Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
 

CHAPTER XIII - WRECK OF A SPANISH SHIP


I WAS now in the twenty-third year of my residence in this island,
and was so naturalised to the place and the manner of living, that,
could I but have enjoyed the certainty that no savages would come
to the place to disturb me, I could have been content to have
capitulated for spending the rest of my time there, even to the
last moment, till I had laid me down and died, like the old goat in
the cave. I had also arrived to some little diversions and
amusements, which made the time pass a great deal more pleasantly
with me than it did before - first, I had taught my Poll, as I
noted before, to speak; and he did it so familiarly, and talked so
articulately and plain, that it was very pleasant to me; and he
lived with me no less than six-and-twenty years. How long he might
have lived afterwards I know not, though I know they have a notion
in the Brazils that they live a hundred years. My dog was a
pleasant and loving companion to me for no less than sixteen years
of my time, and then died of mere old age. As for my cats, they
multiplied, as I have observed, to that degree that I was obliged
to shoot several of them at first, to keep them from devouring me
and all I had; but at length, when the two old ones I brought with
me were gone, and after some time continually driving them from me,
and letting them have no provision with me, they all ran wild into
the woods, except two or three favourites, which I kept tame, and
whose young, when they had any, I always drowned; and these were
part of my family. Besides these I always kept two or three
household kids about me, whom I taught to feed out of my hand; and
I had two more parrots, which talked pretty well, and would all
call "Robin Crusoe," but none like my first; nor, indeed, did I
take the pains with any of them that I had done with him. I had
also several tame sea-fowls, whose name I knew not, that I caught
upon the shore, and cut their wings; and the little stakes which I
had planted before my castle-wall being now grown up to a good
thick grove, these fowls all lived among these low trees, and bred
there, which was very agreeable to me; so that, as I said above, I
began to he very well contented with the life I led, if I could
have been secured from the dread of the savages. But it was
otherwise directed; and it may not be amiss for all people who
shall meet with my story to make this just observation from it: How
frequently, in the course of our lives, the evil which in itself we
seek most to shun, and which, when we are fallen into, is the most
dreadful to us, is oftentimes the very means or door of our
deliverance, by which alone we can be raised again from the
affliction we are fallen into. I could give many examples of this
in the course of my unaccountable life; but in nothing was it more
particularly remarkable than in the circumstances of my last years
of solitary residence in this island.

It was now the month of December, as I said above, in my twenty-
third year; and this, being the southern solstice (for winter I
cannot call it), was the particular time of my harvest, and
required me to be pretty much abroad in the fields, when, going out
early in the morning, even before it was thorough daylight, I was
surprised with seeing a light of some fire upon the shore, at a
distance from me of about two miles, toward that part of the island
where I had observed some savages had been, as before, and not on
the other side; but, to my great affliction, it was on my side of
the island.

I was indeed terribly surprised at the sight, and stopped short
within my grove, not daring to go out, lest I might be surprised;
and yet I had no more peace within, from the apprehensions I had
that if these savages, in rambling over the island, should find my
corn standing or cut, or any of my works or improvements, they
would immediately conclude that there were people in the place, and
would then never rest till they had found me out. In this
extremity I went back directly to my castle, pulled up the ladder
after me, and made all things without look as wild and natural as I
could.

Then I prepared myself within, putting myself in a posture of
defence. I loaded all my cannon, as I called them - that is to
say, my muskets, which were mounted upon my new fortification - and
all my pistols, and resolved to defend myself to the last gasp -
not forgetting seriously to commend myself to the Divine
protection, and earnestly to pray to God to deliver me out of the
hands of the barbarians. I continued in this posture about two
hours, and began to be impatient for intelligence abroad, for I had
no spies to send out. After sitting a while longer, and musing
what I should do in this case, I was not able to bear sitting in
ignorance longer; so setting up my ladder to the side of the hill,
where there was a flat place, as I observed before, and then
pulling the ladder after me, I set it up again and mounted the top
of the hill, and pulling out my perspective glass, which I had
taken on purpose, I laid me down flat on my belly on the ground,
and began to look for the place. I presently found there were no
less than nine naked savages sitting round a small fire they had
made, not to warm them, for they had no need of that, the weather
being extremely hot, but, as I supposed, to dress some of their
barbarous diet of human flesh which they had brought with them,
whether alive or dead I could not tell.

