The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1808)
Part 8 out of 11
On the other hand I told them, I came to establish them there, not to
remove them; and then I let them know that I had brought with me relief
of sundry kinds for them; that I had been at a great charge to supply
them with all things necessary, as well for their convenience as their
defence; and that I had such particular persons with me, as well to
increase and recruit their number, as by the particular necessary
employments which they were bred to, being artificers, to assist them in
those things in which at present they were to seek.
They were all together when I talked thus to them; and before I
delivered to them the stores I had brought, I asked them, one by one, if
they had entirely forgot and buried the first animosities that had been
among them, and could shake hands with one another, and engage in a
strict friendship and union of interest, so that there might be no more
misunderstandings or jealousies.
William Atkins, with abundance of frankness and good humour, said, they
had met with afflictions enough to make them all sober, and enemies
enough to make them all friends: that for his part he would live and die
with them; and was so far from designing any thing against the
Spaniards, that he owned they had done nothing to him but what his own
bad humour made necessary, and what he would have done, and perhaps much
worse, in their case; and that he would ask them pardon, if I desired
it, for the foolish and brutish things he had done to them; and was very
willing and desirous of living on terms of entire friendship and union
with them; and would do any thing that lay in his power, to convince
them of it: and as for going to England, he cared not if he did not go
thither these twenty years.
The Spaniards said, they had indeed at first disarmed and excluded
William Atkins and his two countrymen, for their ill conduct, as they
had let me know; and they appealed to me for the necessity they were
under to do so; but that William Atkins had behaved himself so bravely
in the great fight they had with the savages, and on several occasions
since, and had shewed himself so faithful to, and concerned for the
general interest of them all, that they had forgotten all that was past,
and thought he merited as much to be trusted with arms, and supplied
with necessaries, as any of them; and that they had testified their
satisfaction in him, by committing the command to him, next to the
governor himself; and as they had an entire confidence in him and all
his countrymen, so they acknowledged they had merited that confidence by
all the methods that honest men could merit to be valued and trusted;
and they most heartily embraced the occasion of giving me this
assurance, that they would never have any interest separate from
Upon these frank and open declarations of friendship, we appointed the
next day to dine all together, and indeed we made a splendid feast. I
caused the ship's cook and his mate to come on shore and dress our
dinner, and the old cook's mate we had on shore assisted. We brought on
shore six pieces of good beef, and four pieces of pork, out of the
ship's provision, with our punch-bowl, and materials to fill it; and, in
particular, I gave them ten bottles of French claret, and ten bottles of
English beer, things that neither the Spaniards nor the Englishmen had
tasted for many years; and which it may be supposed they were
exceeding glad of.
The Spaniards added to our feast five whole kids, which the cooks
roasted; and three of them were sent, covered up close, on board our
ship to the seamen, that they might feast on fresh meat from on shore,
as we did with their salt meal from on board.
After this feast, at which we were very innocently merry, I brought out
my cargo of goods, wherein, that there might be no dispute about
dividing, I shewed them that there was sufficient for them all; and
desired that they might all take an equal quantity of the goods that
were for wearing; that is to say, equal when made up. As first, I
distributed linen sufficient to make every one of them four shirts; and,
at the Spaniards' request, afterwards made them up six; these were
exceeding comfortable to them, having been what, as I may say, they had
long since forgot the use of, or what it was to wear them.
I allotted the thin English stuffs, which I mentioned before, to make
every one a light coat like a frock, which I judged fittest for the heat
of the season, cool and loose; and ordered, that whenever they decayed,
they should make more, as they thought fit. The like for pumps, shoes,
stockings, and hats, &c.
I cannot express what pleasure, what satisfaction, sat upon the
countenances of all these poor men when they saw the care I had taken of
them, and how well I had furnished them; they told me I was a father to
them; and that having such a correspondent as I was, in so remote a part
of the world, it would make them forget that they were left in a
desolate place; and they all voluntarily engaged to me not to leave the
place without my consent.
Then I presented to them the people I had brought with me, particularly
the tailor, the smith, and the two carpenters, all of them most
necessary people; but above all, my general artificer, than whom they
could not name any thing that was more needful to them; and the tailor,
to shew his concern for them, went to work immediately, and, with my
leave, made them every one a shirt the first thing he did; and, which
was still more, he taught the women not only how to sew and stitch, and
use the needle, but made them assist to make the shirts for their
husbands and for all the rest.
As for the carpenters, I scarce need mention how useful they were, for
they took in pieces all my clumsy unhandy things, and made them clever
convenient tables, stools, bedsteads, cupboards, lockers, shelves, and
every thing they wanted of that kind.
But to let them see how nature made artificers at first, I carried the
carpenters to see William Atkins's basket house, as I called it, and
they both owned they never saw an instance of such natural ingenuity
before, nor any thing so regular and so handily built, at least of its
kind; and one of them, when he saw it, after musing a good while,
turning about to me, "I am sure," says he, "that man has no need of us;
you need do nothing but give him tools."
Then I brought them out all my store of tools, and gave every man a
digging spade, a shovel, and a rake, for we had no harrows or ploughs;
and to every separate place a pickaxe, a crow, a broadaxe, and a saw;
always appointing, that as often as any were broken, or worn out, they
should be supplied, without grudging, out of the general stores that I
Nails, staples, hinges, hammers, chisels, knives, scissors, and all
sorts of tools and iron-work, they had without tale as they required;
for no man would care to take more than he wanted, and he must be a fool
that would waste or spoil them on any account whatever. And for the use
of the smith I left two tons of unwrought iron for a supply.
My magazine of powder and arms which I brought them, was such, even to
profusion, that they could not but rejoice at them; for now they could
march, as I used to do, with a musket upon each shoulder, if there was
occasion; and were able to fight a thousand savages, if they had but
some little advantages of situation, which also they could not miss of
if they had occasion.
I carried on shore with me the young man whose mother was starved to
death, and the maid also: she was a sober, well-educated, religious
young woman, and behaved so inoffensively, that every one gave her a
good word. She had, indeed, an unhappy life with us, there being no
woman in the ship but herself; but she bore it with patience. After a
while, seeing things so well ordered, and in so fine a way of thriving
upon my island, and considering that they had neither business nor
acquaintance in the East Indies, or reason for taking so long a voyage;
I say, considering all this, both of them came to me, and desired I
would give them leave to remain on the island, and be entered among my
family, as they called it.
I agreed to it readily, and they had a little plot of ground allotted to
them, where they had three tents or houses set up, surrounded with a
basket-work, palisaded like Atkins's, and adjoining to his plantation.
Their tents were contrived so, that they had each of them a room, a part
to lodge in, and a middle tent, like a great storehouse, to lay all
their goods in, and to eat and drink in. And now the other two
Englishmen moved their habitation to the same place, and so the island
was divided into three colonies, and no more; viz. the Spaniards, with
old Friday, and the first servants, at my old habitation under the hill,
which was, in a word, the capital city, and where they had so enlarged
and extended their works, as well under as on the outside of the hill,
that they lived, though perfectly concealed, yet full at large. Never
was there such a little city in a wood, and so hid, I believe, in any
part of the world; for I verily believe a thousand men might have ranged
the island a month, and if they had not known there was such a thing,
and looked on purpose for it, they would not have found it; for the
trees stood so thick and so close, and grew so fast matted into one
another, that nothing but cutting them down first, could discover the
place, except the two narrow entrances where they went in and out, could
be found, which was not very easy. One of them was just down at the
water's edge, on the side of the creek; and it was afterwards above two
hundred yards to the place; and the other was up the ladder at twice, as
I have already formerly described it; and they had a large wood, thick
planted, also on the top of the hill, which contained above an acre,
which grew apace, and covered the place from all discovery there, with
only one narrow place between two trees, not easy to be discovered, to
enter on that side.
The other colony was that of Will Atkins, where there were four families
of Englishmen, I mean those I had left there, with their wives and
children; three savages that were slaves; the widow and children of the
Englishman that was killed; the young man and the maid; and by the way,
we made a wife of her also before we went away. There were also the two
carpenters and the tailor, whom I brought with me for them; also the
smith, who was a very necessary man to them, especially as the gunsmith,
to take care of their arms; and my other man, whom I called Jack of all
Trades, who was himself as good almost as twenty men, for he was not
only a very ingenious fellow, but a very merry fellow; and before I went
away we married him to the honest maid that came with the youth in the
ship, whom I mentioned before.
And now I speak of marrying, it brings me naturally to say something of
the French ecclesiastic that I had brought with me out of the ship's
crew whom I took at sea. It is true, this man was a Roman, and perhaps
it may give offence to some hereafter, if I leave any thing
extraordinary upon record of a man, whom, before I begin, I must (to set
him out in just colours) represent in terms very much to his
disadvantage in the account of Protestants; as, first, that he was a
Papist; secondly, a Popish priest; and thirdly, a French Popish priest.
But justice demands of me to give him a due character; and I must say,
he was a grave, sober, pious, and most religious person; exact in his
life, extensive in his charity, and exemplary in almost every thing he
did. What then can any one say against my being very sensible of the
value of such a man, notwithstanding his profession? though it may be my
opinion, perhaps as well as the opinion of others who shall read this,
that he was mistaken.
The first hour that I began to converse with him, after he had agreed to
go with me to the East Indies, I found reason to delight exceedingly in
his conversation; and he first began with me about religion, in the most
obliging manner imaginable.
"Sir," says he, "you have not only, under God" (and at that he crossed
his breast), "saved my life, but you have admitted me to go this voyage
in your ship, and by your obliging civility have taken me into your
family, giving me an opportunity of free conversation. Now, Sir," says
he, "you see by my habit what my profession is, and I guess by your
nation what yours is. I may think it is my duty, and doubtless it is so,
to use my utmost endeavours on all occasions to bring all the souls that
I can to the knowledge of the truth, and to embrace the Catholic
doctrine; but as I am here under your permission, and in your family, I
am bound in justice to your kindness, as well as in decency and good
manners, to be under your government; and therefore I shall not, without
your leave, enter into any debates on the points of religion, in which
we may not agree, farther than you shall give me leave."
I told him his carriage was so modest that I could not but acknowledge
it; that it was true, we were such people as they call heretics, but
that he was not the first Catholic that I had conversed with without
falling into any inconveniencies, or carrying the questions to any
height in debate; that he should not find himself the worse used for
being of a different opinion from us; and if we did not converse without
any dislike on either side, upon that score, it would be his fault,
He replied, that he thought our conversation might be easily separated
from disputes; that it was not his business to cap principles with every
man he discoursed with; and that he rather desired me to converse with
him as a _gentleman_ than as a _religieux_; that if I would give him
leave at any time to discourse upon religious subjects, he would readily
comply with it; and that then he did not doubt but I would allow him
also to defend his own opinions as well as he could; but that without my
leave he would not break in upon me with any such thing.
He told me farther, that he would not cease to do all that became him in
his office as a priest, as well as a private Christian, to procure the
good of the ship, and the safety of all that was in her; and though
perhaps we would not join with him, and he could not pray with us, he
hoped he might pray for us, which he would do upon all occasions. In
this manner we conversed; and as he was of a most obliging
gentleman-like behaviour, so he was, if I may be allowed to say so, a
man of good sense, and, as I believe, of great learning.
