next journey I took should be on the other side of the
island east from my dwelling, and so round till I came to my post
again.

I took another way to come back than that I went, thinking I could
easily keep all the island so much in my view that I could not miss
finding my first dwelling by viewing the country; but I found
myself mistaken, for being come about two or three miles, I found
myself descended into a very large valley, but so surrounded with
hills, and those hills covered with wood, that I could not see
which was my way by any direction but that of the sun, nor even
then, unless I knew very well the position of the sun at that time
of the day. It happened, to my further misfortune, that the
weather proved hazy for three or four days while I was in the
valley, and not being able to see the sun, I wandered about very
uncomfortably, and at last was obliged to find the seaside, look
for my post, and come back the same way I went: and then, by easy
journeys, I turned homeward, the weather being exceeding hot, and
my gun, ammunition, hatchet, and other things very heavy.

In this journey my dog surprised a young kid, and seized upon it;
and I, running in to take hold of it, caught it, and saved it alive
from the dog. I had a great mind to bring it home if I could, for
I had often been musing whether it might not be possible to get a
kid or two, and so raise a breed of tame goats, which might supply
me when my powder and shot should be all spent. I made a collar
for this little creature, and with a string, which I made of some
rope-yam, which I always carried about me, I led him along, though
with some difficulty, till I came to my bower, and there I enclosed
him and left him, for I was very impatient to be at home, from
whence I had been absent above a month.

I cannot express what a satisfaction it was to me to come into my
old hutch, and lie down in my hammock-bed. This little wandering
journey, without settled place of abode, had been so unpleasant to
me, that my own house, as I called it to myself, was a perfect
settlement to me compared to that; and it rendered everything about
me so comfortable, that I resolved I would never go a great way
from it again while it should be my lot to stay on the island.

I reposed myself here a week, to rest and regale myself after my
long journey; during which most of the time was taken up in the
weighty affair of making a cage for my Poll, who began now to be a
mere domestic, and to be well acquainted with me. Then I began to
think of the poor kid which I had penned in within my little
circle, and resolved to go and fetch it home, or give it some food;
accordingly I went, and found it where I left it, for indeed it
could not get out, but was almost starved for want of food. I went
and cut boughs of trees, and branches of such shrubs as I could
find, and threw it over, and having fed it, I tied it as I did
before, to lead it away; but it was so tame with being hungry, that
I had no need to have tied it, for it followed me like a dog: and
as I continually fed it, the creature became so loving, so gentle,
and so fond, that it became from that time one of my domestics
also, and would never leave me afterwards.

The rainy season of the autumnal equinox was now come, and I kept
the 30th of September in the same solemn manner as before, being
the anniversary of my landing on the island, having now been there
two years, and no more prospect of being delivered than the first
day I came there, I spent the whole day in humble and thankful
acknowledgments of the many wonderful mercies which my solitary
condition was attended with, and without which it might have been
infinitely more miserable. I gave humble and hearty thanks that
God had been pleased to discover to me that it was possible I might
be more happy in this solitary condition than I should have been in
the liberty of society, and in all the pleasures of the world; that
He could fully make up to me the deficiencies of my solitary state,
and the want of human society, by His presence and the
communications of His grace to my soul; supporting, comforting, and
encouraging me to depend upon His providence here, and hope for His
eternal presence hereafter.

It was now that I began sensibly to feel how much more happy this
life I now led was, with all its miserable circumstances, than the
wicked, cursed, abominable life I led all the past part of my days;
and now I changed both my sorrows and my joys; my very desires
altered, my affections changed their gusts, and my delights were
perfectly new from what they were at my first coming, or, indeed,
for the two years past.

Before, as I walked about, either on my hunting or for viewing the
country, the anguish of my soul at my condition would break out
upon me on a sudden, and my very heart would die within me, to
think of the woods, the mountains, the deserts I was in, and how I
was a prisoner, locked up with the eternal bars and bolts of the
ocean, in an uninhabited wilderness, without redemption. In the
midst of the greatest composure of my mind, this would break out
upon me like a storm, and make me wring my hands and weep like a
child. Sometimes it would take me in the middle of my work, and I
would immediately sit down and sigh, and look upon the ground for
an hour or two together; and this was still worse to me, for if I
could burst out into tears, or vent myself by words, it would go
off, and the grief, having exhausted itself, would abate.