They had two canoes with them, which they had hauled up upon the
shore; and as it was then ebb of tide, they seemed to me to wait
for the return of the flood to go away again. It is not easy to
imagine what confusion this sight put me into, especially seeing
them come on my side of the island, and so near to me; but when I
considered their coming must be always with the current of the ebb,
I began afterwards to be more sedate in my mind, being satisfied
that I might go abroad with safety all the time of the flood of
tide, if they were not on shore before; and having made this
observation, I went abroad about my harvest work with the more
composure.

As I expected, so it proved; for as soon as the tide made to the
westward I saw them all take boat and row (or paddle as we call it)
away. I should have observed, that for an hour or more before they
went off they were dancing, and I could easily discern their
postures and gestures by my glass. I could not perceive, by my
nicest observation, but that they were stark naked, and had not the
least covering upon them; but whether they were men or women I
could not distinguish.

As soon as I saw them shipped and gone, I took two guns upon my
shoulders, and two pistols in my girdle, and my great sword by my
side without a scabbard, and with all the speed I was able to make
went away to the hill where I had discovered the first appearance
of all; and as soon as I get thither, which was not in less than
two hours (for I could not go quickly, being so loaded with arms as
I was), I perceived there had been three canoes more of the savages
at that place; and looking out farther, I saw they were all at sea
together, making over for the main. This was a dreadful sight to
me, especially as, going down to the shore, I could see the marks
of horror which the dismal work they had been about had left behind
it - viz. the blood, the bones, and part of the flesh of human
bodies eaten and devoured by those wretches with merriment and
sport. I was so filled with indignation at the sight, that I now
began to premeditate the destruction of the next that I saw there,
let them be whom or how many soever. It seemed evident to me that
the visits which they made thus to this island were not very
frequent, for it was above fifteen months before any more of them
came on shore there again - that is to say, I neither saw them nor
any footsteps or signals of them in all that time; for as to the
rainy seasons, then they are sure not to come abroad, at least not
so far. Yet all this while I lived uncomfortably, by reason of the
constant apprehensions of their coming upon me by surprise: from
whence I observe, that the expectation of evil is more bitter than
the suffering, especially if there is no room to shake off that
expectation or those apprehensions.

During all this time I was in a murdering humour, and spent most of
my hours, which should have been better employed, in contriving how
to circumvent and fall upon them the very next time I should see
them - especially if they should be divided, as they were the last
time, into two parties; nor did I consider at all that if I killed
one party - suppose ten or a dozen - I was still the next day, or
week, or month, to kill another, and so another, even AD INFINITUM,
till I should be, at length, no less a murderer than they were in
being man-eaters - and perhaps much more so. I spent my days now
in great perplexity and anxiety of mind, expecting that I should
one day or other fall, into the hands of these merciless creatures;
and if I did at any time venture abroad, it was not without looking
around me with the greatest care and caution imaginable. And now I
found, to my great comfort, how happy it was that I had provided a
tame flock or herd of goats, for I durst not upon any account fire
my gun, especially near that side of the island where they usually
came, lest I should alarm the savages; and if they had fled from me
now, I was sure to have them come again with perhaps two or three
hundred canoes with them in a few days, and then I knew what to
expect. However, I wore out a year and three months more before I
ever saw any more of the savages, and then I found them again, as I
shall soon observe. It is true they might have been there once or
twice; but either they made no stay, or at least I did not see
them; but in the month of May, as near as I could calculate, and in
my four-and-twentieth year, I had a very strange encounter with
them; of which in its place.

The perturbation of my mind during this fifteen or sixteen months'
interval was very great; I slept unquietly, dreamed always
frightful dreams, and often started out of my sleep in the night.
In the day great troubles overwhelmed my mind; and in the night I
dreamed often of killing the savages and of the reasons why I might
justify doing it.

But to waive all this for a while. It was in the middle of May, on
the sixteenth day, I think, as well as my poor wooden calendar
would reckon, for I marked all upon the post still; I say, it was
on the sixteenth of May that it blew a very great storm of wind all
day, with a great deal of lightning and thunder, and; a very foul
night it was after it. I knew not what was the particular occasion
of it, but as I was reading in the Bible, and taken up with very
serious thoughts about my present condition, I was surprised with
the noise of a gun, as I thought, fired at sea. This was, to be
sure, a surprise quite of a different nature from any I had met
with before; for the notions this put into my thoughts were quite
of another kind. I started up in the greatest haste imaginable;
and, in a trice, clapped my ladder to the middle place of the rock,
and pulled it after me; and mounting it the second time, got to the
top of the hill the very moment that a flash of fire bid me listen
for a second gun, which, accordingly, in about half a minute I
heard; and by the sound, knew that it was from that part of the sea
where I was driven down the current in my boat. I immediately
considered that this must be some ship in distress, and that they
had some comrade, or some other ship in company, and fired these
for signals of distress, and to obtain help. I had the presence of
mind at that minute to think, that though I could not help them, it
might be that they might help me; so I brought together all the dry
wood I could get at hand, and making a good handsome pile, I set it
on fire upon the hill. The wood was dry, and blazed freely; and,
though the wind blew very hard, yet it burned fairly out; so that I
was certain, if there was any such thing as a ship, they must needs
see it. And no doubt they did; for as soon as ever my fire blazed
up, I heard another gun, and after that several others, all from
the same quarter. I plied my fire all night long, till daybreak:
and when it was broad day, and the air cleared up, I saw something
at a great distance at sea, full east of the island, whether a sail
or a hull I could not distinguish - no, not with my glass: the
distance was so great, and the weather still something hazy also;
at least, it was so out at sea.

