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Today's Birthday

CHAPTER 2


 SLAVERY AND ESCAPE

    That evil influence which carried  me first away from my  father`s house which hurried me into the wild and indigested notion of  raising my fortune, and that impressed those  conceits so forcibly upon me  as to make me deaf to all good advice, and to the entreaties and even the commands of my  father I  say, the  same influence,  whatever it  was, presented the most unfortunate  of all enterprises to  my view; and  I went on  board a  vessel bound  to the  coast of  Africa; 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 myself as  a sailor; when,  though I might  indeed have worked  a little harder than ordinary, yet at the same time I should have learnt the duty  and  office of  a  fore-mast man,  and  in time  might  have qualified myself for a mate or lieutenant, if not for a master. But as it was always  my fate to  choose for the  worse, so I  did here;  for having money  in my  pocket and  good clothes  upon my  back, I  would  always go on board in the habit  of a gentleman; and so I neither 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, which does not always happen to such loose and misguided young fellows as I then  was; 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  ship who  had been on  the coast  of Guinea; and who, having had very  good success there, was resolved  to go again. This captain  taking a fancy to  my conversation, which  was not at all disagreeable at that time,  hearing me say I had a mind  to see the world, told me if I would  go the voyage with him I should  be at no expense; I should  be his messmate and  his companion; and if  I could carry anything with  me, I should have  all the advantage of  it that the  trade  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  carried a  small  adventure  with me,  which,  by  the disinterested honesty  of  my friend  the  captain, I  increased  very considerably; for I carried about 40  pounds in such toys and  trifles as the captain  directed me  to buy. These  40 pounds  I had  mustered together by the assistance of some of my relations whom I corresponded 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  whom  also  I  got  a  competent  knowledge  of   the mathematics and  the  rules of navigation,  learned how  to  keep  an account of the ship`s course, take  an observation, and, in short,  to understand some things that were needful to be understood by a sailor; for, as he took delight to instruct me, I took delight to 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 filled me with those aspiring  thoughts which have since so  completed my ruin.
    Yet even in this  voyage I had  my misfortunes too;  particularly, that I was continually sick, being thrown into a violent calenture  by the excessive heat of  the climate; our  principal trading being  upon the coast, from latitude of 15 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 I embarked in the  same vessel with one who was  hismate in the former voyage,  and had now got  the command of the  ship. This was the unhappiest  voyage that ever man  made; for though I  did not carry quite 100 pounds of my new-gained wealth, so that I had  200 pounds left, which I had lodged  with my friend`s widow, who was  very just to me, yet I fell into terrible misfortunes. The first was  this: our ship  making her  course  towards the  Canary Islands,  or  rather between those islands and the African shore, was surprised in the grey of the morning by a Turkish rover of Sallee, who gave chase to us with all the sail 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, and  would certainly come up  with us in a  few hours, we prepared  to fight;  our ship  having twelve  guns, and  the rogue eighteen. About three in the  afternoon he came 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 to bear  on that side, and poured  in a broadside upon  him, which made him  sheer off again, after  returning our fire,  and pouring in  also his  small shot from near 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 defend ourselves.  But laying us  on board the  next time upon our other quarter, he entered sixty men upon our decks,  who immediately fell  to cutting  and hacking  the 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  cut  short  this melancholy part of our  story, our ship being  disabled, and three  of our men killed, and eight wounded, we were obliged to yield, and  were carried all 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 I carried 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  his slave, being young and nimble,  and fit for his business. At  this surprising change of my  circumstances, from a merchant to a miserable slave, I was perfectly overwhelmed; and now I looked back upon my  father`s prophetic discourse to me, that  I should be miserable and have none  to relieve me, which I 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  without redemption; 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 hopes that he would take me with him when he went to sea again, believing that it would 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 was  soon taken away; for when he  went to sea, he left me  on shore to look after  his little garden, and  do the common drudgery of slaves about  his house; and when he came  home again from his cruise, he ordered me to lie in the cabin to look after the ship.
    Here I meditated nothing  but my escape, and  what method I  might take to effect it, but found no way that had the least probability  in it; nothing presented to  make the supposition of  it rational; for  I had nobody  to  communicate  it  to  that  would  embark  with  me  no fellow-slave, no Englishman, Irishman, or Scotchman there but  myself; so that  for  two  years,  though I  often  pleased  myself  with  the imagination, yet I never had the least encouraging prospect of putting it in practice.