But now I began to exercise myself with new thoughts: I daily read
the word of God, and applied all the comforts of it to my present
state. One morning, being very sad, I opened the Bible upon these
words, "I will never, never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Immediately it occurred that these words were to me; why else
should they be directed in such a manner, just at the moment when I
was mourning over my condition, as one forsaken of God and man?
"Well, then," said I, "if God does not forsake me, of what ill
consequence can it be, or what matters it, though the world should
all forsake me, seeing on the other hand, if I had all the world,
and should lose the favour and blessing of God, there would be no
comparison in the loss?"

From this moment I began to conclude in my mind that it was
possible for me to be more happy in this forsaken, solitary
condition than it was probable I should ever have been in any other
particular state in the world; and with this thought I was going to
give thanks to God for bringing me to this place. I know not what
it was, but something shocked my mind at that thought, and I durst
not speak the words. "How canst thou become such a hypocrite,"
said I, even audibly, "to pretend to be thankful for a condition
which, however thou mayest endeavour to be contented with, thou
wouldst rather pray heartily to be delivered from?" So I stopped
there; but though I could not say I thanked God for being there,
yet I sincerely gave thanks to God for opening my eyes, by whatever
afflicting providences, to see the former condition of my life, and
to mourn for my wickedness, and repent. I never opened the Bible,
or shut it, but my very soul within me blessed God for directing my
friend in England, without any order of mine, to pack it up among
my goods, and for assisting me afterwards to save it out of the
wreck of the ship.

Thus, and in this disposition of mind, I began my third year; and
though I have not given the reader the trouble of so particular an
account of my works this year as the first, yet in general it may
be observed that I was very seldom idle, but having regularly
divided my time according to the several daily employments that
were before me, such as: first, my duty to God, and the reading the
Scriptures, which I constantly set apart some time for thrice every
day; secondly, the going abroad with my gun for food, which
generally took me up three hours in every morning, when it did not
rain; thirdly, the ordering, cutting, preserving, and cooking what
I had killed or caught for my supply; these took up great part of
the day. Also, it is to be considered, that in the middle of the
day, when the sun was in the zenith, the violence of the heat was
too great to stir out; so that about four hours in the evening was
all the time I could be supposed to work in, with this exception,
that sometimes I changed my hours of hunting and working, and went
to work in the morning, and abroad with my gun in the afternoon.

To this short time allowed for labour I desire may be added the
exceeding laboriousness of my work; the many hours which, for want
of tools, want of help, and want of skill, everything I did took up
out of my time. For example, I was full two and forty days in
making a board for a long shelf, which I wanted in my cave;
whereas, two sawyers, with their tools and a saw-pit, would have
cut six of them out of the same tree in half a day.

My case was this: it was to be a large tree which was to be cut
down, because my board was to be a broad one. This tree I was
three days in cutting down, and two more cutting off the boughs,
and reducing it to a log or piece of timber. With inexpressible
hacking and hewing I reduced both the sides of it into chips till
it began to be light enough to move; then I turned it, and made one
side of it smooth and flat as a board from end to end; then,
turning that side downward, cut the other side til I brought the
plank to be about three inches thick, and smooth on both sides.
Any one may judge the labour of my hands in such a piece of work;
but labour and patience carried me through that, and many other
things. I only observe this in particular, to show the reason why
so much of my time went away with so little work - viz. that what
might be a little to be done with help and tools, was a vast labour
and required a prodigious time to do alone, and by hand. But
notwithstanding this, with patience and labour I got through
everything that my circumstances made necessary to me to do, as
will appear by what follows.

I was now, in the months of November and December, expecting my
crop of barley and rice. The ground I had manured and dug up for
them was not great; for, as I observed, my seed of each was not
above the quantity of half a peck, for I had lost one whole crop by
sowing in the dry season. But now my crop promised very well, when
on a sudden I found I was in danger of losing it all again by
enemies of several sorts, which it was scarcely possible to keep
from it; as, first, the goats, and wild creatures which I called
hares, who, tasting the sweetness of the blade, lay in it night and
day, as soon as it came up, and eat it so close, that it could get
no time to shoot up into stalk.

This I saw no remedy for but by making an enclosure about it with a
hedge; which I did with a great deal of toil, and the more, because
it required speed. However, as my arable land was but small,
suited to my crop, I got it totally well fenced in about three
weeks' time; and shooting some of the creatures in the daytime, I
set my dog to guard it in the night, tying him up to a stake at the
gate, where he would stand and bark all night long; so in a little
time the enemies forsook the place, and the corn grew very strong
and well, and began to ripen apace.

