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3-049 (Original)

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author,male,Morgan, John,60 addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Plaint Text :
Public Written
Webby, 1989
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3-049.txt — 10 KB

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He stood alone - beneath the deep dark shade
Of the Australian forest, where the trees,
A century old the youngest of them, made
Hollow and mournful music in the breeze. 
One day when I was indulging in these meditations, and gazing round from my Robinson Crusoe hut upon the surface of the waters, I thought I heard the sound of human voices; and, on looking up, was somewhat startled at seeing three natives standing on the high land immediately above me. They were armed with spears, and had opossum skins thrown over their shoulders, partially covering their bodies. Standing as they did, on an elevated position, armed too, and being myself totally defenceless, I confess I felt alarmed; so that hoping I had not been seen, I crept into a crevice in a rock near at hand, where I endeavoured to conceal myself. They were however soon upon my track, and shouting what I considered to be a call for me to come out, I resolved to do so; indeed I could not have remained there long on account of the water. With but faint hopes of meeting with good treatment at their hands, I crawled out from my shelter, and surrendered at discretion. They gazed on me with wonder: my size probably attracting their attention. After seizing both my hands, they struck their breasts, and mine also, making at the same time a noise between singing and crying: a sort of whine, which to me sounded very like premeditated mischief. Pointing to my hut, they evinced a desire to examine it - so we entered. [72] My new friends, if friends they were to be, made themselves very much at home, although uninvited. One made up a large fire, another threw off his rug and went into the sea for crayfish, which, on his return, he threw alive into the flame - at the same time looking at me with an expression as much as to intimate that they intended to grill me next, by way of a change of diet. I can afford to smile, and even laugh now at the recollection; but, at the time, I assure the reader, I was by no means satisfied with the prospect before me, or with my visitors. At length my suspense ended, by their taking the fish, fairly dividing them, and handing to me the first and best portion. Having finished our meal, they gave me to understand they wished me to follow them. To this I hesitated, not being satisfied as to their intentions, but after a time consented. 
On leaving the hut, two of them went before, and having thus only one to contend against, I thought of making my escape, but my armed guard was too vigilant; so that, defenceless as I was, no safe opportunity was afforded. We proceeded in this way until we came to their huts, two small turf cabins - in each of which there was just room enough for two persons to lay at length under their shelter. It was nearly dark, and finding that I was to have my sentry friend beside me, and that the other two were to occupy the second cabin, my hopes revived - that during the night an opportunity for my escape would offer. He however did not sleep a wink, but kept muttering to himself all the night, so that by the morning I was fairly worn out by anxiety and watching. At daylight they gave me to understand they were going farther, and that I must accompany them. I, on the contrary, thought it safer to come to an understanding at once, and with this view, mustering all my resolution, I intimated a refusal, that I would not do so. After a warm discussion by signs, and, to both parties, by sufficiently significant sounds, they apparently consented that I should remain; but, as they wished me not to leave until their return, my old and nearly worn-out stockings were required by them as an assurance offering. This I steadily declined complying with, so that after sundry striking of the breasts, and stamping with the feet, they were content to leave me unmolested. I watched them until I thought the coast was clear, and then began to consider in what direction I should steer, for I had not now the beach as a guide for my movements. Whilst thinking over the matter, one of them returned, bringing with him a rude kind of basket made of rushes. In it was some of the berries I have already mentioned, which he wished to barter for one of my much courted stockings. I however objected, being resolved on letting him know I was positive in that matter, hoping by so doing to give him a favourable opinion of my determination, on questions which might arise between us of greater consequence. Finding his negotiation useless, he left the fruit and followed his companions. When I thought them sufficiently far off, I took to my heels, in the direction, as I thought, for the sea coast, and fortunately I made it without much difficulty. [73] Going musing along, I came to a high rock against which the waves were beating violently, the sea at the time being very tempestuous: it was a very grand but a dreary and melancholy scene. Whilst viewing it with a very aching and downcast heart and spirit, I observed a small rocky island a short distance from the beach, covered with the strangest looking animals I had ever seen. They appeared to be about four, or from four to six feet long, having a head similar to that of a pig, without feet, with tails like those of a fish, a large fin on each side, and a body covered with short glossy hair: I suppose them to be the fur seal, or sea elephant.
