Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Internet Archive; University of Florida, Children, Andrea
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THE SOLITARY OF JUAN FERNANDEZ;
THE REAL ROBINSON CRUSOE
BY THE AUTHOR OF PICCIOLA.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH by ANNE T. WILBUR.
The Royal Salmon.--Pretty Kitty.--Captain Stradling.--William Dampier.
--Reveries and Caprices of Miss Catherine.
Alexander Selkirk.--The College.--First Love.--Eight Years of Absence.
--Maritime Combats.--Return and Departure.--The Swordfish.
The Tour of the World.--The Way to manufacture Negroes.--California.
--The Eldorado.--Revolt of Selkirk.--The Log-Book.--Degradation.
--A Free Shore.
Inspection of the Country.--Marimonda.--A City seen through the Fog.
--The Sea every where.--Dialogue with a Toucan.--The first Shot.
--Declaration of War.--Vengeance.--A Terrestrial Paradise.
Labors of the Colonist.--His Study.--Fishing.--Administration.
--Selkirk Island.--The New Prometheus.--What is wanting to Happiness.
--Encounter with Marimonda.--Monologue.
The Hammock.--Poison.--Success.--A Calm under the Tropics.--Invasion
of the Island.--War and Plunder.--The Oasis.--The Spy-Glass.
A Tete-a-tete.--The Monkey's Goblet.--The Palace.--A Removal.--Winter
under the Tropics--Plans for the Future.--Property.--A burst of
Laughter.--Misfortune not far off.
A New Invasion.--Selkirk joyfully meets an ancient Enemy.--Combat on
a Red Cedar.--A Mother and her Little Ones.--The Flock.--Fete in the
Island; Pacific Combats, Diversions and Swings.--A Sail.--The Burning
Wood.--Presentiments of Marimonda.
The Precipice.--A Dungeon in a Desert Island.--Resignation.--The passing
Bird.--The browsing Goat.--The bending Tree.--Attempts at Deliverance.
--Success.--Death of Marimonda.
Discouragement.--A Discovery.--A Retrospective Glance.--Project of
Suicide.--The Last Shot.--The Sea Serpent.--The _Porro_.
--A Message.--Another Solitary.
The Island of San Ambrosio.--Selkirk at last knows what Friendship is.
--The Raft.--Visits to the Tomb of Marimonda.--The Departure.--The two
Islands.--Shipwreck.--The Port of Safety.
The Island of Juan Fernandez.--Encounter in the Mountains.--Discussion.
--A New Captivity.--Cannon-shot.--Dampier and Selkirk.--_Mas a Fuera_.
--News of Stradling.--Confidences.--End of the History of the real
NEW BOOKS AND NEW EDITIONS. (advertising section)
THE SOLITARY OF JUAN FERNANDEZ,
THE REAL ROBINSON CRUSOE.
* * * * *
The Royal Salmon.--Pretty Kitty.--Captain Stradling.--William Dampier.
--Reveries and Caprices of Miss Catherine.
About the commencement of the last century, the little town of St.
Andrew, the capital of the county of Fife, in Scotland, celebrated
then for its University, was not less so for its Inn, the Royal
Salmon, which, built in 1681 by a certain Andrew Felton, had descended
as an inheritance to his only daughter, Catherine.
This young lady, known throughout the neighborhood under the name of
pretty Kitty, had contributed not a little, by her personal charms,
to the success and popularity of the inn. In her early youth, she had
been a lively and piquant brunette, with black, glossy hair, combed
over a smooth and prominent forehead, and dark, brilliant eyes, a
style of beauty much in vogue at that period. Though tall and slender
in stature, she was, as our ancestors would have said, sufficiently
_en bon point_. In fine, Kitty merited her surname, and more than one
laird in the neighborhood, more than one great nobleman even,--thanks
to the familiarity which reigned among the different classes in
Scotland,--had figured occasionally among her customers, caring as
little what people might say as did the brave Duke of Argyle, whom
Walter Scott has shown as conversing familiarly with his snuff
At present Catherine Felton is in her second youth. By a process
common enough, but which at first appears contradictory, her
attractions have diminished as they developed; her waist has grown
thicker, the roses on her cheek assumed a deeper vermilion, her voice
has acquired the rough and hoarse tone of her most faithful customers;
the slender young girl is transformed into a virago. Fortunately for
her, at the commencement of the eighteenth century, and especially
in Scotland, reputations did not vanish as readily as in our days.
Notwithstanding her increasing size and coarser voice, Catherine still
remained pretty Kitty, especially in the eyes of those to whom she
gave the largest credit.
Besides, if from year to year her beauty waned, a circumstance which
might tend to diminish the attractions of her establishment, like a
prudent woman she took care that her stock of ale and usquebaugh
should also from year to year improve in quality, to preserve the
Undoubtedly the visits of lairds and great noblemen at her bar were
less frequent than formerly, but all the trades-people in town, all
the sailors in port, from the Gulf of Tay to the Gulf of Forth, still
patronized the pretty landlady.
Meanwhile Catherine was not yet married. The gossips of the town were
surprised, because she was rich and suitors were plenty; they
fluttered around her constantly in great numbers, especially when
somewhat exhilarated with wine. When their gallantry became obtrusive,
Kitty was careful not to grow angry; she would smile, and lift up her
white hand, tolerably heavy, till the offenders came to order.
Catherine possessed in the highest degree the art of restraining
without discouraging them, and always so as to forward the interests
of her establishment.
To maintain the discipline of the tavern, nevertheless, the presence
of a man was desirable; she understood this. Besides, the condition of
an old maid did not seem to her at all inviting, and she did not care
to wait the epoch of a third youth, before making a choice. But what
would the unsuccessful candidates say? Would not this decision be at
the risk of kindling a civil war, of provoking perhaps a general
desertion? Then, too, accustomed as she was to command, the idea of
giving herself a master alarmed her.
She was vacillating amid all these perplexities, when a certain
sailor, with cold and reserved manners, whose face bore the mark of
a deep sabre cut, and who had for some time past, frequented her inn
with great assiduity, without ever having addressed to her a single
word, took her aside one fine morning and said:
'Listen to me, Kate, and do not reply hastily. I came here, not like
many others, attracted by your beautiful eyes, but because I wished
to obtain recruits for an approaching voyage which I expected to
undertake at my own risk and peril. I do not know how it has happened,
but I now think less about sailing; I seem to be stumbling over roots.
Right or wrong, I imagine that a good little wife, who will fill my
glass while I am tranquilly smoking my pipe before a blazing fire, may
have as many charms as the best brig in which one may sometimes perish
with hunger and thirst. Right or wrong, I imagine to myself again that
the prattle of two or three little monkeys around me, may be as
agreeable as the sound of the wind howling through the masts, or of
Spanish balls whistling about one's ears. All this, Kate, signifies
that I mean to marry; and who do you suppose has put this pretty whim
into my head? who, but yourself?'
Catherine uttered an exclamation of surprise, perfectly sincere, for
if she had expected a declaration, it was certainly not from this
'Do not reply to me yet,' hastily resumed the sailor; 'he who
pronounces his decree before he has heard the pleader and maturely
reflected on the case, is a poor judge. To continue then. You are no
longer a child, Kate, and I am no longer a young man; you are
At these words the pretty Kitty made a gesture of surprise and of
'Do not reply to me!' repeated the pitiless sailor. 'You are thirty!
I have already passed another barrier, but not long since. We are
of suitable age for each other. The man should always have traversed
the road before his companion. You are active and genteel; that does
very well for women. You have always been an honest girl, that is
better still. As for me, my skin is not so white as yours, but it is
the fault of a tropic sun. It is possible that I may be a little
disfigured by the scar on my cheek; but of this scar I am proud; I had
the honor of receiving it, while boarding a vessel, from the hand of
the celebrated Jean Bart, who, after having on that occasion lost a
fine opportunity of being honorably killed, has just suffered himself
to die of a stupid pleurisy; but it is not of him but of myself that
we are now to speak. After having fought with Jean Bart, I have made a
voyage with our not less celebrated William Dampier, whom I may dare
call my friend. You may therefore understand, Kate, that if you have
the reputation of an honest girl, I have that of a good sailor. The
name of Captain Stradling is favorably known upon two oceans, and it
will be to your credit, if ever, with your arm linked in mine, we walk
as man and wife, through any port of England or Scotland. I have said.
Now, look, reflect; if my proposition suits you, I will settle for
life on _terra firma_, and bid adieu to the sea; if not, I resume my
projected expedition, and it will be to you, Kate, that I shall say
Catherine opened her mouth to thank him, as was suitable, for his good
'Do not reply to me!' interrupted he again; 'in three days I will come
to receive your decision.'
And he went out, leaving her amazed at having listened to so long a
speech from one, who until then, seated motionless in a distant corner
of the room, had always appeared to her the most rigid and silent of
That very day Catherine has come to a decision concerning the captain;
she thinks him ugly and disagreeable, coarse and ignorant; he has
dared to tell her that she is thirty years old, and she will hardly be
so at St. Valentine's Day, which is six weeks ahead, at least. Besides
the scar which he has received from the celebrated Jean Bart, his
countenance has no beauty to boast of: his face is long and pale, his
temples are furrowed with wrinkles, and his lips thick and heavy; his
eyebrows, at the top of his forehead, seem to be lost in his hair; his
eyes are not mates, his nose is one-sided; his form is perhaps still
worse; he walks after the fashion of a duck. Fie! can such a man be a
suitable match for the rich landlady of the Royal Salmon, for the
beautiful Kitty; for her who, among so many admirers and lovers, has
had but the difficulty of a choice?
The next day towards nightfall, Catherine, seated in her bar, in the
large leathern arm-chair which served as her throne, with dreamy and
downcast brow, and chin resting on her hand, was still thinking of
Captain Stradling, but her ideas had assumed a different aspect from
those of the evening before.
She was saying to herself: 'If he has thick and heavy lips, it is
because he is an Englishman; if he walks like a duck, it is because he
is a sailor; if he has taken me to be thirty years old, that proves
simply that he is a good physiognomist, and I shall have one painful
avowal the less to make after marriage. As for his scar, he has a
thousand reasons to be proud of it, and, upon close examination, it is
not unbecoming. It would be very difficult for me to choose a husband,
on account of the discontented suitors who will be left in the lurch;
but I will relinquish my business, and that will put an end to all
inconvenience. He is rich, so much for the profit; he is a captain, so
much for the honor. Come, come, Mistress Stradling will have no reason
At this moment, Catherine Felton could meditate quite at her ease,
without fear of being noticed; for the tobacco smoke, three times as
dense and abundant as usual, enveloped her in an almost opaque cloud.
