« ForrigeFortsæt »
several times thought to have swum to one of the other islands; but as they looked only like heaps of sand, I believed I had got the best berth, so contented myself with my present station. Of boobies I could get enough, which built on the ground, and another bird that lays eggs, which I used to eat, but I never ventured to taste the eggs. I was so well satisfied with my boobies that I did not care to try experiments. The island which I was upon seemed to me to be about two miles in circumference, and was almost round. On the west side, there was a good anchoring-place, the water being very deep within two fathoms of the shore. God forgive me! but I often wished to have had companions in my misfortune, and hoped every day either to have seen some vessel come that way, or a wreck, where, perhaps, I might have found some necessaries which Í wanted. I used to fancy that if I should be forced to stay there long, I should forget my speech; so I used to talk aloud, ask myself questions, and answer them. But if anybody had been by to have heard me, they would certainly have thought me bewitched, I often asked myself such odd questions. All this while, I could not inform myself where I was, nor how near any inhabited place.
One morning, which I took to be the 8th of November, a violent storm arose, which continued till noon. In the meantime, I discerned a bark labouring with the waves for several hours; and at last, with the violence of the tempest, perfectly thrown out of the water upon the shore, within a quarter of a mile from the place where I observed it. I ran to see if there were anybody I could assist, when I found four men (being all there were in the vessel) busy about saving what they could. When I came up with them, and hailed them in English, they seemed mightily surprised. They asked me how I came there, and how long I had been there. When I told them my story, they were concerned for themselves as well as for they found there was no possibility of getting their bark off the sands, the wind having forced her so far. With that we began to bemoan one another's misfortunes; but I must confess to you, without lying, I was never more rejoiced in my whole life, for they had on board plenty of everything for a twelvemonth, and not an article spoiled. Their lading, which was logwood, they had thrown overboard to lighten the ship, which was the occasion of the wind forcing her so far. Had they kept in their lading, they would have bulged in the sands half a quarter of a mile from the place where they did ; and the sea, flying over them, would not only have spoiled their provisions, but perhaps have been the death of them all. By these men, I understood to what place I had got-namely, one of the islands of the Alcranes, which are five islands, or rather large banks of sand, for there is not a tree or bush upon any but that on which we were. They lie in the latitude of 22° N., twenty-five leagues from Yucatan, and about sixty from Campeachy town. We worked as fast as we could, and got at everything that would be useful to us
before night. We had six barrels of salt beef, three of pork, two of biscuit, a small copper and iron pot, some wearing-clothes, and a spare hat, which I wanted mightily. We had, besides, several kegs of rum, and one of brandy, and a chest of sugar, with many other things of use, some gunpowder, and one fowling-piece. We took off the sails from the yards, and, with some pieces of timber, raised a hut big enough to hold twenty men, under which we put their beds that we got from the bark. It is true we had no shelter from the wind, for the trees were so low they were of no use. I now thought myself in a palace, and was as merry as if I had been at Jamaica, or even at home in my own country. In short, when we had been there some time, we began to be very easy, and to wait contentedly till Providence should fetch us out of this island. The bark lay upon the sands, fifty yards from the water when at the highest, so that I used to lie in her cabin, by reason there were no more beds ashore than were for my four companions-namely, Thomas Randal of Cork, in Ireland, whose bed was largest, which he did me the favour to spare a part of now and then, when the wind was high, and I did not care to lie on board ; Richard White ; William Musgrave of Kingston, in Jamaica ; and Ralph Middleton of Cowes, in the Isle of Wight. These men, with eight others, set out of Port Royal about a month after us, bound for the same place ; but the latter lying ashore, and wandering too far up the country, were met, as it is supposed, by some Spaniards and Indians, who set upon them in great numbers. Yet, nevertheless, by all appearance, they fought desperately; for when Mr Randal and Mr Middleton went to seek for them, they found all the eight dead, with fifteen Indians and two Spaniards. All the Englishmen had several cuts in their heads, arms, breasts, &c., that made it very plainly appear they had sold their lives dearly. They were too far up in the country to bring down their dead, so they were obliged to dig a hole in the earth, and put them in as they lay, in their clothes. As for the Indians and Spaniards, they stripped them, and left them above ground as they found them, and made all the haste they could to embark, for fear of any other unlucky accident that might happen. They set sail as soon as they came on board, and made the best of their way for Jamaica, till they were overtaken by the storm that shipwrecked them on Makershift Island, as I had named it.
