Monday, February 20, 2017


Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
THAT evil influence which carried me first away from
my father’s house - which hurried me into the wild and
indigested notion of raising my fortune, and that impressed
those conceits so forcibly upon me as to make me deaf to
all good advice, and to the entreaties and even the
commands of my father - I say, the same influence,
whatever it was, presented the most unfortunate of all
enterprises to my view; and I went on board a vessel
bound to the coast of Africa; or, as our sailors vulgarly
called it, a voyage to Guinea.
It was my great misfortune that in all these adventures I
did not ship myself as a sailor; when, though I might
indeed have worked a little harder than ordinary, yet at
the same time I should have learnt the duty and office of a
fore-mast man, and in time might have qualified myself for
a mate or lieutenant, if not for a master. But as it was
always my fate to choose for the worse, so I did here; for
having money in my pocket and good clothes upon my
back, I would always go on board in the habit of a
gentleman; and so I neither had any business in the ship,
nor learned to do any.
It was my lot first of all to fall into pretty good
company in London, which does not always happen to
such loose and misguided young fellows as I then was; the
devil generally not omitting to lay some snare for them
very early; but it was not so with me. I first got acquainted
with the master of a ship who had been on the coast of
Guinea; and who, having had very good success there, was
resolved to go again. This captain taking a fancy to my
conversation, which was not at all disagreeable at that
time, hearing me say I had a mind to see the world, told
me if I would go the voyage with him I should be at no
expense; I should be his messmate and his companion; and
if I could carry anything with me, I should have all the
advantage of it that the trade would admit; and perhaps I
might meet with some encouragement.
I embraced the offer; and entering into a strict
friendship with this captain, who was an honest, plaindealing
man, I went the voyage with him, and carried a
small adventure with me, which, by the disinterested
honesty of my friend the captain, I increased very
considerably; for I carried about 40 pounds in such toys
and trifles as the captain directed me to buy. These 40
pounds I had mustered together by the assistance of some
of my relations whom I corresponded with; and who, I
believe, got my father, or at least my mother, to
contribute so much as that to my first adventure.
This was the only voyage which I may say was
successful in all my adventures, which I owe to the
integrity and honesty of my friend the captain; under
whom also I got a competent knowledge of the
mathematics and the rules of navigation, learned how to
keep an account of the ship’s course, take an observation,
and, in short, to understand some things that were needful
to be understood by a sailor; for, as he took delight to
instruct me, I took delight to learn; and, in a word, this
voyage made me both a sailor and a merchant; for I
brought home five pounds nine ounces of gold-dust for
my adventure, which yielded me in London, at my return,
almost 300 pounds; and this filled me with those aspiring
thoughts which have since so completed my ruin.
Yet even in this voyage I had my misfortunes too;
particularly, that I was continually sick, being thrown into
a violent calenture by the excessive heat of the climate;
our principal trading being upon the coast, from latitude
of 15 degrees north even to the line itself.
I was now set up for a Guinea trader; and my friend, to
my great misfortune, dying soon after his arrival, I resolved
to go the same voyage again, and I embarked in the same
vessel with one who was his mate in the former voyage,
and had now got the command of the ship. This was the
unhappiest voyage that ever man made; for though I did
not carry quite 100 pounds of my new-gained wealth, so
that I had 200 pounds left, which I had lodged with my
friend’s widow, who was very just to me, yet I fell into
terrible misfortunes. The first was this: our ship making
her course towards the Canary Islands, or rather between
those islands and the African shore, was surprised in the
grey of the morning by a Turkish rover of Sallee, who
gave chase to us with all the sail she could make. We
crowded also as much canvas as our yards would spread, or
our masts carry, to get clear; but finding the pirate gained
upon us, and would certainly come up with us in a few
hours, we prepared to fight; our ship having twelve guns,
and the rogue eighteen. About three in the afternoon he
came up with us, and bringing to, by mistake, just athwart
our quarter, instead of athwart our stern, as he intended,
we brought eight of our guns to bear on that side, and
poured in a broadside upon him, which made him sheer
off again, after returning our fire, and pouring in also his
small shot from near two hundred men which he had on
board. However, we had not a man touched, all our men
keeping close. He prepared to attack us again, and we to
defend ourselves. But laying us on board the next time
upon our other quarter, he entered sixty men upon our
decks, who immediately fell to cutting and hacking the
sails and rigging. We plied them with small shot, halfpikes,
powder-chests, and such like, and cleared our deck
of them twice. However, to cut short this melancholy part
of our story, our ship being disabled, and three of our men
killed, and eight wounded, we were obliged to yield, and
were carried all prisoners into Sallee, a port belonging to
the Moors.