There was this evening a grand _fete_ at the tavern of the Royal
Salmon. The concourse of customers was immense, and this time, it was
neither the beauty of the hostess, nor the quality of the liquors
which had attracted them thither.
The serving-men and lasses were going from table to table, multiplying
themselves to pour out, not only the golden waves of strong beer and
usquebaugh, but the purple waves of claret and port; all faces were
smiling, all eyes sparkling, and in the midst of the huzzas and
_vivas_, was heard, with triple applause, the name of William Dampier.
This celebrated man, now a corsair, now a skilful seaman, who had just
discovered so many unknown straits and shores, who had just made the
tour of the world twice, in an age when the tour of the world did not
pass, as at present, for a trifling matter; who had published, upon
his return, a narrative full of novel facts and observations; this
pitiless and intelligent pirate, who studied the coasts of Peru while
he pillaged the cities along its shores, and meditated, in the midst
of tempests, his learned theory of winds and tides, William Dampier,
had landed, this very day at the little port of St. Andrew.
At the intelligence of his arrival, the whole maritime population of
the coast was in commotion; the society of the _Old Pilots_, with
that of the _Sea Dogs_, had sent to him deputations, headed by the
principal ship-owners in the town. Captain Stradling had not failed
to be among them, happy at the opportunity of once more meeting and
embracing his former friend. Speeches were made, as if to welcome
an admiral, speeches in which were passed in review all his noble
qualities and the great services rendered by him to the marine
interest. To these Dampier replied with simplicity and conciseness,
saying to the orators:
'Gentlemen and dear comrades, you must be hoarse, let us drink!'
This first trait of eccentricity could not fail to enlist universal
Commissioned by him to lead the column, Stradling could not do
otherwise than to take the road to the Royal Salmon. It was on this
occasion that he appeared there before the expiration of the three
days: but he had not addressed a word to Catherine, scarcely turned
his eyes towards her. Nevertheless the circumstances were favorable to
Then a millionaire, William Dampier had immediately declared his
intentions to treat at his own expense the whole company and even the
whole town, if the town would do him the honor to drink with him.
Catherine at once took him into favor. When she heard him praise his
friend and companion, the brave Captain Stradling, she felt for the
latter, not an emotion of tenderness, but a sentiment of respect and
even of good-will. Dampier, excited by his audience, did not fail,
like other conquerors by land and sea, to recount some of his great
deeds. Among others, he recapitulated a certain affair in which he and
his friend Stradling had captured a Spanish galleon, laden with
piastres. From this moment the beautiful Kitty became more thoughtful,
and began to see that the scar was becoming to the face of this good
captain. After drinking, when Dampier, still escorted by his _fidus
Achates_, came to settle his account with the hostess, he chucked her
familiarly under the chin, as was his custom with landladies in the
four quarters of the globe. From any one else, the proud Catherine
would not have suffered such a liberty; to this, she replied only by a
graceful reverence, and, while the hero and paymaster of the _fete_
shook a rouleau of gold upon her counter, she said, hastily bending
'To-morrow!' accompanying this word with an expressive look and her
most gracious smile.
The enamored Stradling, always impassible, contented himself with
'It is well!'
The day following, the third, the important day, that which Catherine
already regarded as her day of betrothal, early in the morning, she
dressed herself in her best attire, not doubting the impatience of the
captain. Before noon, the latter entered the inn and went directly up
to the landlady.
She received him carelessly and coldly; she was nervous, she had not
had time for reflection; she did not know what the captain wished; if
he would let her alone for the present, by and by she would consider.
'Boy! a new pipe and some ale!' exclaimed Stradling, addressing a
And, perfectly calm in appearance, he sauntered to his accustomed
place at the farther end of the bar-room. However, before leaving the
Royal Salmon, approaching Catherine, he said:
'Yesterday, by your voice and gesture you said, or almost said, yes;
we sailors know the signals; to-day it is no, or almost no. Very well,
I will wait; but reflect, my beauty, we are neither of us young enough
to lose our time in this foolish game.'
But what had thus unexpectedly changed, from white to black, the good
intentions of Catherine in the captain's behalf? The presence of a
young boy whom she had not seen for many years, and towards whom she
had, until then, felt only a kindly indifference.
Alexander Selkirk.--The College.--First Love.--Eight Years of Absence.
--Maritime Combats.--Return and Departure.--The Swordfish.
Alexander Selkirk,--the name of the principal personage in this
narrative,--was born at Largo, in the county of Fife, not far from St.
Andrew. Entered as a pupil in the university of the town, he at first
distinguished himself by his aptitude and his intelligence, until the
day when, hearing of the beauty of the landlady of the Royal Salmon,
he was seized with an irresistible desire to see her: he saw her, and
became violently enamored. It was one of those youthful passions,
springing rather from the effervescence of the age, than from the
merit of the object; one of those sudden ebullitions to which the
young recluses of science are sometimes subject, from a prolonged
compression of the natural and affectionate sentiments.
From this moment, all the words in the Greek and Latin dictionaries,
all the principles of natural philosophy, mathematics and history,
suddenly taken by storm, whirled confusedly and pell-mell in the head
of Selkirk, like the elements of the world in chaos, before the day of
His professors had predicted that at the annual exhibition he would
obtain six great prizes; he obtained not even a premium.
As a punishment, he was required to remain within the college grounds
during the vacation. But its gates were not strong enough, nor its
walls high enough to detain him.
Condemned, for the crime of desertion, to a classic imprisonment, he
was shut up in a cellar; he escaped through the window; in a garret;
he descended by the roof.
Then, pronounced incorrigible, he was expelled from the university.
He left it joyous and happy, escaped from the tutor commissioned to
conduct him to his father, and at last wholly free, his own master, he
took lodgings in a cabin, not far from the Royal Salmon, and thought
himself monarch of the universe.
As soon as the doors of the inn were opened, he penetrated there with
the earliest fogs of morning, with the first beams of day; in the
evening he was the last to cross the threshold, after the extinction
of the lights.
All day long, seated at a little table opposite the bar, between a
pipe and a pewter pot, he watched the movements of Kitty, and followed
her with admiring eyes.
Catherine was not slow to perceive this new passion; but she was
accustomed to admiring eyes, and therefore paid but little heed to
them. She was then at the age of twenty-two, in all the glory of her
transient royalty; he, scarcely sixteen, was in her eyes a boy, a raw
and awkward boy, like almost all the other students, and she contented
herself with now and then bestowing a slight smile upon him, in common
with her other customers.
But this mechanical smile, this half extinguished spark, did but
increase the flame, by kindling in the young man's soul a ray of hope.
At this age, passion has not yet an oral language; it is in the heart,
in the head especially, but not on the lips; one comprehends,
experiences, dreams, writes of love in prose and verse, but does not
talk of it. Selkirk had twenty times attempted to confess his
affection to Catherine; he had as yet succeeded only in a few simple
and hasty meteorological sentences, on the rain and fine weather. He
Unfortunately, Catherine could not easily read writing; she applied to
him to interpret his letter. This was a hard task for the poor boy,
who, with a tremulous and hesitating voice, saw himself forced to
stammer through all that burning phraseology which seemed to congeal
under the breath of the reader.
The result however was that Catherine became his friend; she
encouraged his confidence, and gave him good advice as an elder sister
might have done. She even called him by the familiar name of Sandy,
which was a good omen.
Meanwhile his scanty resources became exhausted; he had no longer
means to pay for the pot of ale which he consumed daily. The idea of
asking credit of his beloved, of opening with her an account, which he
might never have means to pay, was revolting to him. On the other
hand, the thought of returning home, and asking pardon of his father,
was not less repugnant to his feelings. He was endowed with one of
those haughty and imperious natures which recognize their faults, not
to repair them, but to make of them a starting point, or even a
He was rambling about the port, reflecting on his unfortunate
situation, when he heard mention made of a ship ready to set sail at
high tide, and which needed a reinforcement of cabin-boys and sailors.
This was for him an inspiration; he did not hesitate, he hastened to
engage. That very evening he had gained the open sea, beyond the Isle
of May, and, with his eyes turned towards the Bay of St. Andrew, was
attempting, in vain, to recognize among the lights which were yet
burning in the city, the fortunate lantern which decorated the sacred
door of the Royal Salmon.
At present, Alexander Selkirk is twenty-four years old. He has become
a genuine sailor, and he loves his profession; the sea is now his
beautiful Kitty. Besides, it is long since he has troubled himself
about his heart. It is empty, even of friendship, for, among his
numerous companions, the proud young man has not found one worthy of
him. After having served two years in the merchant marine, he has
entered the navy. Thanks to the war kindled in Europe for the Spanish
succession, he has for a long time cruised with the brave Admiral
Rooke along the coasts of France; with him, he has fought against the
Danish in the Baltic Sea, and in 1702, in the capacity of a master
pilot, figured honorably in the expedition against Cadiz, and in the
affair of Vigo. Finally, under the command of Admiral Dilkes, he has
just taken part in the destruction of a French fleet.
But all these expeditions, rather military than maritime, and
circumscribed in the narrow circle of the seas of Europe, have not
satisfied the vast desires of the ambitious sailor. He experiences an
invincible thirst to apply his knowledge, to exercise his intelligence
on a larger scale; he is impatient for a long voyage, a voyage of
The terrific hurricane of the twenty-seventh of November, 1703, which
drove the waves of the Thames even into Westminster, Hall, and covered
London almost entirely with the fragments of broken vessels, appeared
to Selkirk a favorable occasion for asking his dismissal. He easily
obtained it. So many sailors had just been thrown out of employment by
Once more, the undisciplined scholar found himself free and his own
master! He profited by this to pay a visit to his birthplace in
Scotland. His father was dead, but he had some business to regulate
On reaching Largo he learned the arrival of William Dampier at St.
Andrew. He set sail for that port immediately.