Now, we had all manner of fishing-tackle with us, but we wanted a boat to go a little way from shore to catch fish; therefore, we set our wits to work, in order to make some manner of float, and at last we pitched upon this odd project : We took six casks, and tarred them all over, then stopped up the bungs with corks, and nailed. them close down with a piece of tarred canvas. These six casks we tied together with some of the cordage of the vessel, and upon them we placed the scuttles of the deck, and fixed them, and made it so strong that two men might sit upon them; but for fear a storm should happen, we tied to one end of her a coil or two of small rope, of five hundred fathoms long, which we fixed to a small stake on the shore. Then two of them went out (as for my part, I was no fisherman) in order to see what success they should have, but returned with only one nurse, a fish so called, about two feet long, something like a shark, only its skin is very rough, and when dry will do the same office as a seal-skin. The same, boiled in lemon-juice, is the only remedy in the world for the scurvy, by applying pieces of the skin to the calves of your legs, and rubbing your body with some of the liquor once or twice. We sent out our fishermen the next day again, and they returned with two old wives, and a young shark about two feet long, which were dressed for dinner, and they proved excellent eating. In the morning following, we killed a young seal with our fowling-piece. This we salted, and it ate very well after lying two or three days in the brine.
We passed our time in this Make-shift Island as well as we could, and invented several games to divert ourselves. One day, when we had been merry, sorrow, as after gaiety often happens, stole insensibly on us all. I, as being the youngest, began to reflect on my sad condition, spending my youth on a barren land, without hopes of being ever redeemed. Whereupon, Mr Randal, who was a man of great experience, and had come through many sufferings, gave me considerable comfort in my affliction, both by a narrative of his own mishaps, and by a plan he laid before us of a means of getting off the island. 'Mr Falconer, and my fellow-sufferers,' said he; 'but it is to you,' pointing to me, that I chiefly address myself, as you seem to despair of a safe removal from this place more than any other. Is not your condition much better now than you could have expected it to be a month ago ? There is a virtue in manly suffering; as to repine seems to doubt of the all-seeing Power which regulates our actions. Our bark is strong and firm; and, by degrees, I do not doubt but with time and much labour to get her into the water again. I have been aboard her this morning when you were all asleep, and examined her carefully inside and out, and fancy our liberty may soon be effected. I only wonder we have never thought before of clearing the sand from our vessel, which, once done, I believe we may launch her out into deep water.'
Having spent the night in reflection on what had passed, the next morning we went to work to clear the sand from our vessel, which we continued working on for sixteen days together, resting only on Sunday, which at last we effected. The next thing we had to do was to get poles to put under our vessel to launch her out; which we got from the burton-wood, but with much difficulty, as we were forced to cut a great many before we could get them that were fit for our purpose. After we had done this, we returned God thanks for our success hitherto ; and on the day following, resolved to thrust off our vessel into the water; but we were prevented by Mr Randal being taken ill of a fever, occasioned, as we supposed, by his great fatigue in working to free our ship from the sand, wherein he spared no pains to encourage us, as much by his actions as his words, even beyond his strength. The concern we were all in upon this occasioned our delay in not getting our vessel out. Besides, one hand out of five was a weakening of our strength. Mr Randal never thought of his instruments till now, when he wanted to let himself blood; but not feeling them about his clothes, we supposed they might have been overlooked in the vessel: so I ran immediately to see if I could find them; and, getting up the side, my very weight pulled her down to the sand, which had certainly bruised me to death if I had not sunk into the hollow that we had made by throwing the sand from the ship. I crept out in a great fright, and ran to my companions, who, with much ado, got her upright; and afterwards we fixed some spare oars on each side, to keep her from falling again; for the pieces of wood that were placed under her were greased, to facilitate her slipping into the water, and we had dug the sand so entirely from her, that she rested only on them, which occasioned her leaning to one side with my weight only: When we were entered into the vessel, and our endeavours to find the box of instruments were fruitless, we were all mightily concerned, for we verily believed that bleeding would have cured him; nay, even he himself said that if he could be let blood, he was certain his fever would abate, and he should be easier; yet to see with what a perfect resignation he submitted to the will of Heaven, would have inspired one with a true knowledge of the state good men enjoy after a dissolution from this painful life. He grew still worse and worse, but yet so patient in his sufferings, that it perfectly amazed us all. He continued in this manner a whole week, at the end of which time he expired. After our sorrow for his death was somewhat abated, we consulted how to bury him, and at last agreed on committing his body to the hole in the sand which I had dug for my well. After fulfilling this melancholy duty, the whole of our thoughts were bent on our vessel, and the means of escape from the island.
