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ROBINSON CRUSOE AND THE NAKED FOOT-PRINT.
DANIEL DEFOE, 1661–1731. It happened one day about noon, going towards my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen in the sand: I stood like one thunder-struck, or as if I had seen an apparition: I listened, I looked round me—I could hear nothing, nor see anything : I went up to a rising ground to look farther ; I went up the shore and down the shore, but it was all one, I could see no other impression but that one ; I went to it again to see if there were any more, and to observe if it might not be my fancy ; but there was no room for that, for there was exactly the print of a foot, toes, heel, and every part of a foot ; how it came thither I knew not, nor could in the least imagine. But after innumerable fluttering thoughts, like a man perfectly confused, and out of myself, I came home to my fortification, not feeling, as we say, the ground I went on, but terrified to the last degree, looking behind me at every two or three steps, mistaking every bush and tree, and fancying every stump at a distance to be a man: nor is it possible to describe how many various shapes an affrighted imagination represented things to me in-how many wild ideas were formed every moment in my fancy—and what strange, unaccountable whimsies came into my thoughts by the
way. When I came to my castle—for so I think I called it ever after this—I fled into it like one pursued : whether I went over by the ladder, at first contrived, or went in at the hole in the rock, which I called a door, I cannot remember; for never frighted hare fled to cover, or fox to earth, with more terror of mind than I to this retreat.
I had no sleep that night : the farther I was from the occasion of my fright, the greater my apprehensions were ; which is something contrary to the nature of such things, and especially to the usual practice of all creatures in fear. But I was so embarrassed with my own frightful ideas of the thing, that I formed nothing but dismal imaginations to myself, even though I was now a great
Sometimes I fancied it must be the devil ; and reason joined in with me upon this supposition. For how should any other thing in human shape come into the place ? Where was the vessel that brought them? What marks were there of any other footsteps ? And how was it possible a man should come there ? But then to think that Satan should take human shape upon him in such a place, where there could be no manner of occasion for it but to leave the print of his foot behind him, and that even for no purpose too (for he could not be sure I should see it), this was an amazement the other way: I considered that the devil might have found out abundance of other ways to have terrified me than this of the single print of a foot ; that as I lived quite on the other side of the island, he would never have been so simple as to leave a mark in a place where it was ten thousand to one whether I should ever see it or not, and in the sand too, which the first surge of the sea upon a high wind would have defaced entirely. All this seemed inconsistent with the thing itself, and with all notions we usually entertain of the subtlety of the devil.
way off it.
Abundance of such things as these assisted to argue me out of all apprehensions of its being the devil; and I presently concluded that it must be some more dangerous creature—namely, that it must be some of the savages of the mainland over against me, who had wandered out to sea in their canoes, and, either driven by the currents, or by contrary winds, had made the island, and had been on shore, but were gone away again to sea, being as loth, perhaps, to have staid in this desolate island, as I would have been to have had them.
While these reflections were rolling upon my mind, I was very thankful in my thought that I was so happy as not to be thereabouts at that time, or that they did not see my boat, by which they would have concluded that some inhabitants had been in the place, and perhaps have searched farther for me. Then terrible thoughts racked my imagination, about their having found my boat, and that there were people here; and that if so I should certainly have them come again in great numbers, and devour me; that if it should happen so that they should not find me, yet they would find my enclosure, destroy all my corn, carry away all my flock of tame goats, and I should perish at last for mere want.
Thus my fear banished all my religious hope ; all that former confidence in God, which was founded upon such wonderful experience as I had had of his goodness, now vanished : as if he that had fed me by miracle hitherto, could not preserve by his power the provision he had made for me by his goodness. I reproached myself with my laziness, that I would not sow any more corn one year than would just serve me till the next season, as if no accident could intervene to prevent my enjoying the crop that was upon the ground. And this I thought so just a reproof, that I resolved for the future to have two or three years' corn beforehand, so that, whatever might come, I might not perish for want of bread.
How strange a chequer-work of Providence is the life of man ! and by what secret differing springs are the affections hurried about, as differing circumstances present ! To-day we love what to-morrow we hate-to-day we seek what to-morrow we shunto-day we desire what to-morrow we fear, nay, even tremble at the apprehensions of. This was exemplified in me at this time in the most lively manner imaginable ; for I, whose only affliction was, that I seemed banished from human society; that I was alone, circumscribed by the boundless ocean, cut off from mankind, and condemned to what I called a silent life ; that I was as one whom Heaven thought not worthy to be numbered among the living, or to appear among the rest of his creatures; that to have seen one of my own species would have seemed to me a raising me from death to life, and the greatest blessing that Heaven itself, next to the supreme blessing of salvation, could bestow—I say, that I should now tremble at the very apprehensions of seeing a man, and was ready to sink into the ground at but the shadow, or silent appearance, of a man's having set his foot on the island.
