The devil Montbar, he said, had abandoned them upon this desolate island, telling them to make shift for themselves, and to learn from the hardship of their lot repentance for the act of piracy they had committed in stealing our ship. On searching the island they found it to contain no water except a brackish liquid, to be had by digging, The only food obtainable was shell-fish, and occasionally the rank flesh of sea birds. They had neither the tools nor materials to build habitations, and were forced to shelter themselves from the scorching sun in summer and from the bitter cold in winter with a few bushes. When de Castro spoke of Montbar he became livid, and a very evil light shone in his eyes. For two years they had endured upon this island untold suffering. All the women and children were long since dead, except Donna Isabel Barreto, who clung to life with the tenacity born of a desire for revenge. Of the two hundred and forty Spaniards marooned by Captain Montbar but thirty now survived, the rest having perished miserably from starvation and exposure, when their bodies had been cast from the cliffs into the sea.
When Pedro and his companions had somewhat recovered they led us to where their wretched settlement had been made among a clump of gaunt, wind-swept trees, and, in pity for their forlorn condition, I ordered all the provisions we had in the boat to be brought for their refreshment. Donna Isabel threw herself at my feet, clasping my knees, and covering my hands with kisses. She had lost all trace of the proud beauty she had formerly possessed. Her skin had been burnt almost black by the sun, and a mane of tangled white hair surrounded what had once been a noble countenance. Only her eyes retained their brightness, and at thought of rescue, and possible revenge upon her enemy Montbar, they seemed to glow with unnatural fire.
I knew that Hartog would not have wished me to leave these wretched outcasts to their fate, however little deserving they may have been of our sympathy, so I invited them to accompany us back to the ship. They came protesting they would henceforth be our slaves, ready, in all things, to obey our slightest behest. But I had little faith in their promises when their necessities should be relieved.
Hartog, as may well be imagined, was considerably surprised when we returned on board with the remnant of the Spanish settlement in such sorry plight, but he approved of what I had done in bringing them off the island. They were sent forward, where they received every attention. Donna Isabel was the only one allowed to berth in the cabin. We had no women’s dress on board, but we found her warm clothing, in which she appeared as a man. After a while she recovered her good looks, and we found her companionship agreeable.
A week later we came to an island which promised more favourable conditions than the one we had just left, and where we obtained a supply of good water for our tanks.