'Ah!' said he on his way, 'if this brave captain should be about to
undertake a voyage to the New World, and will let me accompany him, no
matter in what capacity, all my wishes will be gratified. I thirst to
see tattooed faces, other trees besides beeches, oaks and firs; other
shores than those of the Baltic, Mediterranean and Atlantic. Who knows
whether I may not aid him in the discovery of some new continent, some
unknown island which shall bear my name!'
And, cradled by the wave in the frail canoe that bore him, he dreamed
of government, perhaps of royalty, in one of those archipelagoes which
he imagined to exist in the bosom of the distant Southern seas, long
afterwards explored by Cook, Bougainville and Vancouver.
Once in port, he hastened to inquire for the dwelling occupied by
Dampier. The latter was absent; he was in the harbor.
While awaiting his return, our young sailor thought of his old friend
Catherine, his pretty black-eyed Kitty, and directed his steps towards
He found her already enthroned in her leathern arm-chair, her hair
neatly braided, with two small curls on her temples; in a toilette
which the early hour of the morning did not seem to authorize; but it
was the famous third day, and she was awaiting Stradling.
On seeing Selkirk enter, she exclaimed to the boy, pointing to the
newly-arrived: 'A pot of ale!'
'No,' cried the young man smiling; 'the ale which I once drank here
was for me a philter full of bitterness; a glass of whiskey, if you
please,----' and, pointing to the little table opposite the bar at
which he was formerly accustomed to place himself, he said:
'Serve me there; I will return to my old habits.'
Catherine looked at him with astonishment.
'Does not pretty Kate recognize me?' said he in a caressing tone,
'How! Is it possible! is it you, indeed, Sandy?'
'Yes, Alexander Selkirk, formerly a fugitive from the University of
St. Andrew; recently a master pilot in the royal marine; now, as ever,
your very humble servant.'
And they shook hands, and examined each other closely, but the
impression on both sides was far from being the same.
Catherine finds Selkirk much changed, but for the better; time and
navigation have been favorable to him. He is no longer the raw student
with embarrassed air, awkward manner, bony frame and dilapidated
costume; but a stout young man, with a broad chest, active and
graceful form; though his features are decidedly Scotch, they are
handsome; his eyes, less brilliant than formerly, are animated with a
more attractive thoughtfulness, and the naval uniform, which he still
wears, sets off his person to advantage.
On his part, Selkirk finds Catherine also much changed; the rosy
complexion, the soft voice, the youthful look, the twenty-two years,
all are gone. Her form has assumed a superabundant amplitude.
They drop each other's hands and utter a sigh; he, of regret; she, of
Both close their eyes, at the same time; she, with the fear of gazing
too earnestly; he, to recall the being of his imagination.
However this may be, she is not yet a woman to be despised by a
sailor. He therefore prolongs his visit: they come to interrogations,
Catherine acquaints him with the situation of her little business
affairs; her fortune is improving; she gives him an estimate of it in
round numbers, as well as of the suitors she has rejected; but she
does not mention Captain Stradling, whose arrival she yet fears every
Selkirk relates to her his campaigns, his combats against the French,
against the Danish, the victorious attack of the English ships against
the great boom of Vigo; but, when she asks him what motive has brought
him back to St. Andrew, he replies boldly that he came to see her and
no one else, and says not a word of Captain Dampier, whom he is even
now impatient to meet.
At last the old friends say adieu.
Then the gallant sailor, with an apparent effort, goes away, not
forgetting, however, to drink his glass of whiskey.
And this is the reason why, on the third day, Catherine has the
vapors; this is the reason why, notwithstanding her soft words of the
evening before and her grand morning toilette, she receives so coldly
the scarred adversary of the celebrated Jean Bart.
During the whole of the week following, Stradling, Dampier and
Selkirk, did not fail to meet at the Royal Salmon. Selkirk came to see
Dampier; Dampier came to see Stradling; Stradling came to see
The latter thought the young man already knew the two others, that he
had sailed with them, and was not surprised at their intimacy.
Sometimes Selkirk, leaving his companions in the midst of their
bottles and glasses, would describe a tangent towards the counter, and
come to converse with the pretty hostess. He no longer felt love for
her, and notwithstanding this, perhaps for this very reason, he now
Kitty blushed, was embarrassed, and poor Captain Stradling, listening
with all his ears to the narratives of his illustrious friend William
Dampier, or pre-occupied with his pipe, lost in its cloud, saw
nothing,--or seemed to see nothing.
Nevertheless one evening, he went, in his turn, to lean on the
'Kate,' said he, 'when is our marriage to take place?'
'Are you thinking of that still?' replied she, with an air of levity
which would once have became her better; 'I hoped this fancy had
passed out of your head.'
'I may then set out on my voyage, Kate?'
'Why not? We will talk of our plans on your return.'
'But I am going to make the tour of the world, as well as my friend
Dampier. Kate, it is the affair of three years!'
'So much the better! it will give us both time for reflection.'
'It is well!' replied the phlegmatic Englishman, and nothing on his
polar face betokened an afterthought.
The doors closed, the lights extinguished, Catherine retired to rest
the happiest woman in the world. She said to herself: 'Alexander loves
me, and has loved me for eight years! he deserves to be rewarded. He
has less money than the other, it is a misfortune; but he has more
youth and grace, that balances it. As to rank, a master pilot of
twenty-four is as far advanced as a captain of forty. Between Selkirk
and myself, if the wealth is on my side, on his will be gratitude and
little attentions. At all events, I prefer a young husband who will
whisper words of love in my ear, to amusing myself by pouring out
drink for my lord and master, while he smokes his pipe, with his feet
on the brands. Was it not thus that icicle, dressed in blue, called
Stradling, talked to me of the pleasures of marriage? And what a name!
But Mistress Selkirk!--that sounds well. In our Scotland, there is the
county of Selkirk, the town of Selkirk; there is even a great nobleman
of this name, who is something like minister to our Queen Anne, I
believe. Who knows? we are perhaps of his family! As for walking about
the port arm-in-arm with a captain, I am sure my very dear friends and
neighbors would die with jealousy if I took, instead of this scarred
captain, a young and handsome man. It is settled. I will marry
Alexander; to-morrow I will myself announce it to him. I hope he will
not die of joy!'
On the morrow she attired herself as on the day of Selkirk's return,
in her beautiful dress of cloth and silk, with the two little curls
upon her temples. She thus waited a great part of the day. At last,
about four o'clock, Selkirk arrives in haste, his face beaming with
joy, and a gleam of triumph in his eye.
'Has he then,' thought Catherine, 'a presentiment of the happiness in
store for him?'
'Congratulate me, pretty Kitty,' said the young man, almost out of
breath; 'I am appointed mate of the brig Swordfish, which I am to join
'How! you are going?'
'In an hour.'
'For a long time?'
'For three years at least. In a fortnight we set sail for the East
Indies. It will be a great commercial voyage and a voyage of
discovery. Unfortunately William Dampier does not accompany us; but he
furnishes funds to the brave Captain Stradling.'
'Yes, it is he who has just engaged me, and with whom I am to sail.
Our agreement is signed,--I am mate! I am going to explore the New
World! Ah! I would not exchange my fate for that of a king. But time
presses; adieu, Kitty, till I see you again!'
'Three years!' murmured Catherine.
And her curls grew straight beneath the cold perspiration that covered
The Tour of the World.--The Way to manufacture Negroes--California.
--The Eldorado.--Revolt of Selkirk.--The Log-Book.--Degradation.
--A Free Shore.
The Swordfish, well provisioned, even with guns and ammunition, left
Dunbar one morning with a fresh breeze, sailed down the North Sea,
passed Ireland, France and Spain, the Azores, Canaries, and Cape Verd
Islands on the coast of Africa, and, after having stopped for a short
time in the harbors of Guinea and Congo, doubled the Cape of Good
Hope, amid the traditional tempest.
Entering the Indian Ocean, and passing through the Straits of Sunda,
she touched at Borneo, and at Java, reached the Southern Sea by the
Gulf of Siam, passed the Philippine Isles, then, through the vast
regions of the Pacific Ocean, pursued the route which had been marked
out by the exploring ship of William Dampier in 1686. Like that, the
Swordfish remained a few days at the Island of St. Pierre, before
launching into that immensity where, during nearly two months, wave
only succeeded to wave; at last she reached the coasts of South
America, and cast anchor in the Gulf of California.
This gigantic voyage, which seemed as if it must have been attempted
under the inspiration of science and with the hope of the most
important discoveries, had been undertaken by Stradling with no object
but of traffic and even of rapine. These had been the great ends of
most of the bold enterprises which had preceded. The Spanish and
Portuguese, in their discoveries of new continents, had thought less
of glory than of riches; they had conquered the New World only to
pillage it; the vanquished who escaped extermination, were forced to
dig their native soil, not to render it more fruitful, but to procure
from it, for the profit of the vanquisher, the gold it might contain.
Among the European nations, those who had had no part in the conquest
now sought to share the spoils. For this the least pretext of war or
Stradling availed himself of both these pretences; when he touched at
the coasts of Guinea and Congo, it was to obtain negroes whom he
expected to sell in America. At Borneo, the opportunity presented
itself for an advantageous disposal of the greater part of his black
merchandize; as he was a man of resources and not at all scrupulous,
he soon found means to replace them.
In the Straits of Sunda, several barques, manned by negroes and
Malays, had become entangled in the masses of seaweed which are every
where floating on the surface of the wave; Stradling encountered them,
made the rowers enter his ship, and obligingly took the barques in
tow, to extricate them from their difficulty. But those who ascended
the side of the Swordfish, descended only to be sold in their turn.
Although he had received an education superior to that of his
companions, Selkirk shared in the prejudices of his times; he had
therefore found nothing objectionable in seeing his captain exchange
at Congo little mirrors, a few glass beads, half a dozen useless guns,
and some gallons of brandy, for men still young and vigorous, torn
from their country and their families. Their skin was of another
color, their heads woolly; this was a profitable traffic, recognized
by governments; but when he saw Stradling seize the property of others
to refill his empty hold, he could not control his indignation and
boldly expressed it:
'It is for their salvation,' replied the captain, without emotion; 'we
will make Christians of them.'
