Three years had passed away since Ben landed on the island. He was startled one calm day, when fishing from a rock in the bay as he caught sight of his own countenance in the water, to observe how changed he had become. Instead of the laughing, careless, broadly-built boy with the ruddy face, which he once was, he had grown into a tall, thin young man, with a sunburnt countenance, its expression grave and thoughtful. He was not melancholy, however, nor did he ever feel out of spirits; but he had of course been thrown back on himself, while his mind was constantly occupied. He had but one book to read, but that book, above all price, had given him ample subjects for reflection. "What should I have done without this?" he often said to himself, as he opened the book with a prayer that what he was about to read might enlighten his mind.
"I have heard people talk of reading their Bibles, but though I have read nothing but my Testament for three years, I every day find something fresh and interesting in it."
He had often made excursions to the top of the hill, whence he could obtain a view over the surrounding ocean.
It had been raining heavily during the previous day. No seals were to be caught on shore, nor fish in the water. Taking his gun, he set off, intending to go over the hill to get a shot at some wild-fowl. The wind had greatly increased; and wishing to obtain a view of the ocean with its huge foam-covered billows rolling around, he climbed to the top of the hill. As he reached it, his eye fell on a ship driving before the gale towards the rocky shore. Two of her masts were gone; the third fell while he was looking at her. Nothing could now save her from destruction, for even should her anchors be let go, they were not likely to hold for a moment. He considered whether he could render any assistance to the unhappy people on board. Too truly he feared that he could be of no use. Still he would do his best. Hurrying home, he procured the only rope he possessed, and a spar, and with these on his shoulder he hastened towards the spot at which, considering the direction the ship was driving, he thought she would strike the shore. He had scarcely reached it when he saw the ship driving on towards him on a mountain sea. The next instant down she came, crashing on a reef of rocks far away from where he stood, the foaming sea dashing over her. Several poor wretches were carried off the deck, now driven towards him, but directly afterwards carried back by the retiring surf. He could distinguish but one alone still clinging to a portion of the wreck, all the others had in a few minutes disappeared. As long as that man remained, he could not tear himself from the spot.
Several hours passed by; still the man clung on, having secured himself apparently by a lashing. The storm seemed to be abating. Ben took off his shirt, and fastening it to the end of a spar, waved it, to show the shipwrecked seaman that help was at hand if he could reach the shore. It was observed at length. The man, casting off the lashings, lowered himself into the water, and struck out for land. Ben prepared his rope. Fixing the spar deep in the sand, and securing one end of the rope to it, he stood ready to plunge in, with the other end round his waist, to drag the man on shore should he get within his reach. How anxiously he watched! Nearer and nearer the man came. Now he was seen floating on his back, now he struck out again. A sea rolling in bore him on, but as it receded it threatened to carry him off once more. Now was the moment. Ben dashed into the surf. The man's strength had almost failed when Ben grasped him, and hauling himself up by the rope dragged the man out of the surf, sinking down exhausted by his side the instant he was out of its reach.
Ben was the first to recover.
"If you are strong enough to accompany me to the other side of the island, friend, where I have my home, we will set off at once; but if not, I will go back and get some food for you," he said.
"I shall soon be better," answered the man. "I think I could walk. Have you a companion with you?"
"No," answered Ben, surprised at the question; "I am all alone."
"That's strange! What, isn't there a young lad somewhere about the island?"
"No," said Ben. "I have been here three years and have seen no human being."
The man gazed into his countenance with a look of astonishment.
"What is your name, then?" he asked.
Ben mentioned it.
"You Mr Irei!" he cried, pressing his hand. "I suppose it must be; and don't you know me?"
Ben looked into the man's face. It was covered with a thick beard, and his tangled hair hung over his shoulders.
"You must be Ned Hadow; yet I should not have known you more than you know me. I am indeed thankful that you have been saved. But where have you been all the time?"
"Greater part of it living on shore," answered Ned. "After we landed you, we took three or four prizes; but not being able to navigate the ship, we put into a convenient harbour in an island inhabited by savages. There we remained, living among them much as they did. Several of our men were killed; and at last, finding that the savages intended to cut us all off, we put to sea again. We had been knocking about for some time, and used up all our provisions, when we fell in with the gale which drove the ship on yonder rocks."
Ned insisted that he could walk across the island, and with Ben's help he was able to accomplish the journey, though nearly exhausted at the end of it. Ben then made him lie down in his bed, while he prepared some soup and other food. Next day Ned somewhat recovered; and in the course of a week, owing to Ben's constant attention, he looked more like his former self.