But as the beasts ruined me before, while my corn was in the blade,
so the birds were as likely to ruin me now, when it was in the ear;
for, going along by the place to see how it throve, I saw my little
crop surrounded with fowls, of I know not how many sorts, who
stood, as it were, watching till I should be gone. I immediately
let fly among them, for I always had my gun with me. I had no
sooner shot, but there rose up a little cloud of fowls, which I had
not seen at all, from among the corn itself.

This touched me sensibly, for I foresaw that in a few days they
would devour all my hopes; that I should be starved, and never be
able to raise a crop at all; and what to do I could not tell;
however, I resolved not to lose my corn, if possible, though I
should watch it night and day. In the first place, I went among it
to see what damage was already done, and found they had spoiled a
good deal of it; but that as it was yet too green for them, the
loss was not so great but that the remainder was likely to be a
good crop if it could be saved.

I stayed by it to load my gun, and then coming away, I could easily
see the thieves sitting upon all the trees about me, as if they
only waited till I was gone away, and the event proved it to be so;
for as I walked off, as if I was gone, I was no sooner out of their
sight than they dropped down one by one into the corn again. I was
so provoked, that I could not have patience to stay till more came
on, knowing that every grain that they ate now was, as it might be
said, a peck-loaf to me in the consequence; but coming up to the
hedge, I fired again, and killed three of them. This was what I
wished for; so I took them up, and served them as we serve
notorious thieves in England - hanged them in chains, for a terror
to of them. It is impossible to imagine that this should have such
an effect as it had, for the fowls would not only not come at the
corn, but, in short, they forsook all that part of the island, and
I could never see a bird near the place as long as my scarecrows
hung there. This I was very glad of, you may be sure, and about
the latter end of December, which was our second harvest of the
year, I reaped my corn.

I was sadly put to it for a scythe or sickle to cut it down, and
all I could do was to make one, as well as I could, out of one of
the broadswords, or cutlasses, which I saved among the arms out of
the ship. However, as my first crop was but small, I had no great
difficulty to cut it down; in short, I reaped it in my way, for I
cut nothing off but the ears, and carried it away in a great basket
which I had made, and so rubbed it out with my hands; and at the
end of all my harvesting, I found that out of my half-peck of seed
I had near two bushels of rice, and about two bushels and a half of
barley; that is to say, by my guess, for I had no measure at that
time.

However, this was a great encouragement to me, and I foresaw that,
in time, it would please God to supply me with bread. And yet here
I was perplexed again, for I neither knew how to grind or make meal
of my corn, or indeed how to clean it and part it; nor, if made
into meal, how to make bread of it; and if how to make it, yet I
knew not how to bake it. These things being added to my desire of
having a good quantity for store, and to secure a constant supply,
I resolved not to taste any of this crop but to preserve it all for
seed against the next season; and in the meantime to employ all my
study and hours of working to accomplish this great work of
providing myself with corn and bread.

It might be truly said, that now I worked for my bread. I believe
few people have thought much upon the strange multitude of little
things necessary in the providing, producing, curing, dressing,
making, and finishing this one article of bread.

I, that was reduced to a mere state of nature, found this to my
daily discouragement; and was made more sensible of it every hour,
even after I had got the first handful of seed-corn, which, as I
have said, came up unexpectedly, and indeed to a surprise.

First, I had no plough to turn up the earth - no spade or shovel to
dig it. Well, this I conquered by making me a wooden spade, as I
observed before; but this did my work but in a wooden manner; and
though it cost me a great many days to make it, yet, for want of
iron, it not only wore out soon, but made my work the harder, and
made it be performed much worse. However, this I bore with, and
was content to work it out with patience, and bear with the badness
of the performance. When the corn was sown, I had no harrow, but
was forced to go over it myself, and drag a great heavy bough of a
tree over it, to scratch it, as it may be called, rather than rake
or harrow it. When it was growing, and grown, I have observed
already how many things I wanted to fence it, secure it, mow or
reap it, cure and carry it home, thrash, part it from the chaff,
and save it. Then I wanted a mill to grind it sieves to dress it,
yeast and salt to make it into bread, and an oven to bake it; but
all these things I did without, as shall be observed; and yet the
corn was an inestimable comfort and advantage to me too. All this,
as I said, made everything laborious and tedious to me; but that
there was no help for. Neither was my time so much loss to me,
because, as I had divided it, a certain part of it was every day
appointed to these works; and as I had resolved to use none of the
corn for bread till I had a greater quantity by me, I had the next
six months to apply myself wholly, by labour and invention, to
furnish myself with utensils proper for the performing all the
operations necessary for making the corn, when I had it, fit for my
use.


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