On approaching the Vermilion Sea, a deep gulf which separates
California from the American continent, and makes it almost an island,
the Malays were rubbed with a mixture of tar and dragon's blood,
dissolved in a caustic oil, to give to their olive skins a deeper
shade, and their flat noses and silky hair making them pass for Yolof
negroes, they were exchanged at Cape St. Lucas, along with the rest,
for pearls and native productions.
The young mate thought this proceeding not less mean and dishonorable
than the first; he made new observations.
'Nothing now remains to be done, captain,' said he, 'but to shave and
besmear with tar the monkey you have just bought, and to include it
among your new race of negroes.'
This time, the captain looked at him askance, and shrugged his
shoulders without replying.
The storm was beginning to growl in the distance.
It was not without a secret object that, in his course through the
Southern Sea, Stradling had first of all aimed at California.
He devoted an entire month to cruising along both shores of this
almost island, and penetrating all the bays of the Vermilion Sea; he
hoped to find there a passage to an unknown land, then predicted and
coveted by all navigators. What was this land? The _Eldorado_!
Although I would hasten over these details of the voyage to arrive at
the more important events of this history; now that the recent
discovery of the immense mines of gold buried beneath the hills of
California has aroused the entire world, that the name alone of
_Sacramento_ seems to fill with gold the mouth which pronounces it,
there is a curious fact, perhaps entirely unknown, which I cannot pass
over in silence.
After the middle of the sixteenth century, and long before the
seventeenth, a vague rumor, a confused tradition, had located, in the
neighborhood of the Vermilion Sea, a famed land, whose rivers rolled
over gold, and whose mountains rested on golden foundations; the
treasures of Mexico and Peru were nothing in comparison with those
which were to be gathered there. An ingot of native gold was talked
of, of a _pepite_ or eighty pounds weight.
It was a grape from the promised land.
This marvellous country had been named, in advance, _Eldorado_.
Among the bold Argonauts of these two centuries, there was a contest
as to who should first raise his flag over this new Colchis, defended,
it was said, by the Apaches, a terrible, sanguinary and cannibal race,
whom Cortez himself could not subdue. This land of gold some had
located in New Biscay or New Mexico; others, in the pretended kingdoms
of Sonora and Quivira; then, after several ineffectual attempts, the
possibility of reaching it was denied; learned men, from the various
academies of Europe, proved that the _Eldorado_ was not a country, but
a dream; on this subject the Old World laughed at the New; the
Argonauts became discouraged, and during a century the subject was
named only to be ridiculed.
And yet, in spite of sceptics and scoffers, the _Eldorado_ existed. It
existed where tradition had placed it, on the shores of this Vermilion
Sea, now the Gulf of California. For once, popular opinion had the
advantage over scientific dissertations and philosophic denials;
there, where, according to the Dictionary of Alcedo, nothing had been
discovered but mines of pewter! where Jacques Baegert had indeed
acknowledged the presence of gold, but _in meagre veins_; where Raynal
had named as curiosities only fishes and pearls, declaring, in
California, _the sea richer than the land_; where in our own times M.
Humboldt discovered nothing but cylindrical cacti, on a sandy soil,
remained buried, as a deposit for future ages, this treasure of the
world, which seemed to be waiting in order to leave its native soil,
the moment of falling into the hands of a commercial and industrious
people, that of the United States.
This _Eldorado_, Stradling sought in vain; he therefore decided to
pursue his route along the coast of Mexico, now under the French flag,
when he found an opportunity for traffic with the natives, colonists
or savages; now under the English flag, when he wished to exercise his
trade of corsair, an easy profession, for since the disaster of Vigo,
the Spanish had abandoned their transatlantic possessions to
The Spanish soldiery of America then found themselves, in the presence
of European adventurers, in that state of pusillanimous inferiority in
which had been, at the period of the conquest, the subjects of the
Incas and Montezuma before the soldiers of Cortez and Pizarro. The
time was not already far passed, when a few bands of freebooters, from
France, England and Holland, had well nigh wrested from his Majesty,
the King of Spain and the Indies, the most extensive and wealthy of
his twenty-two hereditary kingdoms.
Stradling was following in the footsteps of these freebooters.
Recently, two little cities on the coast had been put under
contribution for the supplies of the Swordfish; there had been
resistance, a threatened attack, a parley, and capitulation; in this
affair, the young mate had nobly distinguished himself both as a
combatant and a negotiator, and yet the captain had not deigned to
give him a share in his distribution of compliments.
Selkirk felt an irritation the more lively that this shore life began
to be irksome. Not that his conscience disturbed him any more than in
the treatment of the blacks; he thought it as honorable to war with
the Spaniards in the New World, as to be beaten by them in the Old;
but he compared his present chief, Captain Stradling, with his former
commander, the noble and brave Admiral Rooke; the parallel extended in
his mind to his old companions in the royal navy, all so frank, so
gay, so loyal,--among whom he had yet never found a friend,--and his
new companions of to-day, recruited for the most part in the marshy
lowlands of the merchant marine of Scotland; his thoughts became
overshadowed, and his desires for independence, which dated from his
college life, returned in full force.
As much as his duties permitted, he loved to isolate himself from all;
when he could remain some time alone in his cabin, or gaze upon the
sea from a retired corner of the deck and watch the ploughing of the
vessel, then only he was happy.
As if to increase his uneasiness, Stradling became daily more severe
and more exacting towards his chief officer; he imposed upon him rude
labors foreign to his station. It seemed as if he were determined to
drive him to desperation.
Selkirk protested against such treatment, and recapitulated his
subjects of complaint. The other paid no more attention than he would
have done to the buzzing of a fly.
Irritated by this outrageous impassibility, the young man declared
that there should no longer be any thing in common between them, and
that, whatever fate might await him, he demanded to be set on shore.
Stradling touched his forehead:
'That is a good idea,' said he, and he turned away.
The next day, they reached the Isthmus of Panama; the persevering
Selkirk returned to the charge: 'The moment is favorable for ridding
yourself of me, and me of you,' said he to the captain; 'let the boat
convey me to the shore; I will cross the Isthmus, reach the Gulf of
Darien, the North Sea, and return to Scotland, even before the
This time the honest corsair listened attentively, then shaking his
head and winking his eye, with the smile of a hungry vampire, replied:
'You are then in great haste to be married, comrade.'
It was the first word he had addressed to him relative to Catherine
during this long voyage, and this word Selkirk had not even
They were about passing Panama: the vessel continuing her voyage,
Selkirk interposed his authority, ordered the men to put about, take
in sail and approach the shore.
This Stradling prohibited, uttered a formidable oath, and commanded
the young man to bring the log-book. When it was brought, he made the
'To-day, Sept. 24th, 1704, Alexander Selkirk, mate of this vessel,
having mutinied and attempted to desert to the enemy, we have deprived
him of his title and his office; in case of obstinacy we shall hang
him to the yard-arm.'
And he read the sentence to the offender.
From this day, the rebel saw himself compelled to serve in the
Swordfish as a simple sailor, and his subordinates of yesterday,
to-day his equals, indemnified themselves for the authority he had
exercised over them, which did not cure him of that native contempt he
had always felt for mankind.
A month passed away thus, during which the Swordfish several times
touched the shores of Peru, now to renew her supplies of provisions
and water, now to exchange with the Indians, nails, hatchets, knives,
and necklaces of beads, for gold dust, furs, and garments trimmed with
During one of these pauses, Selkirk, left on the ship, accosted the
captain once more. He knew that the remains of some bands of
freebooters were colonized there, leading a peaceful and agricultural
life; this fact was known to all. At Coquimbo in Chili, some English
and Dutch pirates had formed a settlement of this kind, now in the
full tide of prosperity. Selkirk, who, during an entire month, had not
spoken to the captain, now demanded, in a voice which he attempted to
render calm and almost supplicating, to be landed at Coquimbo, from
which they were only a few days sail.
'You will not this time accuse me of wishing to desert to the enemy;
they are the English, Scotch, Dutch, our countrymen and allies whom I
wish to join! Do you still suspect me? Well, do not content yourself
with setting me on shore; place me in the hands of the chief men of
the settlement. Will that suit you?'
Stradling winked significantly; but this was all.
'Ah!' resumed the young man with increasing emotion, 'do not think to
detain me longer on board, to crush me beneath this humiliation! I
consented to serve under your orders as mate, and you have made me the
lowest of your sailors; this you had no right to do.'
Stradling took his glass and directed it towards the shore, where his
people were engaged in trafficking their beads and hardware.
Raising his head and folding his arms:
'Captain,' pursued Selkirk with vehemence, 'some day or other we shall
return to England, where the laws protect all; there, I shall have the
right of complaint, and Queen Anne loves to render justice; beware!'
Stradling, still spying, began to whistle _God save the Queen_; then
he called his monkey and made it gambol before him.
'I will depart, I will free myself from your presence, and that of
your worthy companions; I will do so at all events, do you
understand!' exclaimed Selkirk exasperated, 'I will not endure your
infamous treatment another week! If you refuse to consent to my
demand, I will leave without your permission; were the vessel twenty
miles from the land, and were I to perish twenty times on the way, I
will attempt to swim ashore. Will you land me at Coquimbo, yes or no?
By way of reply, Stradling ordered him to be confined in the hold.
Poor Selkirk! Ah! if pretty Kitty, if the beautiful landlady of the
Royal Salmon could know all thou hast endured for her sake, how many
tears would her fine eyes shed over thy fate! But who knows whether
she will ever hear of thee? Who can tell whether any human being will
learn the sufferings in reserve for thee?
Poor Selkirk! you who painted to yourself so smiling a picture of this
grand voyage to America; who hoped to leave, like Dampier, your name
to some strait, some newly discovered island; you who dreamed of
scientific walks in vast prairies and under the arches of virgin
forests, you have shared only in the career of a trafficker and a
pirate; of this New World, full of marvellous sights, you have seen
only the shore, the fringe of the mantle, the margin of this last work
Poor Selkirk, must you then return to your cold and foggy Scotland,
without having contemplated at your ease, beneath the brilliant sun of
the tropics, one of those Edens overshadowed by the luxuriant verdure
of palm-trees, bananas, mimosas and gigantic ferns? In your country,
the bark of the trees is clad with lichens and mosses, and the
parasite mistletoe suspends itself to the branches, more as a burden
than as an ornament; here, numerous families of the orchis, with their
singular forms, showy and variegated blossoms, climb along the knotty
stems of the tall monarchs of the forests; from their feet spring up,
as if to enlace them with a magic network, the brilliant passiflora,
the vanilla with its intoxicating perfume, the banisteria whose roots
seem to have dived into mines of gold and borrowed from thence the
color of its petals! Hither the birds of Paradise and Brazilian
parrots come to build their nests; here the bluebird and the
purple-necked wood-pigeon coo and sing; here, like swarms of bees,
thousands of humming-birds of mingled emerald and sapphire, warble and
glitter as they suck the nectar from the flowers. This was what you
hoped to contemplate, poor Selkirk! and this joy, like many others, is
In his floating prison, in his submarine cell, his only employment is
to listen to the dashing of the waves against the ship, or now and
then to catch a glimpse of the blue sky through the hatchways.
