"I would rather have come to anchor anywhere than here," quoth our captain. "This island and all adjoining it are inhabited by hairy savages, who are certain to attack us, and whatever these dwarfs may do we dare not resist since they swarm like locusts, and if one of them is killed, the rest will fall upon us and speedily make an end of us."
These words caused great consternation among all the ship's company, and only too soon we were to find out that the captain spoke truly. There appeared a vast multitude of hideous savages, not more than two feet high and covered with reddish fur. Throwing themselves into the waves they surrounded our vessel. Chattering meanwhile in a language we could not understand, and clutching at ropes and gangways, they swarmed up the ship's side with such speed and agility that they almost seemed to fly.
You may imagine the rage and terror that seized us as we watched them, neither daring to hinder them nor able to speak a word to deter them from their purpose, whatever it might be. Of this we were not left long in doubt. Hoisting the sails and cutting the cable of the anchor, they sailed our vessel to an island which lay a little further off where they drove us ashore; then, taking possession of her, they made off to the place from which they had come, leaving us helpless upon a shore avoided with horror by all mariners for a reason which you will soon learn.
Turning away from the sea, we wandered miserably inland, finding as we went various herbs and fruits which we ate, feeling that we might as well live as long as possible though we had no hope of escape. Presently we saw in the far distance what seemed to us to be a splendid palace, towards which we turned our weary steps, but when we reached it, we saw that it was a castle, lofty and strongly built.
Pushing back the heavy ebony doors, we entered the courtyard, but upon the threshold of the great hall beyond it we paused, frozen with horror, at the sight which greeted us. On one side lay a huge pile of bones — human bones — and on the other, numberless spits for roasting!
Overcome with despair we sank trembling to the ground and lay there without speech or motion. The sun was setting when a loud noise aroused us; the door of the hall was violently burst open, and a horrible giant entered. He was as tall as a palm tree, and perfectly black, and had one eye which flamed like a burning coal in the middle of his forehead. His teeth were long and sharp and grinned horribly, while his lower lip hung down upon his chest, and he had ears like elephant's ears which covered his shoulders, and nails like the claws of some fierce bird.
At this terrible sight our senses left us and we lay like dead men. When at last we came to ourselves, the giant sat examining us attentively with his fearful eye. Presently when he had looked at us enough, he came towards us and, stretching out his hand, took me by the back of the neck, turning me this way and that, but feeling that I was mere skin and bone, he set me down again and went on to the next, whom he treated in the same fashion; at last he came to the captain and, finding him the fattest of us all, he took him up in one hand and stuck him upon a spit and proceeded to kindle a huge fire at which he presently roasted him.
After the giant had supped, he lay down to sleep, snoring like the loudest thunder, while we lay shivering with horror the whole night through, and when day broke, he awoke and went out, leaving us in the castle.
Next: Third Voyage (cont.)