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 The Mysterious Island

by JULES VERNE

 PART 1--DROPPED FROM THE CLOUDS

 

 

Chapter 1

"Are we rising again?" "No. On the contrary." "Are we descending?"
"Worse than that, captain! we are falling!" "For Heaven's sake heave out
the ballast!" "There! the last sack is empty!" "Does the balloon rise?"
"No!" "I hear a noise like the dashing of waves. The sea is below the
car! It cannot be more than 500 feet from us!" "Overboard with every
weight! ... everything!"

Such were the loud and startling words which resounded through the air,
above the vast watery desert of the Pacific, about four o'clock in the
evening of the 23rd of March, 1865.

Few can possibly have forgotten the terrible storm from the northeast,
in the middle of the equinox of that year. The tempest raged without
intermission from the 18th to the 26th of March. Its ravages were
terrible in America, Europe, and Asia, covering a distance of eighteen
hundred miles, and extending obliquely to the equator from the
thirty-fifth north parallel to the fortieth south parallel. Towns were
overthrown, forests uprooted, coasts devastated by the mountains of
water which were precipitated on them, vessels cast on the shore, which
the published accounts numbered by hundreds, whole districts leveled
by waterspouts which destroyed everything they passed over, several
thousand people crushed on land or drowned at sea; such were the traces
of its fury, left by this devastating tempest. It surpassed in disasters
those which so frightfully ravaged Havana and Guadalupe, one on the 25th
of October, 1810, the other on the 26th of July, 1825.

But while so many catastrophes were taking place on land and at sea, a
drama not less exciting was being enacted in the agitated air.

In fact, a balloon, as a ball might be carried on the summit of a
waterspout, had been taken into the circling movement of a column of
air and had traversed space at the rate of ninety miles an hour, turning
round and round as if seized by some aerial maelstrom.

Beneath the lower point of the balloon swung a car, containing five
passengers, scarcely visible in the midst of the thick vapor mingled
with spray which hung over the surface of the ocean.

Whence, it may be asked, had come that plaything of the tempest? From
what part of the world did it rise? It surely could not have started
during the storm. But the storm had raged five days already, and the
first symptoms were manifested on the 18th. It cannot be doubted that
the balloon came from a great distance, for it could not have traveled
less than two thousand miles in twenty-four hours.

At any rate the passengers, destitute of all marks for their guidance,
could not have possessed the means of reckoning the route traversed
since their departure. It was a remarkable fact that, although in the
very midst of the furious tempest, they did not suffer from it. They
were thrown about and whirled round and round without feeling the
rotation in the slightest degree, or being sensible that they were
removed from a horizontal position.

Their eyes could not pierce through the thick mist which had gathered
beneath the car. Dark vapor was all around them. Such was the density
of the atmosphere that they could not be certain whether it was day or
night. No reflection of light, no sound from inhabited land, no roaring
of the ocean could have reached them, through the obscurity, while
suspended in those elevated zones. Their rapid descent alone had
informed them of the dangers which they ran from the waves. However,
the balloon, lightened of heavy articles, such as ammunition, arms, and
provisions, had risen into the higher layers of the atmosphere, to a
height of 4,500 feet. The voyagers, after having discovered that the sea
extended beneath them, and thinking the dangers above less dreadful than
those below, did not hesitate to throw overboard even their most useful
articles, while they endeavored to lose no more of that fluid, the life
of their enterprise, which sustained them above the abyss.

The night passed in the midst of alarms which would have been death to
less energetic souls. Again the day appeared and with it the tempest
began to moderate. From the beginning of that day, the 24th of March,
it showed symptoms of abating. At dawn, some of the lighter clouds had
risen into the more lofty regions of the air. In a few hours the wind
had changed from a hurricane to a fresh breeze, that is to say, the rate
of the transit of the atmospheric layers was diminished by half. It
was still what sailors call "a close-reefed topsail breeze," but the
commotion in the elements had none the less considerably diminished.

Towards eleven o'clock, the lower region of the air was sensibly
clearer. The atmosphere threw off that chilly dampness which is felt
after the passage of a great meteor. The storm did not seem to have gone
farther to the west. It appeared to have exhausted itself. Could it have
passed away in electric sheets, as is sometimes the case with regard to
the typhoons of the Indian Ocean?

But at the same time, it was also evident that the balloon was again
slowly descending with a regular movement. It appeared as if it were,
little by little, collapsing, and that its case was lengthening and
extending, passing from a spherical to an oval form. Towards midday the
balloon was hovering above the sea at a height of only 2,000 feet. It
contained 50,000 cubic feet of gas, and, thanks to its capacity, it
could maintain itself a long time in the air, although it should reach a
great altitude or might be thrown into a horizontal position.

Perceiving their danger, the passengers cast away the last articles
which still weighed down the car, the few provisions they had kept,
everything, even to their pocket-knives, and one of them, having hoisted
himself on to the circles which united the cords of the net, tried to
secure more firmly the lower point of the balloon.

It was, however, evident to the voyagers that the gas was failing, and
that the balloon could no longer be sustained in the higher regions.
They must infallibly perish!

There was not a continent, nor even an island, visible beneath them.
The watery expanse did not present a single speck of land, not a solid
surface upon which their anchor could hold.

It was the open sea, whose waves were still dashing with tremendous
violence! It was the ocean, without any visible limits, even for those
whose gaze, from their commanding position, extended over a radius of
forty miles. The vast liquid plain, lashed without mercy by the storm,
appeared as if covered with herds of furious chargers, whose white and
disheveled crests were streaming in the wind. No land was in sight, not
a solitary ship could be seen. It was necessary at any cost to arrest
their downward course, and to prevent the balloon from being engulfed in
the waves. The voyagers directed all their energies to this urgent work.
But, notwithstanding their efforts, the balloon still fell, and at the
same time shifted with the greatest rapidity, following the direction of
the wind, that is to say, from the northeast to the southwest.

Frightful indeed was the situation of these unfortunate men. They were
evidently no longer masters of the machine. All their attempts were
useless. The case of the balloon collapsed more and more. The gas
escaped without any possibility of retaining it. Their descent was
visibly accelerated, and soon after midday the car hung within 600 feet
of the ocean.

It was impossible to prevent the escape of gas, which rushed through a
large rent in the silk. By lightening the car of all the articles which
it contained, the passengers had been able to prolong their suspension
in the air for a few hours. But the inevitable catastrophe could only
be retarded, and if land did not appear before night, voyagers, car, and
balloon must to a certainty vanish beneath the waves.

They now resorted to the only remaining expedient. They were truly
dauntless men, who knew how to look death in the face. Not a single
murmur escaped from their lips. They were determined to struggle to the
last minute, to do anything to retard their fall. The car was only a
sort of willow basket, unable to float, and there was not the slightest
possibility of maintaining it on the surface of the sea.

Two more hours passed and the balloon was scarcely 400 feet above the
water.

At that moment a loud voice, the voice of a man whose heart was
inaccessible to fear, was heard. To this voice responded others not
less determined. "Is everything thrown out?" "No, here are still 2,000
dollars in gold." A heavy bag immediately plunged into the sea. "Does
the balloon rise?" "A little, but it will not be long before it falls
again." "What still remains to be thrown out?" "Nothing." "Yes! the
car!" "Let us catch hold of the net, and into the sea with the car."

This was, in fact, the last and only mode of lightening the balloon.
The ropes which held the car were cut, and the balloon, after its fall,
mounted 2,000 feet. The five voyagers had hoisted themselves into the
net, and clung to the meshes, gazing at the abyss.

The delicate sensibility of balloons is well known. It is sufficient to
throw out the lightest article to produce a difference in its vertical
position. The apparatus in the air is like a balance of mathematical
precision. It can be thus easily understood that when it is lightened of
any considerable weight its movement will be impetuous and sudden. So
it happened on this occasion. But after being suspended for an instant
aloft, the balloon began to redescend, the gas escaping by the rent
which it was impossible to repair.

The men had done all that men could do. No human efforts could save them
now.

They must trust to the mercy of Him who rules the elements.

At four o'clock the balloon was only 500 feet above the surface of the
water.

A loud barking was heard. A dog accompanied the voyagers, and was held
pressed close to his master in the meshes of the net.

"Top has seen something," cried one of the men. Then immediately a loud
voice shouted,--

"Land! land!" The balloon, which the wind still drove towards the
southwest, had since daybreak gone a considerable distance, which might
be reckoned by hundreds of miles, and a tolerably high land had, in
fact, appeared in that direction. But this land was still thirty miles
off. It would not take less than an hour to get to it, and then there
was the chance of falling to leeward.

An hour! Might not the balloon before that be emptied of all the fluid
it yet retained?

Such was the terrible question! The voyagers could distinctly see that
solid spot which they must reach at any cost. They were ignorant of what
it was, whether an island or a continent, for they did not know to what
part of the world the hurricane had driven them. But they must reach
this land, whether inhabited or desolate, whether hospitable or not.

It was evident that the balloon could no longer support itself! Several
times already had the crests of the enormous billows licked the bottom
of the net, making it still heavier, and the balloon only half rose,
like a bird with a wounded wing. Half an hour later the land was not
more than a mile off, but the balloon, exhausted, flabby, hanging in
great folds, had gas in its upper part alone. The voyagers, clinging to
the net, were still too heavy for it, and soon, half plunged into the
sea, they were beaten by the furious waves. The balloon-case bulged out
again, and the wind, taking it, drove it along like a vessel. Might it
not possibly thus reach the land?

But, when only two fathoms off, terrible cries resounded from four pairs
of lungs at once. The balloon, which had appeared as if it would never
again rise, suddenly made an unexpected bound, after having been struck
by a tremendous sea. As if it had been at that instant relieved of a new
part of its weight, it mounted to a height of 1,500 feet, and here it
met a current of wind, which instead of taking it directly to the coast,
carried it in a nearly parallel direction.

At last, two minutes later, it reproached obliquely, and finally fell on
a sandy beach, out of the reach of the waves.

The voyagers, aiding each other, managed to disengage themselves from
the meshes of the net. The balloon, relieved of their weight, was taken
by the wind, and like a wounded bird which revives for an instant,
disappeared into space.

But the car had contained five passengers, with a dog, and the balloon
only left four on the shore.

The missing person had evidently been swept off by the sea, which had
just struck the net, and it was owing to this circumstance that the
lightened balloon rose the last time, and then soon after reached the
land. Scarcely had the four castaways set foot on firm ground, than they
all, thinking of the absent one, simultaneously exclaimed, "Perhaps he
will try to swim to land! Let us save him! let us save him!"

 

 

Chapter 2

Those whom the hurricane had just thrown on this coast were neither
aeronauts by profession nor amateurs. They were prisoners of war whose
boldness had induced them to escape in this extraordinary manner.

A hundred times they had almost perished! A hundred times had they
almost fallen from their torn balloon into the depths of the ocean. But
Heaven had reserved them for a strange destiny, and after having, on the
20th of March, escaped from Richmond, besieged by the troops of General
Ulysses Grant, they found themselves seven thousand miles from the
capital of Virginia, which was the principal stronghold of the South,
during the terrible War of Secession. Their aerial voyage had lasted
five days.

The curious circumstances which led to the escape of the prisoners were
as follows:

That same year, in the month of February, 1865, in one of the coups
de main by which General Grant attempted, though in vain, to possess
himself of Richmond, several of his officers fell into the power of the
enemy and were detained in the town. One of the most distinguished was
Captain Cyrus Harding. He was a native of Massachusetts, a first-class
engineer, to whom the government had confided, during the war, the
direction of the railways, which were so important at that time. A
true Northerner, thin, bony, lean, about forty-five years of age; his
close-cut hair and his beard, of which he only kept a thick mustache,
were already getting gray. He had one-of those finely-developed heads
which appear made to be struck on a medal, piercing eyes, a serious
mouth, the physiognomy of a clever man of the military school. He was
one of those engineers who began by handling the hammer and pickaxe,
like generals who first act as common soldiers. Besides mental power, he
also possessed great manual dexterity. His muscles exhibited remarkable
proofs of tenacity. A man of action as well as a man of thought, all he
did was without effort to one of his vigorous and sanguine temperament.
Learned, clear-headed, and practical, he fulfilled in all
emergencies those three conditions which united ought to insure human
success--activity of mind and body, impetuous wishes, and powerful will.
He might have taken for his motto that of William of Orange in the 17th
century: "I can undertake and persevere even without hope of success."
Cyrus Harding was courage personified. He had been in all the battles of
that war. After having begun as a volunteer at Illinois, under Ulysses
Grant, he fought at Paducah, Belmont, Pittsburg Landing, at the siege of
Corinth, Port Gibson, Black River, Chattanooga, the Wilderness, on the
Potomac, everywhere and valiantly, a soldier worthy of the general who
said, "I never count my dead!" And hundreds of times Captain Harding had
almost been among those who were not counted by the terrible Grant; but
in these combats where he never spared himself, fortune favored him till
the moment when he was wounded and taken prisoner on the field of battle
near Richmond. At the same time and on the same day another important
personage fell into the hands of the Southerners. This was no other than
Gideon Spilett, a reporter for the New York Herald, who had been ordered
to follow the changes of the war in the midst of the Northern armies.

Gideon Spilett was one of that race of indomitable English or American
chroniclers, like Stanley and others, who stop at nothing to obtain
exact information, and transmit it to their journal in the shortest
possible time. The newspapers of the Union, such as the New York Herald,
are genuine powers, and their reporters are men to be reckoned with.
Gideon Spilett ranked among the first of those reporters: a man of great
merit, energetic, prompt and ready for anything, full of ideas, having
traveled over the whole world, soldier and artist, enthusiastic in
council, resolute in action, caring neither for trouble, fatigue, nor
danger, when in pursuit of information, for himself first, and then for
his journal, a perfect treasury of knowledge on all sorts of curious
subjects, of the unpublished, of the unknown, and of the impossible. He
was one of those intrepid observers who write under fire, "reporting"
among bullets, and to whom every danger is welcome.

He also had been in all the battles, in the first rank, revolver in one
hand, note-book in the other; grape-shot never made his pencil tremble.
He did not fatigue the wires with incessant telegrams, like those who
speak when they have nothing to say, but each of his notes, short,
decisive, and clear, threw light on some important point. Besides, he
was not wanting in humor. It was he who, after the affair of the Black
River, determined at any cost to keep his place at the wicket of the
telegraph office, and after having announced to his journal the result
of the battle, telegraphed for two hours the first chapters of the
Bible. It cost the New York Herald two thousand dollars, but the New
York Herald published the first intelligence.

Gideon Spilett was tall. He was rather more than forty years of age.
Light whiskers bordering on red surrounded his face. His eye was steady,
lively, rapid in its changes. It was the eye of a man accustomed to take
in at a glance all the details of a scene. Well built, he was inured to
all climates, like a bar of steel hardened in cold water.

For ten years Gideon Spilett had been the reporter of the New York
Herald, which he enriched by his letters and drawings, for he was as
skilful in the use of the pencil as of the pen. When he was captured,
he was in the act of making a description and sketch of the battle. The
last words in his note-book were these: "A Southern rifleman has just
taken aim at me, but--" The Southerner notwithstanding missed Gideon
Spilett, who, with his usual fortune, came out of this affair without a
scratch.

Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett, who did not know each other except
by reputation, had both been carried to Richmond. The engineer's
wounds rapidly healed, and it was during his convalescence that he made
acquaintance with the reporter. The two men then learned to appreciate
each other. Soon their common aim had but one object, that of escaping,
rejoining Grant's army, and fighting together in the ranks of the
Federals.

The two Americans had from the first determined to seize every chance;
but although they were allowed to wander at liberty in the town,
Richmond was so strictly guarded, that escape appeared impossible. In
the meanwhile Captain Harding was rejoined by a servant who was devoted
to him in life and in death. This intrepid fellow was a Negro born on
the engineer's estate, of a slave father and mother, but to whom Cyrus,
who was an Abolitionist from conviction and heart, had long since given
his freedom. The once slave, though free, would not leave his master. He
would have died for him. He was a man of about thirty, vigorous, active,
clever, intelligent, gentle, and calm, sometimes naive, always merry,
obliging, and honest. His name was Nebuchadnezzar, but he only answered
to the familiar abbreviation of Neb.

When Neb heard that his master had been made prisoner, he left
Massachusetts without hesitating an instant, arrived before Richmond,
and by dint of stratagem and shrewdness, after having risked his life
twenty times over, managed to penetrate into the besieged town. The
pleasure of Harding on seeing his servant, and the joy of Neb at finding
his master, can scarcely be described.

But though Neb had been able to make his way into Richmond, it was quite
another thing to get out again, for the Northern prisoners were very
strictly watched. Some extraordinary opportunity was needed to make the
attempt with any chance of success, and this opportunity not only did
not present itself, but was very difficult to find.

Meanwhile Grant continued his energetic operations. The victory of
Petersburg had been very dearly bought. His forces, united to those of
Butler, had as yet been unsuccessful before Richmond, and nothing gave
the prisoners any hope of a speedy deliverance.

The reporter, to whom his tedious captivity did not offer a single
incident worthy of note, could stand it no longer. His usually active
mind was occupied with one sole thought--how he might get out of
Richmond at any cost. Several times had he even made the attempt,
but was stopped by some insurmountable obstacle. However, the siege
continued; and if the prisoners were anxious to escape and join Grant's
army, certain of the besieged were no less anxious to join the Southern
forces. Among them was one Jonathan Forster, a determined Southerner.
The truth was, that if the prisoners of the Secessionists could not
leave the town, neither could the Secessionists themselves while the
Northern army invested it. The Governor of Richmond for a long time had
been unable to communicate with General Lee, and he very much wished to
make known to him the situation of the town, so as to hasten the march
of the army to their relief. Thus Jonathan Forster accordingly conceived
the idea of rising in a balloon, so as to pass over the besieging lines,
and in that way reach the Secessionist camp.

The Governor authorized the attempt. A balloon was manufactured and
placed at the disposal of Forster, who was to be accompanied by five
other persons. They were furnished with arms in case they might have
to defend themselves when they alighted, and provisions in the event of
their aerial voyage being prolonged.

The departure of the balloon was fixed for the 18th of March. It should
be effected during the night, with a northwest wind of moderate force,
and the aeronauts calculated that they would reach General Lee's camp in
a few hours.

But this northwest wind was not a simple breeze. From the 18th it was
evident that it was changing to a hurricane. The tempest soon became
such that Forster's departure was deferred, for it was impossible to
risk the balloon and those whom it carried in the midst of the furious
elements.

The balloon, inflated on the great square of Richmond, was ready to
depart on the first abatement of the wind, and, as may be supposed, the
impatience among the besieged to see the storm moderate was very great.

The 18th, the 19th of March passed without any alteration in the
weather. There was even great difficulty in keeping the balloon fastened
to the ground, as the squalls dashed it furiously about.

The night of the 19th passed, but the next morning the storm blew with
redoubled force. The departure of the balloon was impossible.

On that day the engineer, Cyrus Harding, was accosted in one of the
streets of Richmond by a person whom he did not in the least know. This
was a sailor named Pencroft, a man of about thirty-five or forty years
of age, strongly built, very sunburnt, and possessed of a pair of
bright sparkling eyes and a remarkably good physiognomy. Pencroft was an
American from the North, who had sailed all the ocean over, and who had
gone through every possible and almost impossible adventure that a being
with two feet and no wings would encounter. It is needless to say that
he was a bold, dashing fellow, ready to dare anything and was astonished
at nothing. Pencroft at the beginning of the year had gone to Richmond
on business, with a young boy of fifteen from New Jersey, son of a
former captain, an orphan, whom he loved as if he had been his
own child. Not having been able to leave the town before the first
operations of the siege, he found himself shut up, to his great disgust;
but, not accustomed to succumb to difficulties, he resolved to escape by
some means or other. He knew the engineer-officer by reputation; he knew
with what impatience that determined man chafed under his restraint. On
this day he did not, therefore, hesitate to accost him, saying, without
circumlocution, "Have you had enough of Richmond, captain?"

The engineer looked fixedly at the man who spoke, and who added, in a
low voice,--

"Captain Harding, will you try to escape?"

"When?" asked the engineer quickly, and it was evident that this
question was uttered without consideration, for he had not yet examined
the stranger who addressed him. But after having with a penetrating
eye observed the open face of the sailor, he was convinced that he had
before him an honest man.

"Who are you?" he asked briefly.

Pencroft made himself known.

"Well," replied Harding, "and in what way do you propose to escape?"

"By that lazy balloon which is left there doing nothing, and which looks
to me as if it was waiting on purpose for us--"

There was no necessity for the sailor to finish his sentence. The
engineer understood him at once. He seized Pencroft by the arm, and
dragged him to his house. There the sailor developed his project, which
was indeed extremely simple. They risked nothing but their lives in its
execution. The hurricane was in all its violence, it is true, but so
clever and daring an engineer as Cyrus Harding knew perfectly well how
to manage a balloon. Had he himself been as well acquainted with the art
of sailing in the air as he was with the navigation of a ship, Pencroft
would not have hesitated to set out, of course taking his young friend
Herbert with him; for, accustomed to brave the fiercest tempests of the
ocean, he was not to be hindered on account of the hurricane.

Captain Harding had listened to the sailor without saying a word,
but his eyes shone with satisfaction. Here was the long-sought-for
opportunity--he was not a man to let it pass. The plan was feasible,
though, it must be confessed, dangerous in the extreme. In the night,
in spite of their guards, they might approach the balloon, slip into the
car, and then cut the cords which held it. There was no doubt that they
might be killed, but on the other hand they might succeed, and without
this storm!--Without this storm the balloon would have started already
and the looked-for opportunity would not have then presented itself.

"I am not alone!" said Harding at last.

"How many people do you wish to bring with you?" asked the sailor.

"Two; my friend Spilett, and my servant Neb."

"That will be three," replied Pencroft; "and with Herbert and me five.
But the balloon will hold six--"

"That will be enough, we will go," answered Harding in a firm voice.

This "we" included Spilett, for the reporter, as his friend well knew,
was not a man to draw back, and when the project was communicated to him
he approved of it unreservedly. What astonished him was, that so simple
an idea had not occurred to him before. As to Neb, he followed his
master wherever his master wished to go.

"This evening, then," said Pencroft, "we will all meet out there."

"This evening, at ten o'clock," replied Captain Harding; "and Heaven
grant that the storm does not abate before our departure."

Pencroft took leave of the two friends, and returned to his lodging,
where young Herbert Brown had remained. The courageous boy knew of the
sailor's plan, and it was not without anxiety that he awaited the result
of the proposal being made to the engineer. Thus five determined
persons were about to abandon themselves to the mercy of the tempestuous
elements!

No! the storm did not abate, and neither Jonathan Forster nor his
companions dreamed of confronting it in that frail car.

It would be a terrible journey. The engineer only feared one thing; it
was that the balloon, held to the ground and dashed about by the
wind, would be torn into shreds. For several hours he roamed round the
nearly-deserted square, surveying the apparatus. Pencroft did the same
on his side, his hands in his pockets, yawning now and then like a man
who did not know how to kill the time, but really dreading, like
his friend, either the escape or destruction of the balloon. Evening
arrived. The night was dark in the extreme. Thick mists passed like
clouds close to the ground. Rain fell mingled with snow, it was very
cold. A mist hung over Richmond. It seemed as if the violent storm had
produced a truce between the besiegers and the besieged, and that the
cannon were silenced by the louder detonations of the storm. The streets
of the town were deserted. It had not even appeared necessary in that
horrible weather to place a guard in the square, in the midst of which
plunged the balloon. Everything favored the departure of the prisoners,
but what might possibly be the termination of the hazardous voyage they
contemplated in the midst of the furious elements?--

"Dirty weather!" exclaimed Pencroft, fixing his hat firmly on his head
with a blow of his fist; "but pshaw, we shall succeed all the same!"

At half-past nine, Harding and his companions glided from different
directions into the square, which the gas-lamps, extinguished by the
wind, had left in total obscurity. Even the enormous balloon, almost
beaten to the ground, could not be seen. Independently of the sacks of
ballast, to which the cords of the net were fastened, the car was
held by a strong cable passed through a ring in the pavement. The five
prisoners met by the car. They had not been perceived, and such was the
darkness that they could not even see each other.

Without speaking a word, Harding, Spilett, Neb, and Herbert took their
places in the car, while Pencroft by the engineer's order detached
successively the bags of ballast. It was the work of a few minutes only,
and the sailor rejoined his companions.

The balloon was then only held by the cable, and the engineer had
nothing to do but to give the word.

At that moment a dog sprang with a bound into the car. It was Top,
a favorite of the engineer. The faithful creature, having broken his
chain, had followed his master. He, however, fearing that its additional
weight might impede their ascent, wished to send away the animal.

"One more will make but little difference, poor beast!" exclaimed
Pencroft, heaving out two bags of sand, and as he spoke letting go the
cable; the balloon ascending in an oblique direction, disappeared, after
having dashed the car against two chimneys, which it threw down as it
swept by them.

Then, indeed, the full rage of the hurricane was exhibited to the
voyagers. During the night the engineer could not dream of descending,
and when day broke, even a glimpse of the earth below was intercepted by
fog.

Five days had passed when a partial clearing allowed them to see the
wide extending ocean beneath their feet, now lashed into the maddest
fury by the gale.

Our readers will recollect what befell these five daring individuals
who set out on their hazardous expedition in the balloon on the 20th of
March. Five days afterwards four of them were thrown on a desert coast,
seven thousand miles from their country! But one of their number was
missing, the man who was to be their guide, their leading spirit, the
engineer, Captain Harding! The instant they had recovered their feet,
they all hurried to the beach in the hopes of rendering him assistance.

 

 

Chapter 3

The engineer, the meshes of the net having given way, had been carried
off by a wave. His dog also had disappeared. The faithful animal
had voluntarily leaped out to help his master. "Forward," cried the
reporter; and all four, Spilett, Herbert, Pencroft, and Neb, forgetting
their fatigue, began their search. Poor Neb shed bitter tears, giving
way to despair at the thought of having lost the only being he loved on
earth.

Only two minutes had passed from the time when Cyrus Harding disappeared
to the moment when his companions set foot on the ground. They had hopes
therefore of arriving in time to save him. "Let us look for him! let us
look for him!" cried Neb.

"Yes, Neb," replied Gideon Spilett, "and we will find him too!"

"Living, I trust!"

"Still living!"

"Can he swim?" asked Pencroft.

"Yes," replied Neb, "and besides, Top is there."

The sailor, observing the heavy surf on the shore, shook his head.

The engineer had disappeared to the north of the shore, and nearly half
a mile from the place where the castaways had landed. The nearest point
of the beach he could reach was thus fully that distance off.

It was then nearly six o'clock. A thick fog made the night very dark.
The castaways proceeded toward the north of the land on which chance had
thrown them, an unknown region, the geographical situation of which they
could not even guess. They were walking upon a sandy soil, mingled with
stones, which appeared destitute of any sort of vegetation. The ground,
very unequal and rough, was in some places perfectly riddled with holes,
making walking extremely painful. From these holes escaped every minute
great birds of clumsy flight, which flew in all directions. Others, more
active, rose in flocks and passed in clouds over their heads. The sailor
thought he recognized gulls and cormorants, whose shrill cries rose
above the roaring of the sea.

From time to time the castaways stopped and shouted, then listened for
some response from the ocean, for they thought that if the engineer had
landed, and they had been near to the place, they would have heard the
barking of the dog Top, even should Harding himself have been unable to
give any sign of existence. They stopped to listen, but no sound arose
above the roaring of the waves and the dashing of the surf. The little
band then continued their march forward, searching into every hollow of
the shore.

After walking for twenty minutes, the four castaways were suddenly
brought to a standstill by the sight of foaming billows close to
their feet. The solid ground ended here. They found themselves at the
extremity of a sharp point on which the sea broke furiously.

"It is a promontory," said the sailor; "we must retrace our steps,
holding towards the right, and we shall thus gain the mainland."

"But if he is there," said Neb, pointing to the ocean, whose waves shone
of a snowy white in the darkness. "Well, let us call again," and all
uniting their voices, they gave a vigorous shout, but there came no
reply. They waited for a lull, then began again; still no reply.

The castaways accordingly returned, following the opposite side of the
promontory, over a soil equally sandy and rugged. However, Pencroft
observed that the shore was more equal, that the ground rose, and he
declared that it was joined by a long slope to a hill, whose massive
front he thought that he could see looming indistinctly through the
mist. The birds were less numerous on this part of the shore; the sea
was also less tumultuous, and they observed that the agitation of the
waves was diminished. The noise of the surf was scarcely heard. This
side of the promontory evidently formed a semicircular bay, which the
sharp point sheltered from the breakers of the open sea. But to follow
this direction was to go south, exactly opposite to that part of the
coast where Harding might have landed. After a walk of a mile and a
half, the shore presented no curve which would permit them to return to
the north. This promontory, of which they had turned the point, must
be attached to the mainland. The castaways, although their strength
was nearly exhausted, still marched courageously forward, hoping every
moment to meet with a sudden angle which would set them in the first
direction. What was their disappointment, when, after trudging nearly
two miles, having reached an elevated point composed of slippery rocks,
they found themselves again stopped by the sea.

"We are on an islet," said Pencroft, "and we have surveyed it from one
extremity to the other."

The sailor was right; they had been thrown, not on a continent, not
even on an island, but on an islet which was not more than two miles in
length, with even a less breadth.

Was this barren spot the desolate refuge of sea-birds, strewn with
stones and destitute of vegetation, attached to a more important
archipelago? It was impossible to say. When the voyagers from their car
saw the land through the mist, they had not been able to reconnoiter
it sufficiently. However, Pencroft, accustomed with his sailor eyes
to piece through the gloom, was almost certain that he could clearly
distinguish in the west confused masses which indicated an elevated
coast. But they could not in the dark determine whether it was a single
island, or connected with others. They could not leave it either, as the
sea surrounded them; they must therefore put off till the next day their
search for the engineer, from whom, alas! not a single cry had reached
them to show that he was still in existence.