What cares he? He does not complain; he has learned to abhor mankind,
and he loves to be alone, in company with himself and his own
Several days passed in this manner.
One morning he felt the brig slacken its speed; the dashing of the
wave against the prow diminished, and the Swordfish, suddenly furling
its sails, after having slightly rocked hither and thither, stopped.
They had just cast anchor. Where? he knows not.
Soon he hears the rattling of the rope-ladder which serves as a
stairway to those above who would communicate with his prison. They
come, on the part of the captain, to seek him.
He finds the latter seated on the deck, surrounded by his principal
'Young man,' said Stradling, 'I have been obliged to be severe for the
sake of an example; but you have been sufficiently punished by the
time you have passed below there,'--and he pointed to the ship's hold.
'Now, your wish shall be granted. You shall be allowed to land.'
And the rare smile which sometimes hovered on his lips, stole over his
'So much the better,' replied Selkirk, laconically.
The boat was let down; he entered it, and ten minutes afterwards
disembarked on a green shore, where the waves, as they broke upon it,
seemed to murmur softly in his ear the word, _liberty_!
The boat immediately rejoined the ship, which set sail, coasted along
Chili and Patagonia, and re-entered the Northern Sea by the Straits of
Inspection of the Country.--Marimonda.--A City seen through the Fog.
--The Sea every where.--Dialogue with a Toucan.--The first Shot.
--Declaration of War.--Vengeance.--A Terrestrial Paradise.
While watching the departure of the Swordfish, Alexander Selkirk felt
the same sensation as on that day when he had seen the doors of the
college of St. Andrew thrown open for his exit; once more he was his
own master. Now, however, it is at some thousands of miles from his
country that he must reap the benefits of his independence, and this
idea embitters his emotions of joy.
But is he not about to find countrymen at Coquimbo? And if their
society should be unpleasing?--if their habits, their mode of life,
their persons, should become objects of antipathy to the misanthropic
Selkirk, as it is but natural to fear? Well! after all, no engagement
binds him to them; he will be always free to enter, in the capacity of
a sailor, the first vessel which may leave for Europe.
Determined to act as shall seem good to him,--to make some excursions
into the interior of the continent, if an opportunity presents itself,
and he will know how to make one,--he casts a first glance at the land
of his adoption.
Before him extends a vast shore, studded with groves of trees, covered
with fine turf and little flowers joyfully unfolding their petals to
the sun: two streams, having their source at the very base of the
opposite hills, after having meandered around this immense lawn, unite
almost at his feet.
He bends down to one of these streams, fills the hollow of his hand
with water, and tastes it, as a libation, and as a toast to the
generous land which has just received him; the water is excellent; he
plucks a flower, and continues his inspection.
On his left rise high mountains, terraced and verdant, excepting at
their summits, on one of which he perceives a goat, with long horns,
stationed there immovable like a sentinel, and whose delicate profile
is clearly defined on the azure of the sky. On the side towards the
sea, the mountains, bending their gray and naked heads, resemble stone
giants, watching the movements of the wave which dashes at their feet.
On his right, where the land declines, he sees little valleys linked
together with charming undulations; but on the mountains at his left,
in the valleys at his right, among the hills in the distance, his eye
vainly seeks the vestige of a human habitation.
He sets out in search of one. The boat from which he landed has
deposited on the shore his effects--his arms, his nautical
instruments, his charts, a Bible, and provisions of various kinds.
Notwithstanding his piratical sentiments, the captain of the Swordfish
has not designed to precede exile by confiscation. Selkirk takes his
gun, his gourd; but, unable to carry all his riches, he conceals them
behind a stony thicket, well defended by the darts of the cactus, and
the sword-like leaves of the aloe, not caring to have the first comer
seize them as his booty.
As he is occupied with this duty, he feels himself suddenly clasped by
two long hairy arms; he turns his head, it is Marimonda, the captain's
monkey, a female of the largest species.
How came she there? Selkirk does not know.
Disgusted with her sea-voyages, with the intelligence natural to her
race, Marimonda has undoubtedly profited by the moment of the boat's
leaving the ship to conceal herself in it and gain the shore along
with the prisoner, which she might easily have done, unseen by all,
during the transporting of the effects and provisions.
However this may be, Selkirk begins by freeing himself from her grasp,
repulses the monkey and sets out: but the latter perseveres in
following, and after having, by her most graceful grimaces, sought to
conciliate him, marches beside him. Not caring to arrive at Coquimbo
escorted by such a companion, which would give him in a city the
appearance of a mountebank and showman of monkeys, Selkirk, this time,
repulses her rudely, not with his hand, but with the butt of his gun.
Struck in the breast by this home thrust, the poor monkey stops, rolls
up her eyes, moves her lips, and growling confusedly her complaints
and reproaches, crouches beneath a tuft of the sapota, leaving the man
to pursue his way alone.
Selkirk has at first directed his steps toward the valleys; after
having traversed these, he arrives at the margin of a sandy plain, and
as far as the eye can reach, perceives neither city, village, house,
tent nor hut, nothing which can indicate the presence of inhabitants.
Nevertheless, a little grove which he has just traversed, seems to
have recently, in its principal path, passed under the shears of a
gardener; the foliage presents a certain symmetry; fragments of
branches are strewed, on the ground, which seem to have been freshly
cut; he even thinks he sees vestiges of the passage of a flock. On the
lawn of the shore, he has seen, and still sees around him, trees with
tufted heads, which must owe this form to art. He continues his
At last, in the distance, beneath a fog which is just beginning to
dissolve, he perceives a vast mass of white and red houses, some with
terraced roofs, others covered with thatch; through the humid veil
which envelopes them, he sees the glistening of the glass in the
windows; already he hears at his feet the confused noise of cities;
murmuring voices reply; the measured sound of hammers and of mills
even reaches his ear.
It is Coquimbo! he cannot doubt it, and shortening his route by a path
across the hill, he quickens his pace.
Meanwhile an east wind arises, the fog disappears; when he thinks he
has reached the suburbs of the city, Selkirk sees before him only an
irregular assemblage of calcareous stones, crowned with dry herbs, or
reddish, arid, angular rocks, flattened at their summits, tessellated
with fragments of silex and mica, on which the sun is just pouring his
rays; a company of goats, which the mist had condemned to a momentary
repose, are bounding here and there, startling flocks of clamorous
black-birds and plaintive sea-gulls; the fearless and yellow-crested
woodpeckers alone do not stir, but continue to hammer with their sharp
beaks at some old stunted trees.
The disenchantment is painful for our sailor; the fog has deceived him
with the semblance of a city, as it has more than once deluded us in
the midst of plains and woods, by the appearance of an ocean with its
white waves, its great capes, its bold shores, and its vessels at
Perhaps Coquimbo is still beyond. Fearing to lose himself if he
ventures farther in an unknown land, he resolves to explore it first
by a look. Returning to the shore upon which he had landed, he scales
the mountains on the north, reaches the first platform, and from
thence seeks to discover some indications of a city. Nothing! he still
ascends, the circle enlarges around him, but with no better result.
Summoning all his courage, through a thousand difficulties, climbing,
drawing himself up by the arid and abrupt rocks, piled one upon
another, he at last attains a culminating point of the mountain. He
can now embrace with his eye an immense horizon, but this immense
horizon is the sea! On his right, on his left, before him, behind him,
every where the sea!
He is not on the continent, but on an island.
This evening, exhausted with fatigue, he lies down in a grotto at the
foot of the mountain, where he passes a night full of agitation and
Rising with the sun, his first care, the next morning, is to examine
his riches and his provisions. He returns to the thicket of cactus and
Besides two guns, two hatchets, a knife, an iron pot, a Bible and
nautical instruments, all articles belonging to him, he finds there a
quantity of nails, a large fragment of a sail, several horns of powder
and shot; a bag of ship biscuit, a salted quarter of pork, a little
cask of pickled fish, and a dozen cocoa-nuts.
The night before, at sight of these articles, he had supposed a
sentiment of justice and humanity to exist in the soul of the corsair.
Just now, he had said to himself that Stradling, deceived by a false
reckoning of latitude, had landed him on an island, perhaps believing
it to be a projecting shore of the continent. Now, the abundance of
his supplies, this biscuit, these salt provisions, these fruits of the
cocoa, all valueless if he had really landed at Coquimbo, lead him to
suspect that the vindictive Englishman has designedly chosen the place
of his exile.
But this exile, is it complete isolation? Is the island inhabited or
deserted? If it is inhabited, as he still believes he has reason to
suppose, by whom is it so?
That he may obtain a reply to this double question, he resolves to
traverse the country in its whole extent. At the very commencement of
his journey, the immobility of a bird suffices to give to the doubt,
on which his thoughts vacillate, the appearance almost of a certainty.
This bird is a toucan, of brilliant plumage and monstrous beak.
Selkirk passes near it, with his eyes fixed on the branch which serves
as a perch, and the toucan, without stirring, looks at him with a
species of calm and placid astonishment.
Selkirk stops; he comprehends the mute language of the bird.
'You do not know then what a man is! He is the enemy of every creature
to whom God has given life, the enemy even of his kind! You have then
never been threatened by the arms that I bear!'
And with the palm of his hand, striking the butt of his gun, he made
the hammer click.
At the sound of his voice, as at the noise of the hammer, the bird
raised its head, manifesting new and redoubled surprise, but without
any other movement. It seemed to think that the man and the gun were
one, and that its strange interlocutor possessed two different voices.
