Part 2 out of 3
Has she then remarked that he is without arms?
On his side, Selkirk who had not met her for a long time, seemed to
have forgotten his former aversion.
At all events, is she not the most intelligent being chance has placed
near him? He remembers that, in the ship, she obeyed the voice, the
gesture of the captain, and that her tricks amused the whole crew.
This resemblance to the human form, which he at first disliked, now
awakens in him ideas of indulgence and peace. He reproaches himself
with having treated her so brutally, when the poor animal, who alone
had accompanied him into exile, at first accosted him with a caress.
And now she returns, laying aside all ill-will, forgetting even the
wound which she received from him in an impulse of irritation and
hatred, of which she was not the object, for which she ought not to be
He therefore makes to her a little sign with the head.
Marimonda replies by winks of the eye and motions of the shoulders,
which Selkirk thinks not wholly destitute of grace.
He rises and approaches her, saluting her with an amicable gesture.
She awaits him, chattering with her teeth and lips with an expression
Selkirk gently passes his hand over her forehead and neck, calling her
by name; then he starts for his habitation, and Marimonda follows him.
The man and the monkey have just been reconciled. Both were tired of
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.
Tranquility of mind has returned to our solitary; now, his reveries
are more pleasant and less prolonged; his walks through the woods, his
moments of repose during the heat of the day seem more endurable since
_something_, besides his shadow, keeps him company; he has resumed his
taste for labor since there is _somebody_ to look at him; speech has
returned to him since _somebody_ replies to his voice. This
_somebody_, this _something_, is Marimonda.
Marimonda is now the companion of Selkirk, his friend, his slave; she
seems to comprehend his slightest gestures and even his _ennui_. To
amuse him, she resorts to a thousand expedients, a thousand tricks of
the agility peculiar to her race; she goes, she comes, she runs, she
leaps, she bounds, she chatters at his side; she tries to people his
solitude, to make a rustling around him; she brings him his pipes,
rocks him in his hammock, and, for all these cares, all this
attention, demands only a caress, which is no longer refused.
She is often a spectator of her master's repasts; sometimes even
shares them. This was at first a favor, afterwards a habit, as in the
case of honest countrymen, who, secluded from the world, by degrees
admit their servants into their intimacy. Selkirk had not to fear the
importunate, unexpected visit of a neighbor or a curious stranger.
So it is in the open air, on the latticed table, in the shade of his
great mimosa, that these repasts in common take place; the master
occupies the bench, the servant humbly seats herself on the stool,
ready, at the first signal, to leave her place and assist in serving.
Have we not seen in India, ourang-outangs trained to perform the
office of domestics? and Marimonda was in nothing inferior in
intelligence and activity.
She is now fond of the flesh of the goat, of that of the coatis and
agoutis, for monkeys easily become carnivorous; but the table is also
sometimes covered with the products of her hunting. If the dessert
fails, she hastily interrupts her repast, leaves the master to
continue his alone, buries herself in the surrounding woods, reaches
in three bounds the tops of the trees, and quickly returns with a
supply of fruits which he can fearlessly taste, for she knows them.
Selkirk was one day a witness of the singular facility with which she
could supply her wants.
At the morning repast, seeing him use one of his cocoa-nuts which he
had fashioned in the form of a cup to drink from; in her instinct of
imitation, she had attempted to seize the cup in her turn; a look of
reprimand stopped her short in her attempt. Whether she felt a species
of humiliation at being forced to quench her thirst in the presence of
her master, by going to the banks of the stream and lapping there,
like a vulgar animal; or whether the reprimand had painfully affected
her, she abstained from drinking and remained for some time quiet and
dreamy; but at the following repast, with lifted head and sparkling
eye she resumed her place on the stool, provided with a goblet, a
goblet belonging to her, lawfully obtained by her, and, with an air of
triumph presented it to Selkirk, who, wondering, did not hesitate an
instant to share with the monkey the water contained in his gourd.
This goblet was the ligneous and impermeable capsule, the fruit,
naturally and deeply hollowed out, of a tree called _quatela_. It
was thus that the intelligent Marimonda, after having borrowed from
the numerous vegetables of the island their leaves, to ameliorate her
sufferings, to heal her wounds; their fruits for her nourishment and
even for her sports, also found means to obtain the divers utensils
for house-keeping of which she stood in need.
[Footnote 1: The _lecythis quatela_, of the family of the
_lecythidees_, created by Professor Richard, and whose singular fruits
bear, in Peru as well as in Chili, the denomination of _monkey's
Charmed with her gentleness, her docility, the affection she seemed to
bear him, Selkirk grew more and more attached to her. Winter, that is,
the rainy season which usually lasts in these regions during the
months of June and July, was approaching; he suffered in anticipation,
from the idea that during this time his gentle companion would not be
able to retain her habitual shelter, beneath the foliage of the trees;
he conceived the project of giving up to her his grotto, and
constructing for himself a new habitation, spacious and commodious. It
is thus that our most generous resolutions, whatever we may design to
do, encountering in their way personal interest, often turn to the
increase of our own private welfare.
At a little distance from the grotto, but farther inland, on the banks
of the stream called the _Linnet_, there was a thicket of verdure
shaded by five myrtles of from fifteen to twenty feet in height, and
whose stems presented a diameter more than sufficient to insure the
solidity of the edifice. Four of these myrtles formed an irregular
square; the fifth arose in the midst, or nearly so; but our architect
is not very particular. He already sees the principal part of his
frame; the myrtles will remain in their places, their roots serving as
a foundation. He removes the shrubs, the plants, the brushwood from
the thicket, leaving only a heliotrope which, at a later period, may
twine around his house and at evening shed its perfumes. He has become
reconciled to its fragrance. He trims the trees, cuts off their tops
eight feet above the ground, leaving the middle one, which is to
sustain the roof, a foot higher; for this roof reeds and palm-leaves
furnish all the materials. The walls, made of a solid network of young
branches interwoven, and plastered with a mixture of sand, clay, and
chopped rushes, he takes care not to build quite to the top, but to
leave between them and the roof a little space, where the air can
circulate freely through a light trellis formed of branches of the
Then, having finished his work in less than a fortnight, he
contemplates it and admires it; Marimonda herself seems to share in
his admiration, and in her joy climbing up the new building, she
begins to leap, to dance on the roof of foliage, which bears her, and
thus gives to Selkirk an additional triumph.
He now proceeds to furnish his palace; he transports thither his bed
of reeds and his goatskin coverings. How much better will he be
sheltered here than under the gloomy vault of his grotto! How has he
been able to content himself so long with such an abode, more suitable
for a troglodyte or a monkey! He will no longer be obliged to lift up
his curtain of vines, and to peep through the fans of his palm-trees,
in order to behold the beneficent rays of the new-born day; they will
come of themselves to find him and rejoice him at his awakening, as
the sea-breezes will at evening breathe on him, to refresh him in his
Already has the interior of his cabin, of his palace, assumed an
aspect which charms him; his guns, his hatchets, his spy-glass, his
instruments of labor, well polished and shining, suspended in racks,
upon wooden pegs, decorate the walls; upon another partition, his
assortment of pipes are arranged on a shelf according to their size;
on his central pillar, he suspends his game-bag, his gourd, his
tobacco-pouch, and various articles of daily use. As for his iron pot,
his smoked meat, his stock of skins, and bottles of seal-oil, he
leaves them under the guardianship of Marimonda in the grotto which he
will now make his store-house, his kitchen: he will not encumber with
them his new dwelling.
He now sets himself to prepare new furniture; he will construct a
small portable table, two wooden seats, one for himself, the other for
Marimonda, when she comes from her grotto to visit his cabin; for he
has now a neighborhood. Besides, during the rainy season, they will be
forced to dine under cover.
The first rains have commenced, gentle, fertilizing rains, falling at
intervals and lovingly drank in by the earth; Selkirk no longer thinks
of his table and seats; another project has just taken the place of
these, and seems to deserve the precedence.
Marimonda has just returned from a tour in the woods, bringing fruits
of all sorts, among them some which Selkirk has never before seen. He
tastes them with more care and attention than usual; then, becoming
thoughtful, with his chin resting on his hand says to himself: 'Why
should I not make these fruits grow at my door, not far from my
habitation? Why should I not attempt to improve them by cultivation?
This is a very simple and very prudent idea which should have occurred
to me long since; but I was alone, absolutely alone; and one loses
courage when thinking of self only. A garden, at once an orchard and a
vegetable garden, will be at least as useful to me as my fish-pond and
bed of water-cresses; I will make one around my cabin; it will set it
off and give it a more home-like appearance! Is not the stream placed
here expressly to traverse it and water it? Afterwards, if God assist
me, I will raise little kids which will become goats and give me milk,
butter, cheese! Why have I not thought of this before? It would have
been too much to have undertaken at once. I shall then have tame
goats; I will also have Guinea-pigs, agoutis, and coatis. My house
shall be enlarged, I will have a farm, a dairy! But the time has not
yet come; let us first prepare the garden. Why has it not been already
prepared? I am impatient to render the earth productive, fruitful by
my cares, to walk in the shade of the trees I may plant; it seems to
me that I shall be at home there, more than any where else!'
You are right, Selkirk; to possess the entire island, is to possess
nothing; it is simply to have permission to hunt, a right of promenade
and pasture, which the other inhabitants of the island, quadrupeds or
birds, can claim as well as yourself. What is property, without the
power of improvement? Can the earth become the domain of a single
person, when the true limits of his possessions must always be those
of the field which affords him subsistence? Envy not then the
happiness of the rich; they are but the transient holders and
distributors of the public fortune; we possess, in reality, only that
which we can ourselves enjoy; the rest escapes us, and contributes to
the well-being of others.
Selkirk comprehends that his streams, his bank of turf, his fish-pond,
his bed of water-cresses, his grotto, his cabin, belong to him far
otherwise than the twelve or fifteen square leagues of his island; to
his private domain he now intends to add a garden, and this garden,
this orchard, will be to him an increase of his wealth, since it will
aid in the satisfaction of his wants.
The humidity with which the earth begins to be penetrated, facilitates
his labors; he sets himself to the work.
Behold him then, now armed with his hatchet, now with a wooden shovel,
which he has just manufactured, clearing the ground, digging,
transplanting young fruit-trees, or sowing the seeds which he is soon
to see spring up and prosper. Every thing grows rapidly in these
When the garden-spot is marked out, dug, sown, planted, not forgetting
the kitchen vegetables, and especially the _coca_ and
_petunia-nicotiana_, Selkirk, with his arms folded on his spade,
thanks God with all his heart,--God who has given him strength to
finish his work.
