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Chapter 2 Slavery and Escape

  • That evil influence which carried me first away from my father's house - whic_urried me into the wild and indigested notion of raising my fortune, and tha_mpressed those conceits so forcibly upon me as to make me deaf to all goo_dvice, and to the entreaties and even the commands of my father - I say, th_ame influence, whatever it was, presented the most unfortunate of al_nterprises to my view; and I went on board a vessel bound to the coast o_frica; or, as our sailors vulgarly called it, a voyage to Guinea.
  • It was my great misfortune that in all these adventures I did not ship mysel_s a sailor; when, though I might indeed have worked a little harder tha_rdinary, yet at the same time I should have learnt the duty and office of _ore-mast man, and in time might have qualified myself for a mate o_ieutenant, if not for a master. But as it was always my fate to choose fo_he worse, so I did here; for having money in my pocket and good clothes upo_y back, I would always go on board in the habit of a gentleman; and so _either had any business in the ship, nor learned to do any.
  • It was my lot first of all to fall into pretty good company in London, whic_oes not always happen to such loose and misguided young fellows as I the_as; the devil generally not omitting to lay some snare for them very early; but it was not so with me. I first got acquainted with the master of a shi_ho had been on the coast of Guinea; and who, having had very good succes_here, was resolved to go again. This captain taking a fancy to m_onversation, which was not at all disagreeable at that time, hearing me say _ad a mind to see the world, told me if I would go the voyage with him _hould be at no expense; I should be his messmate and his companion; and if _ould carry anything with me, I should have all the advantage of it that th_rade would admit; and perhaps I might meet with some encouragement.
  • I embraced the offer; and entering into a strict friendship with this captain, who was an honest, plain-dealing man, I went the voyage with him, and carrie_ small adventure with me, which, by the disinterested honesty of my frien_he captain, I increased very considerably; for I carried about 40 pounds i_uch toys and trifles as the captain directed me to buy. These 40 pounds I ha_ustered together by the assistance of some of my relations whom _orresponded with; and who, I believe, got my father, or at least my mother, to contribute so much as that to my first adventure.
  • This was the only voyage which I may say was successful in all my adventures, which I owe to the integrity and honesty of my friend the captain; under who_lso I got a competent knowledge of the mathematics and the rules o_avigation, learned how to keep an account of the ship's course, take a_bservation, and, in short, to understand some things that were needful to b_nderstood by a sailor; for, as he took delight to instruct me, I took deligh_o learn; and, in a word, this voyage made me both a sailor and a merchant; for I brought home five pounds nine ounces of gold-dust for my adventure, which yielded me in London, at my return, almost 300 pounds; and this fille_e with those aspiring thoughts which have since so completed my ruin.
  • Yet even in this voyage I had my misfortunes too; particularly, that I wa_ontinually sick, being thrown into a violent calenture by the excessive hea_f the climate; our principal trading being upon the coast, from latitude o_5 degrees north even to the line itself.
  • I was now set up for a Guinea trader; and my friend, to my great misfortune, dying soon after his arrival, I resolved to go the same voyage again, and _mbarked in the same vessel with one who was his mate in the former voyage, and had now got the command of the ship. This was the unhappiest voyage tha_ver man made; for though I did not carry quite 100 pounds of my new-gaine_ealth, so that I had 200 pounds left, which I had lodged with my friend'_idow, who was very just to me, yet I fell into terrible misfortunes. Th_irst was this: our ship making her course towards the Canary Islands, o_ather between those islands and the African shore, was surprised in the gre_f the morning by a Turkish rover of Sallee, who gave chase to us with all th_ail she could make. We crowded also as much canvas as our yards would spread, or our masts carry, to get clear; but finding the pirate gained upon us, an_ould certainly come up with us in a few hours, we prepared to fight; our shi_aving twelve guns, and the rogue eighteen. About three in the afternoon h_ame up with us, and bringing to, by mistake, just athwart our quarter, instead of athwart our stern, as he intended, we brought eight of our guns t_ear on that side, and poured in a broadside upon him, which made him shee_ff again, after returning our fire, and pouring in also his small shot fro_ear two hundred men which he had on board. However, we had not a man touched, all our men keeping close. He prepared to attack us again, and we to defen_urselves. But laying us on board the next time upon our other quarter, h_ntered sixty men upon our decks, who immediately fell to cutting and hackin_he sails and rigging. We plied them with small shot, half-pikes, powder- chests, and such like, and cleared our deck of them twice. However, to cu_hort this melancholy part of our story, our ship being disabled, and three o_ur men killed, and eight wounded, we were obliged to yield, and were carrie_ll prisoners into Sallee, a port belonging to the Moors.
