Robinson Crusoe Told to the children by Daniel Defoe, chapter name ROBINSON SEES A FOOTPRINT ON THE SAND, AND FINDS TRACES OF CANNIBAL FEASTS


All this time Robinson had never gone near his canoe, but now the longing came on him to go over to where he had left her, though he felt that he should be afraid again to put to sea in her. This time, however, when he got to the hill from which he had watched the set of the current the day that he had been carried out to sea, he noticed that there was no current to be seen, from which he concluded that it must depend on the ebb and flow of the tide. Still, he was afraid to venture far in the canoe, though he stopped some time at his country-house, and went out sailing very often.

One day when Robinson was walking along the sand towards his boat, suddenly, close to the water, he stopped as if he had been shot, and, with thumping heart, stood staring in wonder and fear at something that he saw. The mark of a naked foot on the sand! It could not be his own, he knew, for the shape was quite different. Whose could it be?

He listened, he looked about, but nothing could he hear or see. To the top of a rising ground he ran, and looked all around. There was nothing to be seen. And though he searched everywhere on the beach for more footmarks, he found none.

Whose footprint could it be? That of some man, perhaps, he thought, who might come stealing on him out from the trees, or murder him whilst he slept.

Back to his house he hurried, all the way in a state of terror, starting every now and again and facing round, thinking he was being followed, and fancying often that a stump or a bush was a man, waiting to spring on him. That night he slept not at all, and so shaken was his nerve that every cry of a night bird, even every sound made by an insect or a frog, caused him to start with fear, so that the perspiration ran down his brow.

As day followed day, however, and nothing happened, Robinson began to be less uneasy in his mind, and went about his usual work again. But he strengthened the fence round his castle, and cut in it seven small loop-holes, in which, fixed on frames, he placed loaded muskets, all ready to fire if he should be attacked. And some distance from the outside of the fence he planted a thick belt of small stakes, so that in a few years’ time a perfect thicket of trees and bushes hid all trace of his dwelling.

Years passed quietly, and nothing further happened to disturb Robinson, or to make him think more of the footprint that had frightened him so much. But he kept more than formerly to the interior of the island, and lost no chance of looking for good places to hide in, if he should ever need them. And he always carried a cutlass now, as well as his gun and a couple of pistols.

He saw the mark of a naked foot on the sand

One day it chanced, however, that he had gone further to the west of the island than he had ever done before, and, looking over the sea, he fancied that he saw, at a great distance, something like a boat or a long canoe, but it was so far off that he could not be sure what it was. This made him determine that always in future he would bring with him to his lookout-place the telescope which he had saved from the wreck.

The sight of this supposed boat brought back his uneasiness to some extent, but he went on down to the beach, and there he saw a sight which filled him with horror. All about the shore were scattered men’s skulls and bones, and bits of burnt flesh, and in one place were the remains of a big fire. Robinson stood aghast, feeling deadly sick. It was easy for him to know the meaning of the terrible sight. It meant that cannibals had been there, killing and eating their prisoners; for when the natives of some parts of the world go to war, and catch any of their enemies, it is their habit to build a fire, then to kill the prisoners and feast on their roasted bodies, eating till they can eat no more. Sometimes, if the man they are going to eat is too thin, they keep him, and feed him up, till they think he is fat enough.

Now Robinson knew all this, though he had never yet met any cannibals. And when he looked around he saw many bones lying about. They were so old that it seemed certain to him that all those years he had been living on an island which was a regular place for the natives to come to for such feasts. Then he saw what a mercy it was that he had been wrecked on the other side of the island, to which, he supposed, the cannibals never came, because the beach was not so good for them to land on.

Full of horror, Robinson hurried back to his house, and for almost two years he never again came near that part of the island where the bones lay, nor ever visited his boat. But all the time he kept thinking how he might some day kill those cannibals whilst they were at their feast, and perhaps save some of the poor men whom they had not yet killed. Sometimes he thought of putting powder below the place where they were likely to light their fire, and thus blow them up. But that did not seem a very good plan, because he did not want to waste his powder, and may be they might not light the fire on that spot, or they might not be near when it exploded. So he looked for a place where he could hide, near where the bones lay, and at last he found a good spot, from which he could watch them land. Near this spot were trees, through which he could creep up quite close to them, unseen, and so shoot without danger of missing. And it was his plan, that if he should happen to see the savages next time they came over for one of their horrible feasts, he would lie hidden till a good chance came, then shoot as many as he could with his gun and pistols, and afterwards with his cutlass rush upon those that were left. In this way he counted on being able to kill them all, even if there were as many as twenty, for they would be taken by surprise, and in the confusion might not be able to get at their spears and clubs.

When he had made this plan, Robinson was so pleased with it that for a time he could think of little else, and every day he would walk three miles to his lookout-hill, and watch through his telescope for signs of canoes coming over the sea towards the island. But after two or three months without result, he grew tired of it. Never a speck was to be seen on the water in any direction, and he began to go less and less often to the lookout-hill, and then gave up going altogether. Perhaps too, he thought, it was no business of his; the savages did not know any better, and were only doing what their fathers had taught them to do. It was the custom in these savage lands, and Robinson came to think, finally, that he had no right to interfere, unless they first attacked him. He argued also that if he did attack, and it chanced that he did not kill them all, that even only one got away, for certain that man would tell his tribe as soon as he got home, and they would come over in hundreds to murder Robinson in revenge for the death of those he had killed. And no doubt they would eat him, the thought of which was very dreadful.

On the whole, therefore, it seemed to him wisest to keep away altogether from that part of the beach, and to hide as well as he could all traces of any one living on the island. So, except to take away and conceal his boat, for more than another year he never went back to that spot. The boat, with her mast and sail and paddle, and a sort of little anchor he had made for her, he took to the farthest east end of the island. He was sure the savages would never come there in their canoes, because of the strong current that usually swept past the rocks; and he left her safely moored in a little bay, under the shelter of some high rocks.

More than ever now, Robinson kept to his two houses, and seldom left them, except to go to a deep valley he had found, through which ran a little stream of water as clear as crystal, and in which he now kept most of his goats, secured by a fence built all round the valley. He almost gave up firing his gun, lest it should bring the savages to find out the cause of the noise; and for the same reason he feared even to chop wood or to drive a nail. He was particularly careful, too, never to make a fire during the day, for nothing is so easily seen from a distance as smoke, and it would certainly bring the savages on him, if they were on the island, or anywhere near it.

So, when he needed a big fire, as he did often when burning the clay dishes and pots which he made, he would generally light it during the night. But sometimes in the day-time he would light it in the valley, where the smoke would not show so plainly against the sky or the dark trees, owing to the hollow being deep, and in the very middle of the island.

Presently, he began to make charcoal, by burning wood under earth and turf, and this charcoal he often took home to his house to use for cooking his food, because charcoal makes no smoke.