The usage I had there was not so dreadful as at first I
apprehended; nor was I carried up the country to the
emperor’s court, as the rest of our men were, but was kept
by the captain of the rover as his proper prize, and made
his slave, being young and nimble, and fit for his business.
At this surprising change of my circumstances, from a
merchant to a miserable slave, I was perfectly
overwhelmed; and now I looked back upon my father’s
prophetic discourse to me, that I should be miserable and
have none to relieve me, which I thought was now so
effectually brought to pass that I could not be worse; for
now the hand of Heaven had overtaken me, and I was
undone without redemption; but, alas! this was but a taste
of the misery I was to go through, as will appear in the
sequel of this story.
As my new patron, or master, had taken me home to
his house, so I was in hopes that he would take me with
him when he went to sea again, believing that it would
some time or other be his fate to be taken by a Spanish or
Portugal man-of-war; and that then I should be set at
liberty. But this hope of mine was soon taken away; for
when he went to sea, he left me on shore to look after his
little garden, and do the common drudgery of slaves about
his house; and when he came home again from his cruise,
he ordered me to lie in the cabin to look after the ship.
Here I meditated nothing but my escape, and what
method I might take to effect it, but found no way that
had the least probability in it; nothing presented to make
the supposition of it rational; for I had nobody to
communicate it to that would embark with me - no
fellow-slave, no Englishman, Irishman, or Scotchman
there but myself; so that for two years, though I often
pleased myself with the imagination, yet I never had the
least encouraging prospect of putting it in practice.
After about two years, an odd circumstance presented
itself, which put the old thought of making some attempt
for my liberty again in my head. My patron lying at home
longer than usual without fitting out his ship, which, as I
heard, was for want of money, he used constantly, once or
twice a week, sometimes oftener if the weather was fair, to
take the ship’s pinnace and go out into the road a- fishing;
and as he always took me and young Maresco with him to
row the boat, we made him very merry, and I proved very
dexterous in catching fish; insomuch that sometimes he
would send me with a Moor, one of his kinsmen, and the
youth - the Maresco, as they called him - to catch a dish
of fish for him.
It happened one time, that going a-fishing in a calm
morning, a fog rose so thick that, though we were not half
a league from the shore, we lost sight of it; and rowing we
knew not whither or which way, we laboured all day, and
all the next night; and when the morning came we found
we had pulled off to sea instead of pulling in for the shore;
and that we were at least two leagues from the shore.
However, we got well in again, though with a great deal
of labour and some danger; for the wind began to blow
pretty fresh in the morning; but we were all very hungry.
But our patron, warned by this disaster, resolved to take
more care of himself for the future; and having lying by
him the longboat of our English ship that he had taken, he
resolved he would not go a- fishing any more without a
compass and some provision; so he ordered the carpenter
of his ship, who also was an English slave, to build a little
state-room, or cabin, in the middle of the long- boat, like
that of a barge, with a place to stand behind it to steer, and
haul home the main-sheet; the room before for a hand or
two to stand and work the sails. She sailed with what we
call a shoulder-of-mutton sail; and the boom jibed over
the top of the cabin, which lay very snug and low, and
had in it room for him to lie, with a slave or two, and a
table to eat on, with some small lockers to put in some
bottles of such liquor as he thought fit to drink; and his
bread, rice, and coffee.
We went frequently out with this boat a-fishing; and as
I was most dexterous to catch fish for him, he never went
without me. It happened that he had appointed to go out
in this boat, either for pleasure or for fish, with two or
three Moors of some distinction in that place, and for
whom he had provided extraordinarily, and had,
therefore, sent on board the boat overnight a larger store
of provisions than ordinary; and had ordered me to get
ready three fusees with powder and shot, which were on
board his ship, for that they designed some sport of
fowling as well as fishing.
I got all things ready as he had directed, and waited the
next morning with the boat washed clean, her ancient and
pendants out, and everything to accommodate his guests;
when by-and-by my patron came on board alone, and told
me his guests had put off going from some business that
fell out, and ordered me, with the man and boy, as usual,
to go out with the boat and catch them some fish, for that
his friends were to sup at his house, and commanded that
as soon as I got some fish I should bring it home to his
house; all which I prepared to do.