  • The usage I had there was not so dreadful as at first I apprehended; nor was _arried up the country to the emperor's court, as the rest of our men were, but was kept by the captain of the rover as his proper prize, and made hi_lave, being young and nimble, and fit for his business. At this surprisin_hange of my circumstances, from a merchant to a miserable slave, I wa_erfectly overwhelmed; and now I looked back upon my father's propheti_iscourse to me, that I should be miserable and have none to relieve me, whic_ thought was now so effectually brought to pass that I could not be worse; for now the hand of Heaven had overtaken me, and I was undone withou_edemption; but, alas! this was but a taste of the misery I was to go through, as will appear in the sequel of this story.
  • As my new patron, or master, had taken me home to his house, so I was in hope_hat he would take me with him when he went to sea again, believing that i_ould some time or other be his fate to be taken by a Spanish or Portugal man- of-war; and that then I should be set at liberty. But this hope of mine wa_oon taken away; for when he went to sea, he left me on shore to look afte_is little garden, and do the common drudgery of slaves about his house; an_hen he came home again from his cruise, he ordered me to lie in the cabin t_ook after the ship.
  • Here I meditated nothing but my escape, and what method I might take to effec_t, but found no way that had the least probability in it; nothing presente_o make the supposition of it rational; for I had nobody to communicate it t_hat would embark with me - no fellow-slave, no Englishman, Irishman, o_cotchman there but myself; so that for two years, though I often please_yself with the imagination, yet I never had the least encouraging prospect o_utting it in practice.
  • After about two years, an odd circumstance presented itself, which put the ol_hought of making some attempt for my liberty again in my head. My patro_ying at home longer than usual without fitting out his ship, which, as _eard, was for want of money, he used constantly, once or twice a week, sometimes oftener if the weather was fair, to take the ship's pinnace and g_ut into the road a- fishing; and as he always took me and young Maresco wit_im to row the boat, we made him very merry, and I proved very dexterous i_atching fish; insomuch that sometimes he would send me with a Moor, one o_is kinsmen, and the youth - the Maresco, as they called him - to catch a dis_f fish for him.
  • It happened one time, that going a-fishing in a calm morning, a fog rose s_hick that, though we were not half a league from the shore, we lost sight o_t; and rowing we knew not whither or which way, we laboured all day, and al_he next night; and when the morning came we found we had pulled off to se_nstead of pulling in for the shore; and that we were at least two league_rom the shore. However, we got well in again, though with a great deal o_abour and some danger; for the wind began to blow pretty fresh in th_orning; but we were all very hungry.
  • But our patron, warned by this disaster, resolved to take more care of himsel_or the future; and having lying by him the longboat of our English ship tha_e had taken, he resolved he would not go a- fishing any more without _ompass and some provision; so he ordered the carpenter of his ship, who als_as an English slave, to build a little state-room, or cabin, in the middle o_he long- boat, like that of a barge, with a place to stand behind it t_teer, and haul home the main-sheet; the room before for a hand or two t_tand and work the sails. She sailed with what we call a shoulder-of-mutto_ail; and the boom jibed over the top of the cabin, which lay very snug an_ow, and had in it room for him to lie, with a slave or two, and a table t_at on, with some small lockers to put in some bottles of such liquor as h_hought fit to drink; and his bread, rice, and coffee.
  • We went frequently out with this boat a-fishing; and as I was most dexterou_o catch fish for him, he never went without me. It happened that he ha_ppointed to go out in this boat, either for pleasure or for fish, with two o_hree Moors of some distinction in that place, and for whom he had provide_xtraordinarily, and had, therefore, sent on board the boat overnight a large_tore of provisions than ordinary; and had ordered me to get ready thre_usees with powder and shot, which were on board his ship, for that the_esigned some sport of fowling as well as fishing.
  • I got all things ready as he had directed, and waited the next morning wit_he boat washed clean, her ancient and pendants out, and everything t_ccommodate his guests; when by-and-by my patron came on board alone, and tol_e his guests had put off going from some business that fell out, and ordere_e, with the man and boy, as usual, to go out with the boat and catch the_ome fish, for that his friends were to sup at his house, and commanded tha_s soon as I got some fish I should bring it home to his house; all which _repared to do.
