Third Voyage (cont.)
(see previous page for audio)When we believed him to be really gone, we started up bemoaning our horrible fate until the hall echoed with our despairing cries. Though we were many and our enemy was alone, it did not occur to us to kill him, and indeed we should have found that a hard task, even if we had thought of it, and no plan could we devise to deliver ourselves. So at last, submitting to our sad fate, we spent the day in wandering up and down the island, eating such fruits as we could find, and when night came, we returned to the castle, having sought in vain for any other place of shelter.
At sunset the giant returned, supped upon one of our unhappy comrades, slept and snored till dawn, and then left us as before. Our condition seemed to us so frightful that several of my companions thought it would be better to leap from the cliffs and perish in the waves at once rather than await so miserable an end, but I had a plan of escape which I now unfolded to them, and which they at once agreed to attempt.
"Listen, my brothers," I added. "You know that plenty of driftwood lies along the shore. Let us make several rafts and carry them to a suitable place. If our plot succeeds, we can wait patiently for the chance of some passing ship which would rescue us from this fatal island. If it fails, we must quickly take to our rafts; frail as they are, we have more chance of saving our lives with them than we have if we remain here."
All agreed with me, and we spent the day in building rafts, each capable of carrying three persons. At nightfall we returned to the castle, and very soon in came the giant, and one more of our number was sacrificed. But the time of our vengeance was at hand!
As soon as he had finished his horrible repast, he lay down to sleep as before, and when we heard him begin to snore, I and nine of the boldest of my comrades rose softly and took each a spit which we made red-hot in the fire, and then at a given signal we plunged it with one accord into the giant's eye, completely blinding him. Uttering a terrible cry, he sprang to his feet, clutching in all directions to try to seize one of us, but we had all fled different ways as soon as the deed was done and thrown ourselves flat upon the ground in corners where he was not likely to touch us with his feet.
After a vain search, he fumbled about till he found the door and fled out of it howling frightfully. As for us, when he was gone, we made haste to leave the fatal castle and, stationing ourselves beside our rafts, we waited to see what would happen. Our idea was that if, when the sun rose, we saw nothing of the giant and no longer heard his howls, which still came faintly through the darkness, growing more and more distant, we should conclude that he was dead, and that we might safely stay upon the island and need not risk our lives upon the frail rafts.
But alas! morning light showed us our enemy approaching us, supported on either hand by two giants nearly as large and fearful as himself, while a crowd of others followed close upon their heels. Hesitating no longer, we clambered upon our rafts and rowed with all our might out to sea.
There we found delicious fruits and, having satisfied our hunger, we presently lay down to rest upon the shore. Suddenly we were aroused by a loud rustling noise and, starting up, saw that it was caused by an immense snake which was gliding towards us over the sand. So swiftly it came that it had seized one of my comrades before he had time to fly and, in spite of his cries and struggles, speedily crushed the life out of him in its mighty coils and proceeded to swallow him.
By this time, my other companion and I were running for our lives to some place where we might hope to be safe from this new horror and, seeing a tall tree, we climbed up into it, having first provided ourselves with a store of fruit off the surrounding bushes. When night came, I fell asleep but only to be awakened once more by the terrible snake, which, after hissing horribly round the tree, at last reared itself up against it and, finding my sleeping comrade who was perched just below me, it swallowed him also and crawled away, leaving me half dead with terror.
Next: Third Voyage (end)