Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
We examine into our personal property, and make a happy discovery—Our island
described—Jack proves himself to be learned and sagacious above his fellows—Curious
 WE now seated ourselves upon a rock, and began to examine into our personal property. When we
reached the shore, after being wrecked, my companions had taken off part of their clothes and spread
them out in the sun to dry; for although the gale was raging fiercely, there was not a single cloud
in the bright sky. They had also stripped off most part of my wet clothes and spread them also on
the rocks. Having resumed our garments, we now searched all our pockets with the utmost care, and
laid their contents out on a flat stone before us; and now that our minds were fully alive to our
condition, it was with no little anxiety that we turned our several pockets inside out, in order
that nothing might escape us. When all was collected together, we found that our worldly goods
consisted of the following articles:—
First, a small penknife with a single blade broken off about the middle and very rusty, besides
having two or three notches on its edge. (Peterkin said of this, with his usual pleasantry, that it
would do for a saw as well as a knife, which was a great advantage.) Second, an old German-silver
pencil-case without any lead in it.
 Third, a piece of whipcord about six yards long. Fourth, a sailmaker's needle of a small size.
Fifth, a ship's telescope, which I happened to have in my hand at the time the ship struck, and
which I had clung to firmly all the time I was in the water. Indeed it was with difficulty that Jack
got it out of my grasp when I was lying insensible on the shore. I cannot understand why I kept such
a firm hold of this telescope. They say that a drowning man will clutch at a straw. Perhaps it may
have been some such feeling in me, for I did not know that it was in my hand at the time we were
wrecked. However, we felt some pleasure in having it with us now, although we did not see that it
could be of much use to us, as the glass at the small end was broken to pieces. Our sixth article
was a brass ring which Jack always wore on his little finger. I never understood why he wore it, for
Jack was not vain of his appearance, and did not seem to care for ornaments of any kind. Peterkin
said "it was in memory of the girl he left behind him!" But as he never spoke of this girl to either
of us, I am inclined to think that Peterkin was either jesting or mistaken. In addition to these
articles we had a little bit of tinder, and the clothes on our back. These last were as
Each of us had on a pair of stout canvas trousers, and a pair of sailors' thick shoes. Jack wore a
red flannel shirt, a blue jacket, and a red Kilmarnock bonnet or nightcap, besides a pair of worsted
socks, and a cotton pocket-handkerchief, with sixteen portraits of Lord Nelson printed on it, and a
Union Jack in the middle. Peterkin had on a striped flannel shirt—which he wore outside his
trousers, and belted round his waist, after the manner of a tunic—and a round black straw hat.
He had no jacket, having thrown it off just before we
 were cast into the sea; but this was not of much consequence, as the climate of the island proved to
be extremely mild—so much so, indeed, that Jack and I often preferred to go about without our
jackets. Peterkin had also a pair of white cotton socks, and a blue handkerchief with white spots
all over it. My own costume consisted of a blue flannel shirt, a blue jacket, a black cap, and a
pair of worsted socks, besides the shoes and canvas trousers already mentioned. This was all we had,
and besides these things we had nothing else; but when we thought of the danger from which we had
escaped, and how much worse off we might have been had the ship struck on the reef during the night,
we felt very thankful that we were possessed of so much, although, I must confess, we sometimes
wished that we had had a little more.
While we were examining these things and talking about them, Jack suddenly started and
"The oar! We have forgotten the oar."
"What good will that do us!" said Peterkin; "there's wood enough on the island to make a thousand
"Ay, lad," replied Jack; "but there's a bit of hoop-iron at the end of it, and that may be of much
use to us."
"Very true," said I, "let us go fetch it;" and with that we all three rose and hastened down to the
beach. I still felt a little weak from loss of blood, so that my companions soon began to leave me
behind; but Jack perceived this, and, with his usual considerate good-nature, turned back to help
me. This was now the first time that I had looked well about me since landing, as the spot where I
had been laid was covered with thick bushes, which almost hid the country from our view. As we now
emerged from among these and walked down the sandy beach together, I cast my eyes about,
 and truly my heart glowed within me and my spirits rose at the beautiful prospect which I beheld on
every side. The gale had suddenly died away, just as if it had blown furiously till it dashed our
ship upon the rocks, and had nothing more to do after accomplishing that. The island on which we
stood was hilly, and covered almost everywhere with the most beautiful and richly coloured trees,
bushes, and shrubs, none of which I knew the names of at that time, except, indeed, the cocoa-nut
palms, which I recognised at once from the many pictures that I had seen of them before I left home.
