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but then I determined, if they should come again, anything near my grotto, to open the door, see who they were, and stand upon my own defence, whatever came of it.
For, says I, my entrance is so narrow and high, that more than one cannot come at a time; and I can with ease dispatch twenty of them, before they can secure me, if they should be
savages; but if they prove sensible human creatures, it will be a great benefit to me to join myself to their society. Thus had I formed my scheme, but I heard no more of them for a great while; so that at length beginning to grow ashamed of my fears, I became tranquil again.
I passed the summer, though I had never yet seen the sun's body, very much to my satisfaction, partly in the work I have been describing [he had taken what he calls some “beast-fish” and got a great quantity of oil from them], partly in building me a chimney in my antechamber, of mud and earth burnt on my own hearth into a sort of brick; in making a window at one end of the above said chamber, to let in what little light would come through the trees, when I did not choose to open my door ; in moulding an earthen lamp for my oil; and finally, in providing and laying in stores, fresh and salt; for I had now cured and dried many more fish against winter. These, I say, were my summer employments at home, intermixed with many agreeable summer excursions. But now the winter coming on, and the days growing very short, or indeed there being no day, properly speaking, but a kind of twilight, I kept mostly in my habitation (though not so much as I had done the winter before, when I had no light within doors) and slept, or at least lay still, great part of my time, for now my lamp was never out. I also turned two of my beast-fish skins into a rug to cover my bed, and the third
into a cushion, which I always sat upon; and a very soft and warm cushion it made. All this together rendered my life very easy; yea, even comfortable.
An indifferent person would now be apt to ask, what would this man desire more than he had ? To this I answer, that I was contented while my condition was such as I have been describing ; but a little while after the darkness or twilight came on, I frequently heard the voices again, sometimes a few only at a time, as it seemed, and then again in great numbers. This threw me into new fears, and I became as uneasy as ever, even to the degree of growing quite 'melancholy; though otherwise I never received the least injury from anything. I foolishly attempted-several times, by looking out of window, to discover what these odd sounds proceeded from, though I knew it was too dark to see anything there.
I was now fully convinced, by a more deliberate attention to them, that they could not be uttered by the beastfish, as I had before conjectured, but only by beings capable of articulate speech. But then, what or where they were, it galled me to be ignorant of.
At length, one night or day, I cannot say which, hearing the voices very distinctly, and praying very earnestly to be either delivered from the uncertainty they had put me under, or to have them removed from me, I took courage, and arming myself with gun, pistols, and cutlass, I went out of my grotto, and crept down the wood. I then heard them plainer than before, and was able to judge from what point of the compass they proceeded. Hereupon I went forward towards the sound till I came to the verge of the wood, where I could see the lake very well by the dazzle of the water. Thereon, as I thought, I beheld a fleet of boats, covering a large compass, and not far from the bridge. I
was shocked hereat beyond expression: I could not conceive where they came from, or whither they would go; but supposed there must be some other passage to the lake, than I had found in my voyage through the cavern, and that for certain they came that way, and from some place of which as yet I had no manner of knowledge.
Whilst I was entertaining myself with this speculation, I heard the people in the boats laughing and talking very merrily, though I was too distant to distinguish the words. I discerned soon after all the boats (as I still supposed them) draw up, and push for the bridge; presently after, though I was sure no boat entered the arch, I saw a multitude of people on the opposite shore, all marching towards the bridge; and what was the strangest of all, there was not the least sign of a boat left on the lake. I then was in a greater consternation than before; but was still much more so, when I saw the whole posse of people, that, as I have just said, were marching towards the bridge, coming over it to my side of the lake. At this
my heart failed; and I was just going to run to my grotto for shelter, but taking one look more, I plainly discovered, that the people, leaping one after another from the top of the bridge, as if into the water, and then rising again, flew in a long train over the lake, the lengthways of it, quite out of sight, laughing, hallooing, and sporting together; so that, looking back again to the bridge and on the lake, I could neither see person, boat, or anything else, nor hear the least noise or stir afterwards for that time.
I returned to my grotto brim-full of this amazing adventure, bemoaning my misfortune in being at a place where I was likely to remain ignorant of what was doing about me. For, says I, if I am in a land of spirits, as now I have little room to doubt, there is no guarding against them. I am never safe, even in my grotto; for that can be no security against such beings as can sail on the water in no boats, and fly in the air on no wings (as the case now appears to me), who can be here and there, and wherever they please. What a miserable state, I say, am I fallen to! I should have been glad to have had human converse, and to have found inhabitants in this place ; but there being none, as I supposed, hitherto, I contented myself with thinking I was at least safe from all those evils mankind in society are obnoxious to. But now, what
may be the consequence of the next hour, I know not; nay, I am not able to say, but whilst I speak and show my discontent, they may at a distance conceive my thoughts, and be hatching revenge against me for my dislike of them.
The pressure of my spirits inclining me to repose, I laid me down, but could get no rest; nor could all my most serious thoughts, even of the Almighty Providence, give me relief under my present anxiety. And all this was only from my state of uncertainty concerning the reality of what I had heard and seen, and from the earnestness with which I coveted a satisfactory knowledge of those beings who had just taken their flight from me.
I really believe the fiercest wild beast, or the most savage of mankind that had met me, and put me upon my defence, would not have given me half the trouble that then lay upon me; and the more, for that I had no seeming possibility of ever being rid of my apprehensions. So finding I could not sleep, I got up again; but as I could not fly from myself, all the art I could use with myself was but in vain to obtain me any quiet.
In the height of my distress I had recourse to prayer, with no small benefit; begging, that if it pleased not the Almighty power to remove the object of my fears, at least to
doubts about them, and to render them rather helpful than hurtful to me. I hereupon, as I always did on such occasions, found myself much more placid and easy, and began to hope the best, till I had almost persuaded myself that I was out of danger; and then laying myself down, I rested very sweetly, till I was awakened by the impulse of the following dream :
Methought I was in Cornwall, at my wife's aunt's; and inquiring after her and my children, the old gentlewoman informed me,
wife and children had been dead some time, and that my wife, before her departure, desired her (that is her aunt), immediately upon my arrival, to tell me she was only gone to the lake, where I should be sure to see her, and be happy with her after. I then, as I fancied, ran to the lake to find her. In my passage, she stopped me, crying, Whither so fast, Peter ? I am your wife, your Patty. Methought I did not know her, she was so altered; but observing her voice, I looked more wistfully at her, she appeared to me as the most beautiful creature I ever beheld. I then went to seize her in my arms, and the hurry of my spirits awakened me.
When I got up, I kept at home, not caring even to look out at my door. My dream ran strangely in my head, and I had now nothing but Patty in my mind. Oh! cries I, how happy could I be with her, though I had only her in this solitude. Oh! that this was but a reality, and not a dream. I could scarce refrain from running to the lake to meet my Patty. But then I checked my folly, and reasoned myself into some degree of temper again. However, I could not forbear crying out, What! nobody to converse with, nobody to assist, comfort, or counsel me! this is a melancholy situation indeed. Thus I ran on lamenting, till I was almost weary; when, on a sudden, I again heard the