WE AGAIN LEAVE NEW HOLLAND
“Courage, comrade,” said Hartog, who held a flask of spirits to my lips, and at the sound of his familiar voice life returned to me. I was so weak, however, and the shock to my nervous system had been so great, that I could not speak. I pressed his hand to let him know how thankful I was that he had come himself to my assistance. None, I firmly believe, but Hartog could have saved me at that moment from madness or death. With the tenderness of his great heart, which could be gentle as a woman’s upon occasions, he lifted me in his arms, and bore me to the cradle at the end of the rope by which he had descended. I was soon drawn to the top of the cliff, where my companions awaited me, and presently Hartog himself joined us. We did not fear the pygmies and giants at night-time, for the dread of evil spirits in the dark is universal among the aborigines of New Holland, making it unlikely they would attack us, but it was a melancholy procession which made its way through the woods to the beach where our boats lay, with me carried on a stretcher by willing hands, since I was incapable of making any exertion.
Next day, after a night of delirium, during which I raved, so Hartog told me, of eagles and serpents, I awoke refreshed, though still very weak. I could not bear to be left alone, not even for a moment, and Hartog nursed me with a tenderness that my mother would have given me had she been at my bedside. At length I pulled through, and was able to come on deck; but it was a shadow of my former self who crept up the companion ladder to where a couch had been prepared for me. As I lay thus, recovering my strength in the sun, I was able to give Hartog some account of my adventure. At first, when I spoke of rubies, he evidently regarded what I said as a flight of fancy inseparable from the dreadful ordeal through which I had passed. But when I insisted that I had told him nothing but truth, he brought me the clothes I had worn on my descent into the valley, the pockets of which we found to be full of the rubies I had collected. But, after consultation, we determined to say nothing about these rubies to any member of the crew. The wealth of the Indies would not have tempted me to descend into the valley again, and Hartog considered the risk too great for him to run, upon whom the safety of us all depended. To have asked others to undertake a danger from which we shrank would have been to undermine our authority and sow the seeds of mutiny. Thus we kept our secret, and after a further week’s rest, during which I fully regained my strength, we made sail for the open sea.
The land which we had up to now skirted and touched at was not only barren and inhabited by savages, but also the sea in these parts seemed to yield nothing but sharks, swordfish, and the like unnatural monsters, while the birds also were as wild and shy as the men. What pleasure the wretched inhabitants of this country can find in their lives it is hard to understand.