A sandy beach of dazzling whiteness lined this bright green shore, and upon it there fell a gentle
ripple of the sea. This last astonished me much, for I recollected that at home the sea used to fall
in huge billows on the shore long after a storm had subsided. But on casting my glance out to sea,
the cause became apparent. About a mile distant from the shore, I saw the great billows of the ocean
rolling like a green wall, and falling with a long, loud roar upon a low coral reef, where they were
dashed into white foam and flung up in clouds of spray. This spray sometimes flew exceedingly high,
and every here and there a beautiful rainbow was formed for a moment among the falling drops. We
afterwards found that this coral reef extended quite round the island, and formed a natural
breakwater to it. Beyond this the sea rose and tossed violently from the effects of the storm; but
between the reef and the shore it was as calm and as smooth as a pond.
My heart was filled with more delight than I can express at sight of so many glorious objects, and
my thoughts turned suddenly to the contemplation of the Creator of them all. I mention this the more
gladly because at that time, I am ashamed to say, I very seldom thought
 of my Creator, although I was constantly surrounded by the most beautiful and wonderful of His
works. I observed, from the expression of my companion's countenance, that he too derived much joy
from the splendid scenery, which was all the more agreeable to us after our long voyage on the salt
sea. There the breeze was fresh and cold, but here it was delightfully mild; and when a puff blew
off the land, it came laden with the most exquisite perfume that can be imagined. While we thus
gazed, we were startled by a loud "Huzza!" from Peterkin, and on looking towards the edge of the
sea, we saw him capering and jumping about like a monkey, and ever and anon tugging with all his
might at something that lay upon the shore.
"What an odd fellow he is, to be sure!" said Jack, taking me by the arm and hurrying forward; "come,
let us hasten to see what it is."
"Here it is, boys, hurrah! come along. Just what we want," cried Peterkin, as we drew near, still
tugging with all his power. "First-rate; just the very ticket!"
I need scarcely say to my readers that my companion Peterkin was in the habit of using very
remarkable and peculiar phrases. And I am free to confess that I did not well understand the meaning
of some of them—such, for instance, as "the very ticket"; but I think it my duty to recount
everything relating to my adventures with a strict regard to truthfulness in as far as my memory
serves me; so I write, as nearly as possible, the exact words that my companions spoke. I often
asked Peterkin to explain what he meant by "ticket," but he always answered me by going into fits of
laughter. However, by observing the occasions on which he used it, I came to understand that it
meant to show that something was remarkably good or fortunate.
 On coming up, we found that Peterkin was vainly endeavouring to pull the axe out of the oar, into
which, it will be remembered, Jack struck it while endeavouring to cut away the cordage among which
it had become entangled at the bow of the ship. Fortunately for us, the axe had remained fast in the
oar, and even now all Peterkin's strength could not draw it out of the cut.
"Ah! that is capital indeed," cried Jack, at the same time giving the axe a wrench that plucked it
out of the tough wood. "How fortunate this is! It will be of more value to us than a hundred knives,
and the edge is quite new and sharp."
"I'll answer for the toughness of the handle, at any rate," cried Peterkin; "my arms are nearly
pulled out of the sockets. But see here, our luck is great. There is iron on the blade." He pointed
to a piece of hoop-iron as he spoke, which had been nailed round the blade of the oar to prevent it
This also was a fortunate discovery. Jack went down on his knees, and with the edge of the axe began
carefully to force out the nails. But as they were firmly fixed in, and the operation blunted our
axe, we carried the oar up with us to the place where we had left the rest of our things, intending
to burn the wood away from the iron at a more convenient time.
"Now, lads," said Jack, after we had laid it on the stone which contained our little all, "I propose
that we should go to the tail of the island, where the ship struck, which is only a quarter of a
mile off, and see if anything else has been thrown ashore. I don't expect anything, but it is well
to see. When we get back here, it will be time to have our supper and prepare our beds."
"Agreed!" cried Peterkin and I together, as, indeed, we would have agreed to any proposal that Jack
 for besides his being older and much stronger and taller than either of us, he was a very clever
fellow, and I think would have induced people much older than himself to choose him for their
leader, especially if they required to be led on a bold enterprise.
Now, as we hastened along the white beach, which shone so brightly in the rays of the setting sun
that our eyes were quite dazzled by its glare, it suddenly came into Peterkin's head that we had
nothing to eat except the wild berries which grew in profusion at our feet.
"What shall we do, Jack?" said he, with a rueful look; "perhaps they may be poisonous!"