I looked frequently at it all that day, and soon perceived that it
did not move; so I presently concluded that it was a ship at
anchor; and being eager, you may be sure, to be satisfied, I took
my gun in my hand, and ran towards the south side of the island to
the rocks where I had formerly been carried away by the current;
and getting up there, the weather by this time being perfectly
clear, I could plainly see, to my great sorrow, the wreck of a
ship, cast away in the night upon those concealed rocks which I
found when I was out in my boat; and which rocks, as they checked
the violence of the stream, and made a kind of counter-stream, or
eddy, were the occasion of my recovering from the most desperate,
hopeless condition that ever I had been in in all my life. Thus,
what is one man's safety is another man's destruction; for it seems
these men, whoever they were, being out of their knowledge, and the
rocks being wholly under water, had been driven upon them in the
night, the wind blowing hard at ENE. Had they seen the island, as
I must necessarily suppose they did not, they must, as I thought,
have endeavoured to have saved themselves on shore by the help of
their boat; but their firing off guns for help, especially when
they saw, as I imagined, my fire, filled me with many thoughts.
First, I imagined that upon seeing my light they might have put
themselves into their boat, and endeavoured to make the shore: but
that the sea running very high, they might have been cast away.
Other times I imagined that they might have lost their boat before,
as might be the case many ways; particularly by the breaking of the
sea upon their ship, which many times obliged men to stave, or take
in pieces, their boat, and sometimes to throw it overboard with
their own hands. Other times I imagined they had some other ship
or ships in company, who, upon the signals of distress they made,
had taken them up, and carried them off. Other times I fancied
they were all gone off to sea in their boat, and being hurried away
by the current that I had been formerly in, were carried out into
the great ocean, where there was nothing but misery and perishing:
and that, perhaps, they might by this time think of starving, and
of being in a condition to eat one another.

As all these were but conjectures at best, so, in the condition I
was in, I could do no more than look on upon the misery of the poor
men, and pity them; which had still this good effect upon my side,
that it gave me more and more cause to give thanks to God, who had
so happily and comfortably provided for me in my desolate
condition; and that of two ships' companies, who were now cast away
upon this part of the world, not one life should be spared but
mine. I learned here again to observe, that it is very rare that
the providence of God casts us into any condition so low, or any
misery so great, but we may see something or other to be thankful
for, and may see others in worse circumstances than our own. Such
certainly was the case of these men, of whom I could not so much as
see room to suppose any were saved; nothing could make it rational
so much as to wish or expect that they did not all perish there,
except the possibility only of their being taken up by another ship
in company; and this was but mere possibility indeed, for I saw not
the least sign or appearance of any such thing. I cannot explain,
by any possible energy of words, what a strange longing I felt in
my soul upon this sight, breaking out sometimes thus: "Oh that
there had been but one or two, nay, or but one soul saved out of
this ship, to have escaped to me, that I might but have had one
companion, one fellow-creature, to have spoken to me and to have
conversed with!" In all the time of my solitary life I never felt
so earnest, so strong a desire after the society of my fellow-
creatures, or so deep a regret at the want of it.