He has never felt so happy as when, with his hands behind his back, he
walks smoking, among his beds, in which nothing has as yet appeared;
but he already sees, in a dream, his trees covered with blossoms;
around these blossoms are buzzing numerous swarms of bees; he reflects
upon the means of compelling them to yield the honey of which they
have just stolen from him the essence. It is a settled thing, on his
farm he will have hives! After his bees, still in his dream, come
flocks of humming-birds to plunder in their turn. The happy possessor
of the garden will exact no tribute from them, but the pleasure of
seeing them suspend, by a silken thread, to the leaves of his shrubs,
the elegant little boat in which they cradle their fragile brood.
Nothing seems to him more beautiful than his embryo garden; here, he
is more than the monarch of the island; he is a proprietor!
Thanks to the garden, Selkirk sees with resignation the two long
months of the rainy season pass away. When the heavy torrents render
the paths impassable, he consoles himself by thinking that they aid in
the germination of his seeds, in the rooting of his young plants.
Sometimes, between two deluges, he can scarcely find time to procure
himself sufficient game; what matters it! he lives on his provisions:
he is forcibly detained within; but has he not now good cheer, good
company, and occupation, during his leisure hours?
It is now that he completes his furniture. His table and his seats
finished, he undertakes to provide for another want, equally
Worn out by the weather, and by service, his garments are becoming
ragged. He must shield himself from the humidity of the air; where
shall he procure materials? Has he not the choice between seal-skins
and goat-skins? He gives the preference to the latter, as more
pliable, and behold him a tailor, cutting with the point of his knife;
as for thread, it is furnished by the fragment of the sail; and two
days afterwards, he finds himself flaming in a new suit.
To describe the delirious stupefaction of Marimonda, when she
perceives her master under this strange costume, would be a thing
impossible. She finds him almost like herself, clad like her, in a
hairy suit. Never tired of looking at him, of examining him curiously,
she leaps, she gambols around him, now rolling at his feet, and
uttering little cries of joy, now suspended over his head, at the top
of the central pillar, and turning her wild and restless eyes. When
she has thus inspected him from head to foot, she runs and crouches in
a corner, with her face towards the wall, as if to reflect; then,
whirling about, returns towards him, picks up on the way the garment
he has just laid aside, looking alternately at this and at the other,
very anxious to know which of the two really made a part of the
After having enjoyed for a few moments the surprise and transports of
his companion, Selkirk takes his Bible and his pipe, and, placing the
book on the table, bends over it, preparing to read and to meditate.
But, whether in consequence of her joyous excitement, or whether she
is emboldened by the species of fraternity which costume establishes
between them, Marimonda, without hesitation, directs herself to the
little shelf, chooses from it a pipe in her turn, places it gravely
between her lips, astonished at not seeing the smoke issue from it in
a spiral column; and, with an important air, still imitating her
master, comes to sit opposite him, with her brow inclined, and her
elbow resting on the table.
Willingly humoring her whim, Selkirk takes the pipe from her hands,
fills it with his most spicy tobacco, lights it, and restores it to
Hardly has Marimonda respired the first breath, when suddenly letting
fall the pipe, overturning the table, emitting the smoke through her
mouth and nostrils, she disappears, uttering plaintive cries, as if
she had just tasted burning lava.
At sight of the poor monkey, thus thrown into confusion, Selkirk, for
the first time since his residence in the island, laughs so loudly,
that the echo follows the fugitive to the grotto, where she had taken
refuge, and is prolonged from the grotto to the _Oasis_, from the
Oasis to the summit of the _Discovery_.
The exile has at last laughed, laughed aloud, and, at the same moment,
a terrible disaster is taking place without his knowledge; a new war
is preparing for him, in which his arms will be useless.
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 next morning the sun has scarcely touched the horizon, Selkirk is
still asleep, when he is awakened by a sort of tickling at his feet.
Thinking it some caress or trick of Marimonda, risen earlier than
usual, he half opens his eyes, sees nothing, and places himself again
in a posture to continue his nap. The same tickling is renewed, but
with more perseverance, and very soon something sharp and keen
penetrates to the quick the hard envelope of his heel. The tickling
has become a bite.
This time wide awake, he raises his head. His cabin is full of rats!
Near him, a company of them are tranquilly engaged in breakfasting on
his coverings and the rushes of his couch; they are on his table, his
seats, along his pillow and his walls; they are playing before his
door, running hither and thither through the crevices of his roof,
multiplying themselves on his rack and shelf; all biting, gnawing,
nibbling--some his seal-skin hat, his tobacco-pouch, the bark
ornaments of his furniture; others the handles of his tools, his
pipes, his Bible, and even his powder-horn.
Selkirk utters a cry, springs from his couch, and immediately crushes
two under his heels. The rest take flight.
As he is pursuing these new invaders with the shovel and musket, he
perceives at a few paces' distance Marimonda, sorrowful and drooping,
perched on the strong branch of a sapota-tree. By her piteous and
chilly appearance, her tangled and wet hair, he doubts not but she has
passed the whole night exposed to the inclemency of the weather. But
he at first attributes this whim only to her ill-humor the evening
On perceiving him, Marimonda descends, from her tree, sad, but still
gentle and caressing, and with gestures of terror, points to the
grotto. He runs thither.
Here another spectacle of disorder and destruction awaits him; the
rats are collected in it by thousands; his furs, his provisions of
fruit and game, his bottles formerly filled with oil, every thing is
sacked, torn in pieces, afloat; for the water has at last made its way
through the crevices of the mountain. To put the climax to his
misfortune, his reserve of powder, notwithstanding its double envelope
of leather and horn, attacked by the voracious teeth of his
aggressors, is swimming in the midst of an oily slime.
The solitary now possesses, for the purpose of hunting, for the
renewal of these provisions so necessary to his life, only the few
charges contained in his portable powder-horn, and in the barrels of
his guns. The blow which has just struck him is his ruin! and still
the hardest trial appointed for him is yet to come.
In penetrating the ground, the rains of winter have driven the rats
from their holes; hence their invasion of the cabin and the grotto.
Against so many enemies, what can Selkirk do, reduced to his single
He succeeds, nevertheless, in killing some; Marimonda herself, armed
with the branch of a tree, serves as an ally, and aids him in putting
them to flight; but their combined efforts are ineffectual. An hour
after, the accursed race are multiplying round him, more numerous and
more ravenous than ever.
He comprehends then what an error he has committed in the complete
destruction of the wild cats which peopled the island. With the most
generous intentions, how often is man mistaken in the object he
pursues! We think we are ridding us of an enemy, and we are depriving
ourselves of a protector. God only knows what he does, and he has
admitted apparent evil, as a principle, into the admirable composition
of his universe; he suffers the wicked to live. Selkirk had been more
severe than God, and he repents it. If his poor cats had only been
exiled, he would hasten to proclaim a general amnesty. Alas! there is
no amnesty with death. But has he indeed destroyed all? Perhaps some
still exist in those distant regions which have already served as a
refuge for that other banished race, the seals.
The rains have ceased; the storms of winter, always accompanied by
overpowering heat and dense fogs, no longer sadden the island by
anticipated darkness, or the gloomy mutterings of continual thunder.
The sun, though _garue_ absorbs the remainder of the inundation.
Followed by Marimonda, Selkirk, for the first time, has ventured to
the woods and thickets between the hills beyond the shore and the
False Coquimbo, when a sound, sweeter to his ear than would have been
the songs of a siren, makes him pause suddenly in ecstasy: it is the
mewing of a cat.
[Footnote 1: In Peru and Chili, they call _garua_ that mist which
sometimes, and especially after the rainy season, floats around the
disk of the sun.]
This cat, strongly built, with a spotted and glossy coat, white nose,
and brown whiskers, is stationed at a little distance, on a red cedar,
where she is undoubtedly watching her prey.
She is an old settler escaped from the general massacre; the last of
the vanquished; perhaps!
Without hesitation, Selkirk clasps the trunk of the tree, climbs it,
reaches the first branches; Marimonda follows him and quickly goes
beyond. At the aspect of these two aggressors, like herself clad in
skin, the cat recoils, ascending; the monkey follows, pursues her from
branch to branch, quite to the top of the cedar. Struck on the
shoulder with a blow of the claw, she also recoils, but descending,
and declaring herself vanquished in the first skirmish, immediately
gives over the combat, or rather the sport, for she has seen only
sport in the affair.
Selkirk is not so easily discouraged; this cat he must have, he must
have her alive; he wishes to make her the guardian of his cabin, his
protector against the rats. Three times he succeeds in seizing her;
three times the furious animal, struggling, tears his arms or face. It
is a terrible, bloody conflict, mingled with exclamations, growlings,
and frightful mewings. At last Selkirk, forgetting perhaps in the
ardor of combat the object of victory, seizes her vigorously by the
skin of the neck, at the risk of strangling her; with the other hand
he grasps her around the body. The difficulty is now to carry her.
Fortunately he has his game-bag. With one hand he holds her pressed
against the fork of the tree; with the other arm he reaches his
game-bag, opens it; the conquered animal, half dead, has not made,
during this manoeuvre, a single movement of resistance. But when the
hunter is about to close it, suddenly rousing herself with a leap,
distending by a last effort all her muscles at once, she escapes from
his grasp, and precipitates herself from the top of the cedar, to the
great terror of Marimonda, then peaceably crouched under the tree,
whom the cat brushes against in falling, and to the great
disappointment of Selkirk, who thinks he has the captive in his pouch.
Sliding along the trunk, Selkirk descends quickly to the ground; but
the enemy has already disappeared, and left no trace. In vain his eyes
are turned on all sides; he sees nothing, neither his adversary nor
Marimonda, who has undoubtedly fled under the impression of this last
As he is in despair, a whistling familiar to his ear is heard, and at
two hundred paces distant he perceives, on an eminence of the False
Coquimbo, his monkey, bent double, in an attitude of contemplation,
appearing very attentive to what is passing beneath her, and changing
her posture only to send a repeated summons to her master.
At all hazards he directs himself to this quarter.
What a spectacle awaits him! In a cavity at the foot of the eminence
where Marimonda is, he finds, crouching, still out of breath with her
struggle and her race, his fugitive. She is a mother! and six kittens,
already active, are rolling in the sun around her.
Selkirk, seizing his knife, kills the mother, and carries off the
A short time after, the rats have deserted the shore. But their
departure, though it prevents the evil they might yet have done, does
not remedy that already accomplished.
The provisions of the solitary are almost entirely destroyed, and the
little powder which remains is scarcely sufficient for a reserve which
he no longer knows where to renew.
The moment at last comes when he possesses no other ammunition than
the only charge in his gun. This last charge, his last resource, oh!
how preciously he preserves it to-day. While it is there, he can still
believe himself armed, still powerful; he has not entirely exhausted
his resources; it is his last hope. Who knows?--perhaps he may yet
need it to protect his life in circumstances which he cannot foresee.