Such is the uneven state of human life ; and it afforded me a great many curious speculations afterwards, when I had a little recovered my first surprise : I considered that this was the station of life the infinitely wise and good providence of God had determined for me: that as I could not foresee what the ends of divine wisdom might be in all this, so I was not to dispute his sovereignty, who, as I was his creature, had an undoubted right by creation to govern and dispose of me absolutely as he thought fit; and who, as I was a creature who had offended him, had likewise a judicial right to condemn me to what punishment he thought fit; and that it was my part to submit to bear his indignation, because I had sinned against him.
I then reflected that God, who was not only righteous but omnipotent, as he had thought fit thus to punish and afflict me, so he was able to deliver me; that if he did not think fit to do it, it was my unquestioned duty to resign myself absolutely and entirely
to his will ; and, on the other hand, it was my duty also to hope in him, pray to him, and quietly to attend the dictates and directions of his daily providence.
These thoughts took me up many hours, days—nay, I may say, weeks and months; and one particular effect of my cogitations on this occasion I cannot omit : namely, one morning early, lying in my bed, and filled with thoughts about my danger from the appearance of savages, I found it discomposed me very much ; upon which these words of the Scripture came into my thoughts, “ Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
Upon this, rising cheerfully out of bed, my heart was not only comforted, but I was guided and encouraged to pray earnestly to God for deliverance. When I had done praying, I took up my Bible, and opening it to read, the first words that presented to me were, “Wait on the Lord, and be of good cheer, and He shall strengthen thy heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” It is impossible to express the comfort this gave me; and in return I thankfully laid down the book, and was no more sad, at least on that occasion.
In the midst of these cogitations, apprehensions, and reflections, it came into my thoughts one day, that all this might be a mere chimera of my own, and that the foot might be the print of my own foot, when I came on shore from my boat. This cheered me up a little, too, and I began to persuade myself it was all a delusion—that it was nothing else but my own foot; and why might not I come that way from the boat, as well as I was going that way to the boat ? Again, I considered also, that I could by no means tell for certain where I had trod, and where I had not; and that if at last this was the print of my own foot, I had played the part of those fools who strive to make stories of spectres and apparitions, and then are themselves frighted at them more than any body else.
Now I began to take courage, and to peep abroad again—for I had not stirred out of my castle for three days and nights, so that I began to starve for provision ; for I had little or nothing within doors, but some barley-cakes and water. Then I knew that my goats wanted to be milked too, which usually was my evening diversion—and the poor creatures were in great pain and inconvenience for want of it, and, indeed, it almost spoiled some of them, and almost dried up their milk.
Heartening myself, therefore, with the belief that this was nothing but the print of one of my own feet (and so I might be truly said to start at my own shadow), I began to go abroad again, and went to my country house to milk my flock; but to see with what fear I went forward, how often I looked behind me, how I was ready, every now and then, to lay down my basket, and run for my life, it would have made any one have thought I was haunted with an evil conscience, or that I had lately been most terribly frightened ; and so indeed I had.
However, as I went down thus two or three days, and having seen nothing, I began to be a little bolder, and to think there was really nothing in it but my own imagination ; but I could not persuade myself fully of this, till I should go down to the shore again and see this print of a foot, and measure it by my own, and see if there was any similitude or fitness, that I might be assured it was my own foot. But when I came to the place first, it appeared evidently to me that when I laid up my boat I could not possibly be on shore anywhere thereabouts. Secondly, when I came to measure the mark with my own foot, I found my foot not so large by a great deal. Both these things filled my head with new imaginations, and gave me the vapours again to the highest degree ; so that I shook with cold like one in an ague, and I went home again, filled with the belief that some man or men had been on shore there ; or, in short, that the island was inhabited, and I might be surprised before I was aware ; and what course to take for my security I knew not.
Oh, what ridiculous resolutions men take when possessed with fear! It deprives them of the use of those means which reason offers for their relief. The first thing I proposed to myself was, to throw down my enclosures, and turn all my tame cattle wild into the woods, that the enemy might not find them, and then frequent the island in prospect of the same or the like booty; then to the simple thing of digging up my two corn-fields, that they might not find such a grain there, and still be prompted to frequent the island ; then to demolish my bower and tent, that they might not see any vestiges of my habitation, and be prompted to look farther, in order to find out the persons inhabiting.
These were the subjects of the first night's cogitation, after I was come home again, while the apprehensions which had so overrun my mind were fresh upon me, and my head was full of