There are some secret springs in the affections which, when they
are set a-going by some object in view, or, though not in view, yet
rendered present to the mind by the power of imagination, that
motion carries out the soul, by its impetuosity, to such violent,
eager embracings of the object, that the absence of it is
insupportable. Such were these earnest wishings that but one man
had been saved. I believe I repeated the words, "Oh that it had
been but one!" a thousand times; and my desires were so moved by
it, that when I spoke the words my hands would clinch together, and
my fingers would press the palms of my hands, so that if I had had
any soft thing in my hand I should have crushed it involuntarily;
and the teeth in my head would strike together, and set against one
another so strong, that for some time I could not part them again.
Let the naturalists explain these things, and the reason and manner
of them. All I can do is to describe the fact, which was even
surprising to me when I found it, though I knew not from whence it
proceeded; it was doubtless the effect of ardent wishes, and of
strong ideas formed in my mind, realising the comfort which the
conversation of one of my fellow-Christians would have been to me.
But it was not to be; either their fate or mine, or both, forbade
it; for, till the last year of my being on this island, I never
knew whether any were saved out of that ship or no; and had only
the affliction, some days after, to see the corpse of a drowned boy
come on shore at the end of the island which was next the
shipwreck. He had no clothes on but a seaman's waistcoat, a pair
of open-kneed linen drawers, and a blue linen shirt; but nothing to
direct me so much as to guess what nation he was of. He had
nothing in his pockets but two pieces of eight and a tobacco pipe -
the last was to me of ten times more value than the first.

It was now calm, and I had a great mind to venture out in my boat
to this wreck, not doubting but I might find something on board
that might be useful to me. But that did not altogether press me
so much as the possibility that there might be yet some living
creature on board, whose life I might not only save, but might, by
saving that life, comfort my own to the last degree; and this
thought clung so to my heart that I could not be quiet night or
day, but I must venture out in my boat on board this wreck; and
committing the rest to God's providence, I thought the impression
was so strong upon my mind that it could not be resisted - that it
must come from some invisible direction, and that I should be
wanting to myself if I did not go.

Under the power of this impression, I hastened back to my castle,
prepared everything for my voyage, took a quantity of bread, a
great pot of fresh water, a compass to steer by, a bottle of rum
(for I had still a great deal of that left), and a basket of
raisins; and thus, loading myself with everything necessary. I
went down to my boat, got the water out of her, got her afloat,
loaded all my cargo in her, and then went home again for more. My
second cargo was a great bag of rice, the umbrella to set up over
my head for a shade, another large pot of water, and about two
dozen of small loaves, or barley cakes, more than before, with a
bottle of goat's milk and a cheese; all which with great labour and
sweat I carried to my boat; and praying to God to direct my voyage,
I put out, and rowing or paddling the canoe along the shore, came
at last to the utmost point of the island on the north-east side.
And now I was to launch out into the ocean, and either to venture
or not to venture. I looked on the rapid currents which ran
constantly on both sides of the island at a distance, and which
were very terrible to me from the remembrance of the hazard I had
been in before, and my heart began to fail me; for I foresaw that
if I was driven into either of those currents, I should be carried
a great way out to sea, and perhaps out of my reach or sight of the
island again; and that then, as my boat was but small, if any
little gale of wind should rise, I should be inevitably lost.

These thoughts so oppressed my mind that I began to give over my
enterprise; and having hauled my boat into a little creek on the
shore, I stepped out, and sat down upon a rising bit of ground,
very pensive and anxious, between fear and desire, about my voyage;
when, as I was musing, I could perceive that the tide was turned,
and the flood come on; upon which my going was impracticable for so
many hours. Upon this, presently it occurred to me that I should
go up to the highest piece of ground I could find, and observe, if
I could, how the sets of the tide or currents lay when the flood
came in, that I might judge whether, if I was driven one way out, I
might not expect to be driven another way home, with the same
rapidity of the currents. This thought was no sooner in my head
than I cast my eye upon a little hill which sufficiently overlooked
the sea both ways, and from whence I had a clear view of the
currents or sets of the tide, and which way I was to guide myself
in my return. Here I found, that as the current of ebb set out
close by the south point of the island, so the current of the flood
set in close by the shore of the north side; and that I had nothing
to do but to keep to the north side of the island in my return, and
I should do well enough.

