Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

and taking in water and provisions. In this they were greatly assisted by Selkirk, or the “governor,” as they used to call him; who, besides giving them all the information necessary respecting the island, made it a daily practice to catch several goats for the use of the sick. “ He took them,” says Rogers, “by speed of foot; for his way of living, and continual exercise of walking and running, cleared him of all gross humors, so that he ran with wonderful swiftness through the woods, and up the rocks and hills: We had a bull-dog, which we sent with several of our nimblest runners to help him in catching goats; but he distanced and tired both the dog and the men, caught the goats, and brought them to us on his back. Being forced to shift without shoes, his feet had become so hard, that he ran every-where without annoyance; and it was some time before he could wear shoes after we found him ; for, not being used to any for so long, his feet swelled .when he came first to use them again.” Besides giving these particulars, Captain Rogers details, at some length, Selkirk's mode of life during the four years and four months he had spent on the island, concluding: “We may perceive, by this story, the truth of the maxim, that necessity is the mother of invention, since this man found means to supply his wants in a

1

very natural manner, so as to maintain his life, though not so conveniently, yet as effectually as we are able to do with the help of our arts and society. It may likewise instruct us how much a plain and temperate way of living conduces to the health of the body and the vigor of the mind, both of which we are apt to destroy by excess and plenty, especially of strong liquor, and the variety as well as the nature of our meat and drink ; for this man, when he came back to our ordinary method of diet and life, though he was sober enough, lost much of his strength and agility. But these reflections are more proper for a philosopher and divine than a mariner."

After a successful buccaneering expedition, with Rogers, Selkirk reached England in October, 1711.

His singular history was soon made known to the public; and immediately he became an object of curiosity not only to the people at large, but to those elevated by rank and learning.

Defoe's romance of Robinson Crusoe was not published till the year 1719, when the original facts on which it was founded must have been nearly forgotten.

It was a fine Sunday morning in the spring of 1712; the kirk bells of Largo had for some time ceased ringing, and the parishioners were

sermon.

assembled in church, when a handsomely-dressed stranger knocked at the door of old John Selkirk's dwelling. No one was within, and the stranger bent his steps toward the parish church. He entered, and sat down in a pew near the door. His late entrance, the fact of his being a stranger, and his fine gold-laced clothes, attracted attention to him, and divided the interest of the congregation with the clergyman's

The service proceeded: not far from the place where the stranger had stationed himself was the pew where old John Selkirk, his wife, and others of the family were sitting, and toward this pew the stranger continued to direct his eyes. The occupants of the pew returned the glance as discreetly as they could; old Mrs. Selkirk especially several times eyed the stranger with curiosity over her Bible. At length the glances became a fixed gaze; the old woman's face grew pale; and crying, “It's Sandie !—it's Sandie !" she tottered up to the stranger, and flung herself into his arms. The clergyman stopped, the congregation rose in a bustle of excitement, and quiet was not restored till the whole Selkirk family left the church in a body, to give full scope at home to their mutual congratulations and inquiries.

Alexander Selkirk subsequently entered the naval service, and became a lieutenant on board

the Weymouth; on board of which vessel he died in 1723.

The island of Juan Fernandez has passed through the hands of a succession of owners since he quitted it. For upward of thirty years after his departure, it remained in the condition in which he had left it-an uninhabited island, where ships, sailing along the western coast of South America, occasionally put in for water and fresh victuals. Once or twice, indeed, the chances of shipwreck gave it one or two inhabitants, who did not remain long. In 1750 the Spaniards again formed a settlement on it, and built a fort. Both were destroyed by an earthquake in the following year; but another town was built at a greater distance from the shore. It continued to be inhabited for about twenty years, but was then abandoned, as the former Spanish settlement in the island had been. Early in the present century, the Chilian government began to use Juan Fernandez as a penal settlement, transporting their state criminals to it; but in consequence of the expense, it was soon given up; and when Lord Cochrane visited the island in 1823, there were but four men stationed on it, apparently in charge of some cattle. The following description is given of the island by a lady who accompanied Lord Cochrane and a party on

shore: “The island is the most picturesque I ever saw, being composed of high perpendicular rocks, wooded nearly to the top, with beautiful valleys, exceedingly fertile, and watered by copious streams, which occasionally form small marshes. The little valley where the town is, or rather was, is exceedingly beautiful. It is full of fruit-trees and flowers, and sweet herbs, now grown wild; near the shore, it is covered with radish and sea-side oats. A small fort was situated on the sea-shore, of which there is nothing now visible but the ditches and part of one wall. Another, of considerable size for the place, is on a high and commanding spot. It contained barracks for soldiers, which, as well as the greater part of the fort, are ruined; but the flag-staff, front wall, and a turret, are standing; and at the foot of the flag-staff lies a very handsome brass gun, cast in Spain, A. D. 1614. A few houses and cottages are still in a tolerable condition, though most of the doors, windows, and roofs have been taken away, or used as fuel by whalers and other ships touching here. In the valleys we found numbers of European shrubs and herbs—where once the garden smiled.' And in the half-ruined hedges, which denote the boundaries of former fields, we found apple, pear, and quince trees, with cherries almost ripe. The ascent is steep and rapid

« ForrigeFortsæt »