He gave me a most diverting account of his life, and of the many
extraordinary events of it; of many adventures which had befallen him in
the few years that he had been abroad in the world, and particularly
this was very remarkable; viz. that during the voyage he was now engaged
in he had the misfortune to be five times shipped and unshipped, and
never to go to the place whither any of the ships he was in were at
first designed: that his first intent was to have gone to Martinico, and
that he went on board a ship bound thither at St. Maloes; but being
forced into Lisbon in bad weather, the ship received some damage by
running aground in the mouth of the river Tagus, and was obliged to
unload her cargo there: that finding a Portuguese ship there, bound to
the Madeiras, and ready to sail, and supposing he should easily meet
with a vessel there bound to Martinico, he went on board in order to
sail to the Madeiras; but the master of the Portuguese ship being but an
indifferent mariner, had been out in his reckoning, and they drove to
Fyal; where, however, he happened to find a very good market for his
cargo, which was corn, and therefore resolved not to go to the Madeiras,
but to load salt at the isle of May, to go away to Newfoundland. He had
no remedy in the exigence but to go with the ship, and had a pretty good
voyage as far as the Banks, (so they call the place where they catch the
fish) where meeting with a French ship bound from France to Quebec, in
the river of Canada, and from thence to Martinico, to carry provisions,
he thought he should have an opportunity to complete his first design.
But when he came to Quebec the master of the ship died, and the ship
proceeded no farther. So the next voyage he shipped himself for France,
in the ship that was burnt, when we took them up at sea, and then
shipped them with us for the East Indies, as I have already said. Thus
he had been disappointed in five voyages, all, as I may call it, in one
voyage, besides what I shall have occasion to mention farther of the
But I shall not make digressions into other men's stories which have no
relation to my own. I return to what concerns our affair in the island.
He came to me one morning, for he lodged among us all the while we were
upon the island, and it happened to be just when I was going to visit
the Englishmen's colony at the farthest part of the island; I say, he
came to me, and told me with a very grave countenance, that he had for
two or three days desired an opportunity of some discourse with me,
which he hoped would not be displeasing to me, because he thought it
might in some measure correspond with my general design, which was the
prosperity of my new colony, and perhaps might put it at least more than
he yet thought it was in the way of God's blessing.
I looked a little surprised at the last part of his discourse, and
turning a little short, "How, Sir," said I, "can it be said, that we are
not in the way of God's blessing, after such visible assistances and
wonderful deliverances as we have seen here, and of which I have given
you a large account?"
"If you had pleased, Sir," said he, with a world of modesty, and yet
with great readiness, "to have heard me, you would have found no room to
have been displeased, much less to think so hard of me, that I should
suggest, that you have not had wonderful assistances and deliverances;
and I hope, on your behalf, that you are in the way of God's blessing,
and your design is exceeding good, and will prosper. But, Sir," said he,
"though it were more so than is even possible to you, yet there may be
some among you that are not equally right in their actions; and you know
that in the story of Israel, one Achan, in the camp, removed God's
blessing from them, and turned his hand so against them, that thirty-six
of them, though not concerned in the crime, were the objects of divine
vengeance, and bore the weight of that punishment."
I was sensibly touched with this discourse, and told him his inference
was so just, and the whole design seemed so sincere, and was really so
religious in its own nature, that I was very sorry I had interrupted
him, and begged him to go on; and in the meantime, because it seemed
that what we had both to say might take up some time, I told him I was
going to the Englishmens' plantation, and asked him to go with me, and
we might discourse of it by the way. He told me he would more willingly
wait on me thither, because there, partly, the thing was acted which he
desired to speak to me about. So we walked on, and I pressed him to be
free and plain with me in what he had to say.
"Why then, Sir," says he, "be pleased to give me leave to lay down a few
propositions as the foundation of what I have to say, that we may not
differ in the general principles, though we may be of some differing
opinions in the practice of particulars. First, Sir, though we differ in
some of the doctrinal articles of religion, and it is very unhappy that
it is so, especially in the case before us, as I shall shew afterwards,
yet there are some general principles in which we both agree; viz.
first, that there is a God, and that this God, having given us some
stated general rules for our service and obedience, we ought not
willingly and knowingly to offend him, either by neglecting to do what
he has commanded, or by doing what he has expressly forbidden; and let
our different religions be what they will, this general principle is
readily owned by us all, that the blessing of God does not ordinarily
follow a presumptuous sinning against his command; and every good
Christian will be affectionately concerned to prevent any that are under
his care, living in a total neglect of God and his commands. It is not
your men being Protestants, whatever my opinion may be of such, that
discharges me from being concerned for their souls, and from
endeavouring, if it lies before me, that they should live in as little
distance from and enmity with their Maker as possible; especially if you
give me leave to meddle so far in your circuit."
I could not yet imagine, what he aimed at, and told him I granted all
he had said; and thanked him that he would so far concern himself for
us; and begged he would explain the particulars of what he had observed,
that, like Joshua, (to take his own parable) I might put away the
accursed thing from us.
"Why then, Sir," says he, "I will take the liberty you give me; and
there are three things which, if I am right, must stand in the way of
God's blessing upon your endeavours here, and which I should rejoice,
for your sake, and their own, to see removed. And, Sir," says he, "I
promise myself that you will fully agree with me in them all as soon as
I name them; especially because I shall convince you that every one of
them may with great ease, and very much to your satisfaction, be
He gave me no leave to put in any more civilities, but went on: "First,
Sir," says he, "you have here four Englishmen, who have fetched women
from among the savages, and have taken them as their wives, and have had
many children by them all, and yet are not married to them after any
stated legal manner, as the laws of God and man require; and therefore
are yet, in the sense of both, no less than adulterers, and living in
adultery. To this, Sir," says he, "I know you will object, that there
was no clergyman or priest of any kind, or of any profession, to perform
the ceremony; nor any pen and ink, or paper, to write down a contract of
marriage, and have it signed between them. And I know also, Sir, what
the Spaniard governor has told you; I mean of the agreement that he
obliged them to make when they took these women, viz. that they should
choose them out by consent, and keep separately to them; which, by the
way, is nothing of a marriage, no agreement with the women as wives, but
only an agreement among themselves, to keep them from quarrelling.
"But, Sir, the essence of the sacrament of matrimony (so he called it,
being a Roman) consists not only in the mutual consent of the parties to
take one another as man and wife, but in the formal and legal
obligation that there is in the contract to compel the man and woman at
all times to own and acknowledge each other; obliging the man to abstain
from all other women, to engage in no other contract while these
subsist; and on all occasions, as ability allows, to provide honestly
for them and their children; and to oblige the women to the same, on
like conditions, _mutatis mutandis_, on their side.
"Now, Sir," says he, "these men may, when they please, or when occasion
presents, abandon these women, disown their children, leave them to
perish, and take other women and marry them whilst these are living."
And here he added, with some warmth, "How, Sir, is God honoured in this
unlawful liberty? And how shall a blessing succeed your endeavours in
this place, however good in themselves, and however sincere in your
design, while these men, who at present are your subjects, under your
absolute government and dominion, are allowed by you to live in open
I confess I was struck at the thing itself, but much more with the
convincing arguments he supported it with. For it was certainly true,
that though they had no clergyman on the spot, yet a formal contract on
both sides, made before witnesses, and confirmed by any token which they
had all agreed to be bound by, though it had been but the breaking a
stick between them, engaging the men to own these women for their wives
upon all occasions, and never to abandon them or their children, and the
women to the same with their husbands, had been an effectual lawful
marriage in the sight of God, and it was a great neglect that it was
But I thought to have gotten off with my young priest by telling him,
that all that part was done when I was not here; and they had lived so
many years with them now, that if it was adultery it was past remedy,
they could do nothing in it now.
"Sir," says he, "asking your pardon for such freedom, you are right in
this; that it being done in your absence, you could not be charged with
that part of the crime. But I beseech you, matter not yourself that you
are not therefore under an obligation to do your uttermost now to put an
end to it. How can you think, but that, let the time past lie on whom it
will, all the guilt for the future will lie entirely upon you? Because
it is certainly in your power now to put an end to it, and in nobody's
power but yours."
I was so dull still, that I did not take him right, but I imagined that
by putting an end to it he meant that I should part them, and not suffer
them to live together any longer; and I said to him I could not do that
by any means, for that it would put the whole island in confusion. He
seemed surprised that I should so far mistake him. "No, Sir," says he,
"I do not mean that you should separate them, but legally and
effectually marry them now. And, Sir, as my way of marrying may not be
so easy to reconcile them to, though it will be as effectual even by
your own laws; so your way may be as well before God, and as valid among
men; I mean by a written contract signed by both man and woman, and by
all the witnesses present; which all the laws of Europe would decree to
I was amazed to see so much true piety, and so much sincerity of zeal,
besides the unusual impartiality in his discourse, as to his own party
or church, and such a true warmth for the preserving people that he had
no knowledge of or relation to; I say, for preserving them from
transgressing the laws of God; the like of which I had indeed not met
with any where. But recollecting what he had said of marrying them by a
written contract, which I knew would stand too, I returned it back upon
him, and told him I granted all that he had said to be just, and on his
part very kind; that I would discourse with the men upon the point now
when I came to them. And I knew no reason why they should scruple to let
him marry them all; which I knew well enough would be granted to be as
authentic and valid in England as if they were married by one of our own
clergymen. What was afterwards done in this matter I shall speak of
I then pressed him to tell me what was the second complaint which he had
to make, acknowledging I was very much his debtor for the first, and
thanked him heartily for it. He told me he would use the same freedom
and plainness in the second, and hoped I would take it as well; and this
was, that notwithstanding these English subjects of mine, as he called
them, had lived with these women for almost seven years, and had taught
them to speak English, and even to read it, and that they were, as he
perceived, women of tolerable understanding and capable of instruction;
yet they had not, to this hour taught them any thing of the Christian
religion; no not so much as to know that there was a God, or a worship,
or in what manner God was to be served; or that their own idolatry, and
worshipping they knew not who, was false and absurd.
This, he said, was an unaccountable neglect, and what God would
certainly call them to an account for; and perhaps at last take the work
out of their hands. He spoke this very affectionately and warmly. "I am
persuaded," says he, "had those men lived in the savage country whence
their wives came, the savages would have taken more pains to have
brought them to be idolaters, and to worship the devil, than any of
these men, so far as I can see, has taken with them to teach them the
knowledge of the true God. Now, Sir," said he, "though I do not
acknowledge your religion, or you mine, yet we should be all glad to see
the devil's servants, and the subjects of his kingdom, taught to know
the general principles of the Christian religion; that they might at
least hear of God, and of a Redeemer, and of the resurrection, and of a
future state, things which we all believe; they had at least been so
much nearer coming into the bosom of the true church, than they are now
in the public profession of idolatry and devil-worship."
I could hold no longer; I took him in my arms, and embraced him with an
excess of passion. "How far," said I to him, "have I been from
understanding the most essential part of a Christian, viz. to love the
interest of the Christian church, and the good of other men's souls! I
scarce have known what belongs to being a Christian."--"O, Sir, do not
say so," replied he; "this thing is not your fault."--"No," said I; "but
why did I never lay it to heart as well as you?"--"It is not too late
yet," said he; "be not too forward to condemn yourself."--"But what can
be done now?" said I; "you see I am going away."--"Will you give me
leave," said he, "to talk with these poor men about it?"--"Yes, with all
my heart," said I, "and I will oblige them to give heed to what you say
too."--"As to that," said he, "we must leave them to the mercy of
Christ; but it is our business to assist them, encourage them, and
instruct them; and if you will give me leave, and God his blessing, I do
not doubt but the poor ignorant souls shall be brought home into the
great circle of Christianity, if not into the particular faith that we
all embrace; and that even while you stay here." Upon this I said, "I
shall not only give you leave, but give you a thousand thanks for it."
