It then came to me in a flash that this solitary man was none other than Van Luck, whom we had last seen drifting away from the “Endraght” upon his lonely voyage after the mutiny, and, in pity at the sight of his forlorn condition, I held out my hand to him in reconciliation. So great, however, was his hatred of me, which he had probably nursed, that, instead of taking my hand, he rushed upon me and tried to strangle me, in which he might have succeeded had not others of our party come to my assistance. He seemed demented, and he had acquired such strength during his exile that it was as much as four men could do to hold him down. But, notwithstanding his unprovoked attack upon me, I felt I could not abandon him again to his solitude. I therefore ordered him to be taken on board our vessel, where Hartog would be the judge of his ultimate fate.
Hartog’s surprise at seeing his old officer in such a deplorable condition was equal to my own, but the terrible change which years of solitude had wrought in Van Luck appealed to the humane side of the captain’s nature so forcibly that he determined to give the castaway a chance of redemption.
After some days, during which Van Luck was cared for, he began to regain some semblance to his former self. He also, by degrees, remembered his native tongue, but he spoke in a halting manner like a child. While we remained at this island we visited the cave in which Van Luck had lived during the time he had been marooned. It contained nothing belonging to the boat in which he had been set adrift, from which we inferred the boat had been lost at the time when he was washed ashore. He seemed to have subsisted chiefly upon turtles, of which there were numbers basking upon the beach, and also upon a small species of squirrel, of the skins of which, roughly sewn together, his robe was made, but we could find no sign of a fire, so we concluded he had devoured his food raw. There were streams and springs on the islands from which to quench his thirst, but his sufferings must have been very severe during his enforced solitude, nor was it a matter for wonder that his mind had become deranged.
But although Hartog took pity upon Van Luck to the extent of taking him off the island, he would not admit him to his old place in the cabin at the officers’ mess, so he lived with the seamen in the forecastle, where his jealousy wanted to send me on our first voyage. This, however, did not seem to trouble him. He seldom spoke, but went about such work as was given him without complaint. Sometimes he would stand for hours watching the sea, with his hand shading his eyes, in the same attitude as we had found him.