I went to London by land. How unwise young people are! They are not afraid to sin, but they are afraid to seem foolish! I signed up for a voyage to Africa. I should have signed up as a sailor. I could have learned the sailor’s profession. In time, I might even have become a captain. However, I always made the worst choice, and I chose to go to sea as a gentleman. Therefore I had no duties on the ship, and I had no chance of learning to be a sailor.
I met the captain of a ship that had been on the coast of Africa. He had made good profits from the voyage and was eager to go again. He asked me to go with him as his companion. He said that I need not pay for the voyage. If I had any money, he said, he would show me how to make a profit in trade.
I accepted the offer, and became friends with the captain, who was a good and honest man. Following the captain’s advice, I spent about forty pounds on things of little value. These I could trade for gold on the coast of Africa.
The voyage was a great success for me. Indeed, it was my only successful voyage. My friend the captain taught me the skills of both a sailor and a merchant. I brought home five pounds nine ounces of gold, which I sold in London for nearly three hundred pounds.
Soon after our return to England, my friend died. I decided to do the same voyage again and signed up on the same ship with its new captain. As we approached the coast of Africa, we were pursued by a Turkish ship. After a short battle, the Turkish ship was victorious, and we were all taken as prisoners to the port of Sal lee.
The captain of the Turkish ship made me his slave. I was horrified by this surprising change from merchant to miserable slave. I remembered my father’s prophesy that I would be miserable, and I realised that it had indeed been fulfilled.
After about two years of slavery, I saw my chance of escape. One day, my master sent me out fishing with his brother Ismael and a black slave boy called Xury. The fishing boat was full of food, guns, and fresh water. While we were fishing, I pushed Ismael into the sea. He cried for help. I pointed a gun at him and said, ‘I will not hurt you, if you do as I say. You swim well enough to reach the shore. Go! Swim to the shore and leave us alone. If you do not. I will shoot you in the head, for I want my liberty.’
Ismael swam away from the ship, and I turned to the slave boy. ‘Xury.’ said I, ‘if you will be faithful to me, I will make you a great man. If not, I will throw you into the sea too.’ The boy smiled and promised to be faithful to me.
We sailed along the coast of Africa, close to the shore. Sometimes we heard lions and other wild beasts. We needed fresh water, but we were afraid to go ashore, for fear of wild beasts and savages. Xury said that he would go ashore to get water, and I should wait in the boat.
‘Why should you go, Xury?’ I asked. ‘Why should I not go, and you wait in the boat?’
Xury replied in words that made me love him ever after: ‘If wild men come, they will eat me, and you will escape.’
‘Well, Xury,’ I said, ‘we will both go. If wild men come we will kill them, and they will eat neither of us.’ We went ashore and got fresh water. As we were returning to the boat, we saw a lion on the beach.
I aimed my gun and shot. Xury and I took the skin off the lion, for I thought it might be of some value. We sailed along the coast for ten days. I hoped that we would meet a European trading ship and be saved, but we did not meet one.
Sometimes we saw people on the shore. Their skin was black, and they were naked. Once I thought of going ashore to meet them, but Xury advised against it. I made signs to them that we needed food. They brought meat and grain and left it on the beach for us. I made signs to thank them but had nothing to give them in payment.
However, we soon had the chance to do them a great service. Just as we reached our boat, a leopard came running down from the mountain towards the beach. I shot it dead. The Negroes were amazed and terrified by the sound of my gun. When they saw that the leopard was dead, they approached him. They wished to eat the flesh of this animal. I made signs to tell them that they could have him, and they began cutting him up. They cut off his skin and gave it to me.
Leaving my friendly Negroes, I sailed on for eleven days. As we approached Cape Verde, Xury cried out, ‘Master! A ship!’ I saw that it was a Portuguese ship. I sailed towards it, and in three hours I reached it.
The men on the ship asked who I was. When I told them my story, they were very kind. They took me on board their ship with all my property from the boat. I offered all my property to the captain, to thank him for saving me, but he would not take it. He said they were sailing to Brazil. He said that my property would be returned to me when we arrived. He offered to buy my boat from me. He paid me eighty pieces of eight for it. He also offered me sixty pieces of eight for my boy Xury. I did not want to sell the poor boy’s liberty because he had helped me to escape from slavery. Then the captain offered to set Xury free in ten years if he became a Christian. Xury said he was willing to go with him, so I let the captain have him.