ROBINSON WORKS HARD AT MAKING HIMSELF A HOME
When he had rested a little, Robinson got up and began to walk about very sadly, for darkness was coming on; he was wet, and cold, and hungry, and he did not know where to sleep, because he was afraid of wild beasts coming out of the woods and killing him during the night.
But he found that he still had his knife in his pocket, so he cut a big stick to protect himself with. Then he climbed into a tree which had very thick leaves, and there he fixed himself among the branches as well as he could, and fell sound asleep.
In the morning when he awoke, the storm was past, and the sea quieter. To his surprise, he saw that the ship had been carried in the night, by the great seas, much nearer to the shore than she had been when the boat left her, and was now lying not far from the rock where Robinson had first been washed up.
By midday the sea was quite calm, and the tide had gone so far out that he could walk very near to the ship. So he took off his clothes and swam the rest of the way to her. But it was not easy to get on board, because the ship was resting on the sand, and lay so high out of the water that Robinson could not reach anything by which he could pull himself up.
At last, after swimming twice round the vessel, he saw a rope hanging over, near the bow, and by its help he climbed on board.
Everything in the stern of the ship was dry, and in pretty good order, and the water had not hurt the provisions much. So he took some biscuits, and ate them as he looked about, and drank some rum, and then he felt better, and stronger, and more fit to begin work.
First of all, he took a few large spars of wood, and a spare topmast or two, that were on the deck. These he pushed overboard, tying each with a rope to keep it from drifting away. Then he went over the side of the ship, and tied all the spars together so as to make a raft, and on top he put pieces of plank across. But it was long before he could make the raft fit to carry the things he wanted to take on shore.
At last, after much hard work, he got on to it three of the seamen’s chests, which he had broken open and emptied, and he filled these with bread, and rice, and cheese, and whatever he could find to eat, and with all sorts of things that he thought he might need. He found, too, the carpenter’s tool chest, and put it on the raft; and nothing on the whole ship was of more use to him than that.
Then he set about looking for clothes, for while he had been on the ship, the tide had risen and had washed away his coat and waistcoat and shirt, which he had left lying on the sand.
Guns and pistols also, and powder and shot, he took, and two old rusty cutlasses.
Now the trouble was to reach land, for the raft had no mast nor sail nor rudder, and was too heavy and clumsy to be pulled by Robinson with the broken oars that he had found. But the tide was rising, and slowly she drifted nearer and nearer, and at last was carried up the mouth of a little river which Robinson had not seen when he was on shore.
There was a strong tide running up, which once carried the raft against a point of land, where she stuck for a time, and very nearly upset all the things into deep water. But as the tide rose higher, Robinson was able to push her into a little bay where the water was shallow and the ground beneath flat, and when the tide went out there she was left high and dry, and he got everything safely ashore.
The next thing that Robinson did was to climb a hill, that he might see what sort of country he was in, and find out if there were any other people in it. But when he got to the top, he saw to his sorrow that he was on an island, with no other land in sight except some rocks, and two smaller islands far over the sea. There were no signs of any people, and he saw nothing living except great numbers of birds, one of which he shot. But it was not fit to eat, being some kind of hawk.
After this, with the chests and boards that he had brought on shore, he made a kind of hut to sleep in that night, and he lay there on the sand very comfortably.
Day by day now for some time Robinson swam out to the ship, and made fresh rafts, loading them with many stores, powder and shot, and lead for bullets, seven muskets, a great barrel of bread, three casks of rum, a quantity of flour, some grain, a box of sugar, sails and ropes and twine, bags of nails, and many hatchets. With one of the sails he made himself a good tent, in which he put everything that could be spoiled by rain or sun. Around it he piled all the casks and other heavy things, so that no wild beast could very easily get at him.
In about a fortnight the weather changed; it blew very hard one night, and in the morning the ship had broken up, and was no more to be seen. But that did not so much matter, for Robinson had got out of her nearly everything that he could use.
Now, Robinson thought it time to find some better place for his tent. The land where it then stood was low and near the sea, and the only water he could get to drink tasted rather salt. Looking about, he found a little plain, about a hundred yards across, on the side of a hill, and at the end of the plain was a great rock partly hollowed out, but not so as quite to make a cave. Here he pitched his tent, close to the hollow place in the rock. Round in front of the tent he drove two rows of strong stakes, about eighteen inches apart, sharpened at top; and he made this fence so strong that when it was finished he was sure that nothing could get at him, for he left no door, but climbed in and out by a ladder, which he always hauled up after him.
Before closing up the end, Robinson hauled inside this fence all his stores, his food and his guns, his powder and shot, and he rigged inside a double tent, so better to keep off the hot sun and the rain.
Then he began to dig into the rock, which was not very hard, and soon behind his tent he had a cave in which he thought it wise to stow his gunpowder, about one hundred and forty pounds in all, packed in small parcels; for, he thought, if a big thunderstorm were to come, a flash of lightning might explode it all, and blow him to bits, if he kept the whole of it in his tent.
Robinson was now very comfortable, and as he had saved from the wreck two cats and a dog, he did not feel quite so lonely. He had got, also, ink and pens and paper, so that he could keep a diary; and he set up a large wooden cross, on which he cut with his knife the date of his landing on the island—30th September 1659; and every day he cut a notch on the post, with a longer one each Sunday, so that he might always know how the months and years passed.
As for food, he found that there were many goats on the island, and numbers of pigeons, and he had no difficulty in shooting as many as he needed.
But now he saw that his tent and cave were too small for all the things he had stowed in them, so he began to make the cave bigger, bringing out all the rock and soil that he cut down, and making with it a kind of terrace round the inside of his stockade. And as he was sure that there were no wild beasts on the island to harm him, he went on tunnelling to the right hand till he broke through the rock outside his fence.
Then he began to hang things up against the side of the cave, and he even made shelves, and a door for the outside entrance. This was a very difficult job, and took him a long time; for, to make a board, he was forced to cut down a whole tree, and chop away with his axe till one side was flat, and then cut at the other side till the board was thin enough, when he smoothed it with his adze. But in this way, out of each tree he would only get one plank. He made for himself also a table and a chair, and finally got his castle, as he called it, in very good order.
With all his care, however, there was one thing that he forgot, and that was, when he had made the cave so much bigger, to prop it, so as to keep the roof from falling in. And so one day he got a terrible fright, and was nearly killed, by a huge bit of the soft rock which fell and buried many of his things. It took weeks of hard work afterwards to clear away the fallen rubbish, and to cut beams strong enough to prop the roof.
Every day, all this time, he used to climb up the hill and look around over the lonely waters, hoping, always hoping, that some morning he might see the sails of a ship that would take him home. But none ever came, and sometimes the tears ran down his cheeks because of the sorrow he felt at being so utterly alone. At times even, he thought in his misery that if only he had any kind of a boat, it would be better to sail away, and chance reaching other land, rather than to stop where he was. By and by, however, he grew less unhappy, for he had plenty of work to do.