Chapter 10 Summary
The fire Brian has worked so hard to make is at first so precious to him that he cannot bring himself to leave it. He sits by it throughout even the heat of the day, enjoying it and keeping it nourished. By late afternoon, he begins to plan again and goes out to gather more wood to keep the fire going throughout the night.
Brian looks back and sees the smoke from his fire curling up through the trees. He realizes that in addition to warmth, the fire has given him the ability to make a signal fire that might facilitate his rescue. He notices also that the smoke seems to keep the mosquitoes away.
As Brian settles in for the night, he thinks for the first time since the crash that “he might be getting a handle on things.” Tomorrow, he will have to go back out and find more food, and perhaps he will begin building a signal fire atop a nearby rocky area. In the meantime, the fire is keeping him warm and comfortable, and he drifts off to sleep.
Brian is awakened by the “slithering” sound of something being dragged across the sand. The fire has burned down, but he finds a bed of coals still glowing and builds the flames up again by adding additional wood. Listening carefully, he notes that the mysterious sound has stopped, and he thinks he hears the splash of something entering the water at the shoreline. Brian is not worried because he has the fire to protect him.
When he ventures outside in the morning, Brian discovers odd-looking tracks leading to a pile of sand in front of his shelter then returning to the lake. Reasoning that whatever animal has made the tracks must have come up from the water for a purpose, he examines the unusual mound it has left behind and finds seventeen perfectly round, table tennis ball–sized eggs. With delight, Brian understands that his night visitor had been a turtle! His body immediately recognizes the eggs as food, and his hunger intensifies so sharply that it takes his breath away. Brian realizes he has no way of cooking the eggs, and the thought of eating them raw repulses him; still, the eggs will provide him with desperately needed nourishment. He forces himself to break a hole into one and squeeze its contents into his mouth. The egg has a greasy texture, and he swallows as fast as he can, fighting to keep it down. His stomach eventually takes it and clamors for more.
Brian eats six eggs in rapid succession then disciplines himself to save the rest for later. He stores the remainder of the eggs in the shelter and plans to save them and eat only one each day. If he eats them at that rate, surely the searchers, whom he has almost forgotten, will come before the eggs are all gone.