What followed on this account I shall mention also again in its place.
I now pressed him for the third article in which we were to blame. "Why
really," says he, "it is of the same nature, and I will proceed (asking
your leave) with the same plainness as before; it is about your poor
savages yonder, who are, as I may say, your conquered subjects. It is a
maxim, Sir, that is, or ought to be received among all Christians, of
what church, or pretended church soever, viz. that Christian knowledge
ought to be propagated by all possible means, and on all possible
occasions. It is on this principle that our church sends missionaries
into Persia, India, and China; and that our clergy, even of the
superior sort, willingly engage in the most hazardous voyages, and the
most dangerous residence among murderers and barbarians, to teach them
the knowledge of the true God, and to bring them over to embrace the
Christian faith. Now, Sir, you have an opportunity here to have six or
seven-and-thirty poor savages brought over from idolatry to the
knowledge of God, their Maker and Redeemer, that I wonder how you can
pass by such an occasion of doing good, which is really worth the
expense of a man's whole life."
I was now struck dumb indeed, and had not one word to say; I had here a
spirit of true Christian zeal for God and religion before me, let his
particular principles be of what kind soever. As for me, I had not so
much as entertained a thought of this in my heart before, and I believe
should not have thought of it; for I looked upon these savages as
slaves, and people whom, had we any work for them to do, we would have
used as such, or would have been glad to have transported them to any
other part of the world; for our business was to get rid of them, and we
would all have been satisfied if they had been sent to any country, so
they had never seen their own. But to the case: I say I was confounded
at his discourse, and knew not what answer to make him. He looked
earnestly at me, seeing me in some disorder; "Sir," said he, "I shall be
very sorry, if what I have said gives you any offence."--"No, no," said
I, "I am offended with nobody but myself; but I am perfectly confounded,
not only to think that I should never take any notice of this before,
but with reflecting what notice I am able to take of it now. You know,
Sir," said I, "what circumstances I am in; I am bound to the East
Indies, in a ship freighted by merchants, and to whom it would be an
insufferable piece of injustice to detain their ship here, the men lying
all this while at victuals and wages upon the owners' account. It is
true, I agreed to be allowed twelve days here, and if I stay more I
must pay 32 sterling per diem demurrage; nor can I stay upon demurrage
above eight days more, and I have been here thirteen days already; so
that I am perfectly unable to engage in this work; unless I would suffer
myself to be left behind here again; in which case, if this single ship
should miscarry in any part of her voyage, I should be just in the same
condition that I was left in here at first, and from which I have been
so wonderfully delivered."
He owned the case was very hard upon me as to my voyage, but laid it
home upon my conscience, whether the blessing of saving seven-and-thirty
souls was not worth my venturing all I had in the world for. I was not
so sensible of that as he was, and I returned upon him thus: "Why, Sir,
it is a valuable thing indeed to be an instrument in God's hand to
convert seven-and-thirty heathens to the knowledge of Christ: but as you
are an ecclesiastic, and are given over to that work, so that it seems
naturally to fall into the way of your profession, how is it then that
you do not rather offer yourself to undertake it, than press me to it!"
Upon this he faced about, just before me, as he walked along, and
pulling me to a full stop, made me a very low bow: "I most heartily
thank God, and you, Sir," says he, "for giving me so evident a call to
so blessed a work; and if you think yourself discharged from it, and
desire me to undertake it, I will most readily do it, and think it a
happy reward for all of the hazards and difficulties of such a broken
disappointed voyage as I have met with, that I have dropped at last into
so glorious a work."
I discovered a kind of rapture in his face while he spoke this to me;
his eyes sparkled like fire, his face bowed, and his colour came and
went as if he had been falling into fits; in a word, he was tired with
the agony of being embarked in such a work. I paused a considerable
while before I could tell what to say to him, for I was really surprised
to find a man of such sincerity and zeal, and carried out in his zeal
beyond the ordinary rate of men, not of his profession only, but even of
any profession whatsoever. But after I had considered it awhile, I asked
him seriously if he was in earnest, and that he would venture on the
single consideration of an attempt on those poor people, to be locked up
in an unplanted island for perhaps his life, and at last might not know
whether he should be able to do them any good or not?
He turned short upon me, and asked me what I called a venture? "Pray,
Sir," said he, "what do you think I consented to go in your ship to the
East Indies for?"--"Nay," said I, "that I know not, unless it was to
preach to the Indians."--"Doubtless it was," said he; "and do you think
if I can convert these seven-and-thirty men to the faith of Christ, it
is not worth my time, though I should never be fetched off the island
again? Nay, is it not infinitely of more worth to save so many souls
than my life is, or the life of twenty more of the same profession? Yes,
Sir," says he, "I would give Christ and the Blessed Virgin thanks all my
days, if I could be made the least happy instrument of saving the souls
of these poor men though I was never to set my foot off this island, or
see my native country any more. But since you will honour me," says he,
"with putting me into this work, (for which I will pray for you all the
days of my life) I have one humble petition to you," said he
"besides."--"What is that?" said I. "Why," says he, "it is, that you
will leave your man Friday with me, to be my interpreter to them, and to
assist me for without some help I cannot speak to them, or they to me."
I was sensibly troubled at his requesting Friday, because I could not
think of parting with him, and that for many reasons. He had been the
companion of my travels; he was not only faithful to me, but sincerely
affectionate to the last degree; and I had resolved to do something
considerable for him if he out-lived me, as it was probable he would.
Then I knew that as I had bred Friday up to be a Protestant, it would
quite confound him to bring him to embrace another profession; and he
would never, while his eyes were open, believe that his old master was a
heretic, and would be damned; and this might in the end ruin the poor
fellow's principles, and so turn him back again to his first idolatry.
However, a sudden thought relieved me in this strait, and it was this: I
told him I could not say that I was willing to part with Friday on any
account whatever; though a work that to him was of more value than his
life, ought to me to be of much more value than the keeping or parting
with a servant. But on the other hand, I was persuaded, that Friday
would by no means consent to part with me; and then to force him to it
without his consent would be manifest injustice, because I had promised
I would never put him away, and he had promised and engaged to me that
he would never leave me unless I put him away.
He seemed very much concerned at it; for he had no rational access to
these poor people, seeing he did not understand one word of their
language, nor they one word of his. To remove this difficulty, I told
him Friday's father had learnt Spanish, which I found he also
understood, and he should serve him for an interpreter; so he was much
better satisfied, and nothing could persuade him but he would stay to
endeavour to convert them; but Providence gave another and very happy
turn to all this.
I come back now to the first part of his objections. When we came to the
Englishmen I sent for them all together; and after some accounts given
them of what I had done for them, viz. what necessary things I had
provided for them, and how they were distributed, which they were
sensible of, and very thankful for; I began to talk to them of the
scandalous life they led, and gave them a full account of the notice the
clergyman had already taken of it; and arguing how unchristian and
irreligious a life it was, I first asked them if they were married men
or bachelors? They soon explained their condition to me, and shewed me
that two of them were widowers, and the other three were single men or
bachelors. I asked them with what conscience they could take these
women, and lie with them as they had done, call them their wives, and
have so many children by them, and not be married lawfully to them?
They all gave me the answer that I expected, viz. that there was nobody
to marry them; that they agreed before the governor to keep them as
their wives; and to keep them and own them as their wives; and they
thought, as things stood with them, they were as legally married as if
they had been married by a parson, and with all the formalities in
I told them that no doubt they were married in the sight of God, and
were bound in conscience to keep them as their wives; but that the laws
of men being otherwise, they might pretend they were not married, and so
desert the poor women and children hereafter; and that their wives,
being poor, desolate women, friendless and moneyless, would have no way
to help themselves: I therefore told them, that unless I was assured of
their honest intent, I could do nothing for them; but would take care
that what I did should be for the women and children without them; and
that unless they would give some assurances that they would marry the
women, I could not think it was convenient they should continue together
as man and wife; for that it was both scandalous to men and offensive to
God, who they could not think would bless them if they went on thus.
All this passed as I expected; and they told me, especially Will Atkins,
who seemed now to speak for the rest, that they loved their wives as
well as if they had been born in their own native country, and would not
leave them upon any account whatever; and they did verily believe their
wives were as virtuous and as modest, and did to the utmost of their
skill as much for them and for their children as any women could
possibly do, and they would not part with them on any account: and Will
Atkins for his own particular added, if any man would take him away, and
offer to carry him home to England, and to make him captain of the best
man of war in the navy, he would not go with him if he might not carry
his wife and children with him; and if there was a clergyman in the
ship, he would be married to her now with all his heart.
This was just as I would have it. The priest was not with me at that
moment, but was not far off. So to try him farther, I told him I had a
clergyman with me, and if he was sincere I would have him married the
next morning, and bade him consider of it, and talk with the rest. He
said, as for himself, he need not consider of it at all, for he was very
ready to do it, and was glad I had a minister with me; and he believed
they would be all willing also. I then told him that my friend the
minister was a Frenchman, and could not speak English, but that I would
act the clerk between them. He never so much as asked me whether he was
a Papist or Protestant, which was indeed what I was afraid of. But I say
they never inquired about it. So we parted; I went back to my clergyman,
and Will Atkins went in to talk with his companions. I desired the
French gentleman not to say any thing to them till the business was
thorough ripe, and I told him what answer the men had given me.
Before I went from their quarter they all came to me, and told me, they
had been considering what I had said; that they were very glad to hear I
had a clergyman in my company; and they were very willing to give me the
satisfaction I desired, and to be formally married as soon as I pleased;
for they were far from desiring to part from their wives; and that they
meant nothing but what was very honest when they chose them. So I
appointed them to meet me the next morning, and that in the mean time
they should let their wives know the meaning of the marriage law; and
that it was not only to prevent any scandal, but also to oblige them
that they should not forsake them, whatever might happen.
The women were easily made sensible of the meaning of the thing, and
were very well satisfied with it, as indeed they had reason to be; so
they failed not to attend all together at my apartment next morning,
where I brought out my clergyman: and though he had not on a minister's
gown, after the manner of England, or the habit of a priest, after the
manner of France; yet having a black vest, something like a cassock,
with a sash round it, he did not look very unlike a minister; and as for
his language I was interpreter.
But the seriousness of his behaviour to them, and the scruple he made of
marrying the women because they were not baptized, and professed
Christians, gave them an exceeding reverence for his person; and there
was no need after that to inquire whether he was a clergyman or no.
Indeed I was afraid his scruple would have been carried so far as that
he would not have married them at all: nay, notwithstanding all I was
able to say to him, he resisted me, though modestly, yet very steadily;
and at last refused absolutely to marry them, unless he had first talked
with the men and the women too; and though at first I was a little
backward to it, yet at last I agreed to it with a good will, perceiving
the sincerity of his design.
