Chapter 8

 

For the next ten or twelve days we sailed close to the shore, stopping only to fill our jars with clean water. Soon we started to notice that the land was inhabited. Several times we saw naked black people on the beach watching us. I wanted to stop and go to them, but the boy begged me not to do it. Nevertheless, I waved to them and saw them run toward the boat without any weapons. The boy warned me that one of the men had a long stick.

I tried to sign to the people that we needed food. They signed to me to come ashore, showing they would bring us some food. I slowed the boat, and two of them ran into the forest soon to return with some dry meat and grain. We didn’t want approach the land, and they were too afraid to swim to us, so we didn’t know how to reach the food. Seeing this, they stepped back and were soon quite far from the food. We approached and took it onboard. We signed to thank them but had nothing to give in return for the food.

At that very moment two animals came running from the mountains, chasing each other. The people on the beach were very afraid, but the animals didn’t attack them. The two creatures went into the water, and one of them came very close to our boat. I shot at it. That made the creature swim back to the beach, but it died just before reaching it.

The people on the beach were amazed to hear the gun fire, and some of them fainted with fear. I made signs to them to come back to the beach and helped them bring the animal to the shore with a rope. It turned out to be a very strange leopard. The other creature must have been frightened by the gun, because it had run away back to the mountains. The people on the beach wanted the flesh of the animal, and we took the skin. They were so grateful that I had saved them from the leopard that they brought me even more food and water.

We had so much food and water on the boat that we did not need to stop for some ten days. On the eleventh day we saw a long piece of land extending very far into the sea, and there were islands within sight. I assumed those were the Cape Verde Islands. I had just stepped inside the cabin to consider whether we should go to the islands when the boy came running to me. He was screaming because he had seen a ship with a sail.