"The silence of our friend proves nothing," said the reporter. "Perhaps
he has fainted or is wounded, and unable to reply directly, so we will
not despair."

The reporter then proposed to light a fire on a point of the islet,
which would serve as a signal to the engineer. But they searched in vain
for wood or dry brambles; nothing but sand and stones were to be found.
The grief of Neb and his companions, who were all strongly attached to
the intrepid Harding, can be better pictured than described. It was too
evident that they were powerless to help him. They must wait with what
patience they could for daylight. Either the engineer had been able to
save himself, and had already found a refuge on some point of the coast,
or he was lost for ever! The long and painful hours passed by. The cold
was intense. The castaways suffered cruelly, but they scarcely perceived
it. They did not even think of taking a minute's rest. Forgetting
everything but their chief, hoping or wishing to hope on, they continued
to walk up and down on this sterile spot, always returning to its
northern point, where they could approach nearest to the scene of the
catastrophe. They listened, they called, and then uniting their voices,
they endeavored to raise even a louder shout than before, which would
be transmitted to a great distance. The wind had now fallen almost to
a calm, and the noise of the sea began also to subside. One of Neb's
shouts even appeared to produce an echo. Herbert directed Pencroft's
attention to it, adding, "That proves that there is a coast to the west,
at no great distance." The sailor nodded; besides, his eyes could not
deceive him. If he had discovered land, however indistinct it might
appear, land was sure to be there. But that distant echo was the only
response produced by Neb's shouts, while a heavy gloom hung over all the
part east of the island.

Meanwhile, the sky was clearing little by little. Towards midnight the
stars shone out, and if the engineer had been there with his companions
he would have remarked that these stars did not belong to the Northern
Hemisphere. The Polar Star was not visible, the constellations were not
those which they had been accustomed to see in the United States; the
Southern Cross glittered brightly in the sky.

The night passed away. Towards five o'clock in the morning of the 25th
of March, the sky began to lighten; the horizon still remained dark,
but with daybreak a thick mist rose from the sea, so that the eye could
scarcely penetrate beyond twenty feet or so from where they stood. At
length the fog gradually unrolled itself in great heavily moving waves.

It was unfortunate, however, that the castaways could distinguish
nothing around them. While the gaze of the reporter and Neb were cast
upon the ocean, the sailor and Herbert looked eagerly for the coast
in the west. But not a speck of land was visible. "Never mind," said
Pencroft, "though I do not see the land, I feel it... it is there...
there... as sure as the fact that we are no longer at Richmond." But the
fog was not long in rising. It was only a fine-weather mist. A hot
sun soon penetrated to the surface of the island. About half-past
six, three-quarters of an hour after sunrise, the mist became more
transparent. It grew thicker above, but cleared away below. Soon the
isle appeared as if it had descended from a cloud, then the sea showed
itself around them, spreading far away towards the east, but bounded on
the west by an abrupt and precipitous coast.

Yes! the land was there. Their safety was at least provisionally
insured. The islet and the coast were separated by a channel about half
a mile in breadth, through which rushed an extremely rapid current.

However, one of the castaways, following the impulse of his heart,
immediately threw himself into the current, without consulting his
companions, without saying a single word. It was Neb. He was in haste
to be on the other side, and to climb towards the north. It had been
impossible to hold him back. Pencroft called him in vain. The reporter
prepared to follow him, but Pencroft stopped him. "Do you want to cross
the channel?" he asked. "Yes," replied Spilett. "All right!" said the
seaman; "wait a bit; Neb is well able to carry help to his master. If we
venture into the channel, we risk being carried into the open sea by
the current, which is running very strong; but, if I'm not wrong, it is
ebbing. See, the tide is going down over the sand. Let us have patience,
and at low water it is possible we may find a fordable passage." "You
are right," replied the reporter, "we will not separate more than we can
help."

During this time Neb was struggling vigorously against the current. He
was crossing in an oblique direction. His black shoulders could be seen
emerging at each stroke. He was carried down very quickly, but he also
made way towards the shore. It took more than half an hour to cross from
the islet to the land, and he reached the shore several hundred feet
from the place which was opposite to the point from which he had
started.

Landing at the foot of a high wall of granite, he shook himself
vigorously; and then, setting off running, soon disappeared behind
a rocky point, which projected to nearly the height of the northern
extremity of the islet.

Neb's companions had watched his daring attempt with painful anxiety,
and when he was out of sight, they fixed their attention on the land
where their hope of safety lay, while eating some shell-fish with which
the sand was strewn. It was a wretched repast, but still it was better
than nothing. The opposite coast formed one vast bay, terminating on the
south by a very sharp point, which was destitute of all vegetation,
and was of a very wild aspect. This point abutted on the shore in a
grotesque outline of high granite rocks. Towards the north, on the
contrary, the bay widened, and a more rounded coast appeared, trending
from the southwest to the northeast, and terminating in a slender cape.
The distance between these two extremities, which made the bow of the
bay, was about eight miles. Half a mile from the shore rose the islet,
which somewhat resembled the carcass of a gigantic whale. Its extreme
breadth was not more than a quarter of a mile.

Opposite the islet, the beach consisted first of sand, covered with
black stones, which were now appearing little by little above the
retreating tide. The second level was separated by a perpendicular
granite cliff, terminated at the top by an unequal edge at a height of
at least 300 feet. It continued thus for a length of three miles, ending
suddenly on the right with a precipice which looked as if cut by the
hand of man. On the left, above the promontory, this irregular and
jagged cliff descended by a long slope of conglomerated rocks till it
mingled with the ground of the southern point. On the upper plateau of
the coast not a tree appeared. It was a flat tableland like that above
Cape Town at the Cape of Good Hope, but of reduced proportions; at least
so it appeared seen from the islet. However, verdure was not wanting to
the right beyond the precipice. They could easily distinguish a confused
mass of great trees, which extended beyond the limits of their view.
This verdure relieved the eye, so long wearied by the continued ranges
of granite. Lastly, beyond and above the plateau, in a northwesterly
direction and at a distance of at least seven miles, glittered a white
summit which reflected the sun's rays. It was that of a lofty mountain,
capped with snow.

The question could not at present be decided whether this land formed
an island, or whether it belonged to a continent. But on beholding
the convulsed masses heaped up on the left, no geologist would have
hesitated to give them a volcanic origin, for they were unquestionably
the work of subterranean convulsions.

Gideon Spilett, Pencroft, and Herbert attentively examined this land, on
which they might perhaps have to live many long years; on which indeed
they might even die, should it be out of the usual track of vessels, as
was likely to be the case.

"Well," asked Herbert, "what do you say, Pencroft?"

"There is some good and some bad, as in everything," replied the sailor.
"We shall see. But now the ebb is evidently making. In three hours we
will attempt the passage, and once on the other side, we will try to get
out of this scrape, and I hope may find the captain." Pencroft was not
wrong in his anticipations. Three hours later at low tide, the greater
part of the sand forming the bed of the channel was uncovered. Between
the islet and the coast there only remained a narrow channel which would
no doubt be easy to cross.

About ten o'clock, Gideon Spilett and his companions stripped themselves
of their clothes, which they placed in bundles on their heads, and
then ventured into the water, which was not more than five feet deep.
Herbert, for whom it was too deep, swam like a fish, and got through
capitally. All three arrived without difficulty on the opposite shore.
Quickly drying themselves in the sun, they put on their clothes, which
they had preserved from contact with the water, and sat down to take
counsel together what to do next.

 

 

Chapter 4

All at once the reporter sprang up, and telling the sailor that he would
rejoin them at that same place, he climbed the cliff in the direction
which the Negro Neb had taken a few hours before. Anxiety hastened
his steps, for he longed to obtain news of his friend, and he soon
disappeared round an angle of the cliff. Herbert wished to accompany
him.

"Stop here, my boy," said the sailor; "we have to prepare an encampment,
and to try and find rather better grub than these shell-fish. Our
friends will want something when they come back. There is work for
everybody."

"I am ready," replied Herbert.

"All right," said the sailor; "that will do. We must set about it
regularly. We are tired, cold, and hungry; therefore we must have
shelter, fire, and food. There is wood in the forest, and eggs in nests;
we have only to find a house."

"Very well," returned Herbert, "I will look for a cave among the rocks,
and I shall be sure to discover some hole into which we can creep."

"All right," said Pencroft; "go on, my boy."

They both walked to the foot of the enormous wall over the beach, far
from which the tide had now retreated; but instead of going towards the
north, they went southward. Pencroft had remarked, several hundred feet
from the place at which they landed, a narrow cutting, out of which
he thought a river or stream might issue. Now, on the one hand it was
important to settle themselves in the neighborhood of a good stream
of water, and on the other it was possible that the current had thrown
Cyrus Harding on the shore there.

The cliff, as has been said, rose to a height of three hundred feet, but
the mass was unbroken throughout, and even at its base, scarcely washed
by the sea, it did not offer the smallest fissure which would serve as
a dwelling. It was a perpendicular wall of very hard granite, which even
the waves had not worn away. Towards the summit fluttered myriads of
sea-fowl, and especially those of the web-footed species with long,
flat, pointed beaks--a clamorous tribe, bold in the presence of man,
who probably for the first time thus invaded their domains. Pencroft
recognized the skua and other gulls among them, the voracious little
sea-mew, which in great numbers nestled in the crevices of the granite.
A shot fired among this swarm would have killed a great number, but to
fire a shot a gun was needed, and neither Pencroft nor Herbert had one;
besides this, gulls and sea-mews are scarcely eatable, and even their
eggs have a detestable taste. However, Herbert, who had gone forward
a little more to the left, soon came upon rocks covered with sea-weed,
which, some hours later, would be hidden by the high tide. On these
rocks, in the midst of slippery wrack, abounded bivalve shell-fish, not
to be despised by starving people. Herbert called Pencroft, who ran up
hastily.

"Here are mussels!" cried the sailor; "these will do instead of eggs!"

"They are not mussels," replied Herbert, who was attentively examining
the molluscs attached to the rocks; "they are lithodomes."

"Are they good to eat?" asked Pencroft.

"Perfectly so."

"Then let us eat some lithodomes."

The sailor could rely upon Herbert; the young boy was well up in natural
history, and always had had quite a passion for the science. His father
had encouraged him in it, by letting him attend the lectures of the best
professors in Boston, who were very fond of the intelligent, industrious
lad. And his turn for natural history was, more than once in the course
of time, of great use, and he was not mistaken in this instance. These
lithodomes were oblong shells, suspended in clusters and adhering
very tightly to the rocks. They belong to that species of molluscous
perforators which excavate holes in the hardest stone; their shell is
rounded at both ends, a feature which is not remarked in the common
mussel.

Pencroft and Herbert made a good meal of the lithodomes, which were
then half opened to the sun. They ate them as oysters, and as they had
a strong peppery taste, they were palatable without condiments of any
sort.

Their hunger was thus appeased for the time, but not their thirst, which
increased after eating these naturally-spiced molluscs. They had then to
find fresh water, and it was not likely that it would be wanting in such
a capriciously uneven region. Pencroft and Herbert, after having taken
the precaution of collecting an ample supply of lithodomes, with which
they filled their pockets and handkerchiefs, regained the foot of the
cliff.

Two hundred paces farther they arrived at the cutting, through which, as
Pencroft had guessed, ran a stream of water, whether fresh or not was to
be ascertained. At this place the wall appeared to have been separated
by some violent subterranean force. At its base was hollowed out a
little creek, the farthest part of which formed a tolerably sharp angle.
The watercourse at that part measured one hundred feet in breadth, and
its two banks on each side were scarcely twenty feet high. The river
became strong almost directly between the two walls of granite, which
began to sink above the mouth; it then suddenly turned and disappeared
beneath a wood of stunted trees half a mile off.

"Here is the water, and yonder is the wood we require!" said Pencroft.
"Well, Herbert, now we only want the house."

The water of the river was limpid. The sailor ascertained that at this
time--that is to say, at low tide, when the rising floods did not reach
it--it was sweet. This important point established, Herbert looked for
some cavity which would serve them as a retreat, but in vain; everywhere
the wall appeared smooth, plain, and perpendicular.

However, at the mouth of the watercourse and above the reach of the high
tide, the convulsions of nature had formed, not a grotto, but a pile
of enormous rocks, such as are often met with in granite countries and
which bear the name of "Chimneys."

Pencroft and Herbert penetrated quite far in among the rocks, by sandy
passages in which light was not wanting, for it entered through the
openings which were left between the blocks, of which some were only
sustained by a miracle of equilibrium; but with the light came also
air--a regular corridor-gale--and with the wind the sharp cold from the
exterior. However, the sailor thought that by stopping-up some of
the openings with a mixture of stones and sand, the Chimneys could be
rendered habitable. Their geometrical plan represented the typographical
sign "&," which signifies "et cetera" abridged, but by isolating the
upper mouth of the sign, through which the south and west winds blew so
strongly, they could succeed in making the lower part of use.

"Here's our work," said Pencroft, "and if we ever see Captain Harding
again, he will know how to make something of this labyrinth."

"We shall see him again, Pencroft," cried Herbert, "and when he returns
he must find a tolerable dwelling here. It will be so, if we can make a
fireplace in the left passage and keep an opening for the smoke."

"So we can, my boy," replied the sailor, "and these Chimneys will serve
our turn. Let us set to work, but first come and get a store of fuel. I
think some branches will be very useful in stopping up these openings,
through which the wind shrieks like so many fiends."

Herbert and Pencroft left the Chimneys, and, turning the angle, they
began to climb the left bank of the river. The current here was quite
rapid, and drifted down some dead wood. The rising tide--and it could
already be perceived--must drive it back with force to a considerable
distance. The sailor then thought that they could utilize this ebb and
flow for the transport of heavy objects.

After having walked for a quarter of an hour, the sailor and the boy
arrived at the angle which the river made in turning towards the left.
From this point its course was pursued through a forest of magnificent
trees. These trees still retained their verdure, notwithstanding the
advanced season, for they belonged to the family of "coniferae," which
is spread over all the regions of the globe, from northern climates to
the tropics. The young naturalist recognized especially the "deedara,"
which are very numerous in the Himalayan zone, and which spread around
them a most agreeable odor. Between these beautiful trees sprang up
clusters of firs, whose opaque open parasol boughs spread wide around.
Among the long grass, Pencroft felt that his feet were crushing dry
branches which crackled like fireworks.

"Well, my boy," said he to Herbert, "if I don't know the name of these
trees, at any rate I reckon that we may call them 'burning wood,' and
just now that's the chief thing we want."

"Let us get a supply," replied Herbert, who immediately set to work.

The collection was easily made. It was not even necessary to lop the
trees, for enormous quantities of dead wood were lying at their feet;
but if fuel was not wanting, the means of transporting it was not yet
found. The wood, being very dry, would burn rapidly; it was therefore
necessary to carry to the Chimneys a considerable quantity, and the
loads of two men would not be sufficient. Herbert remarked this.