But since his gun must remain suspended, inactive, to the walls of his
cabin, it is time to think of supplying the place of the services it
has rendered; it is time to realize his dream, and, according to the
usual course of civilization, to substitute the life of a farmer and
shepherd for that of a hunter.
Already is his colony augmented by six new guests, domesticated in his
house; already, on every side, his seeds are peeping out of the ground
under the most favorable auspices; his young trees, firmly rooted, are
growing rapidly beneath the double influence of heat and moisture; at
the axil of some of their leaves, he sees a bud, an earnest of the
harvest. He must now occupy himself with the means of surprising,
seizing and retaining the ancestors of his future flock.
Here, patience, address or stratagem can alone avail.
Notwithstanding his natural agility, he does not dream of reaching
them by pursuit. Since his last hunts, goats and kids keep themselves
usually in the steep and mountainous parts of the island. To leap from
rock to rock, to attempt to vie with them in celerity and lightness
appears to him, with reason, a foolish and impracticable enterprise.
Later, perhaps,... Who knows?
He manufactures snares, traps; but suspicion is now the order of the
day around him; each holds himself on the _qui vive_. After long
waiting without any result, he finds in his snares a coati, some
little Guinea pigs; here is one resource, undoubtedly, but he aims at
higher game, and the kids will not allow themselves to be taken by his
He remembers then, that in certain parts of America, the hunters, in
order to seize their prey living, have recourse to the lasso, a long
cord terminated by a slip-noose, which they know how to throw at great
distances, and almost always with certainty.
With a thread which he obtains from the fibres of the aloe, with
narrow strips of skin, closely woven, he composes a lasso more than
fifty feet long; he tries it; he exercises it now against a tuft of
leaves detached from a bush, now against some projecting rock;
afterwards he tries it upon Marimonda, who often enough, by her
agility and swiftness, puts her master at fault.
In the interval of these preparatory exercises, Selkirk occupies
himself with the construction of a latticed inclosure, destined to
contain the flock which he hopes to possess; he makes it large and
spacious, that his young cattle may bound and sport at their ease;
high, that they may respect the limits he assigns them. In one corner,
supported by solid posts, he builds a shed, simply covered with
branches; that his flock may there be sheltered from the heat of the
day. The inclosure and the shed, together with his garden, form a new
addition to his great settlement.
When, his kids shall have become goats, when the epoch of domesticity
shall have arrived for them, when they shall have contracted habits of
tameness, when they have learned to recognize his voice, then, and
then only, will he permit them to wander and browse on the neighboring
hills, under the direction of a vigilant guardian. This guardian,
where shall he find? Why may it not be Marimonda? Marimonda, to whose
intelligence he knows not where to affix bounds!
Dreams, dreams, perhaps! and yet but for dreams, but for those gentle
phantoms which he creates, and by which he surrounds himself, what
would sustain the courage of the solitary?
When Selkirk thinks he has acquired skill in the use of the lasso, he
buries himself among the high mountains situated towards the central
part of his island. Several days pass amid fruitless attempts, and
when the delicately-carved foliage of the mimosa announces, by its
folding, that night is approaching, he regains his cabin, gloomy,
care-worn, and despairing of the future.
Meanwhile, by his very failures, he has acquired experience. One
evening, he returns to his dwelling, bringing with him two young kids,
with scarcely perceptible horns, and reddish skin, varied with large
brown spots. Marimonda welcomes her new guests, and this evening all
in the habitation breathes joy and tranquillity.
The week has not rolled away, when the number of Selkirk's goats
exceeds that of his cats; and he takes pleasure in seeing them leap
and play together in his inclosure; his mind has recovered its
'Yes,' said he, with pride, 'man can suffice for himself, can depend
on himself only for subsistence and welfare! Am I not a striking
proof? Did not all seem lost for me, when an unforeseen catastrophe
destroyed the remnant of the provision of powder which I owed to the
pity of that miserable captain? Ah! undoubtedly according to his
hateful calculations, he had limited the term of my life to the last
charge which my gun should contain; this last charge is still there!
Of what use will it be to me? Why do I need it? Are not my resources
for subsistence more certain and numerous to-day than before? What
then is wanting? The society of a Stradling and his fellows? God keep
me from them! The best member of the crew of the brig Swordfish came
away when I did. I have received from Marimonda more proofs of
devotion than from all the companions I have had on land and on sea.
What have I to regret? I am well off here; may God keep me in repose
After this sally, he thought of his hives, which were still wanting,
and of the methods to be employed to seize a swarm of bees.
A month after, Selkirk, who religiously kept his reckoning on the
margin of his Bible, resolved to celebrate the New Year. It was now
the first of January, 1706.
On this day he dined, not in his cabin, nor under his tree, but in the
middle of the inclosure, surrounded by his family; fruits and good
cheer were more abundant than usual; Marimonda, as was her custom,
dined at the same table with himself: the cats shared in the feast;
the goats roved around, stretching up to gaze with their blue eyes on
the baskets of fruits, and returning to browse on the grass beneath
the feet of the guests. Selkirk, as the master of the house, and chief
of the family, generously distributed the provisions to his young and
frolicksome republic, and Marimonda assisted him as well as she could,
in doing the honors.
After the repasts, there were races and combats; the remains of the
baskets were thrown to the most skilful and the most adroit; then
came, diversions and swings.
Lying in his hammock, where he smoked his most excellent tobacco in
his best pipe, Selkirk smilingly contemplated the capricious bounds,
the riotous sports of his cats and kids, their graceful postures,
their fraternal combats, in which sheathed claws and the inoffensive
horn were the only weapons used on either side.
To give more variety to the fete, Marimonda developes all the
resources of her daring suppleness; she leaps from right to left,
clearing large spaces with inconceivable dexterity. Attaining the
summit of a tree, she whistles to attract her master's attention,
then, with her two fore-paws clasped in her hind ones, she rolls
herself up like a ball and drops on the ground; the foliage crackles
beneath her fall, which seems as if it must be mortal; for her, this
is only sport. Without altering the position of her limbs, she
suddenly stops in her rapid descent, by means of her prehensile tail,
that fifth hand, so powerful, with which nature has endowed the
monkeys of America. Then, suspended by this organ alone, she
accelerates her motions to and fro with incredible rapidity, quickly
unwinds her tail from the branch by which she is suspended, and with a
dart, traversing the air as if winged, alights at a hundred paces
distance on a vine, which she instantly uses as a swing.
Selkirk is astonished; he applauds the tricks of Marimonda, the sports
and combats of his other subjects. Meanwhile, his eyes having turned
towards the sea, his brow is suddenly overclouded. At the expiration
of a few moments of an uneasy and agitated observation, he utters an
exclamation, springs from his hammock, runs to his cabin, then to the
shore, where he prostrates himself with his hands clasped and raised
He has just perceived a sail.
Provided with his glass, he seeks the sail upon the waves, he finds
it. 'It is without doubt a barque,' said he to himself; 'a barque from
the neighboring island, or some point of the continent!' And looking
again through his copper tube, he clearly distinguishes three masts
well rigged, decorated with white sails, which are swelling in the
east wind, and gilded by the oblique rays of the declining sun.
'It is a brig! The Swordfish, perhaps! Yes, Stradling has prolonged
his voyage in these regions. The time which he had fixed for my exile
has rolled away! He is coming to seek me. May he be blessed!'
The movement which the brig made to double the island, had increased
more and more the hopes of Selkirk, when the Spanish flag, hoisted at
the stern, suddenly unfolded itself to his eyes.
'The enemy!' exclaimed he; 'woe is me! If they land on this coast,
whither shall I fly, where conceal myself? In the mountains! Yes, I
can there succeed in escaping them! But, the wretches! they will
destroy my cabin, my inclosure, my garden! the fruit of so much
anxiety and labor!'
And, with palpitating heart, he again watches the manoeuvres of the
brig. The latter, having tacked several times, as if to get before the
wind, hastily changed her course and stood out to sea.
Selkirk remains stupefied, overwhelmed. 'These are Spaniards,'
murmured he, after a moment's hesitation; 'what matters it! Am I now
their enemy? I am only a colonist, an exile, a deserter from the
English navy. They owe me protection, assistance, as a Christian. If
they required it, I would serve on board their vessel! But they have
gone; what method shall I employ to recall them, to signalize my
There was but one; it was to kindle a large fire on the shore or on
the hill. He needs hewn wood, and his supplies are exhausted; what is
to be done?
For an instant, in his disturbed mind, the idea arises to tear the
lattice-work from his inclosure, the pillars and the roof from his
shed, to pile them around his cabin, and set fire to the whole.
This idea he quickly repulses, but it suffices to show what passed in
the inner folds of the heart of this man, who had just now forced
himself to believe that happiness was yet possible for him.
On farther reflection, he remembers that behind his grotto, on one of
the first terraces of the mountain, there is a dense thicket, where
the trees, embarrassed with vines and dry briers, closely interwoven,
calcined by the burning reflections of the sun on the rock which
surrounds them, present a collection of dead branches and mouldy
trunks, scarcely masked by the semblance of vegetation.
Thither he transports all the brands preserved under the ashes of his
hearth; he makes a pile of them; throws upon it armfuls of chips, bark
and leaves. The flame soon runs along the bushes which encircle the
thicket; and, when the sun goes down, an immense column of fire
illuminates all this part of the island, and throws its light far over
Standing on the shore, Selkirk passes the night with his eyes fixed on
the sea, his ear listening attentively to catch the distant sound of a
vessel; but nothing presents itself to his glance upon the luminous
and sparkling waves, and amid their dashing he hears no other sound
but that of the trees and vines crackling in the flames.
At morning all has disappeared. The fire has exhausted itself without
going beyond its bounds, and the sea, calm and tranquil, shows nothing
upon its surface but a few flocks of gulls.
A week passes away, during which Selkirk remains thoughtful and
taciturn; he rarely leaves the shore; he still beholds the sports of
his cats and his kids, but no longer smiles at them; Marimonda, by way
of amusing him, renews in his presence her surprising feats, but the
attention of the master is elsewhere.
Nevertheless, he cannot allow himself time to dream long with
impunity; his reserve of smoked beef is nearly exhausted; to save it,
he has again resorted to the shell-fish, which his stomach loathes; to
the sea-crabs, of which he is tired; he needs other nourishment to
restore his strength. He shakes off his lethargy, takes his lasso, his
game-bag. His plan now is, not to hunt the kids, but the goats
As he is about to set out, Marimonda approaches, preparing to
accompany him. In his present frame of mind, Selkirk wishes to be
alone, and makes her comprehend, by signs, that she must remain at
home and watch the flock; but this time, contrary to her custom, she
does not seem disposed to obey. Notwithstanding his orders, she
follows him, stops when he turns, recommences to follow him, and, by
her supplicating looks and expressive gestures, seeks to obtain the
permission which he persists in refusing. At last Selkirk speaks
severely, and she submits, still protesting against it by her air of
sadness and depression. Was this, on her part, caprice or foresight?