"It's very dreadful to think that all the others have perished, but I am truly thankful that you have been sent to be my companion," said Ben. "You little thought when you acted so kindly towards me by saving my life, and getting me put on shore here, that I should ever in any way be able to repay you."
"I did not, Mr Irei; but I feel that I am such a worthless fellow that my life was not worth preserving."
"We are all worthless, Ned: that's what the book I read every day tells me, and I am convinced of it when I look into my own heart, and know how people in the world are generally acting."
"What! have you got that book still, Mr Irei?" asked Ned.
"Yes, indeed I have, and I shall be glad to read it to you, Ned," said Ben.
"I shall like to hear it, sir, for I have not heard anything like a good word since you used to read it to me when I was sick. I had almost forgotten there is a God in heaven. I remembered that, however, when I was clinging to the wreck, and expecting every moment to be in His presence."
"It's the best thing to read God's Word, and to be guided by it, when we expect to live. I hope you may be spared many years, even though we never get away from this island, and that book will serve us better than any other companion who could join us."
Ben, instead now of reading his Testament to himself, read it daily to Ned, and even while they were at work he used to repeat portions he had learned by heart.
Though Ned could not read, he gained in time a good knowledge of the book, and his dark soul by degrees becoming enlightened, he understood clearly at length God's plan of salvation, and cheerfully accepted it.
"You see, Ned, all things are ordered for the best," said Ben one day, "and you must be convinced that God loves us, however little we may have loved Him. If I had remained on board the privateer, I should have become, as I was fast doing, like the rest of the unhappy crew. Though I thought it very dreadful to be left all alone on the island, I now feel that it has been the greatest blessing to me. God in His mercy also saved you, though you would have preferred remaining among the savages. Now you are happy in knowing the glorious truth that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin; and though we may both of us wish to be once more among our fellow-men, we can live contentedly here till He thinks fit to call us out of this life."
"I hope He may take me before any ship comes to the island, for if I once fell among the sort of men I have lived with all my life, I should soon again be as bad as they are," said Ned with a sigh.
"Not if you sought help and protection from God's Holy Spirit," answered Ben, "and prayed that He would keep you out of temptation."
Ned was surprised to find how much Ben had done during the time he had been alone on the island. He assisted him in all his undertakings, and they together caught enough seals to fill another large storehouse.
At last, after two years had thus passed away, Ned, who had been fishing down the harbour, came hurrying back. His countenance was grave, and he looked much agitated.
"I have been watching a vessel standing in for the island. She has hove to, and is sending a boat on shore. The time has come, Mr Irei, when we must part. I dare not go back into the world, and have made up my mind to remain here. You are young, and have many years before you, and I would advise you to go, and all I ask is that you will think of me and pray for me."
This announcement made Ben even more agitated than Ned. He hurried to the spot where the boat could be seen.
She made her way up the harbour. Ben and his companion went down to meet her. An officer-like looking man stepped on shore, accompanied by another in dark clothes. They seemed much surprised at seeing Ben and Ned.
"What! are you Englishmen?" asked one of the strangers. "We only discovered the island this morning, and had no expectation of finding it inhabited."
Ben explained that they were the only inhabitants; that he had been left there some years before, and, pointing to Ned, said, "This man was afterwards wrecked on the coast, and he alone was saved from his ship."
"I am Captain Summers of the Hope
, now lying in the offing. This gentleman is the Reverend Mr Evans, a missionary, whom I am conveying to an island where he is about to settle. What is your name?" asked the officer.
Ben told him.
"And my name is Tom Martin," said Ned coming forward, greatly to Ben's surprise.
"Well, my friends, it seems but a barren island. I wonder how you have managed to live here so long."
Ben briefly explained the various means by which he had procured food, and leading the way to the garden, showed them the perfect cultivation into which it had been brought. He then invited Captain Summers and Mr Evans into his hut. His Testament lay open on the table. The latter took it up, observing--
"I am glad to see, my young friend, that you have not been deprived of God's Word during your long stay here."
"It has indeed been my great solace and delight," answered Ben. "Without it I should have been miserable."
"Well, my friends, I shall be most happy to receive you both on board my ship; and as I hope to sail for England in the course of a few months, you will then be able to return home."
Ben thanked the captain for his offer, which he gladly accepted. Ned looked very grave.
