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The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1808) by Daniel Defoe

Part 11 out of 11

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robbed, and perhaps murdered, by a troop of thieves: of what country
they were; whether the roving bands of the Ostiachi, a kind of Tartars,
or wild people on the banks of the Oby, had ranged thus far; or whether
they were the sable-hunters of Siberia, I am yet at a loss to know; but
they were all on horseback, carried bows and arrows, and were at first
about five-and-forty in number. They came so near to us as within about
two musket shot; and, asking no questions, they surrounded us with their
horses, and looked very earnestly upon us twice. At length they placed
themselves just in our way; upon which we drew up in a little line
before our camels, being not above sixteen men in all; and being drawn
up thus, we halted, and sent out the Siberian servant who attended his
lord, to see who they were: his master was the more willing to let him
go, because he was not a little apprehensive that they were a Siberian
troop sent out after him. The man came up near them with a flag of
truce, and called to them; but though he spoke several of their
languages, or dialects of languages rather, he could not understand a
word they said: however, after some signs to him not to come nearer to
them at his peril, so he said he understood them to mean, offering to
shoot at him if he advanced, the fellow came back no wiser than he went,
only that by their dress, he said, he believed them to be some Tartars
of Kalmuck, or of the Circassian hordes; and that there must be more of
them on the great desert, though he never heard that ever any of them
were seen so far north before.

This was small comfort to us; however, we had no remedy: there was on
our left hand, at about a quarter of a mile's distance, a little grove
or clump of trees, which stood close together, and very near the road; I
immediately resolved we should advance to those trees, and fortify
ourselves as well as we could there; for, first, I considered that the
trees would in a great measure cover us from their arrows; and in the
next place, they could not come to charge us in a body: it was, indeed,
my old Portuguese pilot who proposed it; and who had this excellency
attending him, namely, that he was always readiest and most apt to
direct and encourage us in cases of the most danger. We advanced
immediately with what speed we could, and gained that little wood, the
Tartars, or thieves, for we knew not what to call them, keeping their
stand, and not attempting to hinder us. When we came thither, we found,
to our great satisfaction, that it was a swampy, springy piece of
ground, and, on the other side, a great spring of water, which, running
out in a little rill or brook, was a little farther joined by another of
the like bigness; and was, in short, the head or source of a
considerable river, called afterwards the Wirtska. The trees which grew
about this spring were not in all above two hundred, but were very
large, and stood pretty thick; so that as soon as we got in, we saw
ourselves perfectly safe from the enemy, unless they alighted and
attacked us on foot.

But to make this more difficult, our Portuguese, with indefatigable
application, cut down great arms of the trees, and laid them hanging,
not cut quite off, from one tree to another; so that he made a continued
fence almost round us.

We staid here, waiting the motion of the enemy some hours, without
perceiving they made any offer to stir; when about two hours before
night, they came down directly upon us; and, though we had not perceived
it, we found they had been joined by some more of the same, so that they
were near fourscore horse, whereof, however, we fancied some were women.
They came in till they were within half a shot of our little wood, when
we fired one musket without ball, and called to them in the Russian
tongue, to know what they wanted, and bid them keep off; but, as if they
knew nothing of what we said, they came on with a double fury directly
to the wood-side, not imagining we were so barricaded, that they could
not break in. Our old pilot was our captain, as well as he had been our
engineer; and desired of us, not to fire upon them till they came within
pistol shot, that we might be sure to kill; and that, when we did fire,
we should be sure to take good aim. We bade him give the word of
command; which he delayed so long, that they were, some of them, within
two pikes length of us when we fired.

We aimed so true, (or Providence directed our shot so sure) that we
killed fourteen of them at the first volley, and wounded several others,
as also several of their horses; for we had all of us loaded our pieces
with two or three bullets apiece at least.

They were terribly surprised with our fire, and retreated immediately
about one hundred rods from us; in which time we loaded our pieces
again, and, seeing them keep that distance, we sallied out, and caught
four or five of their horses, whose riders, we supposed, were killed;
and coming up to the dead, we could easily perceive they were Tartars,
but knew not from what country, or how they came to make an excursion
such an unusual length.

About an hour after, they made a motion to attack us again, and rode
round our little wood, to see where else they might break in; but
finding us always ready to face them, they went off again, and we
resolved not to stir from the place for that night.

We slept but little, you may be sure; but spent the most part of the
night in strengthening our situation, and barricading the entrances into
the wood; and, keeping a strict watch, we waited for daylight, and, when
it came, it gave us a very unwelcome discovery indeed: for the enemy,
who we thought were discouraged with the reception they had met with,
were now increased to no less than three hundred, and had set up eleven
or twelve huts and tents, as if they were resolved to besiege us; and
this little camp they had pitched, was upon the open plain, at about
three quarters of a mile from us. We were indeed surprised at this
discovery; and now, I confess, I gave myself over for lost, and all that
I had. The loss of my effects did not lie so near me (though they were
very considerable) as the thoughts of falling into the hands of such
barbarians, at the latter end of my journey, after so many difficulties
and hazards as I had gone through; and even in sight of our port, where
we expected safety and deliverance. As for my partner, he was raging: he
declared, that to lose his goods would be his ruin; and he would rather
die than be starved; and he was for fighting to the last drop.