No one has the secret of these inexplicable instincts, which sometimes
reveal to animals the presence of an invisible enemy, or the approach
of a disaster.
At evening, Selkirk had not returned! Marimonda passed the night in
awaiting him, uttering plaintive cries.
On the morrow the morning rolled away, then the day, then the night,
and the cabin remained deserted, and Marimonda in vain scaled the
trees and hills in the neighborhood to recover traces of her master.
What had become of him?
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.
In that sterile and mountainous quarter of the island to which he has
given the name of Stradling,--that name, importing to him
misfortune,--Selkirk, venturing in pursuit of a goat, has fallen from
Fortunately the cavity is not deep. After a transient swoon,
recovering his footing, experiencing only a general numbness, and some
pain caused by the contusions resulting from his fall, he bethinks
himself of the means of escape.
But a circle of sharp rocks, contracting from the base to the summit,
forms a tunnel over his head; no crevice, no precipitous ledge,
interrupts their fatal uniformity. Only around him some platforms of
sandy earth appear; he digs them with his knife, to form steps. Some
fragments of roots project here and there through the interstices of
the stones; he hopes to find a point of support by which to scale
these abrupt walls. The little solidity of the roots, which give way
in his grasp; his sufferings, which become more intense at every
effort; these thousand rocky heads bending at once over him; all tell
him plainly that it will be impossible for him to emerge from this
hole--that it is destined to be his tomb.
Poor young sailor, already condemned to isolation, separated from the
rest of mankind, could he have foreseen that one day his captivity was
to be still closer! that his steps would be chained, that the sight
even of his island would be interdicted! and that in this desert,
where he had neither persecutor nor jailer to fear, he would find a
prison, a dungeon!
After three days of anguish and tortures, after new and ineffectual
attempts,--exhausted by fatigue, by thirst, by hunger,--consumed by
fever, supervened in consequence of all his sufferings of body and
soul, he resigns himself to his fate; with his foot, he prepares his
last couch, composed of sand and dried leaves shaken from above by the
neighboring trees; he lies down, folds his arms, closes his eyes, and
prepares to die, thinking of his eternal salvation.
Although he tries not to allow himself to be distracted by other
thoughts, from time to time sounds from the outer world disturb his
pious meditations. First it is the joyous song of a bird. To these
vibrating notes another song replies from afar, on a more simple and
almost plaintive key. It is doubtless the female, who, with a sort of
modest and repressed tenderness, thus announces her retreat to him who
calls; then a rapid rustling is heard above the head of the prisoner.
It is the songster, hastening to rejoin his companion.
Selkirk has never known love. Once perhaps,--in a fit of youth and
delirium; and it was this false love which tore him from his studies,
from his country!
Ah! why did he not remain at Largo, with his father? To-day he also
would have had a companion! In that smiling country where coolness
dwells, where labor is so easy, life so sweet and calm, the paternal
roof would have sheltered his happiness! Oh! the joys of his infancy!
his green and sunny Scotland.
The regrets which arise in his heart he quickly banishes; his dear
remembrances he sacrifices to God; he weaves them into a fervent
Very soon an approaching bleating rouses him again from his
abstractions. A goat, with restless eye, has just stretched her head
over the edge of the precipice, and for an instant fixes on him her
astonished glance. Then, as if re-assured, defying his powerlessness,
with a disdainful lip she quietly crops some tufts of grass growing on
the verge of the tunnel.
On seeing her, Selkirk instinctively lays his hand on the lasso which
is beside him.
'If I succeed in reaching her, in catching her,' said he, 'her blood
will quench the thirst which devours me, her flesh will appease my
hunger. But of what use would it be? Whence can I expect aid and
succor for my deliverance? This would then only prolong my
And, throwing aside the end of the lasso which he has just seized, he
again folds his arms on his breast, and closes his eyes once more.
I know not what stoical philosopher--Atticus, I believe, a prey to a
malady which he thought incurable,--had resolved to die of inanition.
At the expiration of a certain number of days, abstinence had cured
him, and when his friends, in the number of whom he reckoned Cicero,
exhorted him to take nourishment, persisting in his first resolution,
'Of what use is it!' said he also, 'Must I not die sooner or later?
Why should I then retrace my steps, when I have already travelled more
than half the road?'
Selkirk had more reason than Atticus to decide thus; besides, his
friends, where are they, to exhort him to live? Friends!--has he ever
Night comes, and with the night a terrific hurricane arises. By the
glare of the lightning he sees a tree, situated not far from the
tunnel, bend towards him, almost broken by the violence of the wind.
'Perhaps Providence will send me a method of saving myself!' murmured
Selkirk; 'should the tree fall on this side, if its branches do not
crush me, they will serve as steps to aid me to leave this pit! I am
But the tree resists the storm, which passes away, carrying with it
the last hope of the captive.
Towards the morning of the fourth day his fever has ceased; the
tortures of hunger and thirst are no longer felt; the complete
annihilation of his strength is to him a kind of relief; sleep seizes
him, and with sleep he thinks death must come.
Soon, in his dream, in a hallucination springing undoubtedly from the
weakness of his brain, plaints, confused and distant groans, reach him
from different points of the island. These sorrowful cries, almost
uninterrupted, afterwards approach, and are repeated with increasing
strength. He awakes, he listens; the bushes around him crackle and
rustle; even the earth emits a dull sound, as beneath the bounding of
a goat; the cries are renewed and become more and more distinct, like
the sobs of a child. Selkirk puts his hand to his forehead. These
plaints, these sobs, he thinks he recognizes, and, suddenly raising
himself with a convulsive effort, he exclaims:
And Marimonda runs at her master's voice, changes, on seeing him, her
cries of distress for cries of joy, leaps and gambols on the edge of
the cavity, and, quickly finding a way to join him, suspends herself
by her tail to one of the branches on the verge, and springs to his
Then contortions, caresses, winks of the eyes, motions of the head,
whining, whistling, succeed each other; she rolls before him, embraces
him closely, seeking by every method to supply the place of that
speech which alone is wanting, and which she almost seems to have.
Good Marimonda! her humid and shivering skin, her bruised and bleeding
feet, her in-flamed eyes, plainly tell Selkirk how long she has been
in search of him, how she has watched, run, to find him, and, not
finding him, what she has suffered at his absence.
Her first transports over, by his pale complexion, by his dim eye, she
quickly divines that it is want of food which has reduced him to this
condition. Swift as a bird she climbs the sides of the tunnel; she
repeatedly goes and returns, bringing each time fruits and canes full
of savory and refreshing liquid. It is precisely the usual hour for
their first repast, and once more they can partake of it together.
Revived by this repast, by the sight of his companion in exile,
Selkirk recovers his ideas of life and liberty. This abyss, from which
she ascends with so much facility, who knows but with her aid he may
be able in his turn to leave it? He remembers his lasso; he puts one
end of it into Marimonda's hand. It is now necessary that she should
fix it to some projection of the rock, some strong shrub, which may
serve as a point of support.
It was perhaps presuming too much on the intelligence which nature has
bestowed on the race of monkeys. At her master's orders, Marimonda
would seize the end of the cord, then immediately abandon it, as she
needed entire freedom of motion to enable her to scale the walls of
After several ineffectual attempts, Selkirk, as a last resort, decided
to encircle Marimonda with the noose of the lasso, and, by a gesture,
to send her towards those heights where he was so impatient to join
She departs, dragging after her the chain, of which he holds the other
extremity: this chain, the only bridge thrown for him between the
abyss and the port of safety, between life and death!
With what anxiety he observes, studies its oscillations! Several times
he draws it towards him, and each time, as if in reply to his summons,
Marimonda suddenly re-appears at the brow of the precipice, preparing
to re-descend; but he repulses her with his voice and gestures, and
when these methods are insufficient,--when Marimonda, exhausted with
lassitude, seated on the verge of the tunnel, persists in remaining
motionless, he has recourse to projectiles. To compel her to second
him in his work, the possible realization of which he himself scarcely
comprehends, he throws at her some fragments of stone detached from
his rocky wall, and even the remains of that repast for which he is
indebted to her. Even when she is at a distance, informed by the
movements of the lasso of the direction she has taken, he pursues her
Suddenly the cord tightens in his hand. He pulls again, he pulls with
force; the cord resists! Fire mounts to his brain; his sluggish blood
is quickened; his heart and temples beat violently; his fever returns,
but only to restore to him, at this decisive moment, his former vigor.
He hastily digs new steps in the interstices of the rock; with his
hands suspending himself to the lasso, assisted by his feet, by his
knees, sometimes turning, grasping the projecting roots, the angles of
his wall, he at last reaches the top of the cliff.
Suddenly he feels the lasso stretch, as if about to break; a mist
passes over his eyes: his head becomes dizzy, the cord escapes his
grasp. But, by a mechanical movement, he has seized one of the highest
projections of the tunnel, he holds it, he climbs,--he is saved.
And during this perilous ascension, absorbed in the difficulties of
the undertaking, attentive to himself alone, staggering, with a
buzzing sound in his ears, he has not heard a sorrowful, lamentable
moaning, not far from him.
Dragging hither and thither after her the rope of leather and fibre of
aloes, Marimonda, rather, doubtless, by chance than by calculation,
had enlaced it around the trunk of the same tree which the night
before, during the storm, had agitated its dishevelled branches above
the deep couch of the dying man. This trunk had served as a point of
resistance; but, during the tension, the unfortunate monkey, with her
breast against the tree, had herself been caught in the folds of the
When Selkirk arrives, he finds her extended on the ground, blood and
foam issuing from her mouth, and her eyes starting from their sockets.
Kneeling beside her, he loosens the bonds which still detain her.
Excited by his presence, Marimonda makes an effort to rise, but
immediately falls back, uttering a new cry of pain.
With his heart full of anguish, taking her in his arms, Selkirk, not
without a painful effort, not without being obliged to pause on the
way to recover his strength, carries her to the dwelling on the shore.
This shore he finds deserted and in confusion.
Deprived of their daily nourishment during the prolonged absence of
their master, the goats have made a passage through the inclosure, by
gnawing the still green foliage which imprisoned them; the hurricane
of the night has overthrown the rest. Before leaving, they had ravaged
the garden, destroyed the promises of the approaching harvest, and
devoured even the bark of the young trees. The cats have followed the
goats. Selkirk has before his eyes a spectacle of desolation; his
props, his trellises, the remains of his orchard, of his inclosure, of
his shed, a part even of the roof of his cabin, strew the earth in
confusion around him.
