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After looking on the picture till every mark and line in it were familiar to me, I turned over various leaves till I came to another engraving; a new source of wonder; a low sandy beach on which the furious sea was breaking in mountainous billows; cloud and rack deformed the firmament, which wore a dull and leaden-like hue; gulls and other aquatic fowls were toppling upon the blast, or skimming over the tops of the maddening waves.
"Mercy upon him! he must be drowned!" I exclaimed, as my eyes fell upon a poor wretch who appeared to be striving to reach the shore. He was upon his legs, but was evidently half smothered with the brine. High above him curled a horrible billow, as if about to ingulf him forever. "He must be drowned! he must be drowned!" I almost shrieked, and dropped the book.
I soon snatched it up again, and now my eye lighted on a third picture. Again a shore, but what a sweet and lovely one and how I wished to be treading it! There were beautiful shells lying on the smooth white sand; some were empty, like those I had occasionally seen on marble mantelpieces, but out of others peered heads and bodies of wondrous crayfish; a wood of thick green trees skirted the beach and partly shaded it from the rays of the sun, which shone hot above, while blue waves lightly crested with foam were gently curling against it.
There was a human figure upon the beach, wild and uncouth, clad in the skins of animals, with a huge cap on his head, a hatchet at his girdle, and in his hand was a gun. His feet and legs were bare; he stood in an attitude of horror and surprise; his body was bent far back, and his eyes, which seemed starting out of his head, were fixed upon a mark on the sand, a large, distinct mark, a human footprint.
Hail to thee, spirit of Defoe! What does my own self owe to thee! England has better bards than either Greece or Rome; yet I could spare them easier than Defoe.
The true chord had now been touched; a raging curiosity with respect to the contents of the volume, whose engravings had fascinated my eye, burned within me, and I never rested until I had fully satisfied it.
Weeks succeeded weeks, months followed months, and the wondrous book was my only study and principal source of amusement. For hours together I would sit poring over a page till I had become acquainted with the import of every line. My progress, slow enough at first, became by degrees more rapid, till at last I found myself cantering before a steady breeze over an ocean of enchantment, so well pleased with my voyage that I cared not how long it might be ere it reached its termination.
It would have made a stoic smile, to have seen me and my little family sit down to dinner. There was my majesty, the prince and lord of the whole island; I had the lives of all my subjects at absolute command. I could hang, draw, give life and liberty, and take it away, and no rebels among all my subjects.
Then, to see how like a king I dined, too, all alone,
attended by my servants! Poll, as if he had been my favorite, as the only person permitted to talk to me; my dog, which was now grown very old and crazy, sat always at my right hand; and two cats, one on one side of the table, and one on the other, expecting now and then a bit from my hand as a mark of special favor.
I had a great, high, shapeless cap, made of goat's skin, with a flap hanging down behind, as well to keep the sun from me, as to shoot the rain off from running into my neck; nothing being so hurtful in these climates as the rain upon the flesh under the clothes.
I had a short jacket of goatskin, the skirts coming down to about the middle of my thighs; and a pair of open-kneed breeches of the same. The breeches were made of goatskin. Stockings and shoes I had none; but I had made me a pair of -something, I scarce knew what to call them, like buskins, to flap over my legs, and lace on either side. These were of most barbarous shape, as indeed were all the rest of my clothes.
I had on a broad belt of goatskin, dried, which I drew together with two thongs of the same, instead of buckles; and in a kind of frog on either side of this, instead of a sword and dagger, hung a little saw and hatchet, one on one side, the other on the other.