This moment my former notions of deliverance darted
into my thoughts, for now I found I was likely to have a
little ship at my command; and my master being gone, I
prepared to furnish myself, not for fishing business, but for
a voyage; though I knew not, neither did I so much as
consider, whither I should steer - anywhere to get out of
that place was my desire.
My first contrivance was to make a pretence to speak to
this Moor, to get something for our subsistence on board;
for I told him we must not presume to eat of our patron’s
bread. He said that was true; so he brought a large basket
of rusk or biscuit, and three jars of fresh water, into the
boat. I knew where my patron’s case of bottles stood,
which it was evident, by the make, were taken out of
some English prize, and I conveyed them into the boat
while the Moor was on shore, as if they had been there
before for our master. I conveyed also a great lump of
beeswax into the boat, which weighed about half a
hundred-weight, with a parcel of twine or thread, a
hatchet, a saw, and a hammer, all of which were of great
use to us afterwards, especially the wax, to make candles.
Another trick I tried upon him, which he innocently came
into also: his name was Ismael, which they call Muley, or
Moely; so I called to him - ‘Moely,’ said I, ‘our patron’s
guns are on board the boat; can you not get a little
powder and shot? It may be we may kill some alcamies (a
fowl like our curlews) for ourselves, for I know he keeps
the gunner’s stores in the ship.’ ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘I’ll bring
some;’ and accordingly he brought a great leather pouch,
which held a pound and a half of powder, or rather more;
and another with shot, that had five or six pounds, with
some bullets, and put all into the boat. At the same time I
had found some powder of my master’s in the great cabin,
with which I filled one of the large bottles in the case,
which was almost empty, pouring what was in it into
another; and thus furnished with everything needful, we
sailed out of the port to fish. The castle, which is at the
entrance of the port, knew who we were, and took no
notice of us; and we were not above a mile out of the port
before we hauled in our sail and set us down to fish. The
wind blew from the N.N.E., which was contrary to my
desire, for had it blown southerly I had been sure to have
made the coast of Spain, and at least reached to the bay of
Cadiz; but my resolutions were, blow which way it
would, I would be gone from that horrid place where I
was, and leave the rest to fate.
After we had fished some time and caught nothing - for
when I had fish on my hook I would not pull them up,
that he might not see them - I said to the Moor, ‘This will
not do; our master will not be thus served; we must stand
farther off.’ He, thinking no harm, agreed, and being in
the head of the boat, set the sails; and, as I had the helm, I
ran the boat out near a league farther, and then brought
her to, as if I would fish; when, giving the boy the helm, I
stepped forward to where the Moor was, and making as if
I stooped for something behind him, I took him by
surprise with my arm under his waist, and tossed him clear
overboard into the sea. He rose immediately, for he swam
like a cork, and called to me, begged to be taken in, told
me he would go all over the world with me. He swam so
strong after the boat that he would have reached me very
quickly, there being but little wind; upon which I stepped
into the cabin, and fetching one of the fowling-pieces, I
presented it at him, and told him I had done him no hurt,
and if he would be quiet I would do him none. ‘But,’ said
I, ‘you swim well enough to reach to the shore, and the
sea is calm; make the best of your way to shore, and I will
do you no harm; but if you come near the boat I’ll shoot
you through the head, for I am resolved to have my
liberty;’ so he turned himself about, and swam for the
shore, and I make no doubt but he reached it with ease,
for he was an excellent swimmer.
I could have been content to have taken this Moor
with me, and have drowned the boy, but there was no
venturing to trust him. When he was gone, I turned to the
boy, whom they called Xury, and said to him, ‘Xury, if
you will be faithful to me, I’ll make you a great man; but
if you will not stroke your face to be true to me’ - that is,
swear by Mahomet and his father’s beard - ‘I must throw
you into the sea too.’ The boy smiled in my face, and
spoke so innocently that I could not distrust him, and
swore to be faithful to me, and go all over the world with
While I was in view of the Moor that was swimming, I
stood out directly to sea with the boat, rather stretching to
windward, that they might think me gone towards the
Straits’ mouth (as indeed any one that had been in their
wits must have been supposed to do): for who would have
supposed we were sailed on to the southward, to the truly
Barbarian coast, where whole nations of negroes were sure
to surround us with their canoes and destroy us; where we
could not go on shore but we should be devoured by
savage beasts, or more merciless savages of human kind.