Finding night coming on, having no fire to warm me, and with so dreary a prospect of the future - without food of any kind - I began to repent having left the natives, and resolved on returning to their huts from whence I had made my escape. I accordingly traced my way back, but on my arrival found they had not returned. After remaining some hours, I decided on going in the direction I supposed them to have taken, but after a weary march, I found I had completely lost myself, and very much distressed, I laid myself down for the night, within the shelter of a large hollow tree, such as are to be found in the Australian forests. Having secured a fire-stick during the day, I made a good fire, it being very cold, and raining heavily.
I remember I had no sleep that night, for my fire attracted the notice of the wild dogs and opossums, whose horrid howls and noises were such as to render sleep impossible. The cries of the latter were like the shrieks of children, appearing to be at times over me, and at others close to my ear. Under these circumstances, I hailed the daylight very thankfully, and then proceeded on my solitary way, endeavouring to get upon the trail of the natives, who, as I supposed, had gone in that direction. In this I was not successful, and having entangled myself in the labyrinths of the forest, in a country entirely unknown to me, I became at length lost, and remained so for three days, without a morsel of food, or a drop of water, excepting small quantities which I occasionally met with in the clay holes. When I laid myself down to rest hoping to sleep, the same unearthly noises appeared to have followed me, and my mind for want of relaxation was failing, as the minds of the strongest men will fail, under such circumstances. I continued to wander about in this way, subsisting upon succulent shrubs and berries, until I came to a large lake, upon which I could see an abundance of ducks, and geese, and swans, and other wild fowl. From that lake I found a very considerable river flowing, as I concluded, toward the sea. I at once resolved to follow its course; and on reaching its entrance, saw the little rocky island already mentioned as having the seal, or sea elephants upon it; and it was a great comfort to me, to find myself once more not far from my old quarters where the three natives had left me. I soon after arrived at the turf cabins, having now acquired some acquaintance with the locality, and although suffering from much hunger, lay myself down and slept soundly. [74] At daylight, I had the satisfaction to find some of the same kind of fruit the native had brought me in the rush basket. On these I made a great feast, and after remaining there that day, returned to my own hut on the beach. Here I must have remained many months - how long I cannot tell - subsisting as before; but at length it appeared likely that my supplies would fail, and I began again to reflect on my deplorable condition. My clothes were all in tatters, my shoes were worn out, my health was much impaired by want and exposure, and my spirits broken - so much so, that I determined on retracing my steps in order to regain the ship in the event of her remaining in the bay, and with the hopes of rejoining my companions, should they be still in existence. The winter was fast approaching, the weather had set in dreadfully cold and tempestuous, so that it was not without great difficulty I could go down amongst the rocks for shell fish, which, as I have already said, were now, from some cause or other, getting very scarce in that locality. I therefore bade goodbye to my lonely habitation and started on my return.
One night, whilst travelling along the beach, I was completely bewildered, having been stopped in my progress by a high perpendicular rock stretching out from the cliffs some distance into the sea. The tide running in fast, my only chance of escape was by climbing the rock. This I did with great difficulty, and just above high water mark I found a large cavern, into which I crept for shelter. Having had no fire for some time I was again living upon such raw shell fish as I could find in each day's journey, and with these was making my wretched meal, when I found I had intruded upon the lodgings of some of the tenants of the deep, who could only reach their rocky quarters when the tide was at the highest. I was completely horrified and knew not what to do, as it was nearly dark, and they were waddling in at the entrance. To rush out, appeared to be nothing less than certain death; but happening to make a noise, it struck terror into them, and tumbling one over the other into the sea, they left me once more master of the cavern. I remained during the rest of the night undisturbed, and the following morning again pursued my weary way.