Robinson Crusoe Told to the children by Daniel Defoe, chapter name THE EARTHQUAKE AND HURRICANE; AND HOW ROBINSON BUILT A BOAT


Now about this time, when Robinson had been some months on the island, heavy and constant rain began to fall, and sometimes weeks would pass without a single dry day. He found that instead of there being Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, as in England, the seasons in his island were divided into the wet and the dry. There was no cold weather, no winter. It chanced that just before this first rain began, Robinson had emptied out some refuse from bags which had once held rice, and other grain, and he had forgotten all about having emptied them. So he was very much astonished to find, some time afterwards, both barley and rice growing near his tent, [Pg 23]in the shade of the rock. The ears, when ripe, he kept to sow again, and from this very small beginning, in the course of a few seasons, he had a great quantity of grain, both for food and for sowing. But this meant every year much hard work, for he had no plough nor harrow, and all the ground had to be dug with a clumsy spade, made from a very hard, heavy wood that grew on the island.

At first Robinson could not grind the grain that he grew, nor make bread from it. If he could have found a large stone, slightly hollow on top, he might, by pounding the grain on it with another round stone, have made very good meal. But all the stones he could find were too soft, and in the end he had to make a sort of mill of hard wood, in which he burnt a hollow place, and on that he pounded the grain into meal with a heavy stick.

Baking he did by building a big fire, then raking away the ashes, and putting the dough on the hot place, covered with a kind of basin made of clay, over which he heaped the red ashes. In this way very good bread can be made.

Before the rainy season was over, and just after he had finished the fence round his tent, one day when Robinson was at work in the cave, all of a sudden the earth began to fall from the roof, and the strong props he had put in cracked in a way which frightened him terribly. At the same time there was a curious moaning, rumbling noise, that he could not understand. He rushed out, and so afraid was he that the roof was falling in, and that he should be buried, that he got over the fence and began to run.

But he was even more frightened when he found that all the ground was shaking. Then he knew that this was an earthquake.

Three times there came violent shocks; a huge rock about half a mile away fell with a great noise like thunder, and the sea was churned up as if by a whirlwind. Robinson was sick with the movement of the ground, and trembling with the dread of being swallowed by the earth as it cracked and gaped; and after the noise and shaking were over, he was too frightened to go back to his tent, but sat where he was, all the time expecting another shock.

Suddenly a furious wind began to blow, tearing up trees by the roots, and lashing the water till nothing could be seen but foam and flying spray. The air was full of branches and leaves torn off by the hurricane, and birds in hundreds were swept helpless out to sea. In about three hours, as suddenly as it had begun, the wind fell, and there was a dead calm, followed by rain such as Robinson had never before seen, which soaked him to the skin, and forced him to return to the cave, where he sat in great fear.

For long after this he was very uneasy, and made up his mind to shift his quarters as soon as he could find a better place for his tent. But the earthquake had one good result, for what remained of the wreck was again thrown up by the sea, and Robinson got more things out of it which were useful to him, and for days he worked hard at that. One day, too, when he was on his way to the remains of the ship, he came on a large turtle, which he killed, and this gave him plenty of good food, for besides the flesh, there were, inside the animal, many eggs, which she had come to the shore to lay in the sand, as is the habit of turtles, and which Robinson thought were even better than hen’s eggs.

One day he came on a large turtle

Now a few days after he had got so wet in the heavy rain, though the weather was hot, Robinson felt very cold and shivery, and had pains all over his body, and at night he dreamed terrible dreams. The following day, and many days, he lay very ill with fever and ague, and hardly knew what he was doing. So weak was he, that he believed he was dying, and there was no one to give him water to quench his thirst, nor to help him in any way. His only medicine was rum, in which he had soaked tobacco. It was very nasty, and made him sick, but it also made him sleep for more than a whole day and a night, and he woke much better, and able to walk about a little, though for a fortnight he was too weak to work. From this illness he learned not to go out more than he could help during the rainy season.

When he was again quite strong, Robinson started to explore the island better than he had yet done, and he found many things growing, of which he made great use afterwards, tobacco, sugar-cane, and all manner of fruits, amongst them grapes, which he used to dry to raisins in the sun in great quantities.

Near the spot where the most fruit grew, he built a hut, and round it, for safety, he put a double fence made of stakes cut from some of the trees near at hand. During the next rainy season these stakes took root, and grew so fast that soon nothing of the hut could be seen from outside the hedge, and it made so good a hiding-place, that Robinson cut more stakes of the same kind, and planted them outside the fence around his first dwelling; and in a year or two that also was quite hidden from view. The twigs of this tree, too, were good for making baskets, of which he had been in great need.

When he had finished all this work, he started again to go over the rest of the island, and on his way across, from a hill, the day being very clear, he saw high land a great way off over the water, but whether it was another island, or the coast of America, he could not be sure.

When he reached the other side of his island Robinson found the beach covered with turtles in astonishing numbers, and he thought how much better off he would have been if he had been cast ashore here, for not only would the turtles have supplied him with plenty of food, but there were far more birds than on the part of the island where he had been living, and far more goats.

During the journey back to his castle he caught a young parrot, which, after a long time, he taught to speak and to call him by his name. It was so long since he had heard any voice, that it was a comfort to listen even to a parrot talking.

Now, the sight which Robinson had had of the far distant land raised in him again the great longing to get away from this island where he had been so long alone, and he wished greatly for a boat. He went over to the remains of the boat in which he and the others had tried to come ashore when their ship struck on the sand-bank, and which had been flung far up on the beach by the sea, and he worked for weeks trying to repair her and to get her into the water. But it was all of no use; he could not move her.

Then, he thought, ‘I’ll cut down a tree, and make a new boat.’ This he fancied would be easy, for he had heard how the Indians make canoes by felling a tree and burning out the inside. ‘If they can do it, then surely I can do it even better,’ he thought. So he looked about, and chose a huge tree which stood about a hundred yards from the water, and with great labour in about three weeks he had cut it down.

Four months Robinson worked at this boat, thinking all the time of what he would do when he reached the far distant land, and much pleased with himself for the beautiful boat he was making. Day after day he trimmed and shaped it, and very proud he was when it was finished and lay there on the ground, big enough to carry twenty men.

Then he started to get her into the water. But that was quite another thing. By no means in his power could he move her an inch, try as he might. She was far too big. Then he began to dig a canal from the sea to the boat; but before he had got much of that work done, he saw clearly that there was so much earth to dig away, that, without some one to help him, it must take years and years before he could get the water to the boat. So he gave it up, and left her to lie and rot in the sun and the rain,—a great grief to him.