"Well, my boy," replied the sailor, "there must be some way of carrying
this wood; there is always a way of doing everything. If we had a cart
or a boat, it would be easy enough."

"But we have the river," said Herbert.

"Right," replied Pencroft; "the river will be to us like a road which
carries of itself, and rafts have not been invented for nothing."

"Only," observed Herbert, "at this moment our road is going the wrong
way, for the tide is rising!"

"We shall be all right if we wait till it ebbs," replied the sailor,
"and then we will trust it to carry our fuel to the Chimneys. Let us get
the raft ready."

The sailor, followed by Herbert, directed his steps towards the river.
They both carried, each in proportion to his strength, a load of wood
bound in fagots. They found on the bank also a great quantity of dead
branches in the midst of grass, among which the foot of man had probably
never before trod. Pencroft began directly to make his raft. In a kind
of little bay, created by a point of the shore which broke the current,
the sailor and the lad placed some good-sized pieces of wood, which
they had fastened together with dry creepers. A raft was thus formed, on
which they stacked all they had collected, sufficient, indeed, to have
loaded at least twenty men. In an hour the work was finished, and the
raft moored to the bank, awaited the turning of the tide.

There were still several hours to be occupied, and with one consent
Pencroft and Herbert resolved to gain the upper plateau, so as to have a
more extended view of the surrounding country.

Exactly two hundred feet behind the angle formed by the river, the wall,
terminated by a fall of rocks, died away in a gentle slope to the edge
of the forest. It was a natural staircase. Herbert and the sailor began
their ascent; thanks to the vigor of their muscles they reached the
summit in a few minutes; and proceeded to the point above the mouth of
the river.

On attaining it, their first look was cast upon the ocean which not long
before they had traversed in such a terrible condition. They observed,
with emotion, all that part to the north of the coast on which the
catastrophe had taken place. It was there that Cyrus Harding had
disappeared. They looked to see if some portion of their balloon, to
which a man might possibly cling, yet existed. Nothing! The sea was but
one vast watery desert. As to the coast, it was solitary also. Neither
the reporter nor Neb could be anywhere seen. But it was possible that at
this time they were both too far away to be perceived.

"Something tells me," cried Herbert, "that a man as energetic as Captain
Harding would not let himself be drowned like other people. He must have
reached some point of the shore; don't you think so, Pencroft?"

The sailor shook his head sadly. He little expected ever to see Cyrus
Harding again; but wishing to leave some hope to Herbert: "Doubtless,
doubtless," said he; "our engineer is a man who would get out of a
scrape to which any one else would yield."

In the meantime he examined the coast with great attention. Stretched
out below them was the sandy shore, bounded on the right of the river's
mouth by lines of breakers. The rocks which were visible appeared like
amphibious monsters reposing in the surf. Beyond the reef, the sea
sparkled beneath the sun's rays. To the south a sharp point closed the
horizon, and it could not be seen if the land was prolonged in that
direction, or if it ran southeast and southwest, which would have made
this coast a very long peninsula. At the northern extremity of the bay
the outline of the shore was continued to a great distance in a wider
curve. There the shore was low, flat, without cliffs, and with great
banks of sand, which the tide left uncovered. Pencroft and Herbert then
returned towards the west. Their attention was first arrested by the
snow-topped mountain which rose at a distance of six or seven miles.
From its first declivities to within two miles of the coast were spread
vast masses of wood, relieved by large green patches, caused by the
presence of evergreen trees. Then, from the edge of this forest to the
shore extended a plain, scattered irregularly with groups of trees. Here
and there on the left sparkled through glades the waters of the little
river; they could trace its winding course back towards the spurs of the
mountain, among which it seemed to spring. At the point where the sailor
had left his raft of wood, it began to run between the two high granite
walls; but if on the left bank the wall remained clear and abrupt, on
the right bank, on the contrary, it sank gradually, the massive sides
changed to isolated rocks, the rocks to stones, the stones to shingle
running to the extremity of the point.

"Are we on an island?" murmured the sailor.

"At any rate, it seems to be big enough," replied the lad.

"An island, ever so big, is an island all the same!" said Pencroft.

But this important question could not yet be answered. A more perfect
survey had to be made to settle the point. As to the land itself, island
or continent, it appeared fertile, agreeable in its aspect, and varied
in its productions.

"This is satisfactory," observed Pencroft; "and in our misfortune, we
must thank Providence for it."

"God be praised!" responded Herbert, whose pious heart was full of
gratitude to the Author of all things.

Pencroft and Herbert examined for some time the country on which
they had been cast; but it was difficult to guess after so hasty an
inspection what the future had in store for them.

They then returned, following the southern crest of the granite
platform, bordered by a long fringe of jagged rocks, of the most
whimsical shapes. Some hundreds of birds lived there nestled in the
holes of the stone; Herbert, jumping over the rocks, startled a whole
flock of these winged creatures.

"Oh!" cried he, "those are not gulls nor sea-mews!"

"What are they then?" asked Pencroft.

"Upon my word, one would say they were pigeons!"

"Just so, but these are wild or rock pigeons. I recognize them by
the double band of black on the wing, by the white tail, and by their
slate-colored plumage. But if the rock-pigeon is good to eat, its eggs
must be excellent, and we will soon see how many they may have left in
their nests!"

"We will not give them time to hatch, unless it is in the shape of an
omelet!" replied Pencroft merrily.

"But what will you make your omelet in?" asked Herbert; "in your hat?"

"Well!" replied the sailor, "I am not quite conjuror enough for that;
we must come down to eggs in the shell, my boy, and I will undertake to
despatch the hardest!"

Pencroft and Herbert attentively examined the cavities in the granite,
and they really found eggs in some of the hollows. A few dozen being
collected, were packed in the sailor's handkerchief, and as the time
when the tide would be full was approaching, Pencroft and Herbert began
to redescend towards the watercourse. When they arrived there, it was
an hour after midday. The tide had already turned. They must now avail
themselves of the ebb to take the wood to the mouth. Pencroft did not
intend to let the raft go away in the current without guidance, neither
did he mean to embark on it himself to steer it. But a sailor is never
at a loss when there is a question of cables or ropes, and Pencroft
rapidly twisted a cord, a few fathoms long, made of dry creepers. This
vegetable cable was fastened to the after-part of the raft, and the
sailor held it in his hand while Herbert, pushing off the raft with
a long pole, kept it in the current. This succeeded capitally. The
enormous load of wood drifted down the current. The bank was very
equal; there was no fear that the raft would run aground, and before
two o'clock they arrived at the river's mouth, a few paces from the
Chimneys.

 

 

Chapter 5

Pencroft's first care, after unloading the raft, was to render the cave
habitable by stopping up all the holes which made it draughty. Sand,
stones, twisted branches, wet clay, closed up the galleries open to the
south winds. One narrow and winding opening at the side was kept, to
lead out the smoke and to make the fire draw. The cave was thus divided
into three or four rooms, if such dark dens with which a donkey would
scarcely have been contented deserved the name. But they were dry, and
there was space to stand upright, at least in the principal room, which
occupied the center. The floor was covered with fine sand, and taking
all in all they were well pleased with it for want of a better.

"Perhaps," said Herbert, while he and Pencroft were working, "our
companions have found a superior place to ours."

"Very likely," replied the seaman; "but, as we don't know, we must work
all the same. Better to have two strings to one's bow than no string at
all!"

"Oh!" exclaimed Herbert, "how jolly it will be if they were to find
Captain Harding and were to bring him back with them!"

"Yes, indeed!" said Pencroft, "that was a man of the right sort."

"Was!" exclaimed Herbert, "do you despair of ever seeing him again?"

"God forbid!" replied the sailor. Their work was soon done, and Pencroft
declared himself very well satisfied.

"Now," said he, "our friends can come back when they like. They will
find a good enough shelter."

They now had only to make a fireplace and to prepare the supper--an easy
task. Large flat stones were placed on the ground at the opening of the
narrow passage which had been kept. This, if the smoke did not take
the heat out with it, would be enough to maintain an equal temperature
inside. Their wood was stowed away in one of the rooms, and the sailor
laid in the fireplace some logs and brushwood. The seaman was busy with
this, when Herbert asked him if he had any matches.

"Certainly," replied Pencroft, "and I may say happily, for without
matches or tinder we should be in a fix."

"Still we might get fire as the savages do," replied Herbert, "by
rubbing two bits of dry stick one against the other."

"All right; try, my boy, and let's see if you can do anything besides
exercising your arms."

"Well, it's a very simple proceeding, and much used in the islands of
the Pacific."

"I don't deny it," replied Pencroft, "but the savages must know how to
do it or employ a peculiar wood, for more than once I have tried to
get fire in that way, but I could never manage it. I must say I prefer
matches. By the bye, where are my matches?"

Pencroft searched in his waistcoat for the box, which was always there,
for he was a confirmed smoker. He could not find it; he rummaged the
pockets of his trousers, but, to his horror, he could nowhere discover
the box.

"Here's a go!" said he, looking at Herbert. "The box must have
fallen out of my pocket and got lost! Surely, Herbert, you must have
something--a tinder-box--anything that can possibly make fire!"

"No, I haven't, Pencroft."

The sailor rushed out, followed by the boy. On the sand, among the
rocks, near the river's bank, they both searched carefully, but in vain.
The box was of copper, and therefore would have been easily seen.

"Pencroft," asked Herbert, "didn't you throw it out of the car?"

"I knew better than that," replied the sailor; "but such a small article
could easily disappear in the tumbling about we have gone through. I
would rather even have lost my pipe! Confound the box! Where can it be?"

"Look here, the tide is going down," said Herbert; "let's run to the
place where we landed."

It was scarcely probable that they would find the box, which the waves
had rolled about among the pebbles, at high tide, but it was as well
to try. Herbert and Pencroft walked rapidly to the point where they had
landed the day before, about two hundred feet from the cave. They hunted
there, among the shingle, in the clefts of the rocks, but found nothing.
If the box had fallen at this place it must have been swept away by the
waves. As the sea went down, they searched every little crevice with
no result. It was a grave loss in their circumstances, and for the
time irreparable. Pencroft could not hide his vexation; he looked very
anxious, but said not a word. Herbert tried to console him by observing,
that if they had found the matches, they would, very likely, have been
wetted by the sea and useless.

"No, my boy," replied the sailor; "they were in a copper box which shut
very tightly; and now what are we to do?"

"We shall certainly find some way of making a fire," said Herbert.
"Captain Harding or Mr. Spilett will not be without them."

"Yes," replied Pencroft; "but in the meantime we are without fire, and
our companions will find but a sorry repast on their return."

"But," said Herbert quickly, "do you think it possible that they have no
tinder or matches?"

"I doubt it," replied the sailor, shaking his head, "for neither Neb nor
Captain Harding smoke, and I believe that Mr. Spilett would rather keep
his note-book than his match-box."

Herbert did not reply. The loss of the box was certainly to be
regretted, but the boy was still sure of procuring fire in some way or
other. Pencroft, more experienced, did not think so, although he was not
a man to trouble himself about a small or great grievance. At any rate,
there was only one thing to be done--to await the return of Neb and the
reporter; but they must give up the feast of hard eggs which they had
meant to prepare, and a meal of raw flesh was not an agreeable prospect
either for themselves or for the others.

Before returning to the cave, the sailor and Herbert, in the event of
fire being positively unattainable, collected some more shell-fish, and
then silently retraced their steps to their dwelling.

Pencroft, his eyes fixed on the ground, still looked for his box. He
even climbed up the left bank of the river from its mouth to the angle
where the raft had been moored. He returned to the plateau, went over it
in every direction, searched among the high grass on the border of the
forest, all in vain.

It was five in the evening when he and Herbert re-entered the cave.
It is useless to say that the darkest corners of the passages were
ransacked before they were obliged to give it up in despair. Towards
six o'clock, when the sun was disappearing behind the high lands of the
west, Herbert, who was walking up and down on the strand, signalized the
return of Neb and Spilett.

They were returning alone!... The boy's heart sank; the sailor had not
been deceived in his forebodings; the engineer, Cyrus Harding, had not
been found!

The reporter, on his arrival, sat down on a rock, without saying
anything. Exhausted with fatigue, dying of hunger, he had not strength
to utter a word.

As to Neb, his red eyes showed how he had cried, and the tears which he
could not restrain told too clearly that he had lost all hope.

The reporter recounted all that they had done in their attempt to
recover Cyrus Harding. He and Neb had surveyed the coast for a distance
of eight miles and consequently much beyond the place where the balloon
had fallen the last time but one, a fall which was followed by the
disappearance of the engineer and the dog Top. The shore was solitary;
not a vestige of a mark. Not even a pebble recently displaced; not a
trace on the sand; not a human footstep on all that part of the beach.
It was clear that that portion of the shore had never been visited by
a human being. The sea was as deserted as the land, and it was there,
a few hundred feet from the coast, that the engineer must have found a
tomb.

As Spilett ended his account, Neb jumped up, exclaiming in a voice which
showed how hope struggled within him, "No! he is not dead! he can't be
dead! It might happen to any one else, but never to him! He could get
out of anything!" Then his strength forsaking him, "Oh! I can do no
more!" he murmured.

"Neb," said Herbert, running to him, "we will find him! God will give
him back to us! But in the meantime you are hungry, and you must eat
something."

So saying, he offered the poor Negro a few handfuls of shell-fish, which
was indeed wretched and insufficient food. Neb had not eaten anything
for several hours, but he refused them. He could not, would not live
without his master.

As to Gideon Spilett, he devoured the shell-fish, then he laid himself
down on the sand, at the foot of a rock. He was very weak, but calm.
Herbert went up to him, and taking his hand, "Sir," said he, "we
have found a shelter which will be better than lying here. Night is
advancing. Come and rest! To-morrow we will search farther."

The reporter got up, and guided by the boy went towards the cave. On
the way, Pencroft asked him in the most natural tone, if by chance he
happened to have a match or two.

The reporter stopped, felt in his pockets, but finding nothing said, "I
had some, but I must have thrown them away."

The seaman then put the same question to Neb and received the same
answer.

"Confound it!" exclaimed the sailor.

The reporter heard him and seizing his arm, "Have you no matches?" he
asked.

"Not one, and no fire in consequence."

"Ah!" cried Neb, "if my master was here, he would know what to do!"

The four castaways remained motionless, looking uneasily at each other.
Herbert was the first to break the silence by saying, "Mr. Spilett,
you are a smoker and always have matches about you; perhaps you haven't
looked well, try again, a single match will be enough!"

The reporter hunted again in the pockets of his trousers, waistcoat, and
great-coat, and at last to Pencroft's great joy, no less to his extreme
surprise, he felt a tiny piece of wood entangled in the lining of his
waistcoat. He seized it with his fingers through the stuff, but he could
not get it out. If this was a match and a single one, it was of great
importance not to rub off the phosphorus.

"Will you let me try?" said the boy, and very cleverly, without breaking
it, he managed to draw out the wretched yet precious little bit of wood
which was of such great importance to these poor men. It was unused.

