Chapter Three: Lord of the Island
One day, I found among my goods a little bag that had once held grain on board our ship. I decided to use it to store my powder, so I shook it out near the rock outside my house. Soon afterwards the rains came. A month later, I saw some young plants growing there. I had forgotten all about the grain bag. When the plants grew, I was surprised to see that some were our English barley and others were rice. Up to this point, I had very little idea of religion. I thought of everything that had happened to me as chance. When I saw English barley growing there, I thought it was a miracle. God had made it grow there to comfort me.
This thought brought tears to my eyes. Then I remembered shaking out the bag in that place just before the rains came. This calmed my mind. I thought the grain had grown there by chance, and so I felt less thankful to God. But I should have been thankful anyway, because the chance of grain growing there was very small. By chance ten or twelve grains of barley and rice had remained in the bottom of the bag. By chance I had shaken out the bag in the shade of the rock, where it was protected from the sun. I carefully saved the grain to plant again, hoping to grow enough to supply me with bread.
April 16. I finished my ladder. With this I could climb over the fence. The fence was now thick and high. From outside, the house could not be seen. At last I was safe from attack by man or beast.The next day, the earth came falling down from the roof of my cave and the hill above it. I thought that my cave was falling in as it had done before. I climbed the fence, for fear of being buried alive. Once outside, I realised that it was an earthquake.
I was terrified that the hill would fall upon my tent and bury all my goods. I sat on the ground, feeling miserable. The wind rose and there was a great storm. It lasted about three hours. At That time I sat on the ground, terrified and miserable, but I never had one serious religious thought. Two hours later, the air and sea were calm, and it began to rain. I realised that the storm had been the result of the earthquake and that the earthquake was now over. I went in and sat in my tent.
June 16. On the beach at the other side of the island I found a large turtle. I had never seen one before, but I soon discovered that there were many on the other side of the island.
June 19. I fell ill and began shivering.
June 20. I did not sleep all night because of the fever.
June 21. I was terrified by my illness and had no one to help me. I prayed to God for the first time since the storm on the sea by Hull. I could not think clearly. For several days I lay shivering with fever.
June 26. I woke up feeling better. Having no food, I took my gun and killed a goat. I found it very difficult to carry the goat home, because I was weak from my illness.
June 27. I fell ill again and lay in bed all day without food or drink. I tried to pray to God, but all I could say was 'Lord have mercy upon me' over and over again. I fell asleep and had a terrible dream. I dreamt I was sitting on the ground outside my house. I saw a man descend from the sky. He was clothed in fire and held a spear in his hand. When he landed on the ground before me, the earth trembled. He moved towards me to kill me. Then he said, 'Since you do not repent, now you will die.'
I awoke terrified. Alas! I had no religious knowledge. What my father had taught me had all been forgotten in eight years of a wicked sailor's life. My soul had been stupid. It had not desired good. It had not feared evil. Through all my misfortunes I had never once thought that they were the just punishment for my sins. I had acted like an animal, guided by my passions. When the rice and barley grew, I had a moment of serious religious thought, but that passed when I discovered that it was not a miracle. Now, for the first time, I began seriously to repent of my sinful life. I saw my condition not as simple misfortune but as the punishment of a just God. These thoughts brought tears to my eyes. I remembered my father's words. He had said that, if I went to sea, God would not bless me and I would be sorry.
'Now,' I said to myself, 'my father's prophesy has really been fulfilled. God has punished me, and there is no one to help me.' Then I cried out, 'Lord help me, for I am in great distress!'
June 28. Feeling a little stronger, I ate some turtle meat. This was the first time in my life I asked God's blessing on what I ate. Afterwards, I took my gun and walked to the shore. There I sat down, feeling weak once more, and looked out at the sea.' What,' I asked myself, 'is this earth and sea of which I have seen so much? What am I? What are men and beasts? Where do we come from? Surely we are made by the same secret power that formed the earth and sea. Who is that?' The answer was clear: 'God made it all.' Then I thought, 'if God made all these things, He must also guide them all. Nothing can happen in creation without His knowledge. Therefore, He knows that I
am here in this miserable condition, and he meant these things to happen to me.'