When he came to them, he let them know that I had acquainted him with
their circumstances, and with the present design; that he was very
willing to perform that part of his function, and marry them as I had
desired; but that before he could do it, he must take the liberty to
talk with them. He told them that in the sight of all different men, and
in the sense of the laws of society, they had lived all this while in an
open adultery; and that it was true that nothing but the consenting to
marry, or effectually separating them from one another now, could put
an end to it; but there was a difficulty in it too, with respect to the
laws of Christian matrimony, which he was not fully satisfied about,
viz. that of marrying one that is a professed Christian to a savage, an
idolater, and a heathen, one that is not baptized; and yet that he did
not see that there was time left for it to endeavour to persuade the
women to be baptized, or to profess the name of Christ, whom they had,
he doubted, heard nothing of, and without which they could not
He told me he doubted they were but indifferent Christians themselves;
that they had but little knowledge of God or his ways, and therefore he
could not expect that they had said much to their wives on that head
yet; but that unless they would promise him to use their endeavours with
their wives to persuade them to become Christians, and would as well as
they could instruct them in the knowledge and belief of God that made
them, and to worship Jesus Christ that redeemed them, he could not marry
them; for he would have no hand in joining Christians with savages; nor
was it consistent with the principles of the Christian religion, and was
indeed expressly forbidden in God's law.
They heard all this very attentively, and I delivered it very faithfully
to them from his mouth, as near his own words as I could, only sometimes
adding something of my own, to convince them how just it was, and how I
was of his mind: and I always very faithfully distinguished between what
I said from myself and what were the clergyman's words. They told me it
was very true what the gentleman had said, that they were but very
indifferent Christians themselves, and that they had never talked to
their wives about religion.--"Lord, Sir," says Will Atkins, "how should
we teach them religion? Why, we know nothing ourselves; and besides,
Sir," said he, "should we go to talk to them of God, and Jesus Christ,
and heaven and hell, it would be to make them laugh at us, and ask us
what we believe ourselves? and if we should tell them we believe all
the things that we speak of to them, such as of good people going to
heaven, and wicked people to the devil, they would ask us, where we
intended to go ourselves who believe all this, and yet are such wicked
fellows, as we indeed are: why, Sir," said Will, "'tis enough to give
them a surfeit of religion, at that hearing: folks must have some
religion themselves before they pretend to teach other people."--"Will
Atkins," said I to him, "though I am afraid what you say has too much
truth in it, yet can you not tell your wife that she is in the wrong;
that there is a God, and a religion better than her own; that her gods
are idols; that they can neither hear nor speak; that there is a great
Being that made all things, and that can destroy all that he has made;
that he rewards the good, and punishes the bad; that we are to be judged
by him, at last, for all we do here? You are not so ignorant but even
nature itself will teach you that all this is true; and I am satisfied
you know it all to be true, and believe it yourself."
"That's true, Sir," said Atkins; "but with what face can I say any thing
to my wife of all this, when she will tell me immediately it cannot
"Not true!" said I; "what do you mean by that?"--"Why, Sir," said he,
"she will tell me it cannot be true: that this God (I shall tell her of)
can be just, or can punish or reward, since I am not punished and sent
to the devil, that have been such a wicked creature as she knows I have
been, even to her, and to every body else; and that I should be suffered
to live, that have been always acting so contrary to what I must tell
her is good, and to what I ought to have done."
"Why truly, Atkins," said I, "I am afraid thou speakest too much truth;"
and with that I let the clergyman know what Atkins had said, for he was
impatient to know. "O!" said the priest, "tell him there is one thing
will make him the best minister in the world to his wife, and that is
repentance; for none teach repentance like true penitents. He wants
nothing but to repent, and then he will be so much the better qualified
to instruct his wife; he will then be able to tell her, that there is
not only a God, and that he is the just rewarder of good and evil; but
that he is a merciful Being, and, with infinite goodness and
long-suffering, forbears to punish those that offend; waiting to be
gracious, and willing not the death of a sinner, but rather that he
should return and live; that he often suffers wicked men to go on a long
time, and even reserves damnation to the general day of retribution:
that it is a clear evidence of God, and of a future state, that
righteous men receive not their reward, or wicked men their punishment,
till they come into another world; and this will lend him to teach his
wife the doctrine of the resurrection, and of the last judgment: let him
but repent for himself, he will be an excellent preacher of repentance
to his wife."
I repeated all this to Atkins, who looked very serious all the while,
and who, we could easily perceive, was more than ordinarily affected
with it: when being eager, and hardly suffering me to make an end--"I
know all this, master," says he, "and a great deal more; but I han't the
impudence to talk thus to my wife, when God and my own conscience knows,
and my wife will be an undeniable evidence against me, that I have lived
as if I never heard of God, or a future state, or any thing about it;
and to talk of my repenting, alas! (and with that he fetched a deep
sigh; and I could see that tears stood in his eyes,) 'tis past all that
with me."--"Past it, Atkins!" said I; "what dost thou mean by that?"--"I
know well enough what I mean, Sir," says he; "I mean 'tis too late; and
that is too true."
I told my clergyman word for word what he said. The poor zealous priest
(I must call him so; for, be his opinion what it will, he had certainly
a most singular affection for the good of other men's souls; and it
would be hard to think he had not the like for his own)--I say, this
zealous, affectionate man could not refrain tears also: but recovering
himself, he said to me, "Ask him but one question: Is he easy that it is
too late, or is he troubled, and wishes it were not so?" I put the
question fairly to Atkins; and he answered with a great deal of passion,
"How could any man be easy in a condition that certainly must end in
eternal destruction? That he was far from being easy; but that, on the
contrary, he believed it would one time or the other ruin him."
"What do you mean by that?" said I.--"Why," he said, "he believed he
should, one time or another, cut his own throat to put an end to the
terror of it."
The clergyman shook his head, with a great concern in his face, when I
told him all this; but turning quick to me upon it, said, "If that be
his case, you may assure him it is not too late; Christ will give him
repentance. But pray," says he, "explain this to him, that as no man is
saved but by Christ, and the merit of his passion, procuring divine
mercy for him, how can it be too late for any man to receive mercy? Does
he think he is able to sin beyond the power or reach of divine mercy?
Pray tell him, there may be a time when provoked mercy will no longer
strive, and when God may refuse to hear; but that 'tis never too late
for men to ask mercy; and we that are Christ's servants are commanded to
preach mercy at all times, in the name of Jesus Christ, to all those
that sincerely repent: so that 'tis never too late to repent."
I told Atkins all this, and he heard me with great earnestness; but it
seemed as if he turned off the discourse to the rest; for he said to me
he would go and have some talk with his wife: so he went out awhile, and
we talked to the rest. I perceived they were all stupidly ignorant as to
matters of religion; much as I was when I went rambling away from my
father; and yet that there were none of them backward to hear what had
been said; and all of them seriously promised that they would talk with
their wives about it, and do their endeavour to persuade them to turn
The clergyman smiled upon me when I reported what answer they gave, but
said nothing a good while; but at last shaking his head, "We that are
Christ's servants," says he, "can go no farther than to exhort and
instruct; and when men comply, submit to the reproof, and promise what
we ask, 'tis all we can do; we are bound to accept their good words; but
believe me, Sir," said he, "whatever you may have known of the life of
that man you call William Atkins, I believe he is the only sincere
convert among them; I take that man to be a true penitent; I won't
despair of the rest; but that man is perfectly struck with the sense of
his past life; and I doubt not but when he comes to talk of religion to
his wife, he will talk himself effectually into it; for attempting to
teach others is sometimes the best way of teaching ourselves. I knew a
man," added he, "who having nothing but a summary notion of religion
himself, and being wicked and profligate to the last degree in his life,
made a thorough reformation in himself by labouring to convert a Jew:
and if that poor Atkins begins but once to talk seriously of Jesus
Christ to his wife, my life for it he talks himself into a thorough
convert, makes himself a penitent; and who knows what may follow?"
Upon this discourse, however, and their promising as above to endeavour
to persuade their wives to embrace Christianity, he married the other
three couple; but Will Atkins and his wife were not yet come in. After
this, my clergyman waiting awhile, was curious to know where Atkins was
gone; and turning to me, says he, "I entreat you, Sir, let us walk out
of your labyrinth here and look; I dare say we shall find this poor man
somewhere or other, talking seriously with his wife, and teaching her
already something of religion." I began to be of the same mind; so we
went out together, and I carried him a way which none knew but myself,
and where the trees were so thick set, as that it was not easy to see
through the thicket of leaves, and far harder to see in than to see
out; when coming to the edge of the wood I saw Atkins, and his tawny
savage wife, sitting under the shade of a bush, very eager in discourse.
I stopped short till my clergyman came up to me, and then having shewed
him where they were, we stood and looked very steadily at them a
We observed him very earnest with her, pointing up to the sun, and to
every quarter of the heavens; then down to the earth, then out to the
sea, then to himself, then to her, to the woods, to the trees. "Now,"
says my clergyman, "you see my words are made good; the man preaches to
her; mark him; now he is telling her that our God has made him, and her,
and the heavens, the earth, the sea, the woods, the trees, &c."--"I
believe he is," said I. Immediately we perceived Will Atkins start up
upon his feet, fall down upon his knees, and lift up both his hands; we
supposed he said something, but we could not hear him; it was too far
off for that: he did not continue kneeling half a minute, but comes and
sits down again by his wife, and talks to her again. We perceived then
the woman very attentive, but whether she said any thing or no we could
not tell. While the poor fellow was upon his knees, I could see the
tears run plentifully down my clergyman's cheeks; and I could hardly
forbear myself; but it was a great affliction to us both, that we were
not near enough to hear any thing that passed between them.
Well, however, we could come no nearer for fear of disturbing them; so
we resolved to see an end of this piece of still conversation, and it
spoke loud enough to us without the help of voice. He sat down again, as
I have said, close by her, and talked again earnestly to her, and two or
three times we could see him embrace her passionately; another time we
saw him take out his handkerchief and wipe her eyes, and then kiss her
again, with a kind of transport very unusual; and after several of these
things, we saw him on a sudden jump up again and lend her his hand to
help her up, when immediately leading her by the hand a step or two,
they both kneeled down together, and continued so about two minutes.
My friend could bear it no longer, but cries out aloud, "St. Paul, St.
Paul, behold he prayeth!"--I was afraid Atkins would hear him; therefore
I entreated him to withhold himself awhile, that we might see an end of
the scene, which to me, I must confess, was the most affecting, and yet
the most agreeable, that ever I saw in my life. Well, he strove with
himself, and contained himself for awhile, but was in such raptures of
joy to think that the poor heathen woman was become a Christian, that he
was not able to contain himself; he wept several times: then throwing up
his hands, and crossing his breast, said over several things
ejaculatory, and by way of giving God thanks for so miraculous a
testimony of the success of our endeavours: some he spoke softly, and I
could not well hear; others audibly; some in Latin, some in French; then
two or three times the tears of joy would interrupt him, that he could
not speak at all. But I begged that he would compose himself, and let us
more narrowly and fully observe what was before us, which he did for a
time, and the scene was not ended there yet; for after the poor man and
his wife were risen again from their knees, we observed he stood talking
still eagerly to her; and we observed by her motion that she was greatly
affected with what he said, by her frequent lifting up her hands, laying
her hand to her breast, and such other postures as usually express the
greatest seriousness and attention. This continued about half a quarter
of an hour, and then they walked away too; so that we could see no more
of them in that situation.