"Hurrah!" cried Pencroft; "it is as good as having a whole cargo!" He
took the match, and, followed by his companions, entered the cave.

This small piece of wood, of which so many in an inhabited country are
wasted with indifference and are of no value, must here be used with the
greatest caution.

The sailor first made sure that it was quite dry; that done, "We must
have some paper," said he.

"Here," replied Spilett, after some hesitation tearing a leaf out of his
note-book.

Pencroft took the piece of paper which the reporter held out to him, and
knelt down before the fireplace. Some handfuls of grass, leaves, and dry
moss were placed under the fagots and disposed in such a way that the
air could easily circulate, and the dry wood would rapidly catch fire.

Pencroft then twisted the piece of paper into the shape of a cone, as
smokers do in a high wind, and poked it in among the moss. Taking a
small, rough stone, he wiped it carefully, and with a beating heart,
holding his breath, he gently rubbed the match. The first attempt did
not produce any effect. Pencroft had not struck hard enough, fearing to
rub off the phosphorus.

"No, I can't do it," said he, "my hand trembles, the match has missed
fire; I cannot, I will not!" and rising, he told Herbert to take his
place.

Certainly the boy had never in all his life been so nervous. Prometheus
going to steal the fire from heaven could not have been more anxious. He
did not hesitate, however, but struck the match directly.

A little spluttering was heard and a tiny blue flame sprang up, making
a choking smoke. Herbert quickly turned the match so as to augment the
flame, and then slipped it into the paper cone, which in a few seconds
too caught fire, and then the moss.

A minute later the dry wood crackled and a cheerful flame, assisted
by the vigorous blowing of the sailor, sprang up in the midst of the
darkness.

"At last!" cried Pencroft, getting up; "I was never so nervous before in
all my life!"

The flat stones made a capital fireplace. The smoke went quite easily
out at the narrow passage, the chimney drew, and an agreeable warmth was
not long in being felt.

They must now take great care not to let the fire go out, and always to
keep some embers alight. It only needed care and attention, as they had
plenty of wood and could renew their store at any time.

Pencroft's first thought was to use the fire by preparing a more
nourishing supper than a dish of shell-fish. Two dozen eggs were
brought by Herbert. The reporter leaning up in a corner, watched these
preparations without saying anything. A threefold thought weighed on his
mind. Was Cyrus still alive? If he was alive, where was he? If he had
survived from his fall, how was it that he had not found some means of
making known his existence? As to Neb, he was roaming about the shore.
He was like a body without a soul.

Pencroft knew fifty ways of cooking eggs, but this time he had no
choice, and was obliged to content himself with roasting them under
the hot cinders. In a few minutes the cooking was done, and the seaman
invited the reporter to take his share of the supper. Such was the
first repast of the castaways on this unknown coast. The hard eggs
were excellent, and as eggs contain everything indispensable to man's
nourishment, these poor people thought themselves well off, and were
much strengthened by them. Oh! if only one of them had not been missing
at this meal! If the five prisoners who escaped from Richmond had been
all there, under the piled-up rocks, before this clear, crackling fire
on the dry sand, what thanksgiving must they have rendered to Heaven!
But the most ingenious, the most learned, he who was their unquestioned
chief, Cyrus Harding, was, alas! missing, and his body had not even
obtained a burial-place.

Thus passed the 25th of March. Night had come on. Outside could be heard
the howling of the wind and the monotonous sound of the surf breaking
on the shore. The waves rolled the shingle backwards and forwards with a
deafening noise.

The reporter retired into a dark corner after having shortly noted down
the occurrences of the day; the first appearance of this new land, the
loss of their leader, the exploration of the coast, the incident of the
matches, etc.; and then overcome by fatigue, he managed to forget his
sorrows in sleep. Herbert went to sleep directly. As to the sailor, he
passed the night with one eye on the fire, on which he did not
spare fuel. But one of the castaways did not sleep in the cave. The
inconsolable, despairing Neb, notwithstanding all that his companions
could say to induce him to take some rest, wandered all night long on
the shore calling on his master.

 

 

Chapter 6

The inventory of the articles possessed by these castaways from the
clouds, thrown upon a coast which appeared to be uninhabited, was soon
made out. They had nothing, save the clothes which they were wearing at
the time of the catastrophe. We must mention, however, a note-book and
a watch which Gideon Spilett had kept, doubtless by inadvertence, not a
weapon, not a tool, not even a pocket-knife; for while in the car they
had thrown out everything to lighten the balloon. The imaginary heroes
of Daniel Defoe or of Wyss, as well as Selkirk and Raynal shipwrecked
on Juan Fernandez and on the archipelago of the Aucklands, were never in
such absolute destitution. Either they had abundant resources from their
stranded vessels, in grain, cattle, tools, ammunition, or else some
things were thrown up on the coast which supplied them with all the
first necessities of life. But here, not any instrument whatever, not a
utensil. From nothing they must supply themselves with everything.

And yet, if Cyrus Harding had been with them, if the engineer could
have brought his practical science, his inventive mind to bear on their
situation, perhaps all hope would not have been lost. Alas! they must
hope no longer again to see Cyrus Harding. The castaways could expect
nothing but from themselves and from that Providence which never
abandons those whose faith is sincere.

But ought they to establish themselves on this part of the coast,
without trying to know to what continent it belonged, if it was
inhabited, or if they were on the shore of a desert island?

It was an important question, and should be solved with the shortest
possible delay. From its answer they would know what measures to take.
However, according to Pencroft's advice, it appeared best to wait a few
days before commencing an exploration. They must, in fact, prepare some
provisions and procure more strengthening food than eggs and molluscs.
The explorers, before undertaking new fatigues, must first of all
recruit their strength.

The Chimneys offered a retreat sufficient for the present. The fire was
lighted, and it was easy to preserve some embers. There were plenty of
shell-fish and eggs among the rocks and on the beach. It would be easy
to kill a few of the pigeons which were flying by hundreds about the
summit of the plateau, either with sticks or stones. Perhaps the trees
of the neighboring forest would supply them with eatable fruit. Lastly,
the sweet water was there.

It was accordingly settled that for a few days they would remain at the
Chimneys so as to prepare themselves for an expedition, either along
the shore or into the interior of the country. This plan suited Neb
particularly. As obstinate in his ideas as in his presentiments, he
was in no haste to abandon this part of the coast, the scene of the
catastrophe. He did not, he would not believe in the loss of Cyrus
Harding. No, it did not seem to him possible that such a man had ended
in this vulgar fashion, carried away by a wave, drowned in the floods, a
few hundred feet from a shore. As long as the waves had not cast up the
body of the engineer, as long as he, Neb, had not seen with his eyes,
touched with his hands the corpse of his master, he would not believe
in his death! And this idea rooted itself deeper than ever in his
determined heart. An illusion perhaps, but still an illusion to be
respected, and one which the sailor did not wish to destroy. As for him,
he hoped no longer, but there was no use in arguing with Neb. He was
like the dog who will not leave the place where his master is buried,
and his grief was such that most probably he would not survive him.

This same morning, the 26th of March, at daybreak, Neb had set out on
the shore in a northerly direction, and he had returned to the spot
where the sea, no doubt, had closed over the unfortunate Harding.

That day's breakfast was composed solely of pigeon's eggs and
lithodomes. Herbert had found some salt deposited by evaporation in the
hollows of the rocks, and this mineral was very welcome.

The repast ended, Pencroft asked the reporter if he wished to accompany
Herbert and himself to the forest, where they were going to try to
hunt. But on consideration, it was thought necessary that someone should
remain to keep in the fire, and to be at hand in the highly improbable
event of Neb requiring aid. The reporter accordingly remained behind.

"To the chase, Herbert," said the sailor. "We shall find ammunition
on our way, and cut our weapons in the forest." But at the moment of
starting, Herbert observed, that since they had no tinder, it would
perhaps be prudent to replace it by another substance.

"What?" asked Pencroft.

"Burnt linen," replied the boy. "That could in case of need serve for
tinder."

The sailor thought it very sensible advice. Only it had the
inconvenience of necessitating the sacrifice of a piece of handkerchief.
Notwithstanding, the thing was well worth while trying, and a part of
Pencroft's large checked handkerchief was soon reduced to the state of
a half-burnt rag. This inflammable material was placed in the central
chamber at the bottom of a little cavity in the rock, sheltered from all
wind and damp.

It was nine o'clock in the morning. The weather was threatening and the
breeze blew from the southeast. Herbert and Pencroft turned the angle of
the Chimneys, not without having cast a look at the smoke which, just at
that place, curled round a point of rock: they ascended the left bank of
the river.

Arrived at the forest, Pencroft broke from the first tree two stout
branches which he transformed into clubs, the ends of which Herbert
rubbed smooth on a rock. Oh! what would they not have given for a knife!

The two hunters now advanced among the long grass, following the bank.
From the turning which directed its course to the southwest, the river
narrowed gradually and the channel lay between high banks, over
which the trees formed a double arch. Pencroft, lest they should lose
themselves, resolved to follow the course of the stream, which would
always lead them back to the point from which they started. But the bank
was not without some obstacles: here, the flexible branches of the trees
bent level with the current; there, creepers and thorns which they had
to break down with their sticks. Herbert often glided among the
broken stumps with the agility of a young cat, and disappeared in the
underwood. But Pencroft called him back directly, begging him not to
wander away. Meanwhile, the sailor attentively observed the disposition
and nature of the surrounding country. On the left bank, the ground,
which was flat and marshy, rose imperceptibly towards the interior. It
looked there like a network of liquid threads which doubtless reached
the river by some underground drain. Sometimes a stream ran through the
underwood, which they crossed without difficulty. The opposite shore
appeared to be more uneven, and the valley of which the river occupied
the bottom was more clearly visible. The hill, covered with trees
disposed in terraces, intercepted the view. On the right bank walking
would have been difficult, for the declivities fell suddenly, and the
trees bending over the water were only sustained by the strength of
their roots.

It is needless to add that this forest, as well as the coast already
surveyed, was destitute of any sign of human life. Pencroft only saw
traces of quadrupeds, fresh footprints of animals, of which he could not
recognize the species. In all probability, and such was also Herbert's
opinion, some had been left by formidable wild beasts which doubtless
would give them some trouble; but nowhere did they observe the mark of
an axe on the trees, nor the ashes of a fire, nor the impression of a
human foot. On this they might probably congratulate themselves, for on
any land in the middle of the Pacific the presence of man was perhaps
more to be feared than desired. Herbert and Pencroft speaking little,
for the difficulties of the way were great, advanced very slowly, and
after walking for an hour they had scarcely gone more than a mile.
As yet the hunt had not been successful. However, some birds sang
and fluttered in the foliage, and appeared very timid, as if man had
inspired them with an instinctive fear. Among others, Herbert described,
in a marshy part of the forest, a bird with a long pointed beak, closely
resembling the king-fisher, but its plumage was not fine, though of a
metallic brilliancy.

"That must be a jacamar," said Herbert, trying to get nearer.

"This will be a good opportunity to taste jacamar," replied the sailor,
"if that fellow is in a humor to be roasted!"

Just then, a stone cleverly thrown by the boy, struck the creature on
the wing, but the blow did not disable it, and the jacamar ran off and
disappeared in an instant.

"How clumsy I am!" cried Herbert.

"No, no, my boy!" replied the sailor. "The blow was well aimed; many a
one would have missed it altogether! Come, don't be vexed with yourself.
We shall catch it another day!"

As the hunters advanced, the trees were found to be more scattered, many
being magnificent, but none bore eatable fruit. Pencroft searched in
vain for some of those precious palm-trees which are employed in so many
ways in domestic life, and which have been found as far as the fortieth
parallel in the Northern Hemisphere, and to the thirty-fifth only in
the Southern Hemisphere. But this forest was only composed of coniferae,
such as deodaras, already recognized by Herbert, and Douglas pine,
similar to those which grow on the northwest coast of America, and
splendid firs, measuring a hundred and fifty feet in height.

At this moment a flock of birds, of a small size and pretty plumage,
with long glancing tails, dispersed themselves among the branches
strewing their feathers, which covered the ground as with fine down.
Herbert picked up a few of these feathers, and after having examined
them,--

"These are couroucous," said he.

"I should prefer a moor-cock or guinea-fowl," replied Pencroft, "still,
if they are good to eat--"

"They are good to eat, and also their flesh is very delicate," replied
Herbert. "Besides, if I don't mistake, it is easy to approach and kill
them with a stick."

The sailor and the lad, creeping among the grass, arrived at the foot
of a tree, whose lower branches were covered with little birds. The
couroucous were waiting the passage of insects which served for their
nourishment. Their feathery feet could be seen clasping the slender
twigs which supported them.

The hunters then rose, and using their sticks like scythes, they mowed
down whole rows of these couroucous, who never thought of flying away,
and stupidly allowed themselves to be knocked off. A hundred were
already heaped on the ground, before the others made up their minds to
fly.

"Well," said Pencroft, "here is game, which is quite within the reach of
hunters like us. We have only to put out our hands and take it!"

The sailor having strung the couroucous like larks on flexible twigs,
they then continued their exploration. The stream here made a bend
towards the south, but this detour was probably not prolonged for the
river must have its source in the mountain, and be supplied by the
melting of the snow which covered the sides of the central cone.

The particular object of their expedition was, as has been said, to
procure the greatest possible quantity of game for the inhabitants of
the Chimneys. It must be acknowledged that as yet this object had not
been attained. So the sailor actively pursued his researches, though he
exclaimed, when some animal which he had not even time to recognize
fled into the long grass, "If only we had had the dog Top!" But Top had
disappeared at the same time as his master, and had probably perished
with him.

Towards three o'clock new flocks of birds were seen through certain
trees, at whose aromatic berries they were pecking, those of the
juniper-tree among others. Suddenly a loud trumpet call resounded
through the forest. This strange and sonorous cry was produced by a game
bird called grouse in the United States. They soon saw several couples,
whose plumage was rich chestnut-brown mottled with dark brown, and tail
of the same color. Herbert recognized the males by the two wing-like
appendages raised on the neck. Pencroft determined to get hold of at
least one of these gallinaceae, which were as large as a fowl, and whose
flesh is better than that of a pullet. But it was difficult, for they
would not allow themselves to be approached. After several fruitless
attempts, which resulted in nothing but scaring the grouse, the sailor
said to the lad,--

"Decidedly, since we can't kill them on the wing, we must try to take
them with a line."

"Like a fish?" cried Herbert, much surprised at the proposal.

"Like a fish," replied the sailor quite seriously. Pencroft had found
among the grass half a dozen grouse nests, each having three or four
eggs. He took great care not to touch these nests, to which their
proprietors would not fail to return. It was around these that he
meant to stretch his lines, not snares, but real fishing-lines. He took
Herbert to some distance from the nests, and there prepared his singular
apparatus with all the care which a disciple of Izaak Walton would
have used. Herbert watched the work with great interest, though rather
doubting its success. The lines were made of fine creepers, fastened
one to the other, of the length of fifteen or twenty feet. Thick, strong
thorns, the points bent back (which were supplied from a dwarf acacia
bush) were fastened to the ends of the creepers, by way of hooks. Large
red worms, which were crawling on the ground, furnished bait.