At last, by way of reply, it uttered a few shrill and prolonged cries,
accompanied by the rattling of its two horny mandibles. After which,
acting the great nobleman, cutting short the audience he has deigned
to grant, the toucan is silent, turns its head, proudly raises one of
its wings and busies itself in smoothing, with the point of its large
beak, its beautiful greenish feathers, variegated with purple.
At some distance from this spot, still following the margin of a
wooded hill, Selkirk sees other birds, some in their nests, others
warbling in the shade; all manifesting no more alarm at his presence
than did the toucan. Crested orioles, hooded bullfinches, alight to
pick up little grains or insects almost at his feet; humming-birds,
variegated cotingas, red manaquins flutter before him in the sunbeams,
pursuing invisible flies; little wood-peckers, black or green, hop
around the trunks of the trees, stopping a moment to see him pass and
then resuming their spiral ascent.
The confidence which he inspires is not confined to these winged
people. Upon a hillock of turf he perceives an animal, with pointed
nose, brown fur enamelled with red spots, and of the size of a hare;
seated on its hind paws, longer than those in front, it uses these,
after the manner of squirrels, to carry to its mouth some nuts of the
maripa, which constitute its breakfast. It is an agouti, a mother,
her little ones are near. At sight of the stranger they run to her,
but quickly re-assured, quietly finish their morning repast.
Farther on, coatis, with short ears, and long tails; companies of
little Guinea pigs; armadillos, a species of hedge-hog without the
quills, but covered with an armor of scales, more compact and
impervious than that of the ancient knights of the Middle Ages,
arrange themselves along the line of his route, as if to pass him in
[Footnote 1: _Agouti_. An animal of the bigness of a rabbit, with
bright red hair, and a little tail without hair. He has but two teeth
in each jaw; holds his meat in his forepaws like a squirrel, and has a
very remarkable cry: when he is angry, his hair stands on end, and he
strikes the earth with his hind feet; and when chased, he flies to a
hollow tree, whence he is expelled by smoke.--_Trevoux_.]
[Footnote 2: The _coati_ is a native of Brazil, not unlike the racoon
in the general form of the body, and, like that animal, it frequently
sits up on the hinder legs, and in this position carries its food to
its mouth. If left at liberty in a state of tameness, it will pursue
poultry, and destroy every living thing that it has strength to
conquer. When it sleeps it rolls itself into a lump, and remains
immovable for fifteen hours together. His eyes are small, but full of
life; and when domesticated, this creature is very playful and
amusing. A great peculiarity belonging to this animal is the length of
his snout, which resembles in some particulars the trunk of the
elephant, as it is movable in every direction. The ears are round, and
like those of a rat; the forefeet have five toes each. The hair is
short and rough on the back, and of a blackish color; the tail is
marked with rings of black, like the wild cat; the rest of the animal
is a mixture of black and red.]
Alas! this general quiet does but deepen in the heart of Selkirk the
certainty of his isolation.
Nevertheless, yesterday, said he to himself, in this thick wood, did I
not see alleys trimmed with the shears, trees shaped by the
And the little grove which he visited the evening previous, at that
instant presents itself before him. He examines the trees; they are
myrtles of various heights; but among their glossy branches, he in
vain seeks traces of the pruning-knife or shears; nature alone has
thus disposed in spheroids or umbels the extremities of this rich
The same disappointment awaits him in the underwood. The only pruners
have been goats, or other animals, daintily cropping the green shoots.
Then only does the complete and terrible certainty of his disaster
fall on him and crush him. Behold him blotted from the number of men,
perhaps condemned to die of misery and of hunger! more securely
imprisoned, more entirely forgotten by the world than the most
hardened criminal plunged in the lowest depths of the Bastile! He at
least, has a jailor! Miserable Stradling!
At this moment he hears a noise above his head: it is the monkey.
Marimonda, on her side, has also inspected the island; she has already
tasted its productions. Whether she is satisfied with her discoveries,
or whether forgiveness and forgetfulness of injuries are natural to
her, on perceiving her old companion, wagging her head in token of
good-will, she descends towards him from the tree on which she is
But Marimonda is the captain's monkey; she has been his property, his
favorite, his flatterer! In the disposition of mind in which Selkirk
finds himself, he does not need these thoughts to make him pitiless.
Marimonda reminds him of Stradling; the monkey shall pay for the man!
He lowers his gun, and fires. The monkey has seen the movement and
divined his intentions; she has only time to retreat behind her tree,
which does not prevent her receiving in her side a part of the charge.
This detonation of fire-arms, the first perhaps which has resounded in
this corner of the earth since the creation of the world, as it is
prolonged from echo to echo, even to the highest mountains, awakens in
every part of the island as it were a groan of distress. Instinct,
that sublime prescience, has revealed to all that a great peril has
just been born.
To the cries of affright from birds of every species, to the uneasy
and distant bleating of the goats, succeeds a plaintive moaning, like
the voice of a wailing infant.
It is Marimonda lamenting over her wound.
At nightfall, after an entire day of walks and explorations, Selkirk
is returning to his grotto on the shore, when he sees a stone fall at
his feet, then another.
While he, astonished, is seeking to divine the direction from which
this invisible battery plays, a little date-stone hits him on the
cheek. He immediately hears as it were a joyous whistling in the
foliage, which is agitated at his right, and sees Marimonda leaping
from tree to tree, using for this movement her feet, her tail, and one
hand; for she holds the other to her side. It is a compress on her
War is already in the island! Selkirk has a declared enemy here! And
this island, is it deserted? He has just traversed it in every
direction without seeing any thing which betokens the existence of a
His disaster is then complete; henceforth not a doubt of it can exist.
And yet his forehead wears rather the character of hope and fortitude
than of discouragement; it is more than resignation, it is pride.
He has just visited his empire. The island, irregular in form, is from
four to five leagues in length; in breadth it is from one and a half
to two leagues. This abode to which he is condemned, is the most
enchanting retreat he could have chosen; a luxuriant park cradled upon
If sometimes, in the mountainous parts, he has encountered sterile and
rugged rocks, even abysses and precipices, they seem to be placed
there only as a contrast to the fresh and green valleys which encircle
them. If he has seen some dark, dense, inaccessible forests, entangled
in the thousand arms of interwoven vines, he has not discovered a
Every where, springs of living water, little streams which are lost
under a thick verdure, or fall in cascades from the summits of the
hills; every where a luxuriant vegetation; esculent and refreshing
plants, celery, cresses, sorrel, spring in profusion beneath his feet;
over his head, and almost within reach of his hand, palm-cabbages, and
unknown fruits of succulent appearance: on the margin of the shores,
muscles, periwinkles, shell-fish of every species, crabs crawling in
the moist sand; beneath the transparent waters, innumerable shoals of
fishes of all colors, all forms. Will game be wanting here? After what
he has seen this morning, he will not even need his gun to obtain it.
Oh! his provision of powder will last him a long time.
What has he to desire more in this terrestrial Paradise? The society
of men? Why? That he may find a master, a chief, under whose will he
must bend? Men! but he despises, detests them! Is he not then
sufficient for himself? Yes! this shall be his glory, his happiness!
To live in entire liberty, to depend only upon himself, will not this
impart to his soul true dignity? Besides, this island cannot be so far
from the coast, but, from time to time, ships, or at least boats must
come in sight. This is then for him but a transient seclusion; but
were he even condemned to eternal isolation, this isolation has ceased
to terrify him, he accepts it! Has he not almost always lived alone,
in spirit at least? When he was in the depths of the hold, was he not
better satisfied with his fate than when surrounded by those coarse
sailors who composed the worthy crew of the Swordfish?
To-day he is no longer the prisoner of Stradling, he is the prisoner
of God! and this thought reassures him.
A sailor, he has never loved but the sea; well! the sea surrounds him,
guards him! He has then only thanks to render to God.
Arrived at his grotto, he takes his Bible, opens it; but the sun,
suddenly sinking below the horizon, permits him to read only this
passage on which his finger is placed: 'Thou shalt perish in thy
Labors of the Colonist.--His Study.--Fishing.--Administration.
--Selkirk Island.--The New Prometheus.--What is wanting to Happiness.
--Encounter with Marimonda.--Monologue.
Three months have passed away.
Thanks to Selkirk, the shore which received him at his disembarkation,
presents to-day an aspect not only picturesque, but animated. The hand
of man has made itself felt there.
The bushes and tufts of trees which hid the view of the hills in the
distance, have been uprooted and cut down; pretty paths, covered with
gravel, wind over the vast lawn; one in the direction of the valleys
at the right, another towards the mountains at the left; a third leads
to a tall mimosa, whose topmost boughs and dense foliage spread out
like a parasol. A wooden bench, composed of some round sticks, driven
into the earth, with branches interwoven and covered with bark,
surrounds it; a rustic table, constructed in the same manner, stands
at the foot of the tree. This is the study and place of meditation of
the exile; here also he comes to take his meals, in sight of the sea.
All three paths terminate in the grotto which Selkirk continues to
make his residence. This grotto he has enlarged, quarried out with his
hatchet, to make room for himself, his furniture, and provisions. He
has even attempted to decorate its exterior with a bank of turf, and
several species of creeping plants, trained to cover its calcareous
nudity. At the entrance of his habitation, rise two young palm-trees,
transplanted there by him, to serve as a portico. But nature is not
always obedient to man; the vines and palm-trees do not prosper in
their new location, and now the long flexible branches of the one, and
the broad leaves of the other, droop half withered above the grotto,
which they disfigure rather than decorate.
By constant care, and with the aid of his streams, Selkirk hopes to be
able to restore them to life and health. He has imposed on his two
streams another duty, that of supplying a bed of water-cresses and a
fish-pond, both provident establishments, the first of which has
succeeded perfectly. As for the second, his most arduous task has
been, not to dig the fish-pond, but to people it. For this purpose he
has been compelled to become a fisherman, to manufacture a net. He has
succeeded, with some threads from his fragment of a sail, the fibres
of his cocoa-nuts, and tough reeds, woven in close meshes;
unfortunately those fine fishes, breams, eels and angel-fish, which
show themselves so readily through the limpid wave, are not as easy to
catch as to see. Under the surface, almost at a level with the water,
there is a ledge of rocks, upon which the net cannot be managed. After
several fruitless attempts, he is obliged to content himself with the
insignificant employment of fishing with a line; a nail flattened,
sharpened and bent, performs the office of a hook. Success ensues, but
only with time and patience; fortunately the sea-crabs allow
themselves to be caught with the hand, and the fish-pond does not long
remain useless and deserted.
