We had depended for food since leaving the blacks’ camp upon a supply of dried fish and prepared bulrush root, which Moira had brought with her in her dilly-bag, but we were now compelled to seek fresh means for our support. Moira collected a quantity of shellfish, for the cooking of which I made a fire of some dried wood. Moira showed the greatest astonishment and some alarm at my flint and steel, which I now used for the first time in her presence. Nothing would persuade her to touch it. She regarded it as something beyond her comprehension, as a fetish to be worshipped. When we had finished our meal we fell asleep, worn out by the fatigues of the long journey.
And now began for me a life of dull monotony, with days devoted to watching the ocean, and sleepless nights of anxiety and despair. I had built a beacon upon the highest part of the cliff above our cave, to be fired in case of sighting a ship, and every morning, with the dawn, I mounted to this look-out to scan the horizon. Here I remained all day, and when darkness drove me to the shelter of the cave I tried to persuade myself that each night in this lonesome place would be my last.
Had it not been for Moira I must have perished from want and neglect, for I could not bring myself to do anything for my personal comfort lest it might seem I had abandoned hope of rescue. But Moira was never idle. She worked for both, and displayed such ingenuity in converting to our use what Nature provided that we lacked nothing for our support. To begin with, she made an oven of baked clay, in which to cook our food. Next she plaited fishing lines from grass-tree fibre, and fashioned hooks from the bones of slaughtered birds and animals, to catch the fish which abounded near the rocks. With the aid of my Sailor’s knife she made a bow and arrows to shoot the hopping animals, the flesh of which when roasted resembled venison, while their fur-coated skins made us warm sleeping mats. She even succeeded, after much labour, in constructing a canoe, in which to paddle along the coast, and sometimes, when it was calm, for some distance out to sea; nor did she appear to regret the loneliness of our lives. But I could not bring myself to take part in her work. Hour after hour, in moody silence, I paced the cliff beside the beacon, scanning the ocean, and speculating upon my chances of rescue.
If I had not been so absorbed in my selfish thoughts I might possibly have prevented a catastrophe which afterward caused me much self-reproach. Moira had more than once told me that food had mysteriously disappeared from a cave in which she kept a store of meat for our use, and she showed me where the rocks in front of this cave had been scraped of seaweed and mussel-shells as though by the passage of some cumbersome body. But I gave no heed to her anxieties, and although she urged me to shift our camp I would not leave the beacon lest a ship might pass during my absence.