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8

Escape from the island

 

I was now in my twenty—seventh year on the island,and I did not want to be there for another year. We worked hard to get the corn in,and to make a lot of bread. We had dried fruit and salted meat,and big pots to keep water in. One evening Friday went out to look for a turtle for meat and eggs. But in less than an hour he was back,and he looked very afraid.

Master!Master!’he cried. ‘There's a great ship near the island,and men are coming to the shore in a boat!’

I jumped up and ran with him down to the shore. To my great surprise,I saw that it was an English ship!But why was it here?English ships never came this way. Perhaps they were pirates!‘Don't let them see you,Friday!’I called. ‘We'll hide in the trees and watch. ’

There were eleven men in the boat,but three of them were prisoners. Their arms were tied with rope,but their legs were free and they could walk. The other sailors pushed the three prisoners up the beach,laughing and shouting and hitting them. Then some of them sat down on the sand and began to drink. Others walked away to look at the island,and two men stayed to watch the boat. The three prisoners walked slowly a-long the beach and sat dowm under a tree,not far from us. They looked very unhappy.

Very quietly,I came up behind them through the trees,and called out to them in English.

Don't be afraid,’I said. ‘I'm an Englishman. Perhaps I can help you. ’

The three men turned and looked at me. They did not an-swer at once;they were too surprised. Perhaps they thought I was a wild man myself,in my strange home—made clothes of animals’skins,and with my long hair and beard. Then the old-est man spoke.

I am the captain of that ship,’he said,‘and these two men are my first and second officers. Last night there was a mutiny,and the seamen took the ship from me. Now they’re going to leave the three of us here,to die on this island. ’

De these mutineers have guns?’

Only two,’he answered,‘and they’ve left those on the boat. ’

All righ,’I said. ‘We'll fight them,but if we get your ship back for you,you must take me back to England. ’

The captain agreed immediately and thanked me very warm-ly for my help. Friday ran back to my house to get all the guns,and the captain and I made a plan.

The first part was easy because the seamen were not ready for a fight. We shot the two men at the boat,and the captain shot another man. This man,Tom Smith,was the worst of them all and he began the mutiny on the ship. Then the cap-tain talked to the other five men,and they agreed to help him. They did not really want to be mutineers,but they were afraid of Tom Smith.

Now,’I said to the captain,‘we must get back your ship. How many men are on it?’

Twenty-six,’the captain replied,‘and they will fight hard because they won't want to go home. It is death for all muti-neers in England. But not all the men are bad. I'm sure that some of them will help me. ’

Just then we saw another boat,which was coming from the ship to the shore. There were ten men in it,and they all had guns. We ran into the trees and waited.

It was a long hard fight,but by now it was dark and this helped us very much. We ran here and there in the trees,call-ing and shouting. The seamen could not see us and did not know how many men they were fighting. In the end the first officer shouted to them:

Put down your guns and stop fightng!The captain has fifty island people to help him. We can kill you all!’

So the seamen stopped fighting and we took their guns. Three of the men agreed to come back to the captain,and we put the others in my cave. Friday and I stayed to watch the prisoners,while the captain and his men went back to fight for the ship.

All night we listened to the sound of guns and shouting,but in the morning,when the sun came up,the captain was master of his ship again. I went down to the shore to meet him.

My dear friend,’he cried,‘There's your ship!I'll take you to the ends of the world in it!’

I put my arms round him,and we laughed and cried together. How happy I was to leave the ialand!

My good friend Friday came with me,of course,but we left the mutineers on the island. We decided not to kill them;they could begin a new life on the island. I showed them my three houses,my cornfields and my goats,and all my tools. Their life would he easy because of all my hard work for so many years.

And so,on the nineteenth of December 1689-after twen-ty-seven years,two months and nineteen days-I said good-bye to my island and sailed home to England.

 


 

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