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Robinson Crusoe for Children by  James Baldwin

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I MAKE A SURPRISING DISCOVERY

[109] ONCE every week I went into the woods to see the flock of goats that I had hidden there.


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I always carried my gun, but since my last great fright I did not dare to fire it off. I was afraid even to drive a nail or chop a stick of wood, lest some savages might be near enough to hear the sound.

I was afraid to build a fire at my castle, lest the smoke should be seen.

At last I carried some of my pots and kettles to my hidden field in the woods. I could do my cooking there much more safely than at my castle.

Hardly had I put things in order there when I found something that made me very glad. What do you suppose it was?

It was a cave—a real cave. The door into it was through a little hollow place at the bottom of [110] a great rock. It was so well hidden that no one could have found it even by looking for it.

Shall I tell you how I came upon it?

I was afraid to make a smoke near my house, and yet I could not live without cooking meat. I tried all kinds of dry wood, and yet there was always some smoke. Then I thought I would try charcoal. But I must first make the charcoal.

I found a place in the darkest part of the woods where the smoke would hardly rise to the tops of the trees. There I built my charcoal pit.

This was done in the following way:—

First, I cleared off a round space about ten feet in diameter. Here I dug out the earth till I made a pit about a foot deep. Then I cut a cord or more of wood and piled it up in this space. I piled it up until it was almost as high as my shoulders. I covered it a foot deep with earth and turf, leaving a small open place at the bottom.

When this was done, I set fire to the wood through the hole in the bottom. It burned slowly. The wood became charcoal.

One day, while cutting wood for my charcoal pit, I happened to see a hollow place in the rock close by a tree I was chopping.

[111] It was half covered with brush. I pushed this aside and looked in. I saw a little cave just large enough for me to creep into on my hands and knees.

But, a little farther in, it was larger. It was so high that I could stand upright, and it was so wide that two men could have walked in it side by side.

It was a very dark place, and I stood still a moment till my eyes should become a little used to it.

All at once I saw something in the darkness that made me scramble out of that place much faster than I had come into it.

What do you think it was? Two big shining eyes that glowed like coals in the darkness. Whether they were the eyes of a man or of some fierce beast, I did not stop to see.

I stood a little while by the mouth of the cave and then I began to get over my fright.

What could there be in this cave that would do me harm? No man could live there in the darkness. As for any animal, I knew there was nothing fiercer on the island than one of my cats.

So, with a blazing stick for a torch, I crept back into the cave. But I had not gone three steps before I was frightened almost as much as before.

[112] I heard a loud sigh, like that of a man in trouble. Then there were low moans, and sounds as of some one trying to speak.

I stopped short. Cold chills ran down my back. My hair seemed to stand on end. But I would not allow myself to run out again.

I pushed my little torch forward into the darkness, as far as I could. The blaze lit up the cave. And what do you suppose I saw then?

Why, nothing but a shaggy old goat that I had missed from my flock for nearly a week past.

He was stretched on the floor of the cave, and too weak to rise up. He was a very old fellow, and perhaps had gone in there to die.

I gave him some food and water, and made him as comfortable as I could. But he was too far gone to live long.

I found that, although I could stand up in the cave, it was very small. It was only a hole in the rocks, and was neither round nor square.

But at the end of this little chamber there seemed to be a passage that led farther in. This passage was very narrow and dark, and as my torch had burned out, I did not try to follow it.

I went back to my wood chopping.


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