  • This moment my former notions of deliverance darted into my thoughts, for no_ found I was likely to have a little ship at my command; and my master bein_one, I prepared to furnish myself, not for fishing business, but for _oyage; though I knew not, neither did I so much as consider, whither I shoul_teer - anywhere to get out of that place was my desire.
  • My first contrivance was to make a pretence to speak to this Moor, to ge_omething for our subsistence on board; for I told him we must not presume t_at of our patron's bread. He said that was true; so he brought a large baske_f rusk or biscuit, and three jars of fresh water, into the boat. I knew wher_y patron's case of bottles stood, which it was evident, by the make, wer_aken out of some English prize, and I conveyed them into the boat while th_oor was on shore, as if they had been there before for our master. I conveye_lso a great lump of beeswax into the boat, which weighed about half _undred-weight, with a parcel of twine or thread, a hatchet, a saw, and _ammer, all of which were of great use to us afterwards, especially the wax, to make candles. Another trick I tried upon him, which he innocently came int_lso: his name was Ismael, which they call Muley, or Moely; so I called to him - “Moely,” said I, “our patron's guns are on board the boat; can you not get _ittle powder and shot? It may be we may kill some alcamies (a fowl like ou_urlews) for ourselves, for I know he keeps the gunner's stores in the ship.” “Yes,” says he, “I'll bring some;” and accordingly he brought a great leathe_ouch, which held a pound and a half of powder, or rather more; and anothe_ith shot, that had five or six pounds, with some bullets, and put all int_he boat. At the same time I had found some powder of my master's in the grea_abin, with which I filled one of the large bottles in the case, which wa_lmost empty, pouring what was in it into another; and thus furnished wit_verything needful, we sailed out of the port to fish. The castle, which is a_he entrance of the port, knew who we were, and took no notice of us; and w_ere not above a mile out of the port before we hauled in our sail and set u_own to fish. The wind blew from the N.N.E., which was contrary to my desire, for had it blown southerly I had been sure to have made the coast of Spain, and at least reached to the bay of Cadiz; but my resolutions were, blow whic_ay it would, I would be gone from that horrid place where I was, and leav_he rest to fate.
  • After we had fished some time and caught nothing - for when I had fish on m_ook I would not pull them up, that he might not see them - I said to th_oor, “This will not do; our master will not be thus served; we must stan_arther off.” He, thinking no harm, agreed, and being in the head of the boat, set the sails; and, as I had the helm, I ran the boat out near a leagu_arther, and then brought her to, as if I would fish; when, giving the boy th_elm, I stepped forward to where the Moor was, and making as if I stooped fo_omething behind him, I took him by surprise with my arm under his waist, an_ossed him clear overboard into the sea. He rose immediately, for he swam lik_ cork, and called to me, begged to be taken in, told me he would go all ove_he world with me. He swam so strong after the boat that he would have reache_e very quickly, there being but little wind; upon which I stepped into th_abin, and fetching one of the fowling-pieces, I presented it at him, and tol_im I had done him no hurt, and if he would be quiet I would do him none.
  • “But,” said I, “you swim well enough to reach to the shore, and the sea i_alm; make the best of your way to shore, and I will do you no harm; but i_ou come near the boat I'll shoot you through the head, for I am resolved t_ave my liberty;” so he turned himself about, and swam for the shore, and _ake no doubt but he reached it with ease, for he was an excellent swimmer.
  • I could have been content to have taken this Moor with me, and have drowne_he boy, but there was no venturing to trust him. When he was gone, I turne_o the boy, whom they called Xury, and said to him, “Xury, if you will b_aithful to me, I'll make you a great man; but if you will not stroke you_ace to be true to me” - that is, swear by Mahomet and his father's beard - “_ust throw you into the sea too.” The boy smiled in my face, and spoke s_nnocently that I could not distrust him, and swore to be faithful to me, an_o all over the world with me.
  • While I was in view of the Moor that was swimming, I stood out directly to se_ith the boat, rather stretching to windward, that they might think me gon_owards the Straits' mouth (as indeed any one that had been in their wits mus_ave been supposed to do): for who would have supposed we were sailed on t_he southward, to the truly Barbarian coast, where whole nations of negroe_ere sure to surround us with their canoes and destroy us; where we could no_o on shore but we should be devoured by savage beasts, or more merciles_avages of human kind.
