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Chapter 20: A Ship in Distress
Crusoe determines that the gunshot must have come from a ship that has run into trouble during the storm. He thinks it is his chance to escape the island. He runs up the hill, gathers all the firewood he can, and sets it on fire as a signal. Through the night he keeps the fire going even though the wind is blowing hard.
When it is broad daylight, Crusoe spies a ship to the south of the island. He runs towards it and sees that the concealed rocks have wrecked it. He wonders about the fate of the people. After several days, a corpse of a boy washes ashore. When the storm passes and the sea becomes calm again, Crusoe sets out in his little boat and reaches the wreck. A half-starved dog jumps out into the sea, and Crusoe takes it into his boat. It was the only living thing left on the ship. He also takes a couple of chests from the wreck, as well as a powder horn, some kettles, a copper pot, and a gridiron. With his boat laden with many items, he does not reach his island until the end of the day. When he opens the chests, he finds shirts, neckties, handkerchiefs, gold, and money. Crusoe carefully stores all the money and gold in his cave.
This is a strange interval in the story that contributes more to the main theme than to the main plot. The gunshot indicates to Crusoe that a ship is nearby. In hopes of having himself rescued, he builds a huge bonfire and stokes it through the night. The next morning, he spies the ship and realizes it has wrecked on the rocks. He desperately wants to get to the ship before it goes down, but the stormy weather keeps him on shore for several days. When he is finally able to take his boat out to the ship, the only creature still alive is a starving dog, that Crusoe rescues. He also obtains many supplies and takes two chests, which contain clothing, money, and gold. As he hides the gold, there is a feeling that the day is not far away when he will be free. Providence seems to be preparing him for that. Each shipwreck also drives home the fact that it was by an act of Providence that Crusoe had himself survived a shipwreck and reached the island.