But it is not this which occupies him now. He has prepared for
Marimonda a bed beside his own; he takes care of her, he watches over
her, he leaves her only to seek in the woods, or on the mountains, the
herb which may heal her; he brings all sorts, and by armfuls, that she
may choose;--does she not know them better than himself?
As she turns away her head, or repulses with the hand those which he
presents, he thinks he has not yet discovered the one she requires,
and though still suffering, though himself exhausted by so many
varying emotions, he re-commences his search, to summon the entire
island to the assistance of Marimonda. From each of his trees he
borrows a branch; from his bushes, his rocks, his streams--a plant, a
fruit, a leaf, a root! For the first time he ventures across the
_pajonals_--spongy marshes formed by the sea along the cliffs, and
where, beneath the shade of the mangroves, grow those singular
vegetables, those gelatinous plants, endowed with vitality and motion.
At sight of all these remedies, Marimonda closes her eyes, and reopens
them only to address to her friend a look of gratitude.
The only thing she accepts is the water he offers her, the water which
he himself holds to her lips in his cocoa-nut cup.
During a whole week, Selkirk remains constantly absorbed in these
cares, useless cares!--Marimonda cannot be healed! In her breast,
bruised by the folds of the lasso, exists an important lesion of the
organs essential to life, and from time to time a gush of blood
reddens her white teeth.
'What!' said Selkirk to himself, 'she has then accompanied me on this
corner of earth only to be my victim! To her first caress I replied
only by brutality; the first shot I fired in this island was directed
against her. I pursued for a long time, with my thoughtless and stupid
hatred, the only being who has ever loved me, and who to-day is dying
for having saved me from that precipice from which I drove her with
blows of stones! Marimonda, my companion, my friend,--no! thou shalt
not die! He who sent thee to me as a consolation will not take thee
away so soon, to leave me a thousand times more alone, more unhappy,
than ever! God, in clothing thee with a form almost human, has
undoubtedly given thee a soul almost like ours; the gleam of
tenderness and intelligence which shines in thine eyes, where could it
have been lighted, but at that divine fire whence all affection and
devotion emanate? Well! I will implore Him for thee; and if He refuse
to hear me, it will be because He has forgotten me, because He has
entirely forsaken me, and I shall have nothing more to expect from His
Falling then upon his knees, with his forehead upon the ground, he
prays God for Marimonda.
Meanwhile, from day to day the poor invalid grows weaker; her eyes
become dim and glassy; her limbs frightfully emaciated, and her hair
comes off in large masses.
One evening, exhausted with fatigue, after having wrapped in a
covering of goat-skin Marimonda, who was in a violent fever, Selkirk
was preparing to retire to rest; she detained him, and, taking his
hand in both of hers, cast upon him a gentle and prolonged look, which
resembled an adieu.
He seated himself beside her on the ground.
Then, without letting go his hand, she leaned her head on her master's
knee, and fell asleep in this position. Selkirk dares not stir, for
fear of disturbing her repose. Insensibly sleep seizes him also.
In the morning when he awakes, the sun is illuminating the interior of
his cabin; Marimonda remains in the same attitude as the evening
before, but her hands are cold, and a swarm of flies and mosquitoes
are thrusting their sharp trunks into her eyes and ears.
She is a corpse.
Selkirk raises her, uttering a cry, and, after having cast an angry
look towards heaven, wipes away two tears that trickle down his
Thou thoughtest thyself insensible, Selkirk, and behold, thou art
weeping!--thou, who hast more than once seen, with unmoistened eye,
men, thy companions, in war or at sea, fall beneath a furious sword,
or under the fire of batteries! Among the sentiments which honor
humanity, which elevate it notwithstanding its defects, thou hadst
preserved at least thy confidence in God and in his mercy, Selkirk,
and to-day thou doubtest both!
Why dost thou weep? why dost thou distrust God?
Because thy monkey is dead!
Discouragement.--A Discovery.--A Retrospective Glance.--Project of
Suicide.--The Last Shot.--The Sea Serpent.--The _Porro_.--A Message.
His provisions are exhausted, and Selkirk thinks not of renewing them;
his settlement on the shore is destroyed, and he thinks not of
rebuilding it; the fish-pond, the bed of water-cresses are encroached
upon by sand and weeds, and he thinks not of repairing them. His mind,
completely discouraged, recoils before such labors; he has scarcely
troubled himself to replace the roof of his cabin.
In the midst of his dreams, Selkirk had not counted enough on two
terrific guests, which must sooner or later come: despair and _ennui_.
Nevertheless, he had read in his Bible this passage: 'As the worm
gnaweth the garment and rottenness the wood, so doth the weariness of
solitude gnaw the heart of man.'
One day, as he was descending from the Oasis, where he had dug a tomb
for Marimonda, he bethought himself of visiting the site of his
Around him, the earth, blackened by the ravages of the fire, presented
only a naked, gloomy and desolate picture. To his great surprise,
beneath the ruins, under coal dust and half-calcined trunks of trees,
he discovered, elevated several feet above the soil, the partition of
a wall, some stones quarried out and placed one upon another; in fine,
the remains of a building, evidently constructed by the hand of man.
Men had then inhabited this island before him! What had become of
them? This wood, impenetrably choked, stifled with thorny bushes,
briars and vines, and which he had delivered over to the flames, was
undoubtedly a garden planted by them, on a sheltered declivity of the
mountain; the garden which surrounded their habitation, as he had
himself designed his own to do.
Ah! if he could have but found them in the island, how different would
have been his fate! But to live alone! to have no companions but his
own thoughts! amid the dash of waves, the cry of birds, the bleating
of goats, incessantly to imagine the sound of a human voice, and
incessantly to experience the torture of being undeceived! What
elements of happiness has he ever met in this miserable island? When
he dreamed of creating resources for a long and peaceful future, he
lied to himself. A life favored by leisure would but crush him the
oftener beneath the weight of thought, and it is thought which is
killing him, the thought of isolation!
What import to him the beautiful sights spread out before his eyes?
The vast extent of sky and earth has repeated to him each day that he
is lost, forgotten on an obscure point of the globe. The sunrises and
sunsets, with their magic aspects, this luxuriant tropical vegetation,
the magnificent and picturesque scenery of his island, awaken in him
only a feeling of restraint, an uneasiness which he cannot define.
Perhaps the emotions, so sweet to all, are painful to him only because
he cannot communicate them, share them with another. It is not the
noisy life of cities which he asks, not even that of the shore. But,
at least, a companion, a being to reply to his voice, to be associated
with his joys, his sorrows. Marimonda! No, he recognizes it now!
Marimonda could amuse him, but was not sufficient; she inhabited with
him only the exterior world, she communicated with him only by things
visible and palpable; her affection for her master, her gentleness,
her admirable instinct, sometimes succeeded in lessening the distance
which separated their two natures, but did not wholly fill up the
He had exaggerated the intelligence which, besides, increased at the
expense of her strength, as with all monkeys; for God has not willed
that an animal should approximate too closely to man; he had overrated
the sense of her acts, because he needed near him a thinking and
acting being; but with her, confidences, plans, hopes, communication,
the exchange of all those intimate and mysterious thoughts which are
the life of the soul, were they possible? Even her eyes did not see
like his own; admiration was forbidden to her; admiration, that
precious faculty, which exists only for man,--and which becomes
extinct by isolation.
How many others become extinct also!
Self-love, a just self-esteem, that powerful lever which sustains us,
which elevates us, which compels us to respect in ourselves that
nobility of race which we derive from God, what becomes of it in
solitude? For Selkirk, vanity itself has lost its power to stimulate.
Formerly, when in the presence of his comrades at St. Andrew or of the
royal fleet, he had signalized himself by feats of address or courage,
a sentiment of pride or triumph had inspired him. Since his arrival in
the island, his courage and address have had but too frequent
opportunities of exercising themselves, but he has been excited only
by want, by necessity, by a purely personal interest. Besides, can one
utter an exclamation of triumph, where there is not even an echo to
After having thus painfully passed in review all of which his exile
from the world had deprived him, he exclaimed:
'To live alone, what a martyrdom! to live useless to all, what a
disgrace! What! does no one need me? What! are generosity, devotion,
even pity, all those noble instincts by which the soul reveals itself,
for ever interdicted to me? This is death, death premature and
shameful! Ah! why did I not remain at the foot of that precipice?'
With downcast head, he remained some time overwhelmed with the weight
of his discouragement; then, suddenly, his brow cleared up, a sinister
thought crossed his mind; he ran to his cabin, seized his gun. This
last shot, this last charge of powder and lead, which he has preserved
so preciously as a final resource, it will serve to put an end to his
days! Well, is not this the most valuable service he can expect from
it? He examines the gun; the priming is yet undisturbed; he passes his
nail over the flint, leans the butt against the ground, takes off the
thick leather which covers his foot, that he may be able to fire with
more certainty. But during all these preparations his resolution grows
weaker; he trembles as he rests the gun against his temples; that
sentiment of self-preservation, so profoundly implanted in the heart
of man, re-awakens in him. He hesitates--thrice returning to his first
resolution, he brings the gun to his forehead; thrice he removes it.
At last, to drive away this demon of suicide, he fires it in the air.
Scarcely has he thus uselessly thrown away this precious shot before
he repents. He approaches the shore; it is at the moment when the tide
is at its lowest ebb; the sun touches the horizon. Selkirk lies down
on the damp beach:--'When the wave returns,' said he, 'if it be God's
will, let it take me!'
Slumber comes first. Exhausted with emotion, yielding to the lassitude
of his mind, he falls asleep. In the middle of the night, suddenly
awakened by the sound of the advancing wave, he again flees before the
threat of death; he no longer wishes to die. Once in safety, he turns
to contemplate that immense sea which, for an instant, he had wished
might be his tomb.
By the moonlight, he perceives as it were a long and slender chain,
which, gliding upon the crest of the waves, directs itself towards the
shore. By its form, by its copper color, by the multiplicity of its
rings, unfolding in the distance, Selkirk recognizes the sea-serpent,
that terror of navigators, as he has often heard it described.
The mind of the solitary is a perpetual mirage.
Filled with terror, he flies again; he conceals himself, trembling, in
the caverns of his mountains; he has become a coward; why should he
affect a courage he does not feel? No one is looking at him!
The next day, instead of the sea-serpent, he finds on the beach an
immense cryptogamia, a gigantic alga, of a single piece, divided into
a thousand cylindrical branches, and much superior to all those he has
observed in the Straits of Sunda. The rising tide had thrown it on the
While he examines it, he sees with surprise all sorts of birds come to
peck at it; coatis, agoutis, and even rats, come out of their holes,
boldly carrying away before his eyes fragments, whence issues a thick
and brown sap. Emboldened by their example, and especially by the
balsamic odor of the plant, he tastes it. It is sweet and succulent.