  • But as soon as it grew dusk in the evening, I changed my course, and steere_irectly south and by east, bending my course a little towards the east, tha_ might keep in with the shore; and having a fair, fresh gale of wind, and _mooth, quiet sea, I made such sail that I believe by the next day, at thre_'clock in the afternoon, when I first made the land, I could not be less tha_ne hundred and fifty miles south of Sallee; quite beyond the Emperor o_orocco's dominions, or indeed of any other king thereabouts, for we saw n_eople.
  • Yet such was the fright I had taken of the Moors, and the dreadfu_pprehensions I had of falling into their hands, that I would not stop, or g_n shore, or come to an anchor; the wind continuing fair till I had sailed i_hat manner five days; and then the wind shifting to the southward, _oncluded also that if any of our vessels were in chase of me, they also woul_ow give over; so I ventured to make to the coast, and came to an anchor i_he mouth of a little river, I knew not what, nor where, neither wha_atitude, what country, what nation, or what river. I neither saw, nor desire_o see any people; the principal thing I wanted was fresh water. We came int_his creek in the evening, resolving to swim on shore as soon as it was dark, and discover the country; but as soon as it was quite dark, we heard suc_readful noises of the barking, roaring, and howling of wild creatures, of w_new not what kinds, that the poor boy was ready to die with fear, and begge_f me not to go on shore till day. “Well, Xury,” said I, “then I won't; but i_ay be that we may see men by day, who will be as bad to us as those lions.” “Then we give them the shoot gun,” says Xury, laughing, “make them run wey.” Such English Xury spoke by conversing among us slaves. However, I was glad t_ee the boy so cheerful, and I gave him a dram (out of our patron's case o_ottles) to cheer him up. After all, Xury's advice was good, and I took it; w_ropped our little anchor, and lay still all night; I say still, for we slep_one; for in two or three hours we saw vast great creatures (we knew not wha_o call them) of many sorts, come down to the sea-shore and run into th_ater, wallowing and washing themselves for the pleasure of coolin_hemselves; and they made such hideous howlings and yellings, that I neve_ndeed heard the like.
  • Xury was dreadfully frighted, and indeed so was I too; but we were both mor_righted when we heard one of these mighty creatures come swimming towards ou_oat; we could not see him, but we might hear him by his blowing to be _onstrous huge and furious beast. Xury said it was a lion, and it might be s_or aught I know; but poor Xury cried to me to weigh the anchor and row away; “No,” says I, “Xury; we can slip our cable, with the buoy to it, and go off t_ea; they cannot follow us far.” I had no sooner said so, but I perceived th_reature (whatever it was) within two oars' length, which something surprise_e; however, I immediately stepped to the cabin door, and taking up my gun, fired at him; upon which he immediately turned about and swam towards th_hore again.
  • But it is impossible to describe the horrid noises, and hideous cries an_owlings that were raised, as well upon the edge of the shore as higher withi_he country, upon the noise or report of the gun, a thing I have some reaso_o believe those creatures had never heard before: this convinced me tha_here was no going on shore for us in the night on that coast, and how t_enture on shore in the day was another question too; for to have fallen int_he hands of any of the savages had been as bad as to have fallen into th_ands of the lions and tigers; at least we were equally apprehensive of th_anger of it.
  • Be that as it would, we were obliged to go on shore somewhere or other fo_ater, for we had not a pint left in the boat; when and where to get to it wa_he point. Xury said, if I would let him go on shore with one of the jars, h_ould find if there was any water, and bring some to me. I asked him why h_ould go? why I should not go, and he stay in the boat? The boy answered wit_o much affection as made me love him ever after. Says he, “If wild mans come, they eat me, you go wey.” “Well, Xury,” said I, “we will both go and if th_ild mans come, we will kill them, they shall eat neither of us.” So I gav_ury a piece of rusk bread to eat, and a dram out of our patron's case o_ottles which I mentioned before; and we hauled the boat in as near the shor_s we thought was proper, and so waded on shore, carrying nothing but our arm_nd two jars for water.
  • I did not care to go out of sight of the boat, fearing the coming of canoe_ith savages down the river; but the boy seeing a low place about a mile u_he country, rambled to it, and by-and-by I saw him come running towards me. _hought he was pursued by some savage, or frighted with some wild beast, and _an forward towards him to help him; but when I came nearer to him I sa_omething hanging over his shoulders, which was a creature that he had shot, like a hare, but different in colour, and longer legs; however, we were ver_lad of it, and it was very good meat; but the great joy that poor Xury cam_ith, was to tell me he had found good water and seen no wild mans.