Besides, has not our fortunate Selkirk the resource of hunting? The
chase he had commenced generously, like a wise monarch, who wages war
only for the general interest. It is true, that as it happens with
most wise monarchs, his own private interest is also to be consulted,
at least he thinks so.
Wild cats existed in the island, destroying young broods, agoutis, and
other small game; he has almost entirely rid it of these pirates,
reserving to himself only the right of levying upon his subjects the
tribute of blood. He has already signalized his administration by acts
of an entirely different nature.
This king without a people, is ignorant in what part of the great
ocean, and at what distance from its shores, is situated his nameless
Armed with his spy-glass, by the aid of his nautical charts, he
attempts to ascertain, by the position of the stars, its longitude and
latitude. He at first believes himself to be in one of the islands
forming the group of Chiloe; his calculations rectified, he afterwards
thinks it the Island of Juan Fernandez, then San Ambrosio, or San
Felix. Unable to determine the location exactly, for want of correct
instruments, he persuades himself that the country he inhabits has
never been surveyed, that it is really a land without a name, and he
gives it his own; he calls it Selkirk Island.
Ambitious youth, thou hast thus realized one of thy brightest dreams!
Dost thou remember the day when, on the way from Largo to St. Andrew,
to join William Dampier, thou didst already see thyself the chief of a
new country, discovered and baptized by thee?
Well! has he not more than discovered this country? He inhabits it, he
governs it, he reigns in it! Not satisfied with giving his name to the
island, he soon creates a special nomenclature for its various
localities. To the shore upon which he landed, he gives the name of
_Swordfish Beach_; the pile of white and red rocks, which he saw
through the fog, is the _False Coquimbo_; he calls _Toucan Forest_,
the wood where he saw that bird for the first time; the _Defile of
Attack_, is that where Marimonda assaulted him with stones; upon these
arid rocks, furrowed by deep ravines and abounding in precipices, he
has imposed the odious name of _Stradling_! In his mountains he has
the _Oasis_; it is a little shady valley, enlivened by the murmur of a
streamlet, and with one extremity opening to the sea. There he often
goes to watch the game and the goats, which come to drink at the
brook. Above it rises the table-land, with difficulty scaled by him on
the day of his arrival, and from whence he became convinced that he
had landed on an island. This table-land, he has named _The
The two streams which meander over his lawn, and before his grotto,
have also received names. This, commissioned to feed the fish-pond,
and which gently warbles through the grass, he calls _The Linnet_; the
other, interrupted by little cascades, and whose course is more rapid
and impetuous, he calls _The Stammerer_.
He has now destroyed the noxious animals, administered government,
opened ways of communication, given a name to every part of his
island. How many great rulers have done no more!
But his labors have not been confined to his fish-pond, his bed of
water-cresses, his hunting, fishing, building, felling of trees; it
has become necessary to procure that essential element of
civilization, of comfort, fire.
What could the opulent proprietor of this enchanting abode do without
fire? Is it not necessary, if he would open a passage through the
dense woods? Is it not indispensable to his kitchen? Some of his
trees, it is true, afford fruits in abundance; but most of these
fruits are of a dry and woody nature; besides, young and vigorous,
easily acquiring an appetite by labor and exercise, can he content
himself with a dinner which is only a dessert? Surrounded with fishes
of all colors, with feathered and other game, must he then be reduced
to dispute with the agoutis, their maripa-nuts?
He reflects; armed with a bit of iron, he strikes the flinty rocks of
the mountains, to elicit from them useless sparks. He then remembers
that savages obtain fire without flint and matches, by the friction of
two pieces of dry wood; he tries, but in vain; he exhausts the
strength of his arms, without being discouraged; he tries each tree,
wishing even that a thunderbolt might strike the island, if it would
leave there a trace of burning. At last, almost discouraged, he
attacks the pimento-myrtle; he recommences his customary efforts of
rubbing. The twigs grow warm with the friction; a little white smoke
appears, fluttering to and fro between his hands, rapid and trembling
with emotion. The flame bursts forth! He utters a cry of triumph, and,
hastily collecting other twigs and dry reeds, he leaps for joy around
his fire, which, like another Prometheus, he has just stolen, not from
heaven, but from earth!
[Footnote 1: _Myrtus aromatica_; its berries are known under the name
of Jamaica pepper.]
Afterwards, in his gratitude, he runs to the myrtle, embraces it,
kisses it. An act of folly, perhaps; perhaps an act of gratitude,
which ascended higher than the topmost branches of the trees, higher
than the culminating summits of the mountains of the island.
But this fire, must he, each time he may need it, go through the same
tedious process? Not far from his grotto, in a cavity which a
projecting rock protects from the sea breeze, he piles up wood and
brush, sets fire to it, keeps it alive from time to time, by the
addition of combustibles, and comprehends why, among primitive
nations, the earliest worship should have been that of fire; why, from
Zoroaster to the Vestals, the care of preserving it should have been
At a later period, in the ordinary course of things, he simplified his
means of preservation. With some threads and the fat of his game, he
contrived a lamp; still later, he had oil, and reeds served him for
Dating from this moment, the entire island paid tribute to him; the
crabs, the eels, the flesh of the agouti, savory like that of the
rabbit, by turns figured on his table. When he seasoned them with some
morsels of pork, substituting ship biscuit for bread, his repasts were
fit for an admiral.
Although the goats had become wild, like the other inhabitants of the
island, since all had learned the nature of man, and of the thunder,
which he directed at his will, Selkirk still surprised them within
gun-shot. Not only was their flesh profitable for food; their horns,
long and hollow, served to contain powder and other small articles
necessary to his house-keeping; of their skins he made carpets,
coverings, and bags to protect his provisions from dampness. He even
manufactured a game-pouch, which he constantly carried when hunting.
His salt fish, his biscuit, some well smoked quarters of goat's flesh,
and the productions of his fish-pond, at present constitute a store on
which he can live for a long time, without any care, but to ameliorate
He is now in possession of all the enjoyments he has coveted,
abundance, leisure, absolute freedom.
And yet, his brow is sometimes clouded, and an unaccountable
uneasiness torments him; something seems wanting; his appetite fails,
his courage grows feeble, his reveries are painfully prolonged. But,
by mature reflection, he has discovered the cause of the evil.
What is it that is so essential to his happiness? Tobacco.
Our factitious wants often exercise over us a more tyrannical empire,
than our real ones; it seems as if we clung with more force and
tenacity to this second nature, because we have ourselves created it;
it originates in us; the other originates with God, and is common to
Selkirk now persuades himself that tobacco alone is wanting to his
comfort; it is this privation which throws him into these sorrowful
fits of languor. If Stradling had only given him a good stock of
tobacco, he would have pardoned all; he no longer feels courage to
hate him. What to him imports the plenty which surrounds him, if he
has no tobacco? of what use is his leisure, if he cannot spend it in
smoking? what avails even this fire, which he has just conquered, if
he is prevented from lighting his pipe at it?
Careworn and dissatisfied, he was wandering one morning through his
domains, with his gun on his shoulder, his hatchet at his belt, when
he perceived something dancing on a point of land, shadowed by tall
It was Marimonda.
At sight of her enemy, she darted lightly and rapidly behind a woody
hillock. An instant afterwards, he saw her tranquilly seated on the
topmost branch of a tree, holding in each of her hands fruits which
she was alternately striking against the branch, and against each
other, to break their tough envelope.
The sight of Marimonda has always awakened in Selkirk a sentiment of
repulsion; she not only reminds him of Stradling, but with her
withered cheeks, projecting jaw, and especially her dancing motion, he
now imagines that she resembles him; and yet, pausing before her, he
contemplates her not without a lively emotion of surprise and
He had already encountered her within gun-shot, when engaged in the
destruction of the wild cats, and had asked himself whether he should
not reckon her among noxious animals. But then Marimonda, with her
hand constantly pressed against her side, was with the other seizing
various herbs, which she tasted, bruised between her teeth, and
applied to her wound; useless remedies, doubtless, for, grown meagre,
her hair dull and bristling, she seemed to have but a few days to
live, and Selkirk thought her not worth a charge of powder and shot.
And here he finds her alert and healthy, holding in the same hand
which had served as a compress, no longer the plant necessary for her
cure, but the fruit desirable for her sustenance.
'What,' said Selkirk to himself, 'in an island where this frightful
monkey has never before been, she has succeeded in finding without
difficulty the _herba sacra_, that which has restored her to health
and strength! and I, Selkirk, who have studied at one of the principal
universities of Scotland, I am vainly sighing for the plant which
would suffice to render me completely happy! Is instinct then superior
to reason? To believe this, would be ingratitude to Providence.
Instinct is necessary, indispensable to animals, because they cannot
benefit by the traditions of their ancestors. The monkey has consulted
her instinct, and it has inspired her; if I consult reason, what will
be her counsel? She will advise me to do like the monkey; to seek the
herb of which I feel so great a want, or at least to endeavor to
substitute for it something analogous; to choose, try, and taste, in
short, to follow the example of Marimonda! I will not fail to do so;
but it is nature reversed, and, for a man, it is too humiliating to
see himself reduced to imitate a monkey!'
The Hammock.--Poison.--Success.--A Calm under the Tropics.--Invasion
of the Island.--War and Plunder.--The Oasis.--The Spy-Glass.
Do you see, upon a carpet of fresh verdure, the sandy margin of which
is bathed by a caressing wave, that hammock suspended to the branches
of those fine trees? What happy mortal, during the heat of the day, is
there gently rocked, gently refreshed, by a light sea breeze? It is
Selkirk; and this hammock is his sail, attached to his tall myrtles by
strips of goat-skin. Perhaps he is resting after the fatigues of the
day? No, it is the day of the Lord, and Selkirk now can consecrate the
Sabbath to repose. With his eyes half closed, he is inhaling,
undoubtedly, the perfume of his myrtles, the soft fragrance of his
heliotropes? No, something sweeter still pre-occupies him. Is he
dreaming of his friends in Scotland, of his first love? He has never
known friendship, and the beautiful Catherine is far from his memory.
