ONE day in May a great storm burst upon the island. All day and far into the night the rain fell and the wind blew, the lightnings flashed, and the thunder rolled.
But I was used to such storms, and I minded it but little. I stayed home in my castle, and felt very thankful that I had a place so safe and dry and comfortable.
I sat up quite late, reading my Bible by the light of a little lamp I had made, and thinking of my strange lot in life. Suddenly I heard a sound which I felt sure was the noise of a gun fired at sea.
I started up quickly. I threw on my raincoat and mounted to my lookout on the top of the great rock.
The rain had stopped and the wind was going down. It was now past midnight, and very dark.
A moment after I had reached my place there was a flash of light that caused me to stop and listen for another gun.
In a few seconds I heard it. It seemed to come from that part of the sea where I was once caught by the strong current and driven far out in my boat.
I knew at once that the shots were fired from some ship in distress. Perhaps she was being driven upon the shore by the wind and waves. Could I do anything to help the poor men on board?
With great labor and danger to myself I gathered some sticks and brush into a pile on the rock and set it on fire.
The wood was not dry, but when the fire was once kindled it blazed up fiercely and cast a light over all the rocks and trees about me.
I felt sure that if there were sailors on the ship, they could not help but see it. And no doubt they did see it, for I soon heard another gun.
All night long I kept the fire burning; but no other sound besides the wind did I hear.
When it was broad day and the mists had cleared away, I turned my spyglass toward that part of the sea from which the sounds came.
Far away from the shore there was surely something; but whether it was a wreck or a ship under sail, I could not tell. The distance was too great.
I watched it from time to time all day. It did not move.
"It must be a ship at anchor," I said to myself.
Early the next morning I took my gun and went down toward that side of the island where the current had once caught me. When I had come to the shore there, I climbed upon some rocks and looked out over the sea.
The air was very clear now, and I could plainly see the ship.
She was not at anchor. She was fast on some great rocks of which there were many in that part of the sea.
I saw that the masts of the vessel were broken, and that her hull was lying more than halfway out of the water.
I thought of the sailors who must have been on board, and wondered if any had escaped. It seemed impossible that any could have reached the shore through the furious sea that was raging during the storm.
"Oh, that one had been saved!" I cried as I walked up and down the shore.
I wrung my hands, my lips were firmly set, my eyes were full of tears.
"Oh, that one had been saved!" I cried again and again.
It was thus that after so many lonely years without seeing a friendly face I longed to have at least one companion to talk with and to share my hopes and fears.
The sea was now quite calm. Even among the rocks the water was smooth.
Seeing everything thus favorable, I made up my mind to get my canoe and go out to the wreck.
I hurried back to my castle to get things ready for my voyage.
I packed a big basket with bread; I filled a jug with fresh water; I put a compass in my pocket that I might have it to steer by; I threw a bag full of raisins upon my shoulder.
Loaded with all these necessary things, I went round to the place where my canoe was hidden. I found her half full of water, for she had been lying there neglected for a long time.
With much labor I bailed the water out of her and got her afloat. Then I loaded my cargo into her, and hurried home for more.
My second load was a bag full of rice, the umbrella to set up over my head for shade, another jug of water, a cheese, a bottle of milk, and about two dozen barley cakes.
All these I carried around to my canoe. If there were men on board the wreck they might be in need of food.
When I had arranged everything in good order, I started out.
I kept the canoe quite close to the shore until I had rounded the point past which the dangerous current flowed. Being then in smooth water, I struck boldly out toward the wreck.
Soon, however, upon looking a little ahead of me, I saw the second current flowing in a great eddy past a long line of half-hidden rocks.
As I looked on these rapid currents, my heart began to fail me. I knew that if I should be driven into one of them, it would carry me a great way out to sea. It would carry me so far that I should never be able to get back again.
Yet I was determined to persevere in my venture.