Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/415

This page needs to be proofread.
369
SEAMEN LONG IN EXILE

by his biographer, Garcilasso de la Vega, and translated into English a hundred and fifty years ago.

 

Considering on this invention, (for seamen are much more ingenious in all times of extremity than men bred at land) he searched everywhere to find out a couple of hard pebbles, instead of flints, his knife serving in the place of a steel. But the island being covered all over with a dead sand and no stone appearing, he swam into the sea and diving often to the bottom he at length found a couple of stones fit for his purpose which he rubbed together until he got them to an edge, with which being able to strike fire, he drew some threads out of his shirt which he worked so small that it was like cotton, and served for tinder. So that having contrived a means to kindle fire, he gathered a great quantity of sea-weeds thrown up by the waves which, with the shells of fish and the splinters of old ships afforded nourishment for his fuel. And lest sudden showers should extinguish his fire he made a little covering for it, like a small hut, with the shells of the largest turtles, taking great care that his fire should not go out.

 

Peter Serrano lived alone for three years in this condition and saw several ships pass the island, but none turned in to investigate his signal smoke. It is easy to fancy that "being exposed to all weathers, the hair of his body grew in that manner that he was covered all over with bristles, and the hair of his head and beard reaching to his waist he appeared like some wild savage creature."

Now for the scene which is extraordinary for its