This plant is no other than that providential vegetable called by the
Spaniards _porro_, and which forms so large a part of the nourishment
of the poor inhabitants of Chili.
[Footnote 1: It is the _Durvilloea utilis_, dedicated to Dumont
d'Urville, by Bory de St. Vincent, and classed by him in the
laminariees, an important and valuable family of marine cryptogamia.]
The sea, which had already sent Selkirk seals to furnish him with oil
and furs in a moment of distress, had just come to his assistance by
giving him an easily procured aliment for a long time.
Another surprise awaits him.
Between the interlaced branches of his alga, he discovers a little
bottle, strongly secured with a cork and wax. It contains a fragment
of parchment, on which are traced some lines in the Spanish language.
Although he is but imperfectly acquainted with this language, though
the characters are partially effaced or scarcely legible, Selkirk, by
dint of patience and study, soon deciphers the following words:
'In the name of the Holy Trinity, to you who may read'--(here some
words were wanting,)--'greeting. My name is Jean Gons--(Gonzalve or
Gonsales; the rest of the name was illegible.) After having seen my
two sons, and almost all my fortune, swallowed up in the sea with the
vessel _Fernand Cortes_, in which I was a passenger, thrown by
shipwreck on the coasts of the Island of San Ambrosio, near Chili, I
live here alone and desolate. May God and men come to my aid!'
At the bottom of the parchment, some other characters were
perceptible, but without form, without connection, and almost entirely
destroyed by a slight mould which had collected at the bottom of the
The Island 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.
As he read this, Selkirk was seized with intense pity for the
unfortunate shipwrecked. What! on this same ocean, undoubtedly on
these same shores, lives another unhappy being, like himself exiled
from the world, enduring the same sufferings, subject to the same
wants, experiencing the same _ennui_, the same anguish as himself!
this man has confided to the sea his cry of distress, his complaint,
and the sea, a faithful messenger, has just deposited it at the feet
Suddenly he remembers that rock, that island, discerned by him, on the
day when at the Oasis, he was reconciled to Marimonda.
That is the island of San Ambrosio; it is there, he does not doubt it
for an instant, that his new friend lives; yes, his friend! for, from
this moment he experiences for him an emotion of sympathetic
affection. He loves him, he is so much to be pitied! Poor father, he
has lost his sons, he has lost his fortune and the hope of returning
to his country; and yet there reigns in his letter a tone of dignified
calmness, of religious resignation which can come only from a noble
heart. He is a Spaniard and a Roman Catholic; Selkirk is a Scotchman
and a Presbyterian; what matters it?
To-day his friend demands assistance, and he has resolved to dare all,
to undertake all to respond to his appeal. Like a lamp deprived of
air, his mind has revived at this idea, that he can at last be useful
to others than himself. The inhabitant of San Ambrosio shall be
indebted to him for an alleviation of his sorrows; for companionship
in them. What is there visionary about this hope? Had he not already
conceived the project of preparing a barque to explore that unknown
coast? God seems to encourage his design, by sending him at once this
double manna for the body and soul, the _porro_, which will suffice
for his nourishment, and this writing, which the wave has just
brought, to impose on him a duty.
He immediately sets himself to the work, and obstacles are powerless
to chill his generous excitement. Of the vegetable productions of the
island, the red cedar and myrtle are those which grow of the largest
size; but yet their trunks are not large enough to serve when
hollowed out for a barque. Well! he will construct a raft.
[Footnote 1: The _myrtus maximus_ attains 13 metres (a little more
than 42 feet) in height.]
He fells young trees, cuts off their branches, rolls them to the
shore, on a platform of sand, which the waves reach at certain
periods; he fastens them solidly together with a triple net-work of
plaited leather, cords woven of the fibre of the aloe, supple and
tough vines; he chooses another with diverging and horizontal roots,
the habitual direction taken by all the large vegetables of this
island, the sand of which is covered only by two feet of earth. This
shall be the mast. He plants it in the middle of the raft, where it is
kept upright by its roots, knotted and interwoven with the various
pieces which compose the floor. For a sail, has he not that which was
left him by the Swordfish? and will not his seal-skin hammock serve as
a spare sail?
He afterwards constructs a helm, then two strong oars, that he may
neglect no chance of success. He fastens his structure still more
firmly by all that remains to him of his nails and bolts, and awaits
the high tide to launch his skiff upon the sea.
He has never felt calmer, happier, than during the long time occupied
in these labors; their object has doubled his strength. The moments of
indispensable repose, he has passed at the Oasis, beside the tomb of
Marimonda, of that Marimonda, who by her example, opened to him the
life of devotedness in which he has just engaged. Thence, with his eye
turned upon that island where dwells the unknown friend from whom he
has received a summons, he talks to him, encourages him, consoles him;
he imparts to him his resolution to join him soon, and it seems as if
the same waves which had brought the message will also undertake to
transmit the reply.
At present, Selkirk finds some sweetness in pitying evils which are
not his own; he no longer dreams of wrapping himself in a cloak of
selfishness; that disdainful heart, hitherto invincibly closed, at
last experiences friendship, or at least aspires to do so.
At last, the day arrives when the sea, inundating the marshes, bending
the mangroves, reaches, on the sandy platform, one of the corners of
Selkirk hastens to transport thither his hatchets, his guns, his
seal-skins and goat-skins, his Bible, his spy-glass, his pipes, his
ladder, his stools, even his traps; all his riches! it is a complete
On taking possession of the island, he had engraved on the bark of
several trees the date of his arrival; he now inscribes upon them the
day of his departure. For many months his reckoning has been
interrupted; to determine the date is impossible; he knows only the
day of the week.
When the wave had entirely raised his barque, aiding himself with one
of the long oars to propel it over the rocky bottom, he gained the
sea. Then, after having adjusted his sail, with his hand on the helm,
he turned towards his island to address to it an adieu, laden with
maledictions rather than regrets.
Swelled by a south-east wind, the sail pursues its course towards that
other land, the object of his new desires. At the expiration of some
hours, by the aid of his glass, what from the summit of his mountains
had appeared to him only a dark point, a rock beaten by the waves,
seems already enlarged, allowing him to see high hills covered with
verdure. He has not then deceived himself! There exists a habitable
land,--habitable for two! It has served as a refuge to the shipwrecked
man, to his friend! Ah! how impatient he is to reach this shore where
he is to meet him!
Several hours more of a slow but peaceful navigation roll away. He has
arrived at a distance almost midway between the point of departure and
that of arrival. Looking alternately at the islands Selkirk and San
Ambrosio, both illuminated by the sunset, with their indefinite forms,
their bases buried in the waves, their terraced summits, veiled with a
light fog, they appear like the reflection of each other. But for the
discovery which he had previously made of the second, he would have
believed this was his own island, or rather its image, represented in
the waters of the sea.
But in proportion as he advances towards his new conquest, it
increases to his eyes, as if to testify the reality of its existence,
now by a mountain peak, now by a cape. He had seen only the profile,
it now presents its face, ready to develope all its graces, all its
fascinations; while its rival, disdained, abandoned, becomes by
degrees effaced, and seems to wish to conceal its humiliation beneath
the wave of the great ocean.
Suddenly, without any apparent jar, without any flaw of wind, on a
calm sea, the stem of the tree serving as a mast vacillates, bends
forward, then on one side; the roots, which fasten it to the floor of
the raft, are wrenched from their hold; the sail, diverging in the
same direction, still extended, drags it entirely down, and it is
borne away by the wave.
Struck with astonishment, Selkirk puts his foot on the helm, and
seizes his oars; but oars are powerless to move so heavy a machine.
What is to be done?
He who has not been able to endure isolation in the midst of a
terrestrial paradise, from which he has just voluntarily exiled
himself, must he then he reduced to have for an asylum, on the
immensity of the ocean, only a few trunks of trees scarcely lashed
The situation is frightful, terrific; Selkirk dares not contemplate
it, lest his reason should give way. He must have a sail; a mast! He
has his spare sail; for the mast, his only resource is to detach one
of the timbers which compose the frame-work of his raft. Perhaps this
will destroy its solidity; but he has no choice.
He takes the best of his hatchets, chooses among the straight stems of
which his floating dwelling is composed, that which seems most
suitable; he cuts away with a thousand precautions, the bonds which
fasten it; he frees it, not without difficulty, from the contact of
other logs to which it has been attached. But while he devotes himself
to this task, the raft, obedient to a mysterious motion of the sea,
has slowly drifted on; the surface is covered with foam, as if
sub-marine waves are lashing it. Selkirk springs to the helm; the
tiller breaks in his hands; he seizes the oars, they also break. An
unknown force hurries him on. He has just fallen into one of those
rapid currents which, from north to south, traverse the waters of the
Borne away in a contrary direction from that which he has hitherto
pursued, the land of which he had come in search seems to fly before
him. Whither is he going? Into what regions, into what solitudes of
the sea is he to be carried, far from islands and continents?
To add to his terror, in these latitudes, where day suddenly succeeds
to night and night to day, where twilight is unknown, the sun, just
now shining brightly, suddenly sinks below the horizon.
In the midst of profound darkness, the unhappy man pursues this fatal
race, leading to inevitable destruction. During a part of this
terrible night, he hears the frail frame-work which supports him
cracking beneath his feet. How long must his sufferings last? He knows
not. At last, jostled by adverse waves, shaken to its centre, the raft
begins to whirl around, and something heavier than the shock of the
wave comes repeatedly to give it new and rude blows. The first rays of
the rising moon, far from calming the terrors of the unhappy mariner,
increase them. In his dizzy brain, these wan rays which silver the
surface of the sea, seem so many phantoms coming to be present at his
last moments. Pale, bent double, with his hair standing upright,
clinging to some projection of his barque, he in vain attempts to fix
his glance on certain strange objects which he sees ascending,
descending, and rolling around him.
They are the trunks of the trees which formed a part of his raft,
limbs detached from its body, and which, now drawn into the same
whirlpool, are by their repeated shocks, aiding in his complete
In face of this imminent, implacable death, Selkirk ceases to struggle
against it. He has now but one resource; the belief in another life.
The religious instinct, which has already come to his assistance,
revives with force. Clinging with his hands and feet to these wavering
timbers, which are almost disjoined, half inundated by the wave, which
is encroaching more and more upon his last asylum, he directs his
steps towards the spot where he had deposited his arms and furs; he
takes from among them his Bible, not to read it, but to clasp it to
his heart, whose agitation and terror seem to grow calm beneath its
He then attempts to absorb his thoughts in God; he blames himself for
not having been contented with the gifts he had received from Him; he
might have lived happily in Scotland, or in the royal navy. It is this
perpetual desire for change, these aspirations after the unknown,
which have occasioned his ruin.