I took this interval to talk with my clergyman: and first I told him, I
was glad to see the particulars we had both been witnesses to; that
though I was hard enough of belief in such cases, yet that I began to
think it was all very sincere here, both in the man and his wife,
however ignorant they both might be; and I hoped such a beginning would
have yet a more happy end: "And who knows," said I, "but these two may
in time, by instruction and example, work upon some of the
others?"--"Some of them!" said he, turning quick upon me, "ay, upon all
of them: depend upon it, if those two savages (for _he_ has been but
little better as you relate it) should embrace Jesus Christ, they will
never leave till they work upon all the rest; for true religion is
naturally communicative, and he that is once made a Christian will never
leave a Pagan behind him if be can help it," I owned it was a most
Christian principle to think so, and a testimony of a true zeal, as well
as a generous heart in him. "But, my friend," said I, "will you give me
liberty to start one difficulty here? I cannot tell how to object the
least thing against that affectionate concern which you shew for the
turning the poor people from their Paganism to the Christian religion;
but how does this comfort you, while these people are, in your account,
out of the pale of the Catholic church, without which, you believe,
there is no salvation; so that you esteem these but heretics still; and,
for other reasons, as effectually lost as the Pagans themselves?"
To this he answered with abundance of candour and Christian charity,
thus: "Sir, I am a Catholic of the Roman church, and a priest of the
order of St. Benedict, and I embrace all the principles of the Roman
faith. But yet, if you will believe me, and this I do not speak in
compliment to you, or in respect to my circumstances and your
civilities; I say, nevertheless, I do not look upon you, who call
yourselves reformed, without some charity: I dare not say, though I know
it is our opinion in general, yet I dare not say, that you cannot be
saved; I will by no means limit the mercy of Christ, so far as to think
that he cannot receive you into the bosom of his church, in a manner to
us imperceivable, and which it is impossible for us to know; and I hope
you have the same charity for us. I pray daily for your being all
restored to Christ's church, by whatsoever methods he, who is all-wise,
is pleased to direct. In the mean time, sure you will allow it to
consist with me, as a Roman, to distinguish far between a Protestant and
a Pagan; between him that calls on Jesus Christ, though in a way which I
do not think is according to the true faith; and a savage, a barbarian,
that knows no God, no Christ, no Redeemer at all; and if you are not
within the pale of the Catholic church, we hope you are nearer being
restored to it than those that know nothing at all of God or his church.
I rejoice, therefore, when I see this poor man, who, you say, has been a
profligate, and almost a murderer, kneel down and pray to Jesus Christ,
as we suppose he did, though not fully enlightened; believing that God,
from whom every such work proceeds, will sensibly touch his heart, and
bring him to the further knowledge of the truth in his own time; and if
God shall influence this poor man to convert and instruct the ignorant
savage his wife, I can never believe that he shall be cast away himself;
and have I not reason then to rejoice, the nearer any are brought to the
knowledge of Christ, though they may not be brought quite home into the
bosom of the Catholic church, just at the time when I may desire it;
leaving it to the goodness of Christ to perfect his work in his own
time, and his own way? Certainly I would rejoice if all the savages in
America were brought, like this poor woman, to pray to God, though they
were to be all Protestants at first, rather than they should continue
pagans and heathens; firmly believing, that He who had bestowed that
first light upon them, would farther illuminate them with a beam of his
heavenly grace, and bring them into the pale of his church, when he
should see good."
I was astonished at the sincerity and temper of this truly pious Papist,
as much as I was oppressed by the power of his reasoning; and it
presently occurred to my thoughts, that if such a temper was universal,
we might be all Catholic Christians, whatever church or particular
profession we were joined to, or joined in; that a spirit of charity
would soon work us all up into right principles; and, in a word, as he
thought that the like charity would make us all Catholics, as I told
him, I believed had all the members of his church the like moderation
they would soon be all Protestants; and there we left that part, for we
never disputed at all.
However, I talked to him another way; and taking him by the hand, "My
friend," said I, "I wish all the clergy of the Roman church were blessed
with such moderation, and an equal share of your charity. I am entirely
of your opinion; but I must tell you, that if you should preach such
doctrine in Spain or Italy, they would put you into the Inquisition."
"It may be so," said he; "I know not what they might do in Spain and
Italy; but I will not say they would be the better Christians for that
severity; for I am sure there is no heresy in too much charity."
Well, as Will Atkins and his wife were gone, our business there was
over; so we went back our own way; and when we came back we found them
waiting to be called in. Observing this, I asked my clergyman if we
should discover to him that we had seen him under the bush, or no; and
it was his opinion we should not; but that we should talk-to him first,
and hear what he would say to us: so we called him in alone, nobody
being in the place but ourselves; and I began with him thus:
"Will Atkins," said I, "pr'ythee what education had you? What was your
_W.A._ A better man than ever I shall be. Sir, my father was a
_R.C._ What education did he give you?
_W.A._ He would have taught me well, Sir; but I despised all education,
instruction, or correction, like a beast as I was.
_R.C._ It is true, Solomon says, "He that despiseth reproof is brutish."
_W.A._ Ay, Sir, I was brutish indeed; I murdered my father; for God's
sake, Sir, talk no more about that, Sir; I murdered my poor father.
_Priest_. Ha! a murderer?
[Here the priest started (for I interpreted every word as he
spoke it), and looked pale: it seems he believed that Will
had really killed his own father.]
_R.C._ No, no, Sir, I do not understand him so. Will Atkins, explain
yourself: you did not kill your father, did you, with your own hands?
_W.A._ No, Sir; I did not cut his throat; but I cut the thread of all
his comforts, and shortened his days; I broke his heart by the most
ungrateful, unnatural return for the most tender, affectionate treatment
that ever father gave, or child could receive.
_R.C._ Well, I did not ask you about your father to extort this
confession; I pray God give you repentance for it, and forgive you that
and all your other sins; but I asked you, because I see that, though you
have not much learning, yet you are not so ignorant as some are in
things that are good; that you have known more of religion a great deal
than you have practised.
_W.A._ Though you, Sir, did not extort the confession that I make about
my father, conscience does; and whenever we come to look back upon our
lives, the sins against our indulgent parents are certainly the first
that touch us; the wounds they make lie deepest; and the weight they
leave will lie heaviest upon the mind of all the sins we can commit.
_R.C._ You talk too feelingly and sensible for me, Atkins; I cannot bear
_W.A. You_ bear it, master! I dare say you know nothing of it.
_R.C._ Yes, Atkins, every shore, every hill, nay, I may say every tree
in this island, is witness to the anguish of my soul for my ingratitude
and base usage of a good tender father; a father much like yours by your
description; and I murdered my father as well as you, Will Atkins; but
think for all that, my repentance is short of yours too, by a
[I would have said more, if I could have restrained my
passions; but I thought this poor man's repentance was so
much sincerer than mine, that I was going to leave off the
discourse and retire, for I was surprised with what he said,
and thought, that, instead of my going about to teach and
instruct him, the man was made a teacher and instructor to
me, in a most surprising and unexpected manner.]
I laid all this before the young clergyman, who was greatly affected
with it, and said to me, "Did I not say, Sir, that when this man was
converted he would preach to us all? I tell you, Sir, if this one man be
made a true penitent, here will be no need of me, he will make
Christians of all in the island." But having a little composed myself I
renewed my discourse with Will Atkins.
"But, Will," said I, "how comes the sense of this matter to touch you
_W.A._ Sir, you have set me about a work that has struck a dart through
my very soul; I have been talking about God and religion to my wife, in
order, as you directed me, to make a Christian of her; and she has
preached such a sermon to me as I shall never forget while I live.
_R.C._ No, no; it is not your wife has preached to you; but when you
were moving religious arguments to her, conscience has flung them
back upon you.
_W.A._ Ay, Sir, with such a force as is not to be resisted.
_R.C._ Pray, Will, let us know what passed between you and your wife;
for I know something of it already.
_W.A._ Sir, it is impossible to give you a full account of it: I am too
full to hold it, and yet have no tongue to express it: but let her have
said what she will, and though I cannot give you an account of it, this
I can tell you of it, that I resolve to amend and reform my life.
_R.C._ But tell us some of it. How did you begin Will? for this has been
an extraordinary case, that is certain; she has preached a sermon
indeed, if she has wrought this upon you.
_W.A._ Why, I first told her the nature of our laws about marriage, and
what the reasons were that men and women were obliged to enter into such
compacts as it was neither in the power of one or other to break; that
otherwise, order and justice could not be maintained, and men would run
from their wives and abandon their children, mix confusedly with one
another, and neither families be kept entire, or inheritances be settled
by a legal descent.
_R.C._ You talk like a civilian, Will. Could you make her understand
what you meant by inheritance and families? They know no such thing
among the savages, but marry any how, without any regard to relation,
consanguinity, or family; brother and sister, nay, as I have been told,
even the father and daughter, and the son and the mother.
_W.A._ I believe, Sir, you are misinformed;--my wife assures me of the
contrary, and that they abhor it. Perhaps for any further relations they
may not be so exact as we are; but she tells me they never touch one
another in the near relations you speak of.
_R.C._ Well, what did she say to what you told her?
_W.A._ She said she liked it very well; and it was much better than in
_R.C._ But did you tell her what marriage was?
_W.A._ Ay, ay, there began all our dialogue. I asked her, if she would
be married to me our way? She asked me, what way that was? I told her
marriage was appointed of God; and here we had a strange talk together
indeed, as ever man and wife had, I believe.
[N.B. This dialogue between W. Atkins and his wife, as I took
it down in writing just after he told it me, was as follows:]
_Wife_. Appointed by your God! Why, have you a God in your country?
_W.A._ Yes, my dear; God is in every country.
_Wife._ No your God in my country; my country have the great old
_W.A._ Child, I am very unfit to shew you who God is; God is in heaven,
and made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and all that in them is.
_Wife._ No makee de earth; no you God makee de earth; no make my
[W.A. laughed a little at her expression of God not making
_W.A._ No laugh: why laugh me? This no ting to laugh.
[He was justly reproved by his wife, for she was more serious
than he at first.]
_W.A._ That's true, indeed; I will not laugh any more, my dear.
_Wife._ Why you say, you God make all?
_W.A._ Yes, child, our God made the whole world, and you, and me, and
all things; for he is the only true God; there is no God but he; he
lives for ever in heaven.
_Wife._ Why you no tell me long ago?
_W.A._ That's true, indeed; but I have been a wicked wretch, and have
not only forgotten to acquaint thee with any thing before, but have
lived without God in the world myself.
_Wife._ What have you de great God in your country, you no know him? No
say O to him? No do good ting for him? That no impossible!
_W.A._ It is too true though, for all that: we live as if there was no
God in heaven, or that he had no power on earth.
_Wife._ But why God let you do so? Why he no makee you good live!
_W.A._ It is all our own fault.
_Wife._ But you say me he is great, much great, have much great power;
can make kill when he will: why he no make kill when you no serve him?
no say O to him? no be good mans?
_W.A._ That is true; he might strike me dead, and I ought to expect it;
for I have been a wicked wretch, that is true: but God is merciful, and
does not deal with us as we deserve.
_Wife._ But then do not you tell God tankee for that too?
_W.A._ No, Indeed; I have not thanked God for his mercy, any more than I
have feared God for his power.
_Wife._ Then you God no God; me no tink, believe he be such one, great
much power, strong; no makee kill you, though you makee him much angry!
