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as low as we could, which took up much time,
, and occasioned both companies to be much on shore. In this island there are an abundance of cabbage-trees, which are excellent, though small. The cabbage-tree, which is a species of palm, has a small, straight stem, often ninety or a hundred feet long, with many knots or joints, about four inches asunder, like a bamboo cane. It has no leaves, except at the top, in the midst of which the substance called cabbage is contained. The branches of this tree are monly twelve or thirteen feet in length; and at about a foot and a half from the tree the leaves begin, which are about four feet long, and an inch and a half broad—the leaves growing so regularly, that the whole branch seems one entire leaf. The cabbage, when cut out from among the roots of the branches, is usually a foot long, and six inches in diameter, and as white as milk. From the bottom of the cabbage there spring out several large bunches of berries, like grapes, each bunch being five or six pounds weight. The berries are red, and about the size of cherries, each having a large stone in the middle, and the pulp tastes like that of haws. On the island we saw also the sea lion, which is so called, as I suppose, because he roars somewhat like a lion, and his head has also some resemblance to that animal, having four large
teeth in front, all the rest being short, thick, and stubbed. Instead of feet and legs, he has four fins, the two foremost serving him, when he goes ashore, to raise the fore-part of the body, and he then draws the hind-part after him. The two hinder fins are of no use on land, but only in the water. The animal is very fat; for which reason we killed several of them, from which we made a tun of oil for our lamps, and while at this island, made use of it also for frying our fish. They have short, lightcolored hair when young, becoming sandy when old. Their food is fish, and they prey altogether in the water, but come on land to sleep, when five, six, or more of them huddle together like swine, and will often lie still three or four days if not molested. They are much afraid of men, and make off as fast as they can into the water. If hard pressed, they will turn about, raising their bodies on their fore-fins, and face you with their mouths wide open; so that we used to clap a pistol to their mouths and fire down their throats. Sometimes five or six of us would surround one of these monsters, each having half a pike, and so prick him dead, which commonly was the sport of two or three hours."* Selkirk little thought, while cutting
the branches of the cabbage-trees, and hunting sea-lions with Funnel and the other sailors on the beach of Juan Fernandez, that in a short time this island was to be his solitary home.
The life of comparative idleness which the crews of the two ships were leading on the island was not favorable to good-humor or harmony, especially as, hitherto, they had not succeeded in attaining the object of their expedition. The sailors of the Cinque Ports quarreled with their captain, Stradling; and the dispute at length ran so high, that forty-two men, or more than two-thirds of the crew, went ashore, and threatened to remain. Whether Selkirk, who, as sailing-master, was next in rank to Stradling on board the Cinque Ports, was one of those who revolted, is not ascertained; but the sequel renders it probable that he was.
At length Dampier succeeded in reconciling the sailors with their captain, order was restored, and matters went on as usual.
On the 29th of February the idle crews were roused to activity by the sight of a sail. In their hurry to give chase, they left behind them one of their boats, their anchors, a quantity of oil, and other materials, and, what was more alarming, five sailors and a negro, who happened to be straggling in a part of the island distant from the beach at the time when the sail was seen. Bearing out to sea, they found the strange ship to be a Frenchman of thirty guns. After a long pursuit, they came up with her next day, and engaged her very close, the St. George keeping her broadside to broadside for seven hours. A gale then sprang up, and the Frenchman escaped, disappointing the privateers of their expected booty. Nine of the St. George's men had been killed, and many more wounded in the action. The crews were, nevertheless, exceedingly anxious to continue the chase; but Dampier opposed them, saying it was not worth while, and “they did not need to care for merchantmen, as he could get them a prize of £500,000 any day of the year.” They therefore returned, in no very good humor to Juan Fernandez, which they came in sight of on the 3d of March. To their surprise they found two French vessels at anchor off the island, each of thirty-six guns; a sight which made them glad to sheer off, leaving the boat, the anchors, the oil, and the six sailors to their fate. It afterward appeared that the Frenchmen, on landing, had taken possession of all the stores they found on the island, and made prisoners of four of the six men, the other two managing to conceal themselves.
Prevented from again taking up their station at Juan Fernandez, the St. George and the Cinque Ports bore away north-east for the coast of Peru, which they came in sight of on the 11th of March. “ Coasting northward along the shore,” says Funnel, “which is the highest and most mountainous I ever saw, we were surprised, on the 19th of March, to see the waves changed to a red color for seven or eight leagues, though, on sounding, we had no ground at one hundred and seventy fathoms; but, on drawing up some of the water, we found the color to be owing to a vast quantity of fishspawn swimming on the surface.” Keeping a constant look-out for vessels to attack, they saw, on the 22d of March, two at some distance, the sternmost of which proved to be the Frenchman which they had chased and fought off Juan Fernandez. They were very eager to capture this vessel, not merely on account of her value, but because, if she reached Lima—the port which she seemed to be bound for-her crew would communicate the intelligence that two buccaneering ships were on the coast, and so prevent the merchantmen in that port from sailing. Dampier, however, was averse to attacking her; and she escaped, greatly to the discontent of the men, whose fears were in great part realized, and who were only kept from breaking out in rebellion by the capture of two considerable prizes a few days afterward. Clearing these