But as soon as it grew dusk in the evening, I changed
my course, and steered directly south and by east, bending
my course a little towards the east, that I might keep in
with the shore; and having a fair, fresh gale of wind, and a
smooth, quiet sea, I made such sail that I believe by the
next day, at three o’clock in the afternoon, when I first
made the land, I could not be less than one hundred and
fifty miles south of Sallee; quite beyond the Emperor of
Morocco’s dominions, or indeed of any other king
thereabouts, for we saw no people.
Yet such was the fright I had taken of the Moors, and
the dreadful apprehensions I had of falling into their hands,
that I would not stop, or go on shore, or come to an
anchor; the wind continuing fair till I had sailed in that
manner five days; and then the wind shifting to the
southward, I concluded also that if any of our vessels were
in chase of me, they also would now give over; so I
ventured to make to the coast, and came to an anchor in
the mouth of a little river, I knew not what, nor where,
neither what latitude, what country, what nation, or what
river. I neither saw, nor desired to see any people; the
principal thing I wanted was fresh water. We came into
this creek in the evening, resolving to swim on shore as
soon as it was dark, and discover the country; but as soon
as it was quite dark, we heard such dreadful noises of the
barking, roaring, and howling of wild creatures, of we
knew not what kinds, that the poor boy was ready to die
with fear, and begged of me not to go on shore till day.
‘Well, Xury,’ said I, ‘then I won’t; but it may be that we
may see men by day, who will be as bad to us as those
lions.’ ‘Then we give them the shoot gun,’ says Xury,
laughing, ‘make them run wey.’ Such English Xury spoke
by conversing among us slaves. However, I was glad to see
the boy so cheerful, and I gave him a dram (out of our
patron’s case of bottles) to cheer him up. After all, Xury’s
advice was good, and I took it; we dropped our little
anchor, and lay still all night; I say still, for we slept none;
for in two or three hours we saw vast great creatures (we knew not what to call them) of many sorts, come down to
the sea-shore and run into the water, wallowing and
washing themselves for the pleasure of cooling themselves;
and they made such hideous howlings and yellings, that I
never indeed heard the like.
Xury was dreadfully frighted, and indeed so was I too;
but we were both more frighted when we heard one of
these mighty creatures come swimming towards our boat;
we could not see him, but we might hear him by his
blowing to be a monstrous huge and furious beast. Xury
said it was a lion, and it might be so for aught I know; but
poor Xury cried to me to weigh the anchor and row
away; ‘No,’ says I, ‘Xury; we can slip our cable, with the
buoy to it, and go off to sea; they cannot follow us far.’ I
had no sooner said so, but I perceived the creature
(whatever it was) within two oars’ length, which
something surprised me; however, I immediately stepped
to the cabin door, and taking up my gun, fired at him;
upon which he immediately turned about and swam
towards the shore again.
But it is impossible to describe the horrid noises, and
hideous cries and howlings that were raised, as well upon
the edge of the shore as higher within the country, upon
the noise or report of the gun, a thing I have some reason
to believe those creatures had never heard before: this
convinced me that there was no going on shore for us in
the night on that coast, and how to venture on shore in
the day was another question too; for to have fallen into
the hands of any of the savages had been as bad as to have
fallen into the hands of the lions and tigers; at least we
were equally apprehensive of the danger of it.
Be that as it would, we were obliged to go on shore
somewhere or other for water, for we had not a pint left
in the boat; when and where to get to it was the point.
Xury said, if I would let him go on shore with one of the
jars, he would find if there was any water, and bring some
to me. I asked him why he would go? why I should not
go, and he stay in the boat? The boy answered with so
much affection as made me love him ever after. Says he,
‘If wild mans come, they eat me, you go wey.’ ‘Well,
Xury,’ said I, ‘we will both go and if the wild mans come,
we will kill them, they shall eat neither of us.’ So I gave
Xury a piece of rusk bread to eat, and a dram out of our
patron’s case of bottles which I mentioned before; and we
hauled the boat in as near the shore as we thought was
proper, and so waded on shore, carrying nothing but our
arms and two jars for water.
I did not care to go out of sight of the boat, fearing the
coming of canoes with savages down the river; but the
boy seeing a low place about a mile up the country,
rambled to it, and by-and-by I saw him come running
towards me. I thought he was pursued by some savage, or
frighted with some wild beast, and I ran forward towards
him to help him; but when I came nearer to him I saw
something hanging over his shoulders, which was a
creature that he had shot, like a hare, but different in
colour, and longer legs; however, we were very glad of it,
and it was very good meat; but the great joy that poor
Xury came with, was to tell me he had found good water
and seen no wild mans.