_W.A._ What! will my wicked life hinder you from believing in God! What
a dreadful creature am I! And what a sad truth is it, that the horrid
lives of Christians hinder the conversion of heathens!
_Wife._ Now me tink you have great much God up there, (_she points up to
heaven_) and yet no do well, no do good ting? Can he tell? Sure he no
tell what you do.
_W.A._ Yes, yes, he knows and seen all things; he hears us speak, sees
what we do, knows what we think, though we do not speak.
_Wife_ What! he no hear you swear, curse, speak the great damn?
_W.A._ Yes, yes, he hears it all.
_Wife._ Where be then the muchee great power strong?
_W.A._ He is merciful; that is all we can say for it; and this proves
him to be the true God: he is God, and not man; and therefore we are
[Here Will Atkins told us he was struck with horror to think
how he could tell his wife so clearly that God sees, and
hears, and knows the secret thoughts of the heart, and all
that we do; and yet that he had dared to do all the vile
things he had done.]
_Wife._ Merciful! what you call dat?
_W.A._ He is our father and maker; and he pities and spares us.
_Wife._ So then he never makee kill, never angry when you do wicked;
then he no good himself, or no great able.
_W.A._ Yes, yes, my dear; he is infinitely good, and infinitely great,
and able to punish too; and some times, to shew his justice and
vengeance, he lets fly his anger to destroy sinners and make examples;
many are cut off in their sins.
_Wife._ But no makee kill you yet; then he tell you, may be, that he no
makee you kill, so you make de bargain with him, you do bad ting, he no
be angry at you, when he be angry at other mans?
_W.A._ No, indeed, my sins are all presumptions upon his goodness; and
he would be infinitely just if he destroyed me as he has done other men.
_Wife._ Well, and yet no kill, no makee you dead! What you say to him
for that? You no tell him tankee for all that too!
_W.A._ I am an unthankful, ungrateful dog, that is true.
_Wife._ Why he no makee you much good better? You say he makee you.
_W.A._. He made me as he made all the world; 'tis I have deformed
myself, and abused his goodness, and have made myself an
_Wife._ I wish you makee God know me; I no makee him angry; I no do bad
[Here Will Atkins said his heart sunk within him, to hear a
poor, untaught creature desire to be taught to know God, and
he such a wicked wretch that he could not say one word to her
about God, but what the reproach of his own carriage would
make most irrational to her to believe; nay, that already she
could not believe in God, because he that was so wicked was
_W.A._ My dear, you mean you wish I could teach you to know God, not God
to know you, for he knows you already, and every thought in your heart.
_Wife._ Why then he know what I say to you now; he know me wish to know
him; how shall me know who makee me?
_W.A._ Poor creature, he must teach thee, I cannot teach thee; I'll pray
to him to teach thee to know him; and to forgive me that I am unworthy
to teach thee.
[The poor fellow was in such an agony at her desiring him to
make her know God, and her wishing to know him, that he said
he fell down on his knees before her, and prayed to God to
enlighten her mind with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ,
and to pardon his sins, and accept of his being the unworthy
instrument of instructing her in the principles of religion;
after which he sat down by her again, and their dialogue
N.B. This was the time when we saw him kneel down and lift up
_Wife._ What you put down the knee for? What you hold up the hand for?
What you say? Who you speak to? What is that?
_W.A._ My dear, I bow my knees in token of my submission to Him that
made me: I said O to him, as you call it, and as you say your old men do
to their idol Benamuckee; that is, I prayed to him.
_Wife._ What you say O to him for?
_W.A._ I prayed to him to open your eyes and your understanding, that
you may know him, and be accepted by him.
_Wife._ Can he do that too?
_W.A._ Yes, he can; he can do all things.
_Wife._ But he no hear what you say?
_W.A._ Yes, he has bid us pray to him; and promised to hear us.
_Wife._ Bid you pray? When he bid you? How he bid you? What you hear him
_W.A._ No, we do not hear him speak; but he has revealed himself many
ways to us.
[Here he was at a great loss to make her understand that God
had revealed himself to us by his word; and what his word
was; but at last he told it her thus:]
_W.A._ God has spoken to some good men in former days, even from heaven,
by plain words; and God has inspired good men by his Spirit; and they
have written all his laws down in a book.
_Wife._ Me no understand that: where is book?
_W.A._. Alas! my poor creature, I have not this book; but I hope I
shall, one time or other, get it for you to read it.
[Here he embraced her with great affection; but with
inexpressible grief, that he had not a Bible.]
_Wife._ But how you makee me know that God teachee them to write that
_W.A._ By the same rule that we know him to be God.
_Wife._ What rule? what way you know?
_W.A._ Because he teaches and commands nothing but what is good,
righteous, and holy, and tends to make us perfectly good, as well as
perfectly happy; and because he forbids, and commands us to avoid, all
that is wicked, that is evil in itself, or evil in its consequences.
_Wife._ That me would understand, that me fain see; if he reward all
good thing, punish all wicked thing, he teachee all good thing, forbid
all wicked thing, he makee all thing, he give all thing; he hear me when
I say O to him, as you go to do just now; he makee me good if I wish be
good; he spare me, no makee kill me when I no be good; all this you say
he do: yes, he be great God; me take, think, believe him be great God;
me say O to him too with you, my dear.
Here the poor man said he could forbear no longer; but, raising her up,
made her kneel by him; and he prayed to God aloud to instruct her in the
knowledge of himself by his Spirit; and that by some good providence, if
possible, she might some time or other come to have a Bible, that she
might read the word of God, and be taught by him to know him.
[This was the time that we saw him lift her up by the hand,
and saw him kneel down by her, as above.]
They had several other discourses, it seems, after this, too long to
set down here; and particularly she made him promise, that, since he
confessed his own life had been a wicked, abominable course of
provocation against God, he would reform it, and not make God angry any
more, lest he should make him dead, as she called it, and then she
should be left alone, and never be taught to know this God better; and
lest he should be miserable, as he told her wicked men should be
This was a strange account, and very affecting to us both, but
particularly the young clergyman; he was indeed wonderfully surprised
with it; but under the greatest affliction imaginable that he could not
talk to her; that he could not speak English to make her understand him;
and as she spoke but very broken English he could not understand her.
However, he turned himself to me, and told me, that he believed there
must be more to do with this woman than to marry her. I did not
understand him at first, but at length he explained himself, viz. that
she ought to be baptized.
I agreed with him in that part readily, and was for going about it
presently: "No, no; hold, Sir," said he; "though I would have her
baptized by all means, yet I must observe, that Will Atkins, her
husband, has indeed brought her, in a wonderful manner, to be willing to
embrace a religious life; and has given her just ideas of the being of a
God, of his power, justice, and mercy; yet I desire to know of him, if
he has said any thing to her of Jesus Christ, and of the salvation of
sinners; of the nature of faith in him, and the redemption by him; of
the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection, the last judgment, and a
I called Will Atkins again, and asked him; but the poor fellow fell
immediately into tears, and told us he had said something to her of all
those things, but that he was himself so wicked a creature, and his own
conscience so reproached him with his horrid, ungodly life, that he
trembled at the apprehensions, that her knowledge of him should lessen
the attention she should give to those things, and make her rather
contemn religion than receive it: but he was assured, he said, that her
mind was so disposed to receive due impressions of all those things,
that, if I would but discourse with her, she would make it appear to my
satisfaction that my labour would not be lost upon her.
Accordingly I called her in, and placing myself as interpreter between
my religious priest and the woman, I entreated him to begin with her.
But sure such a sermon was never preached by a popish priest in these
latter ages of the world: and, as I told him, I thought he had all the
zeal, all the knowledge, all the sincerity of a Christian, without the
errors of a Roman Catholic; and that I took him to be such a clergyman
as the Roman bishops were before the church of Rome assumed spiritual
sovereignty over the consciences of men.
In a word, he brought the poor woman to embrace the knowledge of Christ,
and of redemption by him, not with wonder and astonishment only, as she
did the first notions of a God, but with joy and faith, with an
affection, and a surprising degree of understanding, scarce to be
imagined, much less to be expressed; and at her own request she
When he was preparing to baptize her, I entreated him that he would
perform that office with some caution, that the man might not perceive
he was of the Roman church, if possible; because of other ill
consequences which might attend a difference among us in that very
religion which we were instructing the other in. He told me, that as he
had no consecrated chapel, nor proper things for the office, I should
see he would do it in a manner that I should not know by it that he was
a Roman Catholic himself it I had not known it before, and so he did;
for saying only some words over to himself in Latin, which I could not
understand, he poured a whole dishfull of water upon the woman's head,
pronouncing in French very loud _Mary_ (which was the name her husband
desired me to give her, for I was her godfather,) _I baptize thee in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost_; so that
none could know any thing by it what religion he was of: he gave the
benediction afterwards in Latin; but either Will Atkins did not know but
it was in French, or else did not take notice of it at that time.
As soon as this was over, he married them; and after the marriage was
over, he turned himself to Will Atkins, and in a very affectionate
manner exhorted him not only to persevere in that good disposition he
was in, but to support the convictions that were upon him by a
resolution to reform his life; told him it was in vain to say he
repented if he did not forsake his crimes; represented to him, how God
had honoured him with being the instrument of bringing his wife to the
knowledge of the Christian religion; and that he should be careful he
did not dishonour the grace of God; and that if he did, he would see the
heathen a better Christian than himself; the savage converted, and the
instrument cast away!
He said a great many good things to them both, and then recommended
them, in a few words, to God's goodness; gave them the benediction
again, I repeating every thing to them in English: and thus ended the
ceremony. I think it was the most pleasant, agreeable day to me that
ever I passed in my whole life.
But my clergyman had not done yet; his thoughts hung continually upon
the conversion of the thirty-seven savages, and fain he would have staid
upon the island to have undertaken it; but I convinced him, first, that
his undertaking was impracticable in itself; and secondly, that,
perhaps, I could put it into a way of being done, in his absence, to his
satisfaction; of which by and by.
Having thus brought the affair of the island to a narrow compass, I was
preparing to go on board the ship when the young man, whom I had taken
out of the famished ship's company, came to me, and told me, he
understood I had a clergyman with me, and that I had caused the
Englishmen to be married to the savages whom they called wives; that he
had a match too, which he desired might be finished before I went,
between two Christians, which he hoped would not be disagreeable to me.
I knew this must be the young woman who was his mother's servant, for
there was no other Christian woman on the island. So I began to persuade
him not to do any thing of that kind rashly, or because he found himself
in this solitary circumstance. I represented that he had some
considerable substance in the world, and good friends, as I understood
by himself, and by his maid also; that the maid was not only poor, and a
servant, but was unequal to him, she being twenty-six or twenty-seven
years old, and he not above seventeen or eighteen; that he might very
probably, with my assistance, make a remove from this wilderness, and
come into his own country again, and that then it would be a thousand to
one but he would repent his choice, and the dislike of that circumstance
might be disadvantageous to both. I was going to say more, but he
interrupted me, smiling; and told me, with a great deal of modesty, that
I mistook in my guesses; that he had nothing of that kind in his
thoughts, his present circumstances being melancholy and disconsolate
enough; and he was very glad to hear that I had some thoughts of putting
them in a way to see their own country again; and that nothing should
have set him upon staying there, but that the voyage I was going was so
exceeding long and hazardous, and would carry him quite out of the reach
of all his friends; that he had nothing to desire of me, but that I
would settle him in some little property of the island where he was;
give him a servant or two, and some few necessaries, and he would settle
himself here like a planter, waiting the good time when, if ever I
returned to England, I would redeem him, and hoped I would not be
unmindful of him when I came to England; that he would give me some
letters to his friends in London, to let them know how good I had been
to him, and what part of the world, and what circumstances I had left
him in; and he promised me, that whenever I redeemed him, the
plantation, and all the improvements he had made upon it, let the value
be what it would, should be wholly mine.