    After about two years, an odd circumstance presented itself, which put the old thought of making some attempt for my liberty again in  my head. My patron lying  at home longer than  usual without fitting  out his ship,  which,  as  I  heard,  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  go out into the road a  fishing; and as he always took me and  young Maresco with him to row the  boat,
we made him very merry, and I proved very dexterous in catching  fish; insomuch that  sometimes he  would send  me with  a Moor,  one of  his kinsmen, and the youth the Maresco, as they called him to catch a dish of fish for him.
    It happened one time,  that going a-fishing in  a calm morning,  a fog rose so  thick that, though  we were  not half a  league from  the shore, we lost sight of  it; and rowing we  knew not whither or  which way, we laboured all day, and all the next night; and when the morning came we found we had pulled off  to sea instead of pulling in for  the shore; and that we were at least two leagues from the shore.  However, we got well  in again, though  with a  great deal of  labour and  some danger; for the wind began to blow pretty fresh in the morning; but we were all very hungry.
    But our patron,  warned by  this disaster, resolved  to take  more care of himself for the future;  and having lying by him the  longboat of our English ship that he had  taken, he resolved he would not go  a fishing any more without a compass  and some provision; so he  ordered the carpenter of his ship, who also  was an English slave, to build  a little state-room, or cabin, in the middle of the long boat, like that of a barge, with a  place to stand behind it  to steer, and haul  home the main-sheet; the room before  for a hand or  two to stand and  work the sails. She sailed with what we call a shoulder-of-mutton sail; and the boom jibed over the top of the cabin, which lay very snug and low, and had in it room for him to lie, with a slave or two, and a table to eat on, with some small lockers to put in some bottles of such  liquor as he thought fit to drink; and his bread, rice, and coffee.
    We went frequently out with this boat a-fishing; and as I was most dexterous to catch fish for him, he never went without me. It happened that he had appointed to go out  in this boat, either for pleasure  or for fish, with two or three  Moors of some distinction in that  place, and for whom he had provided extraordinarily, and had, therefore, sent on board  the  boat  overnight  a  larger  store  of  provisions  than ordinary; and had ordered me to get ready three fusees with powder and shot, which were on board his ship, for that they designed some  sport of fowling as well as fishing.
    I got all  things ready as  he had directed,  and waited the  next morning with the boat washed clean, her ancient and pendants out,  and everything to accommodate his guests; when by-and-by my patron came on board alone,  and told  me his  guests  had put  off going  from  some business that  fell out,  and ordered  me, with  the man  and boy,  as usual, to go out with the boat and catch them some fish, for that  his friends were to sup at his house, and commanded that as soon as I  got some fish I should bring it home to his house; all which I prepared to do.
    This moment  my  former  notions of  deliverance  darted  into  my thoughts, for now I  found I was  likely to have a  little ship at  my command; and my master being gone,  I prepared to furnish myself,  not for fishing business, but for a voyage; though I knew not, neither did I so much as consider, whither I  should steer anywhere to get out  of that place was my desire.
    My first contrivance was to make a pretence to speak to this Moor, to get something for our subsistence on board; for I told him we  must not presume to eat of our patron`s bread. He said that was true; so he brought a large  basket of rusk  or biscuit, and  three jars of  fresh water, into the boat. I knew where my patron`s case of bottles  stood, which it was  evident, by  the make, were  taken out  of some  English prize, and I conveyed them into the boat while the Moor was on  shore, as if they had  been there before  for our master.  I conveyed also  a great lump  of beeswax  into  the boat,  which  weighed about  half  a hundred-weight, with a parcel  of twine or thread,  a hatchet, a  saw, and a  hammer,  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  into also: 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 a little powder and  shot? It may be  we may kill  some alcamies  (a fowl like  our curlews)  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  leather pouch, which held a pound  and a half of  powder, or rather more;  and another with shot, that had five or six pounds, with some bullets, and put all into the boat. At the same time I had found some powder of  my master`s in the  great cabin,  with which I  filled one  of the  large bottles in the case,  which was almost empty,  pouring what was in  it into another; and  thus furnished with  everything needful, we  sailed out of the port to fish. The  castle, which is at the entrance of  the port, knew who  we were, and  took no notice  of us; and  we were  not above a mile out of the port before  we hauled in our sail and set  us down 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 which way it  would, I would be gone from  that horrid place where I was, and leave the rest to fate.