'Why has God done this to me?' I asked myself. But then I remembered my wicked life, and I said to myself, 'Why do you ask why God has done this to you? Ask instead why you were not killed long ago'. Sadly disturbed by these thoughts, I went to my chest to look for some tobacco. There I also found the Bibles I had taken from the ship. I took one of the Bibles and began to read. The first words I saw were these: 'Call on me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you will praise me.'
The words were very relevant to my situation, and I often thought about them afterwards. Before going to bed, I knelt down and prayed to God. I asked him to fulfil the promise of the Bible and deliver me. I had taken rum and tobacco, so I fell asleep and did not wake up until about three in the afternoon of the next day. When I awoke I was refreshed and cheerful.
July 3. I thought often about the words in the Bible, will deliver you, but it seemed impossible that I should escape from the island. Then suddenly I said to myself, 'But I have been delivered from my illness!' God had delivered me, but I had not praised Him. Instead of thanking Him for saving my life, I had thought only of escaping from the island.
July 4. I began to read the Bible seriously. I decided to read a little every morning and every night. Now I understood the words 'Call on me, and I will deliver you' in a different way. Before I had asked to be delivered from my island-prison. Now I asked to be delivered from the guilt of my sinful past. Deliverance from sin is a far greater blessing than deliverance from misery.
My mind was now calm and comforted. I had been on this unhappy island for more than ten months. I believed that no human being had ever come here before. I was lord of the whole island. If I liked, I could call myself king or emperor. I had enough wood to build twenty ships, enough food for an army. However, if I could not use it, it was of no value to me. I had enough to eat, so the rest was useless. I would have gladly given all my money for a little ink, because it would have been useful. My life was now much easier than before. I thought much more about the blessings of my present life and much less about its misfortunes.
My ink had been gone for some time. My clothes were all worn out. I made new clothes for myself from the skins of the goats I killed. This was very slow and difficult work, since I had no needle. The weather was so hot that I could have gone naked. However, I did not want to go naked, even though there was no one to see me. I could not go naked, because the sun was so strong that it would burn my skin. I therefore made myself clothes, a hat, and even an umbrella. I tried to make a boat or canoe with which to escape from the island, for on a clear day I could see the mainland. It took me a long time to build the canoe. When it was finished it was too big for me to move. I could not get it to the shore, and so I left it where I had built it. Later, I made a smaller boat, but this was not large enough to take me to the mainland. I used it to sail around my island.
My life continued in this way for many years. It was an orderly life, filled with work and the praise of God. I was not unhappy. I was king of my island. My subjects were the goats, the dog, the cats, and some parrots I had tamed. There were no rebels among my subjects. One day around noon something happened that changed my life on the island. I found the print of a man's naked foot on the beach. I stood and looked at the footprint in amazement. I looked around me but saw nothing. I went to higher ground and looked again, but it was the same. I saw no one, and no other footprint except that one. I was terrified, and went home to hide myself.
At first I thought it must have been the footprint of the devil, for how could a human being have come to this place? I then began to think the print was left by savages from the mainland. They must have come in canoes and left again. I was very thankful that they had not seen my boat. How strange is the life of man! Today we desire what tomorrow we fear. For years I had desired human society. Now I was terrified at the thought that another human being had set his foot upon the island!
I thought again of the words in the Bible: 'Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you will praise me.' I prayed to God to deliver me from danger. Afterwards, I opened my Bible and read, Wait on the Lord, and be of good cheer, and He shall strengthen your heart. Although these words comforted me, I was still afraid. Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself. I no longer trusted in God, as I had before. If I had kept my trust in God, I would have been more cheerful in this new distress.