His discourse was very prettily delivered, considering his youth, and
was the more agreeable to me, because he told me positively the match
was not for himself. I gave him all possible assurances, that, if I
lived to come safe to England, I would deliver his letters, and do his
business effectually, and that he might depend I would never forget the
circumstances I left him in. But still I was impatient to know who was
the person to be married; upon which he told me it was my Jack of all
Trades and his maid Susan.
I was most agreeably surprised when he named the match; for indeed I had
thought it very suitable. The character of that man I have given
already; and as for the maid, she was a very honest, modest, sober, and
religious young woman; had a very good share of sense; was agreeable
enough in her person; spoke very handsomely, and to the purpose; always
with decency and good manners, and not backward to speak when any thing
required it, or impertinently forward to speak when it was not her
business; very handy and housewifely in any thing that was before her;
an excellent manager, and fit indeed to have been governess to the whole
island; she knew very well how to behave herself to all kind of folks
she had about her, and to better if she had found any there.
The match being proposed in this manner, we married them the same day:
and as I was father at the altar, as I may say, and gave her away, so I
gave her a portion, for I appointed her and her husband a handsome large
space of ground for their plantation; and indeed this match, and the
proposal the young gentleman made to me, to give him a small property in
the island, put me upon parcelling it out among them, that they might
not quarrel afterwards about their situation.
This sharing out the land to them I left to Will Atkins, who indeed was
now grown a most sober, grave, managing fellow, perfectly reformed,
exceeding pious and religious, and as far as I may be allowed to speak
positively in such a case, I verily believe was a true sincere penitent.
He divided things so justly, and so much to every one's satisfaction,
that they only desired one general writing under my hand for the whole,
which I caused to be drawn up, and signed and sealed to them, setting
out the bounds and situation of every man's plantation, and testifying
that I gave them thereby, severally, a right to the whole possession and
inheritance of the respective plantations or farms, with their
improvements, to them and their heirs; reserving all the rest of the
island as my own property, and a certain rent for every particular
plantation after eleven years, if I or any one from me, or in my name,
came to demand it, producing an attested copy of the same writing.
As to the government and laws among them, I told them, I was not capable
of giving them better rules than they were able to give themselves; only
made them promise me to live in love and good neighbourhood with one
another: and so I prepared to leave them.
One thing I must not omit, and that is, that being now settled in a kind
of commonwealth among themselves, and having much business in hand, it
was but odd to have seven-and-thirty Indians live in a nook of the
island, independent, and indeed unemployed; for excepting the providing
themselves food, which they had difficulty enough in doing sometimes,
they had no manner of business or property to manage: I proposed
therefore to the governor Spaniard, that he should go to them with
Friday's father, and propose to them to remove, and either plant for
themselves, or take them into their several families as servants, to be
maintained for their labour, but without being absolute slaves, for I
would not admit them to make them slaves by force by any means, because
they had their liberty given by capitulation, and as it were articles
of surrender, which they ought not to break.
They most willingly embraced the proposal, and came all very cheerfully
along with him; so we allotted them land and plantations, which three or
four accepted of, but all the rest chose to be employed as servants in
the several families we had settled; and thus my colony was in a manner
settled as follows: The Spaniards possessed my original habitation,
which was the capital city, and extended their plantation all along the
side of the brook which made the creek that I have so often described,
as far as my bower; and as they increased their culture, it went always
eastward. The English lived in the north-east part, where Will Atkins
and his comrades began, and came on southward and south-west, towards
the back part of the Spaniards; and every plantation had a great
addition of land to take in, if they found occasion, so that they need
not jostle one another for want of room.
All the west end of the island was left uninhabited, that, if any of the
savages should come on shore there, only for their usual customary
barbarities, they might come and go; if they disturbed nobody, nobody
would disturb them; and no doubt but they were often ashore, and went
away again, for I never heard that the planters were ever attacked and
disturbed any more.
It now came into my thoughts that I had hinted to my friend the
clergyman that the work of converting the savages might perhaps be set
on foot in his absence to his satisfaction; and I told him, that now I
thought it was put in a fair way, for the savages being thus divided
among the Christians, if they would but every one of them do their part
with those which came under their hands, I hoped it might have a very
He agreed presently in that; "if," said he, "they will do their part;
but how," says he, "shall we obtain that of them?" I told him we would
call them all together, and leave it in charge with them, or go to them
one by one, which he thought best; so we divided it--he to speak to the
Spaniards, who were all Papists, and I to the English, who were all
Protestants; and we recommended it earnestly to them, and made them
promise that they would never make any distinction of Papist or
Protestant in their exhorting the savages to turn Christians, but teach
them the general knowledge of the true God, and of their Saviour Jesus
Christ; and they likewise promised us that they would never have any
differences or disputes one with another about religion.
When I came to Will Atkins's house, (I may call it so, for such a house,
or such a piece of basket-work, I believe was not standing in the world
again!) I say, when I came thither I found the young woman I have
mentioned above, and William Atkins's wife, were become intimates; and
this prudent and religious young woman had perfected the work Will
Atkins had begun; and though it was not above four days after what I
have related, yet the new-baptized savage woman was made such a
Christian as I have seldom heard of any like her, in all my observation
or conversation in the world.
It came next into my mind in the morning, before I went to them, that
among all the needful things I had to leave with them, I had not left a
Bible; in which I shewed myself less considering for them than my good
friend the widow was for me, when she sent me the cargo of 100_l_. from
Lisbon, where she packed up three Bibles and a Prayer-book. However, the
good woman's charity had a greater extent than ever she imagined, for
they were reserved for the comfort and instruction of those that made
much better use of them than I had done.
I took one of the Bibles in my pocket; and when I came to William
Atkins's tent, or house, I found the young woman and Atkins's baptized
wife had been discoursing of religion together (for William Atkins told
it me with a great deal of joy.) I asked if they were together now? And
he said yes; so I went into the house, and he with me, and we found
them together, very earnest in discourse: "O Sir," says William Atkins,
"when God has sinners to reconcile to himself, and aliens to bring home,
he never wants a messenger: my wife has got a new instructor--I knew I
was unworthy, as I was incapable of that work--that young woman has been
sent hither from Heaven--she is enough to convert a whole island of
savages." The young woman blushed, and rose up to go away, but I desired
her to sit still; I told her she had a good work upon her hands, and I
hoped God would bless her in it.
We talked a little, and I did not perceive they had any book among them,
though I did not ask, but I put my hand in my pocket, and pulled out my
Bible. "Here," said I to Atkins, "I have brought you an assistant, that
perhaps you had not before." The man was so confounded, that he was not
able to speak for some time; but recovering himself, he takes it with
both hands, and turning to his wife, "Here, my dear," says he, "did not
I tell you our God, though he lives above, could hear what we said? Here
is the book I prayed for when you and I kneeled down under the bush; now
God has heard us, and sent it." When he had said thus, the man fell in
such transports of a passionate joy, that between the joy of having it,
and giving God thanks for it, the tears ran down his face like a child
that was crying.
The woman was surprised, and was like to have run into a mistake that
none of us were aware of; for she firmly believed God had sent the book
upon her husband's petition: it is true that providentially it was so,
and might be taken so in a consequent sense; but I believed it would
have been no difficult matter at that time to have persuaded the poor
woman to have believed that an express messenger came from Heaven on
purpose to bring that individual book; but it was too serious a matter
to suffer any delusion to take place: so I turned to the young woman,
and told her we did not desire to impose upon the convert in her first
and more ignorant understanding of things, and begged her to explain to
her that God may be very properly said to answer our petitions, when in
the course of his providence such things are in a particular manner
brought to pass as we petitioned for; but we do not expect returns from
Heaven in a miraculous and particular manner; and that it is our mercy
it is not so.
This the young woman did afterwards effectually; so that there was, I
assure you, no priestcraft used here; and I should have thought it one
of the most unjustifiable frauds in the world to have had it so: but the
surprise of joy upon Will Atkins is really not to be expressed; and
there we may be sure was no delusion. Sure no man was ever more thankful
in the world for any thing of its kind than he was for this Bible; and I
believe never any man was glad of a Bible from a better principle; and
though he had been a most profligate creature, desperate, headstrong,
outrageous, furious, and wicked to a great degree, yet this man is a
standing rule to us all for the well instructing children, viz. that
parents should never give over to teach and instruct, or ever despair of
the success of their endeavours, let the children be ever so obstinate,
refractory, or to appearance insensible of instruction; for if ever God
in his providence touches the consciences of such, the force of their
education returns upon them, and the early instruction of parents is not
lost, though it may have been many years laid asleep, but some time or
other they may find the benefit of it.
Thus it was with this poor man. However ignorant he was, or divested of
religion and Christian knowledge, he found he had some to do with now
more ignorant than himself; and that the least part of the instruction
of his good father that could now come to his mind was of use to him.
Among the rest it occurred to him, he said, how his father used to
insist much upon the inexpressible value of the Bible, the privilege
and blessing of it to nations, families, and persons; but he never
entertained the least notion of the worth of it till now, when being to
talk to heathens, savages, and barbarians, he wanted the help of the
written oracle for his assistance.
The young woman was very glad of it also for the present occasion,
though she had one, and so had the youth, on board our ship among the
goods which were not yet brought on shore. And now, having said so many
things of this young woman, I cannot omit telling one story more of her
and myself, which has something in it very informing and remarkable.
I have related to what extremity the poor young woman was reduced; how
her mistress was starved to death, and did die on board that unhappy
ship we met at sea; and how the whole ship's company being reduced to
the last extremity, the gentlewoman and her son, and this maid, were
first hardly used as to provisions, and at last totally neglected and
starved; that is to say, brought to the last extremity of hunger.
One day being discoursing with her upon the extremities they suffered, I
asked her if she could describe by what she felt what it was to starve,
and how it appeared? She told me she believed she could, and she told
her tale very distinctly thus:
"First, Sir," said she, "we had for some days fared exceeding hard, and
suffered very great hunger, but now at last we were wholly without food
of any kind except sugar, and a little wine, and a little water. The
first day after I had received no food at all, I found myself, towards
evening, first empty and sickish at my stomach, and nearer night
mightily inclined to yawning, and sleepy; I lay down on a couch in the
great cabin to sleep, and slept about three hours, and awaked a little
refreshed, having taken a glass of wine when I lay down. After being
about three hours awake, it being about five o'clock in the morning, I
found myself empty, and my stomach sickish again, and lay down again,
but could not sleep at all, being very faint and ill; and thus I
continued all the second day with a strange variety--first hungry, then
sick again, with retchings to vomit. The second night, being obliged to
go to bed again without any food more than a draught of fair water, and
being asleep, I dreamed I was at Barbadoes, and that the market was
mightily stocked with provisions, that I bought some for my mistress,
and went and dined very heartily.