But we found afterwards that we need not take such
pains for water, for a little higher up the creek where we
were we found the water fresh when the tide was out,
which flowed but a little way up; so we filled our jars, and
feasted on the hare he had killed, and prepared to go on
our way, having seen no footsteps of any human creature
in that part of the country.
As I had been one voyage to this coast before, I knew
very well that the islands of the Canaries, and the Cape de
Verde Islands also, lay not far off from the coast. But as I
had no instruments to take an observation to know what
latitude we were in, and not exactly knowing, or at least
remembering, what latitude they were in, I knew not
where to look for them, or when to stand off to sea
towards them; otherwise I might now easily have found
some of these islands. But my hope was, that if I stood
along this coast till I came to that part where the English
traded, I should find some of their vessels upon their usual
design of trade, that would relieve and take us in.
By the best of my calculation, that place where I now
was must be that country which, lying between the
Emperor of Morocco’s dominions and the negroes, lies
waste and uninhabited, except by wild beasts; the negroes
having abandoned it and gone farther south for fear of the
Moors, and the Moors not thinking it worth inhabiting by
reason of its barrenness; and indeed, both forsaking it
because of the prodigious number of tigers, lions, leopards,
and other furious creatures which harbour there; so that
the Moors use it for their hunting only, where they go
like an army, two or three thousand men at a time; and
indeed for near a hundred miles together upon this coast
we saw nothing but a waste, uninhabited country by day,
and heard nothing but howlings and roaring of wild beasts
by night.
Once or twice in the daytime I thought I saw the Pico
of Teneriffe, being the high top of the Mountain Teneriffe
in the Canaries, and had a great mind to venture out, in
hopes of reaching thither; but having tried twice, I was
forced in again by contrary winds, the sea also going too
high for my little vessel; so, I resolved to pursue my first
design, and keep along the shore.
Several times I was obliged to land for fresh water, after
we had left this place; and once in particular, being early
in morning, we came to an anchor under a little point of
land, which was pretty high; and the tide beginning to
flow, we lay still to go farther in. Xury, whose eyes were
more about him than it seems mine were, calls softly to
me, and tells me that we had best go farther off the shore;
‘For,’ says he, ‘look, yonder lies a dreadful monster on the
side of that hillock, fast asleep.’ I looked where he
pointed, and saw a dreadful monster indeed, for it was a
terrible, great lion that lay on the side of the shore, under
the shade of a piece of the hill that hung as it were a little
over him. ‘Xury,’ says I, ‘you shall on shore and kill him.’
Xury, looked frighted, and said, ‘Me kill! he eat me at one
mouth!’ - one mouthful he meant. However, I said no
more to the boy, but bade him lie still, and I took our
biggest gun, which was almost musket-bore, and loaded it
with a good charge of powder, and with two slugs, and
laid it down; then I loaded another gun with two bullets;
and the third (for we had three pieces) I loaded with five
smaller bullets. I took the best aim I could with the first
piece to have shot him in the head, but he lay so with his
leg raised a little above his nose, that the slugs hit his leg
about the knee and broke the bone. He started up,
growling at first, but finding his leg broken, fell down
again; and then got upon three legs, and gave the most
hideous roar that ever I heard. I was a little surprised that I
had not hit him on the head; however, I took up the
second piece immediately, and though he began to move
off, fired again, and shot him in the head, and had the
pleasure to see him drop and make but little noise, but lie
struggling for life. Then Xury took heart, and would have
me let him go on shore. ‘Well, go,’ said I: so the boy
jumped into the water and taking a little gun in one hand,
swam to shore with the other hand, and coming close to
the creature, put the muzzle of the piece to his ear, and
shot him in the head again, which despatched him quite.
This was game indeed to us, but this was no food; and I
was very sorry to lose three charges of powder and shot
upon a creature that was good for nothing to us.
However, Xury said he would have some of him; so he
comes on board, and asked me to give him the hatchet.
‘For what, Xury?’ said I. ‘Me cut off his head,’ said he.
However, Xury could not cut off his head, but he cut off
a foot, and brought it with him, and it was a monstrous
great one.
I bethought myself, however, that, perhaps the skin of
him might, one way or other, be of some value to us; and
I resolved to take off his skin if I could. So Xury and I
went to work with him; but Xury was much the better
workman at it, for I knew very ill how to do it. Indeed, it
took us both up the whole day, but at last we got off the
hide of him, and spreading it on the top of our cabin, the
sun effectually dried it in two days’ time, and it afterwards
served me to lie upon.

No comments:

Post a Comment