Lord of the Island
One day, I found among my goods a little bag that had once held grain on board our ship. I decided to use it to store my powder, so I shook it out near the rock outside my house. Soon afterwards the rains came. A month later, I saw some young plants growing there. I had forgotten all about the grain bag. When the plants grew, I was surprised to see that some were our English barley and others were rice.
Up to this point, I had very little idea of religion. I thought of everything that had happened to me as chance. When I saw English barley growing there, I thought it was a miracle. God had made it grow there to comfort me.
This thought brought tears to my eyes. Then I remembered shaking out the bag in that place just before the rains came. This calmed my mind. I thought the grain had grown there by chance, and so I felt less thankful to God. But I should have been thankful anyway, because the chance of grain growing there was very small. By chance ten or twelve grains of barley and rice had remained in the bottom of the bag. By chance I had shaken out the bag in the shade of the rock, where it was protected from the sun. I carefully saved the grain to plant again, hoping to grow enough to supply me with bread.
April 16. I finished my ladder. With this I could climb over the fence. The fence was now thick and high. From outside, the house could not be seen. At last I was safe from attack by man or beast.
The next day, the earth came falling down from the roof of my cave and the hill above it. I thought that my cave was falling in as it had done before. I climbed the fence, for fear of being buried alive. Once outside, I realised that it was an earthquake.
I was terrified that the hill would fall upon my tent and bury all my goods. I sat on the ground, feeling miserable. The wind rose and there was a great storm. It lasted about three hours. At that time I sat on the ground, terrified and miserable, but I never had one serious religious thought.
Two hours later, the air and sea were calm, and it began to rain. I realised that the storm had been the result of the earthquake and that the earthquake was now over. I went in and sat in my tent.
June 16. On the beach at the other side of the island I found a large turtle. I had never seen one before, but I soon discovered that there were many on the other side of the island.
June 19. I fell ill and began shivering.
June 20. I did not sleep all night because of the fever.
June 21. I was terrified by my illness and had no one to help me. I prayed to God for the first time since the storm on the sea by Hull. I could not think clearly. For several days I lay shivering with fever.
June 26. I woke up feeling better. Having no food, I took my gun and killed a goat. I found it very difficult to carry the goat home, because I was weak from my illness.
June 27. I fell ill again and lay in bed all day without food or drink. I tried to pray to God, but all I could say was ‘Lord have mercy upon me’ over and over again. I fell asleep and had a terrible dream.
I dreamt I was sitting on the ground outside my house. I saw a man descend from the sky. He was clothed in fire and held a spear in his hand. When he landed on the ground before me, the earth trembled. He moved towards me to kill me. Then he said, ‘Since you do not repent, now you will die.’
I awoke terrified. Alas! I had no religious knowledge. What my father had taught me had all been forgotten in eight years of a wicked sailor’s life. My soul had been stupid. It had not desired good. It had not feared evil.
Through all my misfortunes I had never once thought that they were the just punishment for my sins. I had acted like an animal, guided by my passions. When the rice and barley grew, I had a moment of serious religious thought, but that passed when I discovered that it was not a miracle.
Now, for the first time, I began seriously to repent of my sinful life. I saw my condition not as simple misfortune but as the punishment of a just God. These thoughts brought tears to my eyes. I remembered my father’s words. He had said that, if I went to sea, God would not bless me and I would be sorry. ‘Now,’ I said to myself, ‘my father’s prophesy has really been fulfilled. God has punished me, and there is no one to help me.’ Then I cried out, ‘Lord help me, for I am in great distress!’
June 28. Feeling a little stronger, I ate some turtle meat. This was the first time in my life I asked God’s blessing on what I ate. Afterwards, I took my gun and walked to the shore. There I sat down, feeling weak once more, and looked out at the sea. ‘What,’ I asked myself, ‘is this earth and sea of which I have seen so much? What am I? What are men and beasts? Where do we come from? Surely we are made by the same secret power that formed the earth and sea. Who is that?’ The answer was clear: ‘God made it all.’ Then I thought, ‘if God made all these things, He must also guide them all. Nothing can happen in creation without His knowledge. Therefore, He knows that I am here in this miserable condition, and he meant these things to happen to me.’