At this moment, raising his eyes towards heaven, he sees, beneath the
pale rays of the moon, a mass of rocks rising at a little distance,
which he immediately recognizes. There is the bay of the Seals, the
peak of the Discovery. That hollow, lying in the shadow, is the valley
of the Oasis! As on the first day of his arrival, on one of the
steepest summits of the mountain, he perceives stationed there,
immovable, like a sentinel, a goat, between whose delicate limbs
shines a group of stars, celestial eyes, whose golden lids seem to
vibrate as if in appeal. It is his island! He does not hesitate;
suddenly recovering all his energies, he springs from the raft,
struggles with vigor, with perseverance against the current, triumphs
over it, and, after prolonged efforts, at last reaches this haven of
deliverance, this port of safety; he lands, fatigued, exhausted, but
overcome with joy and gratitude. Profoundly thanking God from his
heart, he prostrates himself, and kisses with transport the hospitable
soil of this island,--which, on the morning of the same day, he had
Alas! does not reflection quickly diminish this lively joy at his
return and safety? From this shipwreck, poor sailor, thou hast saved
only thyself: thy tools, thy instruments of labor, even thy Bible, are
a prey to the sea!
It is now, Selkirk, that thou must suffice for thyself! It is the last
trial to which thou canst be subjected!
The Island of Juan Fernandez.--Encounter in the Mountains.--Discussion.
--A New Captivity.--A Cannon-shot.--Dampier and Selkirk.--_Mas a Fuera_.
--News of Stradling.--Confidences.--End of the History of the real
On the 1st of February, 1709, an English vessel, equipped and sent to
sea by the merchants of Bristol, after having sailed around Cape Horn,
in company with another vessel belonging to the same expedition,
touched alone, about the 33d degree of south latitude, at the Island
of Juan Fernandez, from a hundred and ten to a hundred and twenty
leagues distant from the coast of Chili.
The second ship was to join her without delay. Symptoms of the scurvy
had appeared on board, and it was intended to remain here for some
time, to give the crew opportunity of recovering their health.
Their tents pitched, towards evening several sailors, having ventured
upon the island, were not a little surprised to see, through the
obscurity, a strange being, bearing some resemblance to the human
form, who, at their approach, scaling the mountains, leaping from rock
to rock, fled with the rapidity of a deer, the lightness of a chamois.
Some doubted whether it was a man, and prepared to fire at him. They
were prevented by an officer named Dower, who accompanied them.
On their return to their companions, the sailors related what they had
seen; Dower did not fail to do the same among the officers; and this
evening, at the encampment on the shore, in the forecastle as well as
on the quarter-deck, there were narratives and suppositions that would
'amuse an assembly of Puritans through the whole of Lent,' says the
account from which we borrow a part of our information.
At this period, tales of the marvellous gained great credence among
sailors. Not long before, the Spaniards had discovered giants in
Patagonia; the Portuguese, sirens in the seas of Brazil; the French,
tritons and satyrs at Martinique; the Dutch, black men, with feet like
lobsters, beyond Paramaribo.
The strange individual under discussion was unquestionably a satyr, or
at least one of those four-footed, hairy men, such as the authentic
James Carter declared he had met with in the northern part of America.
Some, thinking this conclusion too simple, adroitly insinuated that no
one among the sailors who had met this monster, had noticed in him so
great a number of paws. Why four paws?--why should he not be a
monopedous man, a man whose body, terminated by a single leg, cleared,
with this support alone, considerable distances? Was not the existence
of the monopedous man attested by modern travellers, and even in
antiquity and the middle ages, by Pliny and St. Augustine?
Others preferred to imagine in this singular personage the acephalous
man, the man without a head, named by the grave Baumgarthen as
existing on the new continent. They had not discovered many legs, but
neither had they discovered a head; why should he have one?
And the discussion continued, and not a voice was raised to risk this
judicious observation; if neither head nor limbs have been
distinguished, it may perhaps be because he has been seen only in the
The next day, each wished to be satisfied; a regular hunt was
organized against this phenomenon; they set out, invaded his retreat,
pursued him, surrounded him, at last seized him, and the brave sailors
of Great Britain discovered with stupefaction, in this monopedous,
acephalous man, in this satyr, this cercopithecus, what? A countryman,
a Scotchman, a subject of Queen Anne!
It was Selkirk; Selkirk, his hair long and in disorder, his limbs
encased in fragments of skins, and half deprived of his reason.
His island was Juan Fernandez, so called by the first navigator who
discovered it; this was Selkirk Island.
When he was conducted before Captain Woodes Rogers, commander of the
expedition, to the interrogations of the latter, the unfortunate man,
with downcast look, and agitated with a nervous trembling, replied
only by repeating mechanically the last syllables of the phrases which
were addressed to him by the captain.
A little recovered from his agitation, discovering that he had
Englishmen to deal with, he attempted to pronounce some words; he
could only mutter a few incoherent and disconnected sentences.
'Solitude and the care of providing for his subsistence,' says Paw,
'had so occupied his mind, that all rational ideas were effaced from
it. As savage as the animals, and perhaps more so, he had almost
entirely forgotten the secret of articulating intelligible sounds.'
Captain Rogers having asked him how long he had been secluded in this
island, Selkirk remained silent; he nevertheless understood the
question, for his eyes immediately opened with terror, as if he had
just measured the long space of time which his exile had lasted. He
was far from having an exact idea of it; he appreciated it only by the
sufferings he had endured there, and, looking fixedly at his hands, he
opened and shut them several times.
Reckoning by the number of his fingers, it was twenty or thirty years,
and every one at first believed in the accuracy of his calculation, so
completely did his forehead, furrowed with wrinkles, his skin
blackened, withered by the sun, his hair whitened at the roots, his
gray beard, give him the aspect of an old man.
Selkirk was born in 1680; he was then only twenty-nine.
After having replied thus, he turned his head, cast a troubled look on
the objects which surrounded him; a remembrance seemed to awaken, and,
uttering a cry, stepping forward, he pointed with his finger to a
cedar on his left. It was the tree on which, when he left the
Swordfish, he had inscribed the date of his arrival in the island. The
officer Dower approached, and, notwithstanding the crumbling of the
decayed bark, could still read there this inscription:
'Alexander Selkirk--from Largo, Scotland, Oct. 27, 1704.'
His exile from the world had therefore lasted four years and three
Notwithstanding the interest excited by his misfortunes, by his name,
his accent, more than by his language, Captain Rogers, an honorable
and humane man, but of extreme severity on all that appertained to
discipline, recognized him as a British subject, suspected him to be a
deserter from the English navy, and gave orders that he should be put
under guard, pending a definitive decision.
The sailors commissioned to this office did not find it an easy thing
to guard a prisoner who could climb the trees like a squirrel, and
outstrip them all in a race. As a precaution, they commenced by
binding him firmly to the same cedar on which his name was engraved.
There the unfortunate Selkirk figured as a curious animal, ornamented
with a label.
Afterwards, more for pastime than through mischief, they tormented him
with questions, to obtain from him hesitating or almost senseless
replies, which bewildered him much; then they began to examine, with
childish surprise, the length of his beard, of his hair and nails; the
prodigious development of his muscles; his bare feet, so hardened by
travel, that they seemed to be covered with horn moccasins. Having
found beneath his goat-skin rags, a knife, whose blade, by dint of use
and sharpening, was almost reduced to the proportions of that of a
penknife, they took it away to examine it; but on seeing himself
deprived of this single weapon, the only relic of his shipwreck, the
prisoner struggled, uttering wild howls; they restored it to him.
At the hour of repast, Selkirk had, like the rest, his portion of meat
and biscuit. He ate the biscuit, manifesting great satisfaction; but
he, who had at first suffered so much from being deprived of salt,
found in the meat a degree of saltness insupportable. He pointed to
the stream; one of his guards courteously offered him his gourd,
containing a mixture of rum and water; he approached it to his lips,
and immediately threw it away with violence, as if it had burned him.
At evening, he was transported on board.
A few days after he began to acquire a taste for common food; his
ideas became more definite; speech returned to his lips more freely
and clearly; but liberty of motion was not yet restored to him, a new
captivity opened before him, and his irritation at this was presenting
an obstacle to the complete restoration of his faculties, when God,
who had so deeply tried him, came to his assistance.
One morning, as the crew of the ship were occupied, some in caulking
and tarring it, others in gathering edible plants on the island, a
cannon-shot resounded along the waves. The caulkers climbed up the
rigging, the provision-hunters ran to the shore, the officers seized
their spy-glasses, and all together quickly uttered a _huzza_! The
vessel which had sailed in company with that of Captain Rogers, the
Duchess, of Bristol, had arrived. This vessel, commanded by William
Cook, had, for a master-pilot, a man more celebrated in maritime
annals than the commanders of the expedition themselves;--this was
Dampier, the indefatigable William Dampier, who, a short time since a
millionaire, now completely ruined in consequence of foolish
speculations and prodigalities, had just undertaken a third voyage
around the world.
Scarcely had he disembarked, when he heard of the great event of the
day--of the wild man. His name was mentioned, he remembered having
known an Alexander Selkirk at St. Andrew, at the inn of the Royal
Salmon. He went to him, interrogated him, recognized him, and, without
loss of time, after having had his hair and beard cut, and procured
suitable clothing for him, presented him to Capt. Rogers; he
introduced him as one of his old comrades, formerly an intrepid and
distinguished officer in the navy, one of the conquerors of Vigo, who
had been induced by himself to embark in the Swordfish, partly at his
Restored to liberty, supported, revived, by the kind cares of Dampier,
his old hero, Selkirk felt rejuvenated. His first thought then is for
that other unfortunate man, still an exile perhaps in his desert
island. After having informed the old sailor that he had found a
little bottle, containing a written parchment, he said: 'Dear Captain,
it would be a meritorious act, and one worthy of you, to co-operate in
the deliverance of this unhappy man. A boat will suffice for the
voyage, since the Island of San Ambrosio is so near this. Oh! how
joyfully would I accompany you in this excursion!'
'My brave hermit,' replied Dampier, shaking his head, 'the neighboring
island of which you speak is no other than the second in this group,
named _Mas a Fuera_. As for the other, that San Ambrosio which you
think so near, if it has not become a floating island since my last
voyage, if it is still where I left it, under the Tropic of Capricorn,
to reach it will not be so trifling a matter; besides, your little
bottle must be a bottle of ink. There is here confusion of place and
confusion of time; not only is _Mas a Fuera_ not _San Ambrosio_ but
this latter island, far from being a desert, as your correspondent has
said, has been inhabited more than twenty years by a multitude of
madmen, fishermen and pirates, potato-eaters and old sailors, who,
when I visited them, in 1702, politely received me with gun-shots, and
whose politeness I returned with cannon-shots. Therefore, my boy, he
who wrote to you must have been dead when you received his letter.
What date did it bear?'
