I reached land but just in time, for before I was ashore the tide turned, and tide and current began to carry me out to sea again, whence assuredly I had never come back. Indeed, for the last ten minutes, it took all the strength that I had to force the barrel along towards the bank. At length, however, I perceived that it floated in not more than four feet of water, and sliding from it, I waded to the bank and cast myself at length there to rest and thank God who thus far had preserved me miraculously. But my thirst, which now returned upon me more fiercely than ever, would not suffer me to lie thus for long, so I staggered to my feet and walked along the bank of the river till I came to a pool of rain water, which on the tasting, proved to be sweet and good. Then I drank, weeping for joy at the taste of the water, drank till I could drink no more, and let those who have stood in such a plight remember what water was to them, for no words of mine can tell it. After I had drunk and washed the brine from my face and body, I drew out the remainder of my fish and ate it thankfully, and thus refreshed, cast myself down to sleep in the shade of a bush bearing white flowers, for I was utterly outworn.
When I opened my eyes again it was night, and doubtless I should have slept on through many hours more had it not been for a dreadful itch and pain that took me in every part, till at length I sprang up and cursed in my agony. At first I was at a loss to know what occasioned this torment, till I perceived that the air was alive with gnat-like insects which made a singing noise, and then settling on my flesh, sucked blood and spat poison into the wound at one and the same time. These dreadful insects the Spaniards name mosquitoes. Nor were they the only flies, for hundreds of other creatures, no bigger than a pin’s head, had fastened on to me like bulldogs to a baited bear, boring their heads into the flesh, where in the end they cause festers. They are named garrapatas by the Spanish, and I take them to be the young of the tic. Others there were, also, too numerous to mention, and of every shape and size, though they had this in common, all bit and all were venomous. Before the morning these plagues had driven me almost to madness, for in no way could I obtain relief from them. Towards dawn I went and lay in the water, thinking to lessen my sufferings, but before I had been there ten minutes I saw a huge crocodile rise up from the mud beside me. I sprang away to the bank horribly afraid, for never before had I beheld so monstrous and evil-looking a brute, to fall again into the clutches of the creatures, winged and crawling, that were waiting for me there by myriads.
But enough of these damnable insects!
THE STONE OF SACRIFICE