This done, Pencroft, passing among the grass and concealing himself
skillfully, placed the end of his lines armed with hooks near the grouse
nests; then he returned, took the other ends and hid with Herbert behind
a large tree. There they both waited patiently; though, it must be
said, that Herbert did not reckon much on the success of the inventive
Pencroft.

A whole half-hour passed, but then, as the sailor had surmised, several
couple of grouse returned to their nests. They walked along, pecking the
ground, and not suspecting in any way the presence of the hunters,
who, besides, had taken care to place themselves to leeward of the
gallinaceae.

The lad felt at this moment highly interested. He held his breath, and
Pencroft, his eyes staring, his mouth open, his lips advanced, as if
about to taste a piece of grouse, scarcely breathed.

Meanwhile, the birds walked about the hooks, without taking any notice
of them. Pencroft then gave little tugs which moved the bait as if the
worms had been still alive.

The sailor undoubtedly felt much greater anxiety than does the
fisherman, for he does not see his prey coming through the water. The
jerks attracted the attention of the gallinaceae, and they attacked the
hooks with their beaks. Three voracious grouse swallowed at the same
moment bait and hook. Suddenly with a smart jerk, Pencroft "struck" his
line, and a flapping of wings showed that the birds were taken.

"Hurrah!" he cried, rushing towards the game, of which he made himself
master in an instant.

Herbert clapped his hands. It was the first time that he had ever seen
birds taken with a line, but the sailor modestly confessed that it was
not his first attempt, and that besides he could not claim the merit of
invention.

"And at any rate," added he, "situated as we are, we must hope to hit
upon many other contrivances."

The grouse were fastened by their claws, and Pencroft, delighted at not
having to appear before their companions with empty hands, and observing
that the day had begun to decline, judged it best to return to their
dwelling.

The direction was indicated by the river, whose course they had only
to follow, and, towards six o'clock, tired enough with their excursion,
Herbert and Pencroft arrived at the Chimneys.

 

 

Chapter 7

Gideon Spilett was standing motionless on the shore, his arms crossed,
gazing over the sea, the horizon of which was lost towards the east in
a thick black cloud which was spreading rapidly towards the zenith.
The wind was already strong, and increased with the decline of day.
The whole sky was of a threatening aspect, and the first symptoms of a
violent storm were clearly visible.

Herbert entered the Chimneys, and Pencroft went towards the reporter.
The latter, deeply absorbed, did not see him approach.

"We are going to have a dirty night, Mr. Spilett!" said the sailor:
"Petrels delight in wind and rain."

The reporter, turning at the moment, saw Pencroft, and his first words
were,--

"At what distance from the coast would you say the car was, when the
waves carried off our companion?"

The sailor had not expected this question. He reflected an instant and
replied,--

"Two cables lengths at the most."

"But what is a cable's length?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"About a hundred and twenty fathoms, or six hundred feet."

"Then," said the reporter, "Cyrus Harding must have disappeared twelve
hundred feet at the most from the shore?"

"About that," replied Pencroft.

"And his dog also?"

"Also."

"What astonishes me," rejoined the reporter, "while admitting that our
companion has perished, is that Top has also met his death, and that
neither the body of the dog nor of his master has been cast on the
shore!"

"It is not astonishing, with such a heavy sea," replied the sailor.
"Besides, it is possible that currents have carried them farther down
the coast."

"Then, it is your opinion that our friend has perished in the waves?"
again asked the reporter.

"That is my opinion."

"My own opinion," said Gideon Spilett, "with due deference to your
experience, Pencroft, is that in the double fact of the absolute
disappearance of Cyrus and Top, living or dead, there is something
unaccountable and unlikely."

"I wish I could think like you, Mr. Spilett," replied Pencroft;
"unhappily, my mind is made up on this point." Having said this, the
sailor returned to the Chimneys. A good fire crackled on the hearth.
Herbert had just thrown on an armful of dry wood, and the flame cast a
bright light into the darkest parts of the passage.

Pencroft immediately began to prepare the dinner. It appeared best to
introduce something solid into the bill of fare, for all needed to get
up their strength. The strings of couroucous were kept for the next day,
but they plucked a couple of grouse, which were soon spitted on a stick,
and roasting before a blazing fire.

At seven in the evening Neb had not returned. The prolonged absence of
the Negro made Pencroft very uneasy. It was to be feared that he had met
with an accident on this unknown land, or that the unhappy fellow had
been driven to some act of despair. But Herbert drew very different
conclusions from this absence. According to him, Neb's delay was caused
by some new circumstances which had induced him to prolong his search.
Also, everything new must be to the advantage of Cyrus Harding. Why had
Neb not returned unless hope still detained him? Perhaps he had found
some mark, a footstep, a trace which had put him in the right path.
Perhaps he was at this moment on a certain track. Perhaps even he was
near his master.

Thus the lad reasoned. Thus he spoke. His companions let him talk. The
reporter alone approved with a gesture. But what Pencroft thought most
probable was, that Neb had pushed his researches on the shore farther
than the day before, and that he had not as yet had time to return.

Herbert, however, agitated by vague presentiments, several times
manifested an intention to go to meet Neb. But Pencroft assured him
that that would be a useless course, that in the darkness and deplorable
weather he could not find any traces of Neb, and that it would be much
better to wait. If Neb had not made his appearance by the next day,
Pencroft would not hesitate to join him in his search.

Gideon Spilett approved of the sailor's opinion that it was best not to
divide, and Herbert was obliged to give up his project; but two large
tears fell from his eyes.

The reporter could not refrain from embracing the generous boy.

Bad weather now set in. A furious gale from the southeast passed over
the coast. The sea roared as it beat over the reef. Heavy rain was
dashed by the storm into particles like dust. Ragged masses of vapor
drove along the beach, on which the tormented shingles sounded as if
poured out in cart-loads, while the sand raised by the wind added as
it were mineral dust to that which was liquid, and rendered the united
attack insupportable. Between the river's mouth and the end of the
cliff, eddies of wind whirled and gusts from this maelstrom lashed the
water which ran through the narrow valley. The smoke from the fireplace
was also driven back through the opening, filling the passages and
rendering them uninhabitable.

Therefore, as the grouse were cooked, Pencroft let the fire die away,
and only preserved a few embers buried under the ashes.

At eight o'clock Neb had not appeared, but there was no doubt that the
frightful weather alone hindered his return, and that he must have
taken refuge in some cave, to await the end of the storm or at least the
return of day. As to going to meet him, or attempting to find him, it
was impossible.

The game constituted the only dish at supper; the meat was excellent,
and Pencroft and Herbert, whose long excursion had rendered them very
hungry, devoured it with infinite satisfaction.

Their meal concluded, each retired to the corner in which he had rested
the preceding night, and Herbert was not long in going to sleep near the
sailor, who had stretched himself beside the fireplace.

Outside, as the night advanced, the tempest also increased in strength,
until it was equal to that which had carried the prisoners from Richmond
to this land in the Pacific. The tempests which are frequent during the
seasons of the equinox, and which are so prolific in catastrophes, are
above all terrible over this immense ocean, which opposes no obstacle to
their fury. No description can give an idea of the terrific violence of
the gale as it beat upon the unprotected coast.

Happily the pile of rocks which formed the Chimneys was solid. It was
composed of enormous blocks of granite, a few of which, insecurely
balanced, seemed to tremble on their foundations, and Pencroft could
feel rapid quiverings under his head as it rested on the rock. But he
repeated to himself, and rightly, that there was nothing to fear, and
that their retreat would not give way. However he heard the noise of
stones torn from the summit of the plateau by the wind, falling down on
to the beach. A few even rolled on to the upper part of the Chimneys,
or flew off in fragments when they were projected perpendicularly. Twice
the sailor rose and intrenched himself at the opening of the passage, so
as to take a look in safety at the outside. But there was nothing to be
feared from these showers, which were not considerable, and he returned
to his couch before the fireplace, where the embers glowed beneath the
ashes.

Notwithstanding the fury of the hurricane, the uproar of the tempest,
the thunder, and the tumult, Herbert slept profoundly. Sleep at last
took possession of Pencroft, whom a seafaring life had habituated to
anything. Gideon Spilett alone was kept awake by anxiety. He reproached
himself with not having accompanied Neb. It was evident that he had not
abandoned all hope. The presentiments which had troubled Herbert did not
cease to agitate him also. His thoughts were concentrated on Neb. Why
had Neb not returned? He tossed about on his sandy couch, scarcely
giving a thought to the struggle of the elements. Now and then, his
eyes, heavy with fatigue, closed for an instant, but some sudden thought
reopened them almost immediately.

Meanwhile the night advanced, and it was perhaps two hours from morning,
when Pencroft, then sound asleep, was vigorously shaken.

"What's the matter?" he cried, rousing himself, and collecting his ideas
with the promptitude usual to seamen.

The reporter was leaning over him, and saying,--

"Listen, Pencroft, listen!"

The sailor strained his ears, but could hear no noise beyond those
caused by the storm.

"It is the wind," said he.

"No," replied Gideon Spilett, listening again, "I thought I heard--"

"What?"

"The barking of a dog!"

"A dog!" cried Pencroft, springing up.

"Yes--barking--"

"It's not possible!" replied the sailor. "And besides, how, in the
roaring of the storm--"

"Stop--listen--" said the reporter.

Pencroft listened more attentively, and really thought he heard, during
a lull, distant barking.

"Well!" said the reporter, pressing the sailor's hand.

"Yes--yes!" replied Pencroft.

"It is Top! It is Top!" cried Herbert, who had just awoke; and all three
rushed towards the opening of the Chimneys. They had great difficulty in
getting out. The wind drove them back. But at last they succeeded, and
could only remain standing by leaning against the rocks. They looked
about, but could not speak. The darkness was intense. The sea, the sky,
the land were all mingled in one black mass. Not a speck of light was
visible.

The reporter and his companions remained thus for a few minutes,
overwhelmed by the wind, drenched by the rain, blinded by the sand.

Then, in a pause of the tumult, they again heard the barking, which they
found must be at some distance.

It could only be Top! But was he alone or accompanied? He was most
probably alone, for, if Neb had been with him, he would have made
his way more directly towards the Chimneys. The sailor squeezed the
reporter's hand, for he could not make himself heard, in a way which
signified "Wait!" then he reentered the passage.

An instant after he issued with a lighted fagot, which he threw into the
darkness, whistling shrilly.

It appeared as if this signal had been waited for; the barking
immediately came nearer, and soon a dog bounded into the passage.
Pencroft, Herbert, and Spilett entered after him.

An armful of dry wood was thrown on the embers. The passage was lighted
up with a bright flame.

"It is Top!" cried Herbert.

It was indeed Top, a magnificent Anglo-Norman, who derived from these
two races crossed the swiftness of foot and the acuteness of smell which
are the preeminent qualities of coursing dogs. It was the dog of the
engineer, Cyrus Harding. But he was alone! Neither Neb nor his master
accompanied him!

How was it that his instinct had guided him straight to the Chimneys,
which he did not know? It appeared inexplicable, above all, in the
midst of this black night and in such a tempest! But what was still more
inexplicable was, that Top was neither tired, nor exhausted, nor even
soiled with mud or sand!--Herbert had drawn him towards him, and was
patting his head, the dog rubbing his neck against the lad's hands.

"If the dog is found, the master will be found also!" said the reporter.

"God grant it!" responded Herbert. "Let us set off! Top will guide us!"

Pencroft did not make any objection. He felt that Top's arrival
contradicted his conjectures. "Come along then!" said he.

Pencroft carefully covered the embers on the hearth. He placed a few
pieces of wood among them, so as to keep in the fire until their return.
Then, preceded by the dog, who seemed to invite them by short barks to
come with him, and followed by the reporter and the boy, he dashed out,
after having put up in his handkerchief the remains of the supper.

The storm was then in all its violence, and perhaps at its height. Not a
single ray of light from the moon pierced through the clouds. To follow
a straight course was difficult. It was best to rely on Top's instinct.
They did so. The reporter and Herbert walked behind the dog, and the
sailor brought up the rear. It was impossible to exchange a word. The
rain was not very heavy, but the wind was terrific.

However, one circumstance favored the seaman and his two companions. The
wind being southeast, consequently blew on their backs. The clouds of
sand, which otherwise would have been insupportable, from being received
behind, did not in consequence impede their progress. In short, they
sometimes went faster than they liked, and had some difficulty in
keeping their feet; but hope gave them strength, for it was not at
random that they made their way along the shore. They had no doubt that
Neb had found his master, and that he had sent them the faithful dog.
But was the engineer living, or had Neb only sent for his companions
that they might render the last duties to the corpse of the unfortunate
Harding?

After having passed the precipice, Herbert, the reporter, and Pencroft
prudently stepped aside to stop and take breath. The turn of the rocks
sheltered them from the wind, and they could breathe after this walk or
rather run of a quarter of an hour.

They could now hear and reply to each other, and the lad having
pronounced the name of Cyrus Harding, Top gave a few short barks, as
much as to say that his master was saved.

"Saved, isn't he?" repeated Herbert; "saved, Top?"

And the dog barked in reply.

They once more set out. The tide began to rise, and urged by the wind it
threatened to be unusually high, as it was a spring tide. Great billows
thundered against the reef with such violence that they probably passed
entirely over the islet, then quite invisible. The mole no longer
protected the coast, which was directly exposed to the attacks of the
open sea.

As soon as the sailor and his companions left the precipice, the wind
struck them again with renewed fury. Though bent under the gale they
walked very quickly, following Top, who did not hesitate as to what
direction to take.

They ascended towards the north, having on their left an interminable
extent of billows, which broke with a deafening noise, and on their
right a dark country, the aspect of which it was impossible to guess.
But they felt that it was comparatively flat, for the wind passed
completely over them, without being driven back as it was when it came
in contact with the cliff.

At four o'clock in the morning, they reckoned that they had cleared
about five miles. The clouds were slightly raised, and the wind, though
less damp, was very sharp and cold. Insufficiently protected by their
clothing, Pencroft, Herbert and Spilett suffered cruelly, but not
a complaint escaped their lips. They were determined to follow Top,
wherever the intelligent animal wished to lead them.

Towards five o'clock day began to break. At the zenith, where the fog
was less thick, gray shades bordered the clouds; under an opaque belt, a
luminous line clearly traced the horizon. The crests of the billows were
tipped with a wild light, and the foam regained its whiteness. At the
same time on the left the hilly parts of the coast could be seen, though
very indistinctly.

At six o'clock day had broken. The clouds rapidly lifted. The seaman and
his companions were then about six miles from the Chimneys. They were
following a very flat shore bounded by a reef of rocks, whose heads
scarcely emerged from the sea, for they were in deep water. On the left,
the country appeared to be one vast extent of sandy downs, bristling
with thistles. There was no cliff, and the shore offered no resistance
to the ocean but a chain of irregular hillocks. Here and there grew two
or three trees, inclined towards the west, their branches projecting in
that direction. Quite behind, in the southwest, extended the border of
the forest.