'None,' said Selkirk; 'the last lines were effaced;' and he trembled
at the idea of all the dangers he had run in pursuit of this friend,
who no longer existed, and of a land which he had never inhabited.
After having satisfied a duty of humanity, that which he had regarded
as a debt contracted towards a friend, Selkirk, among other inquiries,
let fall the name of Stradling. This time, it was hatred which asked
His hatred was destined to be gratified.
In pursuing his voyage, after having coasted along the shores of the
Straits of Magellan, Stradling, surprised by a frightful hurricane,
had seen his vessel entirely disabled. Repulsed at five different
times, now by the tempest, now by the Spaniards, from the ports where
he attempted to take refuge, he was thrown, near La Plata, on an
inhospitable shore. Attacked, pillaged by the natives, half of his
crew having perished, with the remains of his ship he constructed
another, to which he gave the name of the Cinque Ports, instead of
that of the Swordfish, which it was no longer worthy to bear. This was
a large pinnace, on which he had secretly returned to England. For
several years past, Dampier had not heard of him.
Selkirk thought himself sufficiently avenged; his present happiness
silenced his past ill-will. He even became reconciled to his island.
Each day he traversed its divers parts, with emotions various as the
remembrances it awakened. But he was now no longer alone! Arm and arm
with Dampier, he revisited these places where he had suffered so much,
and which often resumed for him their enchanting aspects.
His companion was soon informed of his history. When he had related
what we already know, from his landing to the construction of his
raft, and to his frightful shipwreck, he at last commenced, not
without some mortification, the recital of his final miseries, which
alone could explain the deplorable state in which the English sailors
had found him.
By the loss of his hatchets, his ladder, his other instruments of
labor, condemned to inaction, to powerlessness, he had nothing to
occupy himself with but to provide sustenance. But the sea had taken
his snares along with the rest. He at first subsisted on herbs, fruits
and roots; afterwards his stomach rejected these crudities, as it had
repulsed the fish. Armed with a stick, he had chased the agoutis; for
want of agoutis, he had eaten rats.
By night, he silently climbed the trees to surprise the female of the
toucan or blackbird, which he pitilessly stifled over their young
brood. Meanwhile, at the noise he made among the branches, this winged
prey almost always escaped him.
He tried to construct a ladder; by the aid of his knife alone, he
attempted to cut down two tall trees. During this operation his knife
broke--only a fragment remained. This was for him a great trial.
He thought of making, with reeds and the fibres of the aloe, a net to
catch birds; but all patient occupation, all continuous labor, had
become insupportable to him.
That he might escape the gloomy ideas which assailed him more and
more, it became necessary to avoid repose, to court bodily fatigue.
By continual exercise, his powers of locomotion had developed in
incredible proportions. His feet had become so hardened that he no
longer felt the briers or sharp stones. When he grew weary, he slept,
in whatever place he found himself, and these were his only quiet
To chase the agoutis had ceased to be an object worthy of his efforts;
the kids took their turn, afterwards the goats. He had acquired such
dexterity of movement, and such strength of muscle, such certainty of
eye, that to leap from one projection of rock to another, to spring at
one bound over ravines and deep cavities, was to him but a childish
sport. In these feats he took pleasure and pride.
Sometimes, in the midst of his flights through space, he would seize a
bird on the wing.
The goats themselves soon lost their power to struggle against such a
combatant. Notwithstanding their number, had Selkirk wished it, he
might have depopulated the island. He was careful not to do this.
If he wished to procure a supply of provisions, he directed his steps
towards the most elevated peaks of the mountain, marked his game,
pursued it, caught it by the horns, or felled it by a blow from his
stick; after which his knife-blade did its office. The goat killed, he
threw it on his shoulders, and, almost as swiftly as before, regained
the cavernous grotto or leafy tree, in the shelter of which he could
this day eat and sleep. He had for a long time forsaken his cabin,
which was too far distant from his hunting-grounds.
If he had a stock of provision on hand, he still pursued the goats as
usual, but only for his personal gratification. If he caught one, he
contented himself with slitting its ear; this was his seal, the mark
by which he recognized his free flock. During the last years of his
abode in the island, he had killed or marked thus nearly five
[Footnote 1: Long after his departure from Juan Fernandez, the ship's
crews, who came there for supplies, or the pirates who took refuge
there, found goats whose ears had been slit by Selkirk's knife.]
In the natural course of things, as his physical powers increased, his
intelligence became enfeebled.
Necessity had at first aroused his industry, for all industry awakes
at the voice of want; but his own had been due rather to his
recollections than to his ingenuity. He thought himself a creator, he
was only an imitator.
Whatever may have been said by those who, in the pride of a deceitful
philosophy, have wished to glorify the power of the solitary man--if
the latter, supported by certain fortunate circumstances, can remain
some time in a state hardly endurable, it is not by his own strength,
but by means which society itself has furnished. This is the
incontestable truth, from which, in his pride, Selkirk had turned
Deprived of exercise and of aliment, his thoughts, no longer sustained
by reading the Holy Book, were day by day lost in a chaos of dreams
A prey to terrors which he could not explain, he feared darkness, he
trembled at the slightest sound of the wind among the branches; if it
blew violently, he thought the trees would be uprooted and crush him;
if the sea roared, he trembled at the idea of the submersion of his
When he traversed the woods, especially if the heat was great, he
often heard, distinctly, voices which called him or replied. He caught
entire phrases; others remained unfinished. These phrases, connected
neither with his thoughts nor his situation, were strange to him.
Sometimes he even recognized the voice.
Now it was that of Catherine, scolding her servants; now that of
Stradling, of Dampier, or one of his college tutors. Once he heard
thus the voice of one of his classmates whom he least remembered; at
another time it was that of his old admiral, Rourke, uttering the
words of command.
If he attempted to raise his own to impose silence on these choruses
of demons who tormented him, it was only with painful efforts that he
could succeed in articulating some confused syllables.
He no longer talked, but he still sang; he sang the monotonous and
mournful airs of his psalms, the words of which he had totally
forgotten. His memory by degrees became extinct. Sometimes even, he
lost the sentiment of his identity; then, at least, his state of
isolation, and the memory of his misfortunes ceased to weigh upon him.
He nevertheless remembered, that about this time, having approached
Swordfish Beach, attracted by an unusual noise there, he had seen it
covered with soldiers and sailors, doubtless Spaniards. The idea of
finding himself among men, had suddenly made his heart beat; but when
he descended the declivity of the hills in order to join them, several
shots were fired; the balls whistled about his ears, and, filled with
terror, he had fled.
Once more he had found himself there, but without intending it, for
then he could no longer find his way, by the points of the compass,
through the woods and valleys leading to the shore. Ah! how had his
ancient abode changed its aspect! How many years had rolled away since
he lived there! The little gravelled paths, which conducted to the
grotto and the mimosa, were effaced; the mimosa, its principal
branches broken, seemed buried beneath its own ruins; of his
fish-pond, his bed of water-cresses, not a vestige remained; his
grotto, veiled, hid beneath the thick curtains of vines and
heliotropes, was no longer visible; his cabin had ceased to
exist,--overthrown, swept away doubtless, by a hurricane, as his
inclosure had been. He could discover the spot only by the five
myrtles, which, disembarrassed of their roof of reeds and their
plaster walls, had resumed their natural decorations, green and
glossy, as if the hatchet had never touched them. At their feet tufts
of briers and other underbrush had grown up, as formerly. The two
streams, the _Linnet_ and the _Stammerer_, alone had suffered no
change. The one with its gentle murmur, the other with its silvery
cascades, after having embraced the lawn, still continued to flow
towards the sea, where they seemed to have buried, with their waves,
the memory of all that had passed on their borders.
At sight of his shore, which seemed to have retained no vestige of
himself, Selkirk remained a few moments, mournful and lost in his
incoherent thoughts, in the midst of which this was most
prominent:--Yet alive, already forgotten by the world, I have seen my
traces disappear, even from this island which I have so long
A rustling was heard in the foliage; he raised his eyes, expecting to
see Marimonda swinging on the branch of a tree. Perceiving nothing, he
remembered that Marimonda reposed at the Oasis; he took the road from
the mountain which led thither, but when he arrived there, when he was
before her tomb, covered with tall grass, he had forgotten why he
One of those unaccountable fits of terror, which were now more
frequent than formerly, seized him, and he precipitately descended the
mountain, springing from peak to peak along the rocks.
The religious sentiment, which formerly sustained Selkirk in his
trials, was not entirely extinct; but it was obscured beneath his
darkened reason. His religion was only that of fear. When the sea was
violently agitated, when the storm howled, he prostrated himself with
clasped hands; but it was no longer God whom he implored; it was the
angry ocean, the thunder. He sought to disarm the genius of evil. The
lightning having one day struck, not far from him, a date-palm, he
worshipped the tree. His perverted faith had at last terminated in
This was, in substance, what Alexander Selkirk related to William
Dampier; what solitude had done for this man, still so young, and
formerly so intelligent; this was what had become of the despiser of
men, when left to his own reason.
Dampier listened with the most profound attention, interrupting him in
his narrative only by exclamations of interest or of pity. When he
ceased to speak, holding out his hand to him, he said:
'My boy, the lesson is a rude one, but let it be profitable to you;
let it teach you that _ennui_ on board a vessel, even with a
Stradling, is better than _ennui_ in a desert. Undoubtedly there are
among us troublesome, wicked people, but fewer wicked than
crack-brained. Believe, then, in friendship, especially in mine; from
this day it is yours, on the faith of William Dampier.'
And he opened his arms to the young man, who threw himself into them.
On their return to the vessel, Dampier presented to Selkirk his own
Bible. The latter seized it with avidity, and, after having turned
over its leaves as if to find a text which presented itself to his
mind, read aloud the following passage:
'He was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the
beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses; they fed him with
grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven.'--DANIEL
Capt. Rogers, in his turn, learned the misfortunes of Selkirk and
became attached to him; from this moment, the sailors themselves
showed him great deference; he was known among them by the name of
_the governor_, and this title clung to him.
To do the honors of his island, the governor one day gave to the crews
of the two vessels, the spectacle of one of his former hunts. Resuming
his ancient costume, he returned to the high mountains, where, before
their eyes, he started a goat, and darting in pursuit of it, over a
thousand cliffs, sometimes clearing frightful abysses, by means of a
vine which he seized on his passage,--this method he owed to
Marimonda,--he succeeded in forcing his game to the hills of the
shore. Arrived there, exhausted, panting, drawing itself up like a
stag at bay, the goat stopped short. Selkirk took it living on his
shoulders, and presented it to Capt. Rogers. Its ear was already slit.
By way of thanks, the captain announced that he might henceforth be
connected with the expedition, with his old rank of mate, which was
restored to him. For this favor Selkirk was indebted to the