"No fear," replied Jack confidently; "I have observed that a few of them are not unlike some of the
berries that grow wild on our own native hills. Besides, I saw one or two strange birds eating them
just a few minutes ago, and what won't kill the birds won't kill us. But look up there, Peterkin,"
continued Jack, pointing to the branched head of a cocoa-nut palm. "There are nuts for us in all
"So there are!" cried Peterkin, who, being of a very unobservant nature, had been too much taken up
with other things to notice anything so high above his head as the fruit of a palm tree. But
whatever faults my young comrade had, he could not be blamed for want of activity or animal spirits.
Indeed, the nuts had scarcely been pointed out to him when he bounded up the tall stem of the tree
like a squirrel, and in a few minutes returned with three nuts, each as large as a man's fist.
"You had better keep them till we return," said Jack. "Let us finish our work before eating."
"So be it, captain; go ahead," cried Peterkin, thrusting the nuts into his trousers pocket. "In
fact, I don't want to eat just now, but I would give a good deal for
 a drink. Oh that I could find a spring! but I don't see the smallest sign of one hereabouts. I say,
Jack, how does it happen that you seem to be up to everything? You have told us the names of
half-a-dozen trees already, and yet you say that you were never in the South Seas before."
"I'm not up to everything, Peterkin, as you'll find out ere long," replied Jack, with a
smile; "but I have been a great reader of books of travel and adventure all my life, and that has
put me up to a good many things that you are, perhaps, not acquainted with."
"O Jack, that's all humbug. If you begin to lay everything to the credit of books, I'll quite lose
my opinion of you," cried Peterkin, with a look of contempt. "I've seen a lot o' fellows that were
always poring over books, and when they came to try to do anything, they were no
better than baboons!"
"You are quite right," retorted Jack, "and I have seen a lot of fellows who never looked into books
at all, who knew nothing about anything except the things they had actually seen, and very little
they knew even about these. Indeed, some were so ignorant that they did not know that cocoa-nuts
grew on cocoa-nut trees!"
I could not refrain from laughing at this rebuke, for there was much truth in it as to Peterkin's
"Humph! maybe you're right," answered Peterkin; "but I would not give tuppence for a man of
books, if he had nothing else in him."
"Neither would I," said Jack; "but that's no reason why you should run books down, or think less of
me for having read them. Suppose now, Peterkin, that you wanted to build a ship, and I were to give
you a long and particular account of the way to do it, would not that be very useful?"
 "No doubt of it," said Peterkin, laughing.
"And suppose I were to write the account in a letter instead of telling you in words, would that be
"Well—no, perhaps not."
"Well, suppose I were to print it, and send it to you in the form of a book, would it not be as good
and useful as ever?"
"Oh, bother! Jack, you're a philosopher, and that's worse than anything!" cried Peterkin, with a
look of pretended horror.
"Very well, Peterkin, we shall see," returned Jack, halting under the shade of a cocoa-nut tree.
"You said you were thirsty just a minute ago; now jump up that tree and bring down a nut—not a
ripe one, bring a green, unripe one."
Peterkin looked surprised, but seeing that Jack was in earnest, he obeyed.
"Now cut a hole in it with your penknife, and clap it to your mouth, old fellow," said Jack.
Peterkin did as he was directed, and we both burst into uncontrollable laughter at the changes that
instantly passed over his expressive countenance. No sooner had he put the nut to his mouth, and
thrown back his head in order to catch what came out of it, than his eyes opened to twice their
ordinary size with astonishment, while his throat moved vigorously in the act of swallowing. Then a
smile and look of intense delight overspread his face, except, indeed, the mouth, which, being
firmly fixed to the hole in the nut, could not take part in the expression; but he endeavoured to
make up for this by winking at us excessively with his right eye. At length he stopped, and, drawing
a long breath, exclaimed—
"Nectar! perfect nectar! I say, Jack, you're a Briton—
 the best fellow I ever met in my life.—Only taste that!" said he, turning to me and holding
the nut to my mouth. I immediately drank, and certainly I was much surprised at the delightful
liquid that flowed copiously down my throat. It was extremely cool, and had a sweet taste, mingled
with acid; in fact it was the likest thing to lemonade I ever tasted, and was most grateful and
refreshing. I handed the nut to Jack, who, after tasting it, said, "Now, Peterkin, you unbeliever, I
never saw or tasted a cocoa-nut in my life before, except those sold in shops at home; but I once
read that the green nuts contain that stuff, and you see it is true!"
"And pray," asked Peterkin, "what sort of 'stuff' does the ripe nut contain?"
"A hollow kernel," answered Jack, "with a liquid like milk in it; but it does not satisfy thirst so
well as hunger. It is very wholesome food, I believe."