"I thought my stomach was full after this, as it would have been after
or at a good dinner; but when I waked, I was exceedingly sunk in my
spirits to find myself in the extremity of famine; the last glass of
wine we had I drank, and put sugar into it, because of its having some
spirit to supply nourishment; but there being no substance in the
stomach for the digesting office to work upon, I found the only effect
of the wine was to raise disagreeable fumes from the stomach into the
head; and I lay, as they told me, stupid and senseless as one drunk for
"The third day in the morning, after a night of strange and confused
inconsistent dreams, and rather dozing than sleeping, I awaked ravenous
and furious with hunger; and I question, had not my understanding
returned and conquered it, I say, I question whether, if I had been a
mother, and had had a little child with me, its life would have been
safe or no.
"This lasted about three hours, during which time I was twice raging mad
as any creature in Bedlam, as my young master told me, and as he can now
"In one of these fits of lunacy or distraction, whether by the motion of
the ship or some slip of my foot I know not, I fell down, and struck my
face against the corner of a pallet-bed, in which my mistress lay, and
with the blow the blood gushed out of my nose, and the cabin-boy
bringing me a little basin, I sat down and bled into it a great deal,
and as the blood ran from me I came to myself, and the violence of the
flame or the fever I was in abated, and so did the ravenous part of
"Then I grew sick, and retched to vomit, but could not, for I had
nothing in my stomach to bring up. After I had bled some time I swooned,
and they all believed I was dead; but I came to myself soon after, and
then had a most dreadful pain in my stomach, not to be described, not
like the colic, but a gnawing eager pain for food, and towards night it
went off with a kind of earnest wishing or longing for food, something
like, as I suppose, the longing of a woman with child. I took another
draught of water with sugar in it, but my stomach loathed the sugar, and
brought it all up again; then I took a draught of water without sugar,
and that stayed with me, and I laid me down upon the bed, praying most
heartily that it would please God to take me away; and composing my mind
in hopes of it, I slumbered awhile; and then waking, thought myself
dying, being light with vapours from an empty stomach: I recommended my
soul to God, and earnestly wished that somebody would throw me into
"All this while my mistress lay by me just, as I thought, expiring, but
bore it with much more patience than I, and gave the last bit of bread
she had to her child, my young master, who would not have taken it, but
she obliged him to eat it, and I believe it saved his life.
"Towards the morning I slept again, and first when I awaked I fell into
a violent passion of crying, and after that had a second fit of violent
hunger, so that I got up ravenous, and in a most dreadful condition. Had
my mistress been dead, so much as I loved her, I am certain I should
have eaten a piece of her flesh with as much relish and as unconcerned
as ever I did the flesh of any creature appointed for food; and once or
twice I was going to bite my own arm. At last I saw the basin in which
was the blood had bled at my nose the day before; I ran to it, and
swallowed it with such haste, and such a greedy appetite, as if I had
wondered nobody had taken it before, and afraid it should be taken
from me now.
"Though after it was down the thoughts of it filled me with horror, yet
it checked the fit of hunger, and I drank a draught of fair water, and
was composed and refreshed for some hours, after it. This was the fourth
day; and thus I held it till towards night, when, within the compass of
three hours, I had all these several circumstances over again, one after
another, viz. sick, sleepy, eagerly hungry, pain in the stomach, then
ravenous again, then sick again, then lunatic, then crying, then
ravenous again, and so every quarter of an hour; and my strength wasted
exceedingly. At night I laid me down, having no comfort but in the hope
that I should die before morning.
"All this night I had no sleep, but the hunger was now turned into a
disease, and I had a terrible colic and griping, wind instead of food
having found its way into my bowels; and in this condition I lay till
morning, when I was surprised a little with the cries and lamentations
of my young master, who called out to me that his mother was dead. I
lifted myself up a little, for I had not strength to rise, but found she
was not dead, though she was able to give very little signs of life.
"I had then such convulsions in my stomach for want of some sustenance,
that I cannot describe them, with such frequent throes and pangs of
appetite that nothing but the tortures of death can imitate; and this
condition I was in when I heard the seamen above cry out 'A sail! a
sail!' and halloo and jump about as if they were distracted.
"I was not able to get off from the bed, and my mistress much less; and
my master was so sick that I thought he had been expiring; so we could
not open the cabin-door, or get any account what it was that occasioned
such a combustion; nor had we any conversation with the ship's company
for two days, they having told us they had not a mouthful of any thing
to eat in the ship; and they told us afterwards they thought we had
"It was this dreadful condition we were in when you were sent to save
our lives; and how you found us, Sir, you know as well as I, and
This was her own relation, and is such a distinct account of starving to
death as I confess I never met with, and was exceeding entertaining to
me: I am the rather apt to believe it to be a true account, because the
youth gave me an account of a good part of it; though I must own not so
distinct and so feelingly as his maid, and the rather because it seems
his mother fed him at the price of her own life: but the poor maid,
though her constitution being stronger than that of her mistress, who
was in years, and a weakly woman too, she might struggle harder with it;
I say, the poor maid might be supposed to feel the extremity something
sooner than her mistress, who might be allowed to keep the last bits
something longer than she parted with any to relieve the maid. No
question, as the case is here related, if our ship, or some other, had
not so providentially met them, a few days more would have ended all
their lives, unless they had prevented it by eating one another; and
even that, as their case stood, would have served them but a little
while, they being five hundred leagues from any land, or any possibility
of relief, other than in the miraculous manner it happened.--But this is
by the way; I return to my disposition of things among the people.
And first, it is to be observed here, that for many reasons I did not
think fit to let them know any thing of the sloop I had framed, and
which I thought of setting up among them; for I found, at least at my
first coming, such seeds of division among them, that I saw it plainly,
had I set up the sloop, and left it among them, they would, upon very
light disgust, have separated, and gone away from one another; or
perhaps have turned pirates, and so made the island a den of thieves,
instead of a plantation of sober and religious people, as I intended it
to be; nor did I leave the two pieces of brass cannon that I had on
board, or the two quarter-deck guns, that my nephew took extraordinary,
for the same reason: I thought they had enough to qualify them for a
defensive war, against any that should invade them; but I was not to set
them up for an offensive war, or to encourage them to go abroad to
attack others, which, in the end, would only bring ruin and destruction
upon themselves and all their undertakings: I reserved the sloop,
therefore, and the guns, for their service another way, as I shall
observe in its place.
I have now done with the island: I left them all in good circumstances,
and in a flourishing condition, and went on board my ship again the
fifth day of May, having been five and twenty days among them; and, as
they were all resolved to stay upon the island till I came to remove
them, I promised to send some further relief from the Brasils, if I
could possibly find an opportunity; and particularly I promised to send
them some cattle; such as sheep, hogs, and cows; for as to the two cows
and calves which I brought from England, we had been obliged, by the
length of our voyage, to kill them at sea, for want of hay to feed them.
The next day, giving them a salute of five guns at parting, we set sail,
and arrived at the bay of All Saints, in the Brasils, in about
twenty-two days; meeting nothing remarkable in our passage but this,
that about three days after we sailed, being becalmed, and the current
setting strong to the N.N.E. running, as it were, into a bay or gulf on
the land side, we were driven something out of our course; and once or
twice our men cried Land, to the westward; but whether it was the
continent, or islands, we could not tell by any means.
But the third day, towards evening, the sea smooth and the weather calm,
we saw the sea, as it were, covered towards the land, with something
very black, not being able to discover what it was; but, after some
time, our chief mate going up the main shrouds a little way, and looking
at them with a perspective, cried out, it was an army. I could not
imagine what he meant by an army, and spoke a little hastily, calling
the fellow a fool, or some such word: "Nay, Sir," says he, "don't be
angry, for it is an army, and a fleet too; for I believe there are a
thousand canoes, and you may see them paddle along, and they are coming
towards us too apace, and full of men."
I was a little surprised then, indeed, and so was my nephew the captain;
for he had heard such terrible stories of them in the island, and having
never been in those seas before, that he could not tell what to think of
it, but said two or three times, we should all be devoured. I must
confess, considering we were becalmed, and the current set strong
towards, the shore, I liked it the worse; however, I bade him not be
afraid, but bring the ship to an anchor, as soon as we came so near as
to know that we must engage them.
The weather continued calm, and they came on apace towards us; so I gave
orders to come to an anchor, and furl all our sails. As for the savages,
I told them they had nothing to fear from them but fire; and therefore
they should get their boats out, and fasten them, one close by the head,
and the other by the stern, and man them both well, and wait the issue
in that posture: this I did, that the men in the boats might be ready,
with sheet and buckets, to put out any fire these savages might
endeavour to fix upon the outside of the ship.
In this posture we lay by for them, and in a little while they came up
with us; but never was such a horrid sight seen by Christians; my mate
was much mistaken in his calculation of their number, I mean of a
thousand canoes; the most we could make of them when they came up, being
about 126; and a great many of them too; for some of them had sixteen or
seventeen men in them, some more, and the least six or seven.
When they came nearer to us, they seemed to be struck with wonder and
astonishment, as at a sight which they had, doubtless, never seen
before; nor could they, at first, as we afterwards understood, know what
to make of us. They came boldly up however, very near to us, and seemed
to go about to row round us; but we called to our men in the boats not
to let them come too near them. This very order brought us to an
engagement with them, without our designing it; for five or six of the
large canoes came so near our long-boat, that our men beckoned with
their hands to keep them back, which they understood very well, and went
back: but at their retreat about fifty arrows came on board us from
those boats, and one of our men in the long-boat was very much wounded.
However, I called to them not to fire by any means; but we handed down
some deal boards into the boat, and the carpenter presently set up a
kind of fence, like waste boards, to cover them from the arrows of the
savages, if they should shoot again.
About half-an-hour afterwards they all came up in a body astern of us,
and so near that we could easily discern what they were, though we could
not tell their design; and I easily found they were some of my old
friends, the same sort of savages that I had been used to engage with.
In a short time more they rowed a little farther out to sea, till they
came directly broadside with us, and then rowed down straight upon us,
till they came so near that they could hear us speak; upon this, I
ordered all my men to keep close, lest they should shoot any more
arrows, and made all our guns ready; but being so near as to be within
hearing, I made Friday go out upon the deck, and call out aloud to them
in his language, to know what they meant. Whether they understood him or
not, that I knew not; but as soon as he had called to them, six of them,
who were in the foremost or nearest boat to us, turned their canoes from
us, and stooping down, showed us their naked backs; whether this was a
defiance or challenge we knew not, or whether it was done in mere
contempt, or as a signal to the rest; but immediately Friday cried out
they were going to shoot, and, unhappily for him, poor fellow, they let
fly about three hundred of their arrows, and to my inexpressible grief,
killed poor Friday, no other man being in their sight. The poor fellow
was shot with no less than three arrows, and about three more fell very
near him; such unlucky marksmen they were!
I was so annoyed at the loss of my old trusty servant and companion,
that I immediately ordered five guns to be loaded with small shot, and
four with great, and gave them such a broadside as they had never heard
in their lives before. They were not above half a cable's length off
when we fired; and our gunners took their aim so well, that three or
four of their canoes were overset, as we had reason to believe, by one
shot only. The ill manners of turning up their bare backs to us gave us
no great offence; neither did I know for certain whether that which
would pass for the greatest contempt among us might be understood so by
them or not; therefore, in return, I had only resolved to have fired
four or five guns at them with powder only, which I knew would frighten
them sufficiently: but when they shot at us directly with all the fury
they were capable of, and especially as they had killed my poor Friday,
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