  • But we found afterwards that we need not take such pains for water, for _ittle higher up the creek where we were we found the water fresh when th_ide was out, which flowed but a little way up; so we filled our jars, an_easted on the hare he had killed, and prepared to go on our way, having see_o footsteps of any human creature in that part of the country.
  • As I had been one voyage to this coast before, I knew very well that th_slands of the Canaries, and the Cape de Verde Islands also, lay not far of_rom the coast. But as I had no instruments to take an observation to kno_hat latitude we were in, and not exactly knowing, or at least remembering, what latitude they were in, I knew not where to look for them, or when t_tand off to sea towards them; otherwise I might now easily have found some o_hese islands. But my hope was, that if I stood along this coast till I cam_o that part where the English traded, I should find some of their vessel_pon their usual design of trade, that would relieve and take us in.
  • By the best of my calculation, that place where I now was must be that countr_hich, lying between the Emperor of Morocco's dominions and the negroes, lie_aste and uninhabited, except by wild beasts; the negroes having abandoned i_nd gone farther south for fear of the Moors, and the Moors not thinking i_orth inhabiting by reason of its barrenness; and indeed, both forsaking i_ecause of the prodigious number of tigers, lions, leopards, and other furiou_reatures which harbour there; so that the Moors use it for their huntin_nly, where they go like an army, two or three thousand men at a time; an_ndeed for near a hundred miles together upon this coast we saw nothing but _aste, uninhabited country by day, and heard nothing but howlings and roarin_f wild beasts by night.
  • Once or twice in the daytime I thought I saw the Pico of Teneriffe, being th_igh top of the Mountain Teneriffe in the Canaries, and had a great mind t_enture out, in hopes of reaching thither; but having tried twice, I wa_orced in again by contrary winds, the sea also going too high for my littl_essel; so, I resolved to pursue my first design, and keep along the shore.
  • Several times I was obliged to land for fresh water, after we had left thi_lace; and once in particular, being early in morning, we came to an ancho_nder a little point of land, which was pretty high; and the tide beginning t_low, we lay still to go farther in. Xury, whose eyes were more about him tha_t seems mine were, calls softly to me, and tells me that we had best g_arther off the shore; “For,” says he, “look, yonder lies a dreadful monste_n the side of that hillock, fast asleep.” I looked where he pointed, and sa_ dreadful monster indeed, for it was a terrible, great lion that lay on th_ide of the shore, under the shade of a piece of the hill that hung as it wer_ little over him. “Xury,” says I, “you shall on shore and kill him.” Xury, looked frighted, and said, “Me kill! he eat me at one mouth!” - one mouthfu_e meant. However, I said no more to the boy, but bade him lie still, and _ook our biggest gun, which was almost musket-bore, and loaded it with a goo_harge of powder, and with two slugs, and laid it down; then I loaded anothe_un with two bullets; and the third (for we had three pieces) I loaded wit_ive smaller bullets. I took the best aim I could with the first piece to hav_hot him in the head, but he lay so with his leg raised a little above hi_ose, that the slugs hit his leg about the knee and broke the bone. He starte_p, growling at first, but finding his leg broken, fell down again; and the_ot upon three legs, and gave the most hideous roar that ever I heard. I was _ittle surprised that I had not hit him on the head; however, I took up th_econd piece immediately, and though he began to move off, fired again, an_hot him in the head, and had the pleasure to see him drop and make but littl_oise, but lie struggling for life. Then Xury took heart, and would have m_et him go on shore. “Well, go,” said I: so the boy jumped into the water an_aking a little gun in one hand, swam to shore with the other hand, and comin_lose to the creature, put the muzzle of the piece to his ear, and shot him i_he head again, which despatched him quite.
  • This was game indeed to us, but this was no food; and I was very sorry to los_hree charges of powder and shot upon a creature that was good for nothing t_s. However, Xury said he would have some of him; so he comes on board, an_sked me to give him the hatchet. “For what, Xury?” said I. “Me cut off hi_ead,” said he. However, Xury could not cut off his head, but he cut off _oot, and brought it with him, and it was a monstrous great one.
  • I bethought myself, however, that, perhaps the skin of him might, one way o_ther, be of some value to us; and I resolved to take off his skin if I could.
  • So Xury and I went to work with him; but Xury was much the better workman a_t, for I knew very ill how to do it. Indeed, it took us both up the whol_ay, but at last we got off the hide of him, and spreading it on the top o_ur cabin, the sun effectually dried it in two days' time, and it afterward_erved me to lie upon.