Robinson Crusoe Written Anew for Children - James Baldwin

I Learn to Bake and Am Prosperous

I have already told you about farming, and of the difficulties under which I did my work. The thing which I wished to do most of all to make good bread.

[Illustration] from Robinson Crusoe  by James Baldwin

I tried many plans, but it was several years before I could think of myself as a really good baker.

My barley was very fine. The grains were large and smooth. When boiled a long time with a bit of goat's meat, they made good food.

But they did not take the place of bread. Before bread could be made, the grains of barley must be ground into meal.

I tried pounding them with a stone. But that was slow work. The stone crumbled into sand. My meal was worth nothing.

I looked all over the island for a harder stone. All were alike.

So at last I cut a large block of very hard wood. I rounded it on the outside with my hatchet. Then, partly by chopping, partly by burning, I made a hollow place in the end of it.

Out of a piece of ironwood I made a heavy pestle or beater.

I had now a very good little mill. In a short time I had crushed enough barley to make meal for a large loaf.

It was easy to make the dough. I had only to mix the meal with water and knead it with my hands. I must not think of yeast to make the dough light.

The baking part was the main thing, and the hardest to learn.

At first I put my biscuits of dough in the hot ashes and left them there till they were baked. But I did not like these ash cakes very well.

Then I tried another plan.

I made two large earthen vessels. They were broad and shallow. Each was about two feet across and not more than nine inches deep.

These I burned in the fire till they were as hard as rocks and as red as tiles.

I made also a hearth before my fireplace, and paved it with some square tiles of my own making. But, perhaps I ought not to call them square.

The hearth, when finished, was quite level and smooth. It was as pretty as I could have wished.

Next I built a great fire of hard wood. When the wood had burned down, I raked the hot coals out upon my hearth. I left them there till the hearth was hot through and through.

My loaves of dough were all ready. I swept hearth clean and then put the loaves down upon the hottest part of it.

Over each loaf I put one of the large earthen vessels I had made. Then I heaped hot coals on the top of the vessel and all round the sides of it.

In a short time I lifted the vessels and took out my loaves. They were baked as well as the best oven in the world could have baked them.

By trying and trying again, I at last learned to bake almost everything I wanted. I baked cakes and rice pudding fit for a king. But I did not care for pies.

I now felt quite contented and prosperous. For did I not have everything that I needed?

I had two homes on the island. I called them my plantations.

The first of these was my strong castle under the rock. I had enlarged it until my cave contained many rooms, one opening into another.

The largest and driest of these was my storeroom. Here I kept the largest of my earthen pots. Here also were fourteen or fifteen big baskets, all filled with grain.

My sitting room was not large, but it was made for comfort.

As for the wall in front of the castle, it was a wonderful thing. The long stakes which I had driven down had all taken root. They had grown like trees, and were now so big and so thick with branches that it was hard to see between them.

No one passing by would ever think there was a house behind this matted row of trees.

Near this dwelling of mine, but a little farther within the land, were my two barley fields. These I cultivated with care, and from them I reaped a good harvest. As often as I felt the need of more barley I made my fields larger.

Farther away was what I called my country seat. There was my pleasant summer house or bower, where I liked to go for rest.

In the middle of my bower I had my tent always set. It was made of a piece of sail spread over some poles.

Under the tent I had made a soft couch with the skins of animals and a blanket thrown over them. Here, when the weather was fair, I often slept at night.

A little way from the bower was the field in which I kept my cattle—that is to say, my goats.

I had taken great pains to fence and inclose this field. I was so fearful, lest the goats should break out, that I worked many a day planting a hedge all around. The hedge grew to be very tall and was as strong as a wall.

On the shore of the sea, some distance beyond my summer house, was the little inlet where I had laid up my canoe.