What is called matriarchy is simply moral anarchy, in which the mother alone remains fixed because all the fathers are fugitive and irresponsible. — G. K. Chesterton

Robinson Crusoe Written Anew for Children - James Baldwin




I Have a Perilous Adventure

I had never given up the idea of having a canoe.

My first trial, as you have seen, was a failure. I had made too big a boat, and I had made it too far from the water. I could do better another time.

[Illustration] from Robinson Crusoe  by James Baldwin

One day after I had harvested my grain, I set to work.

There was no tree near the river that was fit for a canoe. But I found a fine one nearly half a mile away.

Before I began to chop the tree, I made all my plans for taking the canoe to the water.

I worked now with a will, for I felt sure that I would succeed.

In a few weeks the little vessel was finished. It was a very pretty canoe, and large enough for only two or three persons.

Small as it was, it was quite heavy. For you must remember that it was a part of the tree, hollowed out and shaped like a boat. It was as much as I could do to lift one end of it.

How should I ever get it to the river?

I have already told you that I had made plans for this.

Through the soft ground between the river and the canoe I dug a big ditch. It was four feet deep and six feet wide and nearly half a mile long.

I worked at this ditch for nearly two years. When it was done and filled with water from the river, I slid my canoe into it. It floated, as I knew it would.

As I pushed it along to the end of the great ditch and out into the river, it looked very small. I could never hope to make a long voyage in it!

But I could sail round the island, and make little journeys close to the shore.

Before starting out, I put up a mast in the prow of the canoe and made a sail for it of a piece of the ship's sail that I had kept with great care.

Then at each end of the little vessel I made lockers or small boxes, in which I put a supply of food and other things that I would need on my voyage.

On the inside of the vessel I cut a little, long, hollow place or shelf where I could lay my gun; and above this I tacked a long flap of goatskin to hang down over it and keep it dry.

In the stern I set up my umbrella, so that it would keep the hot sun off of me while I was steering the canoe.

Then every day I made short trips down the river to the sea and back again. Sometimes, when the wind was fair, I sailed a little way out; but I was afraid to go far.

At last I made up my mind for a voyage around the island.

I filled my lockers with food. In one I put two dozen barley cakes and a pot full of parched rice. In the other I stored the hind quarters of a goat.

I also put in powder and shot enough to kill as much game as I would need.

On a day in November I set sail on my voyage. It proved to be a harder voyage than I had bargained for.

In the first place, there were so many rocks along the shore that I sometimes had to sail for miles out into the sea to get around them.

Then, when I was on the farther side of the island, I struck a furious current of water that was pouring round a point of land like the sluice of mill.

I could do nothing in such a current. My canoe was whirled along like a leaf in a whirlwind. The sail was of no use. The little vessel spun round and round in the eddies and was carried far out to sea.

I gave myself up for lost. I was so far out that I could hardly see the low shores of my island.

Suddenly I noticed that the canoe was only a little way from the edge of the current. Just beyond it the water was quite calm and smooth.

I took up my paddle again and paddled with all my might. With great joy I soon found myself floating in quiet water.

The wind was fair for the shore, and I set my sail again. The canoe sped swiftly back toward the island.

I saw then that I was sailing midway between two strong currents. If I should be caught in either, I would again be carried out to sea.

I needed all the skill I had to steer the canoe aright. At last, when the sun was almost down, I brought it into a quiet little cove where the shore was green with grass.