What is he then doing in his hammock? He is smoking his pipe.
His pipe! Has he a pipe? He has them of all forms, all sizes--made of
spiral shells of various kinds, of maripa-nuts, of large reeds; all
set in handles of myrtle, stalks of coarse grain, or the hollow bones
of birds. In these he is luxurious; he has become a connoisseur; but
this has not been the difficulty. Before every thing else, tobacco was
In consequence of his encounter with Marimonda, he ransacked the woods
and meadows, seeking among all plants those which approximated nearest
to the nature of the nicotiana. As it was necessary to judge by their
taste, he bit their leaves--chewed them, still in imitation of the
monkey: but, to his new and profound humiliation, less skilful or less
fortunate than the latter, he obtained at first no other result than a
sort of poisoning: one of these plants being poisonous.
For several days he saw himself condemned to absolute repose and a
spare diet. His mouth, swollen, excoriated, refused all nourishment;
his throat was burning; his body was covered with an eruption, and his
languid and trembling limbs scarcely permitted him to drag himself to
the stream to quench there the thirst by which he was devoured.
He believed himself about to die; and grief then imposing silence on
pride, with his eyes turned towards the sea, he allowed a
long-repressed sigh to escape his heart. It was a regret for his
Very soon these alarming symptoms disappeared; his strength returned;
his water-cresses and wild sorrel completed the cure. Would he have
dared to ask it of the other productions of his island? He had become
suspicious of nature; these, at least, he had long known.
Scarcely had he recovered, when the want of tobacco made itself felt
anew with more force than ever. What to him imports experiment, what
imports danger? Is it not to procure this precious, indispensable
herb,--which the world had easily done without for thousands of years?
This time, nevertheless, become more prudent, he no longer addresses
himself to the sense of taste; but to odor, to that of smell. He has
resolved to dry the different plants which appear to him most proper
for the use to which he destines them, and to submit them afterwards
to a trial by fire. Will not the smoke which escapes from them easily
enable him to discover the qualities which he requires, since it is in
smoke that they are to evaporate, if he succeeds in his researches?
Of this grand collection of aromatics, two plants, at last, come off
victorious. One is the petunia, that charming flower which at present
decorates all our gardens, whence the enemies of tobacco may one day
banish it; so it is only with trembling that I here announce its
relationship to the nicotiana; the other, which, like the petunia,
grows in profusion in the islands as well as on the continent of
Southern America, is the herb _coca_, improperly so called, for its
precious leaves, which are to the natives of Peru and Chili, what the
_betel_ is for the Indians of Malabar, grow on an elegant shrub.
[Footnote 1: The _erythroxylum coca_.]
These two plants, separately or together, composed, thanks to a slight
amalgam of chalk, sea-water, and bruised pepper-corns, the most
Now, half awake, Selkirk smokes, as he busies himself with
constructing some necessary article, such as a ladder, a stool, a
basket of rushes, with which he is completing the furniture of his
house; he smokes while fishing, and while hunting; on his return to
his dwelling, he lies down at the entrance of his grotto, on his bank
of turf, re-lights his pipe at his fire, and smokes; at the hour of
breakfast or of dinner, seated beneath the shade of his mimosa, his
elbow on the table, his Bible open before him, he smokes still.
Well! notwithstanding these pleasures so long desired, notwithstanding
this addition to his comfort, notwithstanding his pipe, this vague
uneasiness sometimes assails him anew.
He ascribes it to enfeebled health; and yet he remains active and
vigorous; he ascribes it to the powerful odors of certain trees which
affect his brain. These trees he destroys around him, but his
uneasiness continues; he ascribes it to his food, the insipidity of
the fish which he has eaten without salt, since his quarter of pork is
consumed, and his stores of pickled fish exhausted. In fact, the flesh
of fish has for some time given him a nausea, occasioned frequent
indigestions; he renounces it; his stomach recovers its tone; but his
fits of torpor and melancholy continue.
This state of suffering is most painful at those moments of profound
calm, common between the tropics, when the birds are silent, when from
the thickets and burrows issue no murmurs, when the insect seems to
sleep within the closed corollas of the flowers; when the leaves of
the mimosa fold themselves; when the tree-tops are not swayed by the
slightest breath of air, and the sea, motionless, ceases to dash
against the shore. What an inexpressible weight such a silence adds to
isolation! And yet it is not an unbroken silence, for then a shrill
and harsh sound seems to grate upon the ear. It is as if in this
muteness of nature, one could hear the motion of the earth on its
axis; then, above his head, in the depths of immensity, the whirling
of the celestial spheres and myriads of worlds which gravitate in
space. Thought becomes troubled and exhausted before this overwhelming
and terrible immobility, and the man who, at such a moment, cannot
have recourse to his kind, to distract or re-assure him, is
overpowered with his own insignificance.
Sometimes the solitary calls on himself to break this oppressive and
painful silence; he articulates a few words aloud, and his voice
inspires him with fear; it seems formidable and unnatural.
During one of these sinister calms, in which every thing in creation
seemed to pause, even the heart of man, seated on the shore, not
having even strength to smoke, Selkirk was vainly awaiting the evening
breeze; nothing came, but the obscurity of night. The moon, delaying
her appearance, submitting in her turn to the sluggishness of all
things, seemed detained below the circle of the horizon by some fatal
power; the sea was dull, gloomy, and as it were congealed.
Suddenly, though there was not a breath of air, Selkirk saw at his
right, on a vast but limited tract of ocean, the waves violently
agitated and foaming. He thought he distinguished a multitude of
barques and canoes furrowing the surface of the waters; not far from
Swordfish Beach, the flotilla enters a little cove running up into the
He no longer sees any thing; but he hears a frightful tumult of
There is no room for doubt! some Indian tribes, pursued perhaps by new
conquerors from Europe, have just disembarked on the shore. Wo to him!
he can hope from them neither pity nor mercy. A cold sweat bathes his
forehead; he runs to his grotto, takes his gun, puts in his goatskin
pouch some horns of powder and shot, a piece of smoked meat, not
forgetting his Bible! and passes the night wandering in the woods, in
the mountains, a prey to a thousand terrors; hearing without cessation
the steps of pursuers behind him, and seeing fiery eyes glaring at him
through the thickets.
At day-break, with a thousand precautions, he returns to his grotto.
He finds the beach covered with seals.
These were the enemies whose invasion had so alarmed him.
It is now the middle of the month of February, the period of the
greatest tropical heats, and these amphibia, having left the shores of
Chili or Peru, are accomplishing one of their periodical migrations.
They have just taken possession of the island, one of their accustomed
stations. But the island has now a master.
Where he expected to encounter a peril, Selkirk finds amusement, a
subject of study, perhaps a resource.
A long time ago he has read, in the narratives of voyagers, singular
stories concerning these marine animals, these _lions_, these
_sea-elephants_, flocks of old Neptune, who have their chiefs, their
pacha; who are acquainted with and practise the discipline of war;
stationing vigilant sentinels in the spots they occupy, communicating
to each other a pass-word, and attentive to the _Qui vive_?
He spies them, he watches them, he takes pleasure in examining their
grotesque forms,--half quadruped, half fish; their feet encased in a
sort of web, and terminated by crooked claws, with which they creep on
the earth; their skins, covered with short and glossy hair; their
round heads and eyes.
He is a witness of their sports, their combats; but very soon their
frightful roaring and bellowing annoys him, and makes him regret the
silence of his solitude. Another cause of complaint against them soon
One morning, Selkirk finds his fish-pond and bed of water-cresses
Exasperated, he declares war against the invaders: during three days
he tracks them, pursues them; ten of them fall beneath his balls,
leaving the shore bathed in their blood. The rest at last take flight,
and the army of seals, regaining the sea with despairing cries, goes
to establish itself at the other extremity of the island.
This war has been profitable to the conqueror. With the skin of the
vanquished he makes himself a new hammock, which permits him to employ
his sail for other uses; he also makes leather bottles, in which he
preserves the oil which he extracts in abundance from their fat. Now
he can have a lamp constantly burning, even by night. He has all the
comforts of life. Of the hairy skin of the seals, he manufactures a
broad-brimmed hat, which shields him from the burning rays of the sun.
He tastes their flesh; it appears to him insipid and nauseous, like
that of the fish; but the tongue, the heart, seasoned with pepper, are
for him quite a luxury.
Days, weeks, months roll away in the same toils, the same recreations.
Whatever he may do to drive it away, this apathetic sadness, this
sinking of soul, which has already tormented him at different periods,
becomes with Selkirk more and more frequent; he cannot conquer it as
he did the seals. His seals, he now regrets. When they were encamped
on the shore, they at least gave him something to look at, an
amusement; something lived, moved, near him.
When he finds himself a prey to these fits, which, in his pride, he
persists in attributing to transient indisposition, he goes to walk in
the mountains, taking with him only his pipe, his Bible, and his
He often pursues his journey as far as the oasis; there, he seats
himself at the extremity of the little valley, opposite the sea, from
which his eye can traverse its immense extent. He opens the holy book,
and closes it immediately; then, his brow reddening, he seizes his
spy-glass, levels it, and remains entire hours measuring the ocean,
wave by wave.
What is he looking for there? He seeks a sail, a sail which shall come
to his island and bear him from his desert, from his _ennui_. His
_ennui_ he can no longer dissimulate; this is the evil of his
One day, while he was at this spot, the setting sun suddenly
illuminated a black point, against which the waves seemed to break in
foam, as against the prow of a ship; his eyes become dim, a tremor
seizes him. He looks again--keeps his glass for a long time fixed on
the same object, but the black point does not stir.
'Another illusion!' said he to himself; 'it is a reef, a rock which
the tide has left bare.'
He wipes the glasses of his spy-glass, he examines again; he seems to
see the waves whiten and whirl for a large space around this rock.
'Can it be an island? If an island, is it inhabited? I will construct
a barque, and if God has pity on me I will reach it.'
At this moment he hears footsteps resound on the dry leaves which the
wind has swept into the little valley. He turns hastily.
It is Marimonda.
Marimonda has no longer her lively and dancing motions; she also seems
languid, sad. At sight of Selkirk, she makes a movement as if to flee;
but almost immediately advances a little, and, sorrowful, with bent
brow, sits down on a bank not far from him.