Encouraged by this observation, I resolved the next morning to set
out with the first of the tide; and reposing myself for the night
in my canoe, under the watch-coat I mentioned, I launched out. I
first made a little out to sea, full north, till I began to feel
the benefit of the current, which set eastward, and which carried
me at a great rate; and yet did not so hurry me as the current on
the south side had done before, so as to take from me all
government of the boat; but having a strong steerage with my
paddle, I went at a great rate directly for the wreck, and in less
than two hours I came up to it. It was a dismal sight to look at;
the ship, which by its building was Spanish, stuck fast, jammed in
between two rocks. All the stern and quarter of her were beaten to
pieces by the sea; and as her forecastle, which stuck in the rocks,
had run on with great violence, her mainmast and foremast were
brought by the board - that is to say, broken short off; but her
bowsprit was sound, and the head and bow appeared firm. When I
came close to her, a dog appeared upon her, who, seeing me coming,
yelped and cried; and as soon as I called him, jumped into the sea
to come to me. I took him into the boat, but found him almost dead
with hunger and thirst. I gave him a cake of my bread, and he
devoured it like a ravenous wolf that had been starving a fortnight
in the snow; I then gave the poor creature some fresh water, with
which, if I would have let him, he would have burst himself. After
this I went on board; but the first sight I met with was two men
drowned in the cook-room, or forecastle of the ship, with their
arms fast about one another. I concluded, as is indeed probable,
that when the ship struck, it being in a storm, the sea broke so
high and so continually over her, that the men were not able to
bear it, and were strangled with the constant rushing in of the
water, as much as if they had been under water. Besides the dog,
there was nothing left in the ship that had life; nor any goods,
that I could see, but what were spoiled by the water. There were
some casks of liquor, whether wine or brandy I knew not, which lay
lower in the hold, and which, the water being ebbed out, I could
see; but they were too big to meddle with. I saw several chests,
which I believe belonged to some of the seamen; and I got two of
them into the boat, without examining what was in them. Had the
stern of the ship been fixed, and the forepart broken off, I am
persuaded I might have made a good voyage; for by what I found in
those two chests I had room to suppose the ship had a great deal of
wealth on board; and, if I may guess from the course she steered,
she must have been bound from Buenos Ayres, or the Rio de la Plata,
in the south part of America, beyond the Brazils to the Havannah,
in the Gulf of Mexico, and so perhaps to Spain. She had, no doubt,
a great treasure in her, but of no use, at that time, to anybody;
and what became of the crew I then knew not.

I found, besides these chests, a little cask full of liquor, of
about twenty gallons, which I got into my boat with much
difficulty. There were several muskets in the cabin, and a great
powder-horn, with about four pounds of powder in it; as for the
muskets, I had no occasion for them, so I left them, but took the
powder-horn. I took a fire-shovel and tongs, which I wanted
extremely, as also two little brass kettles, a copper pot to make
chocolate, and a gridiron; and with this cargo, and the dog, I came
away, the tide beginning to make home again - and the same evening,
about an hour within night, I reached the island again, weary and
fatigued to the last degree. I reposed that night in the boat and
in the morning I resolved to harbour what I had got in my new cave,
and not carry it home to my castle. After refreshing myself, I got
all my cargo on shore, and began to examine the particulars. The
cask of liquor I found to be a kind of rum, but not such as we had
at the Brazils; and, in a word, not at all good; but when I came to
open the chests, I found several things of great use to me - for
example, I found in one a fine case of bottles, of an extraordinary
kind, and filled with cordial waters, fine and very good; the
bottles held about three pints each, and were tipped with silver.
I found two pots of very good succades, or sweetmeats, so fastened
also on the top that the salt-water had not hurt them; and two more
of the same, which the water had spoiled. I found some very good
shirts, which were very welcome to me; and about a dozen and a half
of white linen handkerchiefs and coloured neckcloths; the former
were also very welcome, being exceedingly refreshing to wipe my
face in a hot day. Besides this, when I came to the till in the
chest, I found there three great bags of pieces of eight, which
held about eleven hundred pieces in all; and in one of them,
wrapped up in a paper, six doubloons of gold, and some small bars
or wedges of gold; I suppose they might all weigh near a pound. In
the other chest were some clothes, but of little value; but, by the
circumstances, it must have belonged to the gunner's mate; though
there was no powder in it, except two pounds of fine glazed powder,
in three flasks, kept, I suppose, for charging their fowling-pieces
on occasion. Upon the whole, I got very little by this voyage that
was of any use to me; for, as to the money, I had no manner of
occasion for it; it was to me as the dirt under my feet, and I
would have given it all for three or four pair of English shoes and
stockings, which were things I greatly wanted, but had had none on
my feet for many years. I had, indeed, got two pair of shoes now,
which I took off the feet of two drowned men whom I saw in the
wreck, and I found two pair more in one of the chests, which were
very welcome to me; but they were not like our English shoes,
either for ease or service, being rather what we call pumps than
shoes. I found in this seaman's chest about fifty pieces of eight,
in rials, but no gold: I supposed this belonged to a poorer man
than the other, which seemed to belong to some officer. Well,
however, I lugged this money home to my cave, and laid it up, as I
had done that before which I had brought from our own ship; but it
was a great pity, as I said, that the other part of this ship had
not come to my share: for I am satisfied I might have loaded my
canoe several times over with money; and, thought I, if I ever
escape to England, it might lie here safe enough till I come again
and fetch it.


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