The young lord, as gallant as ever flesh shewed itself, was for fighting
to the last also; and my old pilot was of the opinion we were able to
resist them all, in the situation we then were in: and thus we spent the
day in debates of what we should do; but towards evening, we found that
the number of our enemies still increased: perhaps, as they were abroad
in several parties for prey, the first had sent out scouts to call for
help, and to acquaint them of their booty; and we did not know but by
the morning they might still be a greater number; so I began to inquire
of those people we had brought from Tobolski, if there were no other, or
more private ways, by which we might avoid them in the night, and
perhaps either retreat to some town, or get help to guard us over
the desert.

The Siberian, who was servant to the young lord, told us, if we designed
to avoid them, and not fight, he would engage to carry us off in the
night to a way that went north towards the river Petraz, by which he
made no doubt but we might get away, and the Tartars never the wiser;
but he said, his lord had told him he would not return, but would rather
choose to fight. I told him, he mistook his lord; for that he was too
wise a man to love fighting for the sake of it; that I knew his lord was
brave enough by what he had shewed already; but that his lord knew
better than to desire to have seventeen or eighteen men fight five
hundred, unless an unavoidable necessity forced them to it; and that if
he thought it possible for us to escape in the night, we had nothing
else to do but to attempt it. He answered, if his lord gave him such
order, he would lose his life if he did not perform it. We soon brought
his lord to give that order, though privately, and we immediately
prepared for the putting it in practice.

And first, as soon as it began to be dark, we kindled a fire in our
little camp, which we kept burning, and prepared so as to make it burn
all night, that the Tartars might conclude we were still there; but, as
soon as it was dark, that is to say, so as we could see the stars, (for
our guide would not stir before) having all our horses and camels ready
loaded, we followed our new guide, who, I soon found, steered himself by
the pole or north star, all the country being level for a long way.

After we had travelled two hours very hard, it began to be lighter
still; not that it was quite dark all night, but the moon; began to
rise; so that, in short, it was rather lighter than we wished it to be;
but by six o'clock next morning we were gotten near forty miles, though
the truth is, we almost spoiled our horses. Here we found a Russian
village, named Kirmazinskoy, where we rested, and heard, nothing of the
Kalmuck Tartars that day. About two hours before night we set out again,
and travelled till eight the next morning, though not quite so hastily
as before; and about seven o'clock we passed a little river, called
Kirtza, and came to a good large town inhabited by Russians, and very
populous, called Ozomya. There we heard, that several troops or herds of
Kalmucks had been abroad upon the desert, but that we were now
completely out of danger of them, which was to our great satisfaction,
you may be sure. Here we were obliged to get some fresh horses, and
having need enough of rest, we staid five days; and my partner and I
agreed to give the honest Siberian, who brought us hither, the value of
ten pistoles for his conducting us.

In five days more we came to Veussima, upon the river Witzogda, which
running into the river Dwina, we were there very happily near the end of
our travels by land, that river being navigable in seven days passage to
Archangel. From hence we came to Lawrenskoy, where the river joins, the
third of July; and provided ourselves with two luggage-boats, and a
barge, for our convenience. We embarked the seventh, and arrived all
safe at Archangel the eighteenth, having been a year, five months, and
three days on the journey, including our stay of eight months and odd
days at Tobolski.

We were obliged to stay at this place six weeks for the arrival of the
ships, and must have tarried longer, had not a Hamburgher come in above
a month sooner than any of the English ships; when after some
consideration, that the city of Hamburgh might happen to be as good a
market for our goods as London, we all took freight with him; and
having put our goods on board, it was most natural for me to put my
steward, on board to take care of them; by which means my young lord had
a sufficient opportunity to conceal himself, never coming on shore again
in all the time we staid there; and this he did, that he might not be
seen in the city, where some of the Moscow merchants would certainly
have seen and discovered him.

We sailed from Archangel the twentieth of August the same year; and,
after no extraordinary bad voyage, arrived in the Elbe the thirteenth of
September. Here my partner and I found a very good sale for our goods,
as well those of China, as the sables, &c. of Siberia; and dividing the
produce of our effects my share amounted to 3475_l_. 17_s_. 3_d_.
notwithstanding so many losses we had sustained, and charges we had been
at; only remembering that I had included, in this, about 600_l_. worth
of diamonds, which I had purchased at Bengal.

Here the young lord took his leave of us, and went up to the Elbe, in
order to go to the court of Vienna, where he resolved to seek
protection, and where he could correspond with those of his father's
friends who were left alive. He did not part without all the testimonies
he could give of gratitude for the service I had done him, and his sense
of my kindness to the prince his father.

To conclude: having staid near four mouths in Hamburgh, I came from
thence over land to the Hague, where I embarked in the packet, and
arrived in London the tenth of January 1705, having been gone from
England ten years and nine months.

And here, resolving to harass myself no more, I am preparing for a
longer journey than all these, having lived seventy-two years a life of
infinite variety, and learnt sufficiently to know the value of
retirement, and the blessing of ending our days in peace.

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