At this moment, Top became very excited. He ran forward, then returned,
and seemed to entreat them to hasten their steps. The dog then left the
beach, and guided by his wonderful instinct, without showing the least
hesitation, went straight in among the downs. They followed him. The
country appeared an absolute desert. Not a living creature was to be
seen.

The downs, the extent of which was large, were composed of hillocks
and even of hills, very irregularly distributed. They resembled a
Switzerland modeled in sand, and only an amazing instinct could have
possibly recognized the way.

Five minutes after having left the beach, the reporter and his two
companions arrived at a sort of excavation, hollowed out at the back of
a high mound. There Top stopped, and gave a loud, clear bark. Spilett,
Herbert, and Pencroft dashed into the cave.

Neb was there, kneeling beside a body extended on a bed of grass.

The body was that of the engineer, Cyrus Harding.

 

 

Chapter 8

Neb did not move. Pencroft only uttered one word.

"Living?" he cried.

Neb did not reply. Spilett and the sailor turned pale. Herbert clasped
his hands, and remained motionless. The poor Negro, absorbed in his
grief, evidently had neither seen his companions nor heard the sailor
speak.

The reporter knelt down beside the motionless body, and placed his ear
to the engineer's chest, having first torn open his clothes.

A minute--an age!--passed, during which he endeavored to catch the
faintest throb of the heart.

Neb had raised himself a little and gazed without seeing. Despair had
completely changed his countenance. He could scarcely be recognized,
exhausted with fatigue, broken with grief. He believed his master was
dead.

Gideon Spilett at last rose, after a long and attentive examination.

"He lives!" said he.

Pencroft knelt in his turn beside the engineer, he also heard a
throbbing, and even felt a slight breath on his cheek.

Herbert at a word from the reporter ran out to look for water. He found,
a hundred feet off, a limpid stream, which seemed to have been greatly
increased by the rains, and which filtered through the sand; but nothing
in which to put the water, not even a shell among the downs. The lad was
obliged to content himself with dipping his handkerchief in the stream,
and with it hastened back to the grotto.

Happily the wet handkerchief was enough for Gideon Spilett, who only
wished to wet the engineer's lips. The cold water produced an almost
immediate effect. His chest heaved and he seemed to try to speak.

"We will save him!" exclaimed the reporter.

At these words hope revived in Neb's heart. He undressed his master
to see if he was wounded, but not so much as a bruise was to be found,
either on the head, body, or limbs, which was surprising, as he must
have been dashed against the rocks; even the hands were uninjured, and
it was difficult to explain how the engineer showed no traces of the
efforts which he must have made to get out of reach of the breakers.

But the explanation would come later. When Cyrus was able to speak he
would say what had happened. For the present the question was, how to
recall him to life, and it appeared likely that rubbing would bring this
about; so they set to work with the sailor's jersey.

The engineer, revived by this rude shampooing, moved his arm slightly
and began to breathe more regularly. He was sinking from exhaustion,
and certainly, had not the reporter and his companions arrived, it would
have been all over with Cyrus Harding.

"You thought your master was dead, didn't you?" said the seaman to Neb.

"Yes! quite dead!" replied Neb, "and if Top had not found you, and
brought you here, I should have buried my master, and then have lain
down on his grave to die!"

It had indeed been a narrow escape for Cyrus Harding!

Neb then recounted what had happened. The day before, after having
left the Chimneys at daybreak, he had ascended the coast in a northerly
direction, and had reached that part of the shore which he had already
visited.

There, without any hope he acknowledged, Neb had searched the beach,
among the rocks, on the sand, for the smallest trace to guide him. He
examined particularly that part of the beach which was not covered by
the high tide, for near the sea the water would have obliterated all
marks. Neb did not expect to find his master living. It was for a corpse
that he searched, a corpse which he wished to bury with his own hands!

He sought long in vain. This desert coast appeared never to have been
visited by a human creature. The shells, those which the sea had not
reached, and which might be met with by millions above high-water mark,
were untouched. Not a shell was broken.

Neb then resolved to walk along the beach for some miles. It was
possible that the waves had carried the body to quite a distant point.
When a corpse floats a little distance from a low shore, it rarely
happens that the tide does not throw it up, sooner or later. This Neb
knew, and he wished to see his master again for the last time.

"I went along the coast for another two miles, carefully examining
the beach, both at high and low water, and I had despaired of finding
anything, when yesterday, above five in the evening, I saw footprints on
the sand."

"Footprints?" exclaimed Pencroft.

"Yes!" replied Neb.

"Did these footprints begin at the water's edge?" asked the reporter.

"No," replied Neb, "only above high-water mark, for the others must have
been washed out by the tide."

"Go on, Neb," said Spilett.

"I went half crazy when I saw these footprints. They were very clear
and went towards the downs. I followed them for a quarter of a mile,
running, but taking care not to destroy them. Five minutes after, as
it was getting dark, I heard the barking of a dog. It was Top, and Top
brought me here, to my master!"

Neb ended his account by saying what had been his grief at finding the
inanimate body, in which he vainly sought for the least sign of life.
Now that he had found him dead he longed for him to be alive. All his
efforts were useless! Nothing remained to be done but to render the last
duties to the one whom he had loved so much! Neb then thought of his
companions. They, no doubt, would wish to see the unfortunate man again.
Top was there. Could he not rely on the sagacity of the faithful animal?
Neb several times pronounced the name of the reporter, the one among his
companions whom Top knew best.

Then he pointed to the south, and the dog bounded off in the direction
indicated to him.

We have heard how, guided by an instinct which might be looked upon
almost as supernatural, Top had found them.

Neb's companions had listened with great attention to this account.

It was unaccountable to them how Cyrus Harding, after the efforts which
he must have made to escape from the waves by crossing the rocks, had
not received even a scratch. And what could not be explained either was
how the engineer had managed to get to this cave in the downs, more than
a mile from the shore.

"So, Neb," said the reporter, "it was not you who brought your master to
this place."

"No, it was not I," replied the Negro.

"It's very clear that the captain came here by himself," said Pencroft.

"It is clear in reality," observed Spilett, "but it is not credible!"

The explanation of this fact could only be produced from the engineer's
own lips, and they must wait for that till speech returned. Rubbing had
re-established the circulation of the blood. Cyrus Harding moved his arm
again, then his head, and a few incomprehensible words escaped him.

Neb, who was bending over him, spoke, but the engineer did not appear
to hear, and his eyes remained closed. Life was only exhibited in him by
movement, his senses had not as yet been restored.

Pencroft much regretted not having either fire, or the means of
procuring it, for he had, unfortunately, forgotten to bring the burnt
linen, which would easily have ignited from the sparks produced by
striking together two flints. As to the engineer's pockets, they were
entirely empty, except that of his waistcoat, which contained his watch.
It was necessary to carry Harding to the Chimneys, and that as soon as
possible. This was the opinion of all.

Meanwhile, the care which was lavished on the engineer brought him back
to consciousness sooner than they could have expected. The water with
which they wetted his lips revived him gradually. Pencroft also thought
of mixing with the water some moisture from the titra's flesh which
he had brought. Herbert ran to the beach and returned with two large
bivalve shells. The sailor concocted something which he introduced
between the lips of the engineer, who eagerly drinking it opened his
eyes.

Neb and the reporter were leaning over him.

"My master! my master!" cried Neb.

The engineer heard him. He recognized Neb and Spilett, then his other
two companions, and his hand slightly pressed theirs.

A few words again escaped him, which showed what thoughts were, even
then, troubling his brain. This time he was understood. Undoubtedly they
were the same words he had before attempted to utter.

"Island or continent?" he murmured.

"Bother the continent," cried Pencroft hastily; "there is time enough
to see about that, captain! we don't care for anything, provided you are
living."

The engineer nodded faintly, and then appeased to sleep.

They respected this sleep, and the reporter began immediately to make
arrangements for transporting Harding to a more comfortable place. Neb,
Herbert, and Pencroft left the cave and directed their steps towards
a high mound crowned with a few distorted trees. On the way the sailor
could not help repeating,--

"Island or continent! To think of that, when at one's last gasp! What a
man!"

Arrived at the summit of the mound, Pencroft and his two companions
set to work, with no other tools than their hands, to despoil of its
principal branches a rather sickly tree, a sort of marine fir; with
these branches they made a litter, on which, covered with grass and
leaves, they could carry the engineer.

This occupied them nearly forty minutes, and it was ten o'clock when
they returned to Cyrus Harding whom Spilett had not left.

The engineer was just awaking from the sleep, or rather from the
drowsiness, in which they had found him. The color was returning to his
cheeks, which till now had been as pale as death. He raised himself a
little, looked around him, and appeared to ask where he was.

"Can you listen to me without fatigue, Cyrus?" asked the reporter.

"Yes," replied the engineer.

"It's my opinion," said the sailor, "that Captain Harding will be
able to listen to you still better, if he will have some more grouse
jelly,--for we have grouse, captain," added he, presenting him with a
little of this jelly, to which he this time added some of the flesh.

Cyrus Harding ate a little of the grouse, and the rest was divided
among his companions, who found it but a meager breakfast, for they were
suffering extremely from hunger.

"Well!" said the sailor, "there is plenty of food at the Chimneys, for
you must know, captain, that down there, in the south, we have a house,
with rooms, beds, and fireplace, and in the pantry, several dozen of
birds, which our Herbert calls couroucous. Your litter is ready, and as
soon as you feel strong enough we will carry you home."

"Thanks, my friend," replied the engineer; "wait another hour or two,
and then we will set out. And now speak, Spilett."

The reporter then told him all that had occurred. He recounted all the
events with which Cyrus was unacquainted, the last fall of the balloon,
the landing on this unknown land, which appeared a desert (whatever it
was, whether island or continent), the discovery of the Chimneys,
the search for him, not forgetting of course Neb's devotion, the
intelligence exhibited by the faithful Top, as well as many other
matters.

"But," asked Harding, in a still feeble voice, "you did not, then, pick
me up on the beach?"

"No," replied the reporter.

"And did you not bring me to this cave?"

"No."

"At what distance is this cave from the sea?"

"About a mile," replied Pencroft; "and if you are astonished, captain,
we are not less surprised ourselves at seeing you in this place!"

"Indeed," said the engineer, who was recovering gradually, and who took
great interest in these details, "indeed it is very singular!"

"But," resumed the sailor, "can you tell us what happened after you were
carried off by the sea?"

Cyrus Harding considered. He knew very little. The wave had torn him
from the balloon net. He sank at first several fathoms. On returning
to the surface, in the half light, he felt a living creature struggling
near him. It was Top, who had sprung to his help. He saw nothing of the
balloon, which, lightened both of his weight and that of the dog, had
darted away like an arrow.

There he was, in the midst of the angry sea, at a distance which could
not be less than half a mile from the shore. He attempted to struggle
against the billows by swimming vigorously. Top held him up by his
clothes; but a strong current seized him and drove him towards the
north, and after half an hour of exertion, he sank, dragging Top
with him into the depths. From that moment to the moment in which he
recovered to find himself in the arms of his friends he remembered
nothing.

"However," remarked Pencroft, "you must have been thrown on to the
beach, and you must have had strength to walk here, since Neb found your
footmarks!"

"Yes... of course," replied the engineer, thoughtfully; "and you found
no traces of human beings on this coast?"

"Not a trace," replied the reporter; "besides, if by chance you had met
with some deliverer there, just in the nick of time, why should he have
abandoned you after having saved you from the waves?"

"You are right, my dear Spilett. Tell me, Neb," added the engineer,
turning to his servant, "it was not you who... you can't have had a
moment of unconsciousness... during which no, that's absurd.... Do any
of the footsteps still remain?" asked Harding.

"Yes, master," replied Neb; "here, at the entrance, at the back of
the mound, in a place sheltered from the rain and wind. The storm has
destroyed the others."

"Pencroft," said Cyrus Harding, "will you take my shoe and see if it
fits exactly to the footprints?"

The sailor did as the engineer requested. While he and Herbert, guided
by Neb, went to the place where the footprints were to be found, Cyrus
remarked to the reporter,--

"It is a most extraordinary thing!"

"Perfectly inexplicable!" replied Gideon Spilett.

"But do not dwell upon it just now, my dear Spilett, we will talk about
it by-and-by."

A moment after the others entered.

There was no doubt about it. The engineer's shoe fitted exactly to the
footmarks. It was therefore Cyrus Harding who had left them on the sand.

"Come," said he, "I must have experienced this unconsciousness which I
attributed to Neb. I must have walked like a somnambulist, without any
knowledge of my steps, and Top must have guided me here, after having
dragged me from the waves... Come, Top! Come, old dog!"

The magnificent animal bounded barking to his master, and caresses were
lavished on him. It was agreed that there was no other way of accounting
for the rescue of Cyrus Harding, and that Top deserved all the honor of
the affair.

Towards twelve o'clock, Pencroft having asked the engineer if they could
now remove him, Harding, instead of replying, and by an effort which
exhibited the most energetic will, got up. But he was obliged to lean on
the sailor, or he would have fallen.

"Well done!" cried Pencroft; "bring the captain's litter."

The litter was brought; the transverse branches had been covered with
leaves and long grass. Harding was laid on it, and Pencroft, having
taken his place at one end and Neb at the other, they started towards
the coast. There was a distance of eight miles to be accomplished; but,
as they could not go fast, and it would perhaps be necessary to stop
frequently, they reckoned that it would take at least six hours to reach
the Chimneys. The wind was still strong, but fortunately it did not
rain. Although lying down, the engineer, leaning on his elbow, observed
the coast, particularly inland. He did not speak, but he gazed; and, no
doubt, the appearance of the country, with its inequalities of ground,
its forests, its various productions, were impressed on his mind.
However, after traveling for two hours, fatigue overcame him, and he
slept.

At half-past five the little band arrived at the precipice, and a short
time after at the Chimneys.

They stopped, and the litter was placed on the sand; Cyrus Harding was
sleeping profoundly, and did not awake.

Pencroft, to his extreme surprise, found that the terrible storm had
quite altered the aspect of the place. Important changes had occurred;
great blocks of stone lay on the beach, which was also covered with a
thick carpet of sea-weed, algae, and wrack. Evidently the sea, passing
over the islet, had been carried right up to the foot of the enormous
curtain of granite. The soil in front of the cave had been torn away
by the violence of the waves. A horrid presentiment flashed across
Pencroft's mind. He rushed into the passage, but returned almost
immediately, and stood motionless, staring at his companions.... The
fire was out; the drowned cinders were nothing but mud; the burnt
linen, which was to have served as tinder, had disappeared! The sea had
penetrated to the end of the passages, and everything was overthrown and
destroyed in the interior of the Chimneys!

 

 

Chapter 9

In a few words, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Neb were made acquainted
with what had happened. This accident, which appeared so very serious
to Pencroft, produced different effects on the companions of the honest
sailor.

Neb, in his delight at having found his master, did not listen, or
rather, did not care to trouble himself with what Pencroft was saying.

Herbert shared in some degree the sailor's feelings.