On Monday, the 31st of December, we launched our vessel out into the sea, and designed to set sail the next day from the island upon which we had been so long confined. After we had fixed her fast with two anchors and a hawser on shore, we went on board to dine and make ourselves merry, which we did very heartily; and, to add to our mirth, we made a large can of punch, which we never attempted to do before, as we had but one bottle of lime-juice in all, which was what indeed we designed for this occasion. In short, the punch ran down so merrily, that we were all in a drunken condition. When it was gone, we resolved to go to rest; but all I could do would not persuade them to lie on board that night in their cabins, yet without a bed: they would venture, though they were obliged to swim a hundred yards before they could wade to shore; but, however, they got safe, which I knew by their hallooing and rejoicing.
Having brought my bed on board, I went to rest very contentedly, which I did till next morning; but, O horror! when I had dressed myself, and gone on deck to call my companions to come on board to breakfast, which was intended overnight, and afterwards to go on shore and bring our sails and yards on board, and make to sea as fast as we could, I could not see any land! The vessel had driven from the shore, and was now on the broad ocean. The sudden shock of this catastrophe so overcame me, that I sank down on the deck without sense or motion. How long I continued so, I cannot tell, but I awoke full of the sense of my melancholy condition; and ten thousand times, in spite of my resolution to forbear, cursed my unhappy fate that had brought me to that deplorable state. Instead of coming on board to be frolicsome and merry, we should have given thanks to Him who gave us the blessing of thinking we were no longer subject to such hardships as we might probably have undergone if we had been detained longer on that island. I had no compass, neither was I of myself capable of ruling the vessel in a calm, much less in a storm, should it happena case not infrequent in this climate.
After I had vented my grief in a torrent of words and tears, I began to think how the vessel could have got to sea without my knowledge. By remembrance of the matter the night before, I found, by our eagerness and fatal carelessness, we had forgotten to fasten our cables to the gears; and, pulling up the hawser which we had fastened to one of the burton-trees on shore, I perceived that the force of the vessel had pulled the tree out of the earth. Then I, too late, found that a hurricane had risen when I was sound asleep and stupefied with too much liquor. When I began to be something better contented in my mind, and thought of sustaining nature, almost spent with fatigue and grieving, one great comfort I had on my side, which my poor wretched companions wanted, was provision in plenty and fresh water; so that, when I began to consider coolly, I found I had not that cause to complain which they had, for they were left on a barren island without any other provision than that very same diet which I was forced to take up with when first thrown on shore.
I remained tossed upon the sea for a fortnight without discovering land; for the weather continued very calm, but yet so hazy that I could not perceive the sun for several days. One day, searching for some linen that I had dropped under the sacking of my bed, for I did not lie in a hammock, I found a glove with seventy-five pieces of eight in it, which I took and sewed in the waistband of my trousers, for fear I should want it some time or other. I made no scruple in taking it, for I was well assured it had belonged to poor Mr Randal. Besides, I had heard the other people say that they