"Meat and drink on the same tree!" cried Peterkin; "washing in the sea, lodging on the
ground—and all for nothing. My dear boys, we're set up for life; it must be the ancient
Paradise—hurrah!" and Peterkin tossed his straw hat in the air, and ran along the beach
hallooing like a madman with delight.
We afterwards found, however, that these lovely islands were very unlike Paradise in many things.
But more of this in its proper place.
We had now come to the point of rocks on which the ship had struck, but did not find a single
article, although we searched carefully among the coral rocks, which at this place jutted out so far
as nearly to join the reef that encircled the island. Just as we were about to return, however, we
saw something black floating in a little cove that had escaped our observation. Running forward, we
drew it from the water, and found it to be
 a long thick, leather boot, such as fishermen at home wear; and a few paces farther on we picked up
its fellow. We at once recognised these as having belonged to our captain, for he had worn them
during the whole of the storm, in order to guard his legs from the waves and spray that constantly
washed over our decks. My first thought on seeing them was that our dear captain had been drowned;
but Jack soon put my mind more at rest and that point, by saying that if the captain had been
drowned with the boots on, he would certainly have been washed ashore along with them, and that he
had no doubt whatever he had kicked them off while in the sea, that he might swim more easily.
Peterkin immediately put them on, but they were so large that, as Jack said, they would have done
for boots, trousers, and vest too. I also tried them, but although I was long enough in the legs for
them, they were much too large in the feet for me: so we handed them to Jack, who was anxious to
make me keep them; but as they fitted his large limbs and feet as if they had been made for him, I
would not hear of it, so he consented at last to use them. I may remark, however, that Jack did not
use them often, as they were extremely heavy.
It was beginning to grow dark when we returned to our encampment; so we put off our visit to the top
of a hill till next day, and employed the light that yet remained to us in cutting down a quantity
of boughs and the broad leaves of a tree of which none of us knew the name. With these we erected a
sort of rustic bower, in which we meant to pass the night. There was no absolute necessity for this,
because the air of our island was so genial and balmy that we could have slept quite well without
any shelter; but we were so little used to sleeping in the open air that we did not quite relish the
 of lying down without any covering over us; besides, our bower would shelter us from the night-dews
or rain, if any should happen to fall. Having strewed the floor with leaves and dry grass, we
bethought ourselves of supper.
But it now occurred to us, for the first time, that we had no means of making a fire.
"Now, there's a fix! What shall we do?" said Peterkin, while we both turned our eyes to Jack, to
whom we always looked in our difficulties. Jack seemed not a little perplexed.
"There are flints enough, no doubt, on the beach," said he, "but they are of no use at all without a
steel. However, we must try." So saying, he went to the beach, and soon returned with two flints. On
one of these he placed the tinder, and endeavoured to ignite it; but it was with great difficulty
that a very small spark was struck out of the flints, and the tinder, being a bad, hard piece, would
not catch. He then tried the bit of hoop-iron, which would not strike fire at all; and after that
the back of the axe, with no better success. During all these trials Peterkin sat with his hands in
his pockets, gazing with a most melancholy visage at our comrade, his face growing longer and more
miserable at each successive failure.
"Oh dear!" he sighed; "I would not care a button for the cooking of our victuals—perhaps they
don't need it—but it's so dismal to eat one's supper in the dark; and we have had such a
capital day that it's a pity to finish off in this glum style. Oh, I have it!" he cried, starting
up; "the spy-glass—the big glass at the end is a burning-glass!"
"You forget that we have no sun," said I.
Peterkin was silent. In his sudden recollection of
 the telescope he had quite overlooked the absence of the sun.
"Ah, boys, I've got it now!" exclaimed Jack, rising and cutting a branch from a neighbouring bush,
which he stripped of its leaves. "I recollect seeing this done once at home. Hand me the bit of
whip-cord." With the cord and branch Jack soon formed a bow. Then he cut a piece, about three inches
long, off the end of a dead branch, which he pointed at the two ends. Round this he passed the cord
of the bow, and placed one end against his chest, which was protected from its point by a chip of
wood; the other point he placed against the bit of tinder, and then began to saw vigorously with the
bow, just as a blacksmith does with his drill while boring a hole in a piece of iron. In a few
seconds the tinder begun to smoke; in less than a minute it caught fire; and in less than a quarter
of an hour we were drinking our lemonade and eating cocoa-nuts round a fire that would have roasted
an entire sheep, while the smoke, flames, and sparks flew up among the broad leaves of the
overhanging palm trees, and cast a warm glow upon our leafy bower.
That night the starry sky looked down through the gently rustling trees upon our slumbers, and the
distant roaring of the surf upon the coral reef was our lullaby.