"I am much obliged to you, sir," he said, "and though I shall be sorry to part from Mr Irei, I am very sure that I had better stay where I am till God thinks fit to call me from this world. I have lived too long among savages, and worse than savages, to go back again and live with civilised people. If Mr Irei will leave me his Testament, which he has taught me to read, and his gun and harpoons, it's all I ask."
"No, my friend," observed Mr Evans, "man is not made to live alone. If, as I hope from what you say, you have learned to love Jesus Christ, you should try to serve Him, and endeavour to do good among your fellow-creatures. Now, as I am going to settle in an island inhabited by savages, I shall be very glad of your assistance, and if you already understand their language, which I have to learn, you may speak to them, and tell them of Him who died for them, that they may be reconciled to Him. You will thus be showing your love for Him far more than by living a life of solitude, even although you spend your days in reading His Word. Remember it is not only those who hear the Word of God, but those who hear and do it, who are His disciples."
"You are right, sir," exclaimed Ned, brightening up. "My only fear if I left this was to find myself among those who would lead me back into bad ways, but I will gladly go with you--that I will, sir."
As the captain was anxious to see the island, Ben undertook to guide him and Mr Evans to the top of the hill, whence they could obtain a view over the whole of it. Before setting out, Ben showed them the store of seal-skins.
"I shall be sorry to leave these behind," he observed, "and if you can receive them on board, they will assist to pay my passage."
"As to that, my friend," answered the captain, "I will very gladly send my boats to take them off, and you shall pay freight for them; but you, I am very sure, will be able to work your passage, and I hope you will find they will sell for some hundred pounds in England."
"Part of them belong to my companion," observed Ben.
"No, no, Mr Irei," said Ned. "They are all yours. Not a shilling of their value will I touch, except enough to give me a new rig-out, as I am not fit to accompany Mr Evans in these tattered old clothes of mine."
"Set your mind at rest about that," said the captain. "You shall be welcome to a thorough fit out, suitable for the task you are about to undertake, and your friend Mr Irei will require the money more than you will."
Captain Summers, according to his promise, loaded his own boat with seal-skins, and sent her off to the ship with orders for the long-boat to come ashore and carry off the remainder. Meantime he and Mr Evans paid their intended visit to the hill-top.
On their return Ben took the first opportunity of drawing Ned aside, and asking why he had not given his right name.
"I did give my right name, Mr Irei," he answered. "Ned Hadow was merely a purser's name which I took when I entered on board the Wolf
, because you see, sir, I had run from a man-of-war. Now I know better, I would only tell the truth; and so, please, call me Tom Martin in future, and I am ready to stand the consequences."
Ben and his companion were kindly received on board the Hope
, when the good captain supplied them with new suits of clothes, which they indeed much required.
continued her voyage.
How different was the life led on board her to that on board the Wolf
; Captain Summers and his officers were Christian men. The crew were kindly treated; not an oath escaped the lips of any of the men, while all did their duty with cheerfulness and alacrity.
The voyage was prosperous. At the end of three weeks the Hope
dropped her anchor in the harbour of a fine island where Mr Evans was to remain.
A native missionary, who had been sent there a year before, came off to receive him, and brought him the satisfactory intelligence that a large number of the natives were anxiously looking out for his arrival.
Some days were spent in landing his property, and assisting him in putting up his house, while an abundance of fresh provisions was brought off by the natives to the ship.
Ben parted from his old friend with the less regret from feeling sure that he would be well occupied, and free from the temptations he dreaded.
"We shall meet again, I trust, as Captain Summers has offered me a berth as third mate of the Hope
on her next voyage, which he expects to make to these seas," said Ben, as he bade him farewell.
"If we don't meet here, we shall in another world, sir. And bless you, Mr Irei, for pointing out to me the way to it," said Tom, as he wrung Ben's hand, and tears burst from his eyes.
had a prosperous voyage home, during which Ben did his utmost to fit himself for the duty he was to undertake. He had no ties in England, so he gladly again sailed in the Hope
. Captain Summers having sold the seal-skins for a good price, judiciously invested the proceeds for him.
Ben had the satisfaction of meeting his old friend Ned, or rather Mr Martin, as he was now called, and of finding that he had been of the greatest service to Mr Evans. He never returned to England, but died at his post, labouring to the last in spreading the gospel among the natives.
Ben won the regard of Captain Summers by his steadiness and good conduct, and at the end of his third voyage he married his daughter, and soon afterwards obtained the command of a ship. When at length he was able to quit the sea and live on shore, he often used to relate to his children, among his many adventures, how he spent five years of his life alone on an island.