    After we had fished  some time and caught  nothing for when I  had fish on my hook I would not pull them up, that he might not see them I said to  the Moor,  This will  not do;  our master  will not  be  thus served; we must stand farther 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 league farther, and then brought her to,  as if I would fish; when, giving the  boy the helm, I stepped forward  to where the Moor was,  and making as if  I stooped for something  behind him, I took him by  surprise with my arm  under his waist, and  tossed him clear overboard  into the sea.  He rose immediately,  for he  swam like a cork, and called to me, begged to be taken in, told me he would go all over the world with me.  He swam so strong after the boat  that he would have reached  me very quickly, there  being but little  wind; upon which  I  stepped  into  the  cabin,  and  fetching  one  of  the fowling-pieces, I presented it at him, and told him 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 is calm; make  the best of your way to shore, and I will do you no harm; but if you  come near the boat I`ll shoot  you through the head,  for I am resolved  to have my liberty; so he turned  himself about, and swam for the  shore, and I  make 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 drowned the boy, but there was no venturing to trust him. When he was gone, I turned to the boy, whom they called Xury, and said to him, Xury, if you will be faithful to me, I`ll make you a great man; but if you will not  stroke your  face to  be true to  me that  is, swear  by Mahomet and his father`s beard I must throw you into the sea too.  The boy smiled  in my  face, and  spoke  so innocently  that I  could  not distrust him, and  swore to be  faithful to  me, and go  all over  the world with me.
    While I was in  view of the  Moor that was  swimming, I stood  out directly to sea  with the  boat, rather stretching  to windward,  that they might think me gone towards the Straits` mouth (as indeed any one that had been in their  wits must have been  supposed to do): for  who would have supposed we were sailed  on to the southward, to the  truly Barbarian coast, where whole nations of negroes were sure to  surround us with their canoes and  destroy us; where we  could not go on  shore but we should be devoured by savage beasts, or more merciless  savages of human kind.
    But as soon as it grew dusk  in the evening, I changed my  course, and steered directly  south and by  east, bending my  course a  little towards the east, that I  might keep in with  the shore; and having  a fair, fresh gale of wind,  and a smooth, quiet  sea, I made such  sail that I believe  by the next  day, at three  o`clock in the  afternoon, when I first made the land, I  could not be less than one hundred  and fifty miles south  of Sallee;  quite beyond the  Emperor of  Morocco`s dominions, or indeed  of any  other king  thereabouts, for  we saw  no people.
    Yet such was the fright I had taken of the Moors, and the dreadful apprehensions I had  of falling  into their  hands, that  I would  not stop, or go on shore, or come  to an anchor; the wind continuing  fair till I had sailed in that manner five days; and then the wind shifting to the southward, I concluded also that if any of our vessels were  in chase of me, they also would now  give over; so I ventured to make  to the coast, and came  to an anchor  in the mouth of  a little river,  I knew not what, nor  where, neither what  latitude, what country,  what nation, or what river. I neither  saw, nor desired to see any  people; the principal thing I wanted was fresh water. We came into this  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  such dreadful  noises  of  the  barking,  roaring,  and  howling  of   wild creatures, of we knew not what kinds,  that the poor boy was ready  to die with fear, and  begged of me  not to go on  shore till day.  Well, Xury, said I, then I won`t; but it may 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 to see the boy  so cheerful, and I gave him a dram (out of our patron`s case of  bottles) to cheer him up. After all, Xury`s advice was good, and I took it;  we dropped our little anchor, and lay  still all night; I say still,  for we slept none; for in two or  three hours we saw vast great  creatures (we knew  not what  to call  them) of  many sorts,  come down  to  the sea-shore and run into the water, wallowing and washing themselves for the pleasure  of  cooling  themselves;  and  they  made  such  hideous howlings and yellings, that I never indeed heard the like.
    Xury was dreadfully frighted, and indeed so was I too; but we were both more frighted when  we heard one of  these mighty creatures  come swimming towards our boat; we could not see him, but we might hear him by his blowing to be a monstrous huge and furious beast. Xury said  it was a lion, and it might be so  for 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 to sea; they cannot  follow
us far.  I  had  no sooner  said  so,  but I  perceived  the  creature (whatever it was) within two  oars` length, which something  surprised me; 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 the shore again.
    But it is impossible  to describe the  horrid noises, and  hideous cries and howlings  that were  raised, as well  upon the  edge of  the shore as higher within  the country, upon the  noise or report of  the gun, a thing I have some  reason to believe those creatures had  never heard before: this convinced me that  there was no going on shore  for us in the night on that coast, and how to venture on shore in the  day was another question too; for to have fallen into the hands of any  of the savages had been as  bad as to have fallen  into the hands of  the lions and tigers; at least we were equally apprehensive of the  danger of it.
    Be that as it would, we were  obliged to go on shore somewhere  or other for water,  for we had  not a pint  left in the  boat; when  and where to get to it was the point. Xury said, if I would let him go  on shore with one of the jars, he would find if there was any water,  and bring some to me. I  asked him why he would  go? why I should not  go, and he stay in the  boat? The boy answered  with so 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 the wild  mans come, we will kill them, they shall eat neither of us. So I gave  Xury a piece of rusk bread to eat, and  a dram out of our patron`s case  of bottles which I mentioned  before; and we hauled  the boat in as  near the shore as we  thought was proper, and  so waded on shore,  carrying nothing but our arms and two jars for water.
    I did not care to go out of sight of the boat, fearing the  coming of canoes with savages down the river; but the boy seeing a low  place about a mile up the  country, rambled to it,  and by-and-by I saw  him come running towards me. I thought  he was pursued by some savage,  or frighted with some wild beast, and  I ran forward towards him to  help him; but when I came  nearer to him I  saw something 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 very glad  of it, and it was very good meat;  but the great joy that poor Xury  came with, 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 a little  higher up the  creek where we  were we found  the water fresh when the tide was out,  which flowed but a little way  up; so we filled  our jars, and  feasted on  the hare he  had killed,  and prepared to  go on  our way,  having seen  no 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 the islands of the Canaries, and the Cape de Verde Islands  also, lay not far off from the coast. But as I had no instruments to take an observation to know what 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 to stand off to sea towards them;  otherwise I might now easily have found some of these islands. But my hope  was, that if I stood along  this coast till I came  to that part where  the English traded, I should find some  of their vessels upon 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 country which, lying between  the Emperor of Morocco`s  dominions and the negroes, lies  waste and uninhabited,  except by wild  beasts; the negroes having abandoned it and gone farther south for fear of the Moors, and the Moors not thinking it worth inhabiting by reason of its barrenness; and indeed,  both forsaking it  because of the  prodigious number of tigers, lions, leopards,  and other furious creatures  which harbour there; so that the Moors use it for their hunting only,  where they go like an army, two or three thousand men at a time; and  indeed for near a hundred miles together upon this coast we saw nothing but a waste, uninhabited country by day, and heard nothing but howlings  and roaring of wild beasts by night.
    Once or  twice  in  the  daytime  I thought  I  saw  the  Pico  of Teneriffe, being  the  high  top  of the  Mountain  Teneriffe  in  the Canaries, and had a  great mind to venture  out, in hopes of  reaching thither; but having  tried twice, I  was forced in  again by  contrary winds, the  sea  also going  too  high for  my  little vessel;  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 this place; and  once in particular, being  early in morning,  we came to an anchor under a little point of land, which was pretty high; and the tide beginning to flow, we  lay still to go farther in.  Xury, whose eyes were more about him  than it seems mine were, calls  softly to me, and tells me  that we had best go  farther off the shore;  For, says he, look,  yonder lies  a dreadful monster  on the  side of  that hillock, fast asleep. I  looked where he pointed,  and saw a  dreadful monster indeed, for it was a terrible, great lion that lay on the side of the shore, under the shade of a  piece of the hill that hung as  it were a 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 mouthful he meant. However, I  said no more to  the boy, but bade  him lie still, and I took our  biggest gun, which was almost  musket-bore, and loaded it with a  good charge of powder,  and with two slugs,  and laid it down;  then I  loaded another gun  with two  bullets; and  the third (for we had three pieces) I loaded with five smaller bullets.  I took the best aim I could with the first piece to have shot him in the head, but he lay so with his leg raised a little above his nose,  that the slugs hit his leg  about the knee and  broke the bone. He  started up, growling at first,  but finding his leg  broken, fell down  again; and then got upon three legs, and gave the most hideous roar that ever I heard. I was a little surprised that I had not hit him on the  head; however, I took up the second  piece immediately, and though he  began to move  off, fired  again, and  shot him  in the  head, and  had  the pleasure to see him drop and make but little noise, but lie struggling for life. Then Xury took heart, and would have me let him go on shore. Well, go, said I: so the boy jumped into the water and taking a little gun in one hand, swam to shore  with the other hand, and coming  close to the creature, put the muzzle of the piece to his ear, and shot  him in the head again, which despatched him quite.
    This was game indeed to us, but  this was no food; and I was  very sorry to lose three  charges of powder and  shot upon a creature  that was good for nothing to us. However,  Xury said he would have some  of him; so he comes on board, and  asked me to give him the hatchet.  For what, Xury? said I. Me cut off his head, said he. However, Xury  could not cut off his head, but he cut off a foot, 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 or other, 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 at  it, for  I knew very  ill how  to do  it.
Indeed, it took us both up the whole  day, but at last we got off  the hide of  him, and  spreading  it on  the top  of  our cabin,  the  sun effectually dried it in two days` time, and it afterwards served me to lie upon.



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