As to the reporter, he simply replied,--

"Upon my word, Pencroft, it's perfectly indifferent to me!"

"But, I repeat, that we haven't any fire!"

"Pooh!"

"Nor any means of relighting it!"

"Nonsense!"

"But I say, Mr. Spilett--"

"Isn't Cyrus here?" replied the reporter.

"Is not our engineer alive? He will soon find some way of making fire
for us!"

"With what?"

"With nothing."

What had Pencroft to say? He could say nothing, for, in the bottom of
his heart he shared the confidence which his companions had in Cyrus
Harding. The engineer was to them a microcosm, a compound of every
science, a possessor of all human knowledge. It was better to be with
Cyrus in a desert island, than without him in the most flourishing town
in the United States. With him they could want nothing; with him they
would never despair. If these brave men had been told that a volcanic
eruption would destroy the land, that this land would be engulfed in the
depths of the Pacific, they would have imperturbably replied,--

"Cyrus is here!"

While in the palanquin, however, the engineer had again relapsed into
unconsciousness, which the jolting to which he had been subjected during
his journey had brought on, so that they could not now appeal to his
ingenuity. The supper must necessarily be very meager. In fact, all the
grouse flesh had been consumed, and there no longer existed any means of
cooking more game. Besides, the couroucous which had been reserved had
disappeared. They must consider what was to be done.

First of all, Cyrus Harding was carried into the central passage. There
they managed to arrange for him a couch of sea-weed which still remained
almost dry. The deep sleep which had overpowered him would no doubt be
more beneficial to him than any nourishment.

Night had closed in, and the temperature, which had modified when the
wind shifted to the northwest, again became extremely cold. Also, the
sea having destroyed the partitions which Pencroft had put up in certain
places in the passages, the Chimneys, on account of the draughts, had
become scarcely habitable. The engineer's condition would, therefore,
have been bad enough, if his companions had not carefully covered him
with their coats and waistcoats.

Supper, this evening, was of course composed of the inevitable
lithodomes, of which Herbert and Neb picked up a plentiful supply on the
beach. However, to these molluscs, the lad added some edible sea-weed,
which he gathered on high rocks, whose sides were only washed by the sea
at the time of high tides. This sea-weed, which belongs to the order
of Fucacae, of the genus Sargassum, produces, when dry, a gelatinous
matter, rich and nutritious. The reporter and his companions, after
having eaten a quantity of lithodomes, sucked the sargassum, of which
the taste was very tolerable. It is used in parts of the East very
considerably by the natives. "Never mind!" said the sailor, "the captain
will help us soon." Meanwhile the cold became very severe, and unhappily
they had no means of defending themselves from it.

The sailor, extremely vexed, tried in all sorts of ways to procure fire.
Neb helped him in this work. He found some dry moss, and by striking
together two pebbles he obtained some sparks, but the moss, not being
inflammable enough, did not take fire, for the sparks were really only
incandescent, and not at all of the same consistency as those which
are emitted from flint when struck in the same manner. The experiment,
therefore, did not succeed.

Pencroft, although he had no confidence in the proceeding, then tried
rubbing two pieces of dry wood together, as savages do. Certainly, the
movement which he and Neb exhibited, if it had been transformed into
heat, according to the new theory, would have been enough to heat the
boiler of a steamer! It came to nothing. The bits of wood became hot, to
be sure, but much less so than the operators themselves.

After working an hour, Pencroft, who was in a complete state of
perspiration, threw down the pieces of wood in disgust.

"I can never be made to believe that savages light their fires in this
way, let them say what they will," he exclaimed. "I could sooner light
my arms by rubbing them against each other!"

The sailor was wrong to despise the proceeding. Savages often kindle
wood by means of rapid rubbing. But every sort of wood does not answer
for the purpose, and besides, there is "the knack," following the usual
expression, and it is probable that Pencroft had not "the knack."

Pencroft's ill humor did not last long. Herbert had taken the bits of
wood which he had turned down, and was exerting himself to rub them.
The hardy sailor could not restrain a burst of laughter on seeing the
efforts of the lad to succeed where he had failed.

"Rub, my boy, rub!" said he.

"I am rubbing," replied Herbert, laughing, "but I don't pretend to do
anything else but warm myself instead of shivering, and soon I shall be
as hot as you are, my good Pencroft!"

This soon happened. However, they were obliged to give up, for this
night at least, the attempt to procure fire. Gideon Spilett repeated,
for the twentieth time, that Cyrus Harding would not have been troubled
for so small a difficulty. And, in the meantime, he stretched himself in
one of the passages on his bed of sand. Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft did
the same, while Top slept at his master's feet.

Next day, the 28th of March, when the engineer awoke, about eight in the
morning, he saw his companions around him watching his sleep, and, as on
the day before, his first words were:--

"Island or continent?" This was his uppermost thought.

"Well!" replied Pencroft, "we don't know anything about it, captain!"

"You don't know yet?"

"But we shall know," rejoined Pencroft, "when you have guided us into
the country."

"I think I am able to try it," replied the engineer, who, without much
effort, rose and stood upright.

"That's capital!" cried the sailor.

"I feel dreadfully weak," replied Harding. "Give me something to eat, my
friends, and it will soon go off. You have fire, haven't you?"

This question was not immediately replied to. But, in a few seconds--

"Alas! we have no fire," said Pencroft, "or rather, captain, we have it
no longer!"

And the sailor recounted all that had passed the day before. He amused
the engineer by the history of the single match, then his abortive
attempt to procure fire in the savages' way.

"We shall consider," replied the engineer, "and if we do not find some
substance similar to tinder--"

"Well?" asked the sailor.

"Well, we will make matches.

"Chemicals?"

"Chemicals!"

"It is not more difficult than that," cried the reporter, striking the
sailor on the shoulder.

The latter did not think it so simple, but he did not protest. All went
out. The weather had become very fine. The sun was rising from the sea's
horizon, and touched with golden spangles the prismatic rugosities of
the huge precipice.

Having thrown a rapid glance around him, the engineer seated himself on
a block of stone. Herbert offered him a few handfuls of shell-fish and
sargassum, saying,--

"It is all that we have, Captain Harding."

"Thanks, my boy," replied Harding; "it will do--for this morning at
least."

He ate the wretched food with appetite, and washed it down with a little
fresh water, drawn from the river in an immense shell.

His companions looked at him without speaking. Then, feeling somewhat
refreshed, Cyrus Harding crossed his arms, and said,--

"So, my friends, you do not know yet whether fate has thrown us on an
island, or on a continent?"

"No, captain," replied the boy.

"We shall know to-morrow," said the engineer; "till then, there is
nothing to be done."

"Yes," replied Pencroft.

"What?"

"Fire," said the sailor, who, also, had a fixed idea.

"We will make it, Pencroft," replied Harding.

"While you were carrying me yesterday, did I not see in the west a
mountain which commands the country?"

"Yes," replied Spilett, "a mountain which must be rather high--"

"Well," replied the engineer, "we will climb to the summit to-morrow,
and then we shall see if this land is an island or a continent. Till
then, I repeat, there is nothing to be done."

"Yes, fire!" said the obstinate sailor again.

"But he will make us a fire!" replied Gideon Spilett, "only have a
little patience, Pencroft!"

The seaman looked at Spilett in a way which seemed to say, "If it
depended upon you to do it, we wouldn't taste roast meat very soon"; but
he was silent.

Meanwhile Captain Harding had made no reply. He appeared to be very
little troubled by the question of fire. For a few minutes he remained
absorbed in thought; then again speaking,--

"My friends," said he, "our situation is, perhaps, deplorable; but, at
any rate, it is very plain. Either we are on a continent, and then, at
the expense of greater or less fatigue, we shall reach some inhabited
place, or we are on an island. In the latter case, if the island is
inhabited, we will try to get out of the scrape with the help of its
inhabitants; if it is desert, we will try to get out of the scrape by
ourselves."

"Certainly, nothing could be plainer," replied Pencroft.

"But, whether it is an island or a continent," asked Gideon Spilett,
"whereabouts do you think, Cyrus, this storm has thrown us?"

"I cannot say exactly," replied the engineer, "but I presume it is
some land in the Pacific. In fact, when we left Richmond, the wind was
blowing from the northeast, and its very violence greatly proves that
it could not have varied. If the direction has been maintained from
the northeast to the southwest, we have traversed the States of North
Carolina, of South Carolina, of Georgia, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico,
itself, in its narrow part, then a part of the Pacific Ocean. I cannot
estimate the distance traversed by the balloon at less than six to seven
thousand miles, and, even supposing that the wind had varied half a
quarter, it must have brought us either to the archipelago of Mendava,
either on the Pomotous, or even, if it had a greater strength than I
suppose, to the land of New Zealand. If the last hypothesis is correct,
it will be easy enough to get home again. English or Maoris, we shall
always find some one to whom we can speak. If, on the contrary, this is
the coast of a desert island in some tiny archipelago, perhaps we shall
be able to reconnoiter it from the summit of that peak which overlooks
the country, and then we shall see how best to establish ourselves here
as if we are never to go away."

"Never?" cried the reporter. "You say 'Never,' my dear Cyrus?"

"Better to put things at the worst at first," replied the engineer, "and
reserve the best for a surprise."

"Well said," remarked Pencroft. "It is to be hoped, too, that this
island, if it be one, is not situated just out of the course of ships;
that would be really unlucky!"

"We shall not know what we have to rely on until we have first made the
ascent of the mountain," replied the engineer.

"But to-morrow, captain," asked Herbert, "shall you be in a state to
bear the fatigue of the ascent?"

"I hope so," replied the engineer, "provided you and Pencroft, my boy,
show yourselves quick and clever hunters."

"Captain," said the sailor, "since you are speaking of game, if on my
return, I was as certain of roasting it as I am of bringing it back--"

"Bring it back all the same, Pencroft," replied Harding.

It was then agreed that the engineer and the reporter were to pass the
day at the Chimneys, so as to examine the shore and the upper plateau.
Neb, Herbert, and the sailor were to return to the forest, renew their
store of wood, and lay violent hands on every creature, feathered or
hairy, which might come within their reach.

They set out accordingly about ten o'clock in the morning, Herbert
confident, Neb joyous, Pencroft murmuring aside,--

"If, on my return, I find a fire at the house, I shall believe that
the thunder itself came to light it." All three climbed the bank; and
arrived at the angle made by the river, the sailor, stopping, said to
his two companions,--

"Shall we begin by being hunters or wood-men?"

"Hunters," replied Herbert. "There is Top already in quest."

"We will hunt, then," said the sailor, "and afterwards we can come back
and collect our wood."

This agreed to, Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft, after having torn three
sticks from the trunk of a young fir, followed Top, who was bounding
about among the long grass.

This time, the hunters, instead of following the course of the river,
plunged straight into the heart of the forest. There were still the
same trees, belonging, for the most part, to the pine family. In
certain places, less crowded, growing in clumps, these pines exhibited
considerable dimensions, and appeared to indicate, by their development,
that the country was situated in a higher latitude than the engineer had
supposed. Glades, bristling with stumps worn away by time, were covered
with dry wood, which formed an inexhaustible store of fuel. Then,
the glade passed, the underwood thickened again, and became almost
impenetrable.

It was difficult enough to find the way among the groups of trees,
without any beaten track. So the sailor from time to time broke off
branches which might be easily recognized. But, perhaps, he was wrong
not to follow the watercourse, as he and Herbert had done on their first
excursion, for after walking an hour not a creature had shown itself.
Top, running under the branches, only roused birds which could not be
approached. Even the couroucous were invisible, and it was probable that
the sailor would be obliged to return to the marshy part of the forest,
in which he had so happily performed his grouse fishing.

"Well, Pencroft," said Neb, in a slightly sarcastic tone, "if this is
all the game which you promised to bring back to my master, it won't
need a large fire to roast it!"

"Have patience," replied the sailor, "it isn't the game which will be
wanting on our return."

"Have you not confidence in Captain Harding?"

"Yes."

"But you don't believe that he will make fire?"

"I shall believe it when the wood is blazing in the fireplace."

"It will blaze, since my master has said so."

"We shall see!"

Meanwhile, the sun had not reached the highest point in its course above
the horizon. The exploration, therefore, continued, and was usefully
marked by a discovery which Herbert made of a tree whose fruit was
edible. This was the stone-pine, which produces an excellent almond,
very much esteemed in the temperate regions of America and Europe. These
almonds were in a perfect state of maturity, and Herbert described them
to his companions, who feasted on them.

"Come," said Pencroft, "sea-weed by way of bread, raw mussels for meat,
and almonds for dessert, that's certainly a good dinner for those who
have not a single match in their pocket!"

"We mustn't complain," said Herbert.

"I am not complaining, my boy," replied Pencroft, "only I repeat, that
meat is a little too much economized in this sort of meal."

"Top has found something!" cried Neb, who ran towards a thicket, in the
midst of which the dog had disappeared, barking. With Top's barking were
mingled curious gruntings.

The sailor and Herbert had followed Neb. If there was game there this
was not the time to discuss how it was to be cooked, but rather, how
they were to get hold of it.

The hunters had scarcely entered the bushes when they saw Top engaged
in a struggle with an animal which he was holding by the ear. This
quadruped was a sort of pig nearly two feet and a half long, of a
blackish brown color, lighter below, having hard scanty hair; its toes,
then strongly fixed in the ground, seemed to be united by a membrane.
Herbert recognized in this animal the capybara, that is to say, one of
the largest members of the rodent order.

Meanwhile, the capybara did not struggle against the dog. It stupidly
rolled its eyes, deeply buried in a thick bed of fat. Perhaps it saw men
for the first time.

However, Neb having tightened his grasp on his stick, was just going to
fell the pig, when the latter, tearing itself from Top's teeth, by which
it was only held by the tip of its ear, uttered a vigorous grunt, rushed
upon Herbert, almost overthrew him, and disappeared in the wood.

"The rascal!" cried Pencroft.

All three directly darted after Top, but at the moment when they joined
him the animal had disappeared under the waters of a large pond shaded
by venerable pines.

Neb, Herbert, and Pencroft stopped, motionless. Top plunged into the
water, but the capybara, hidden at the bottom of the pond, did not
appear.

"Let us wait," said the boy, "for he will soon come to the surface to
breathe."

"Won't he drown?" asked Neb.

"No," replied Herbert, "since he has webbed feet, and is almost an
amphibious animal. But watch him."

Top remained in the water. Pencroft and his two companions went to
different parts of the bank, so as to cut off the retreat of the
capybara, which the dog was looking for beneath the water.

Herbert was not mistaken. In a few minutes the animal appeared on the
surface of the water. Top was upon it in a bound, and kept it from
plunging again. An instant later the capybara, dragged to the bank, was
killed by a blow from Neb's stick.

"Hurrah!" cried Pencroft, who was always ready with this cry of triumph.

"Give me but a good fire, and this pig shall be gnawed to the bones!"

Pencroft hoisted the capybara on his shoulders, and judging by the
height of the sun that it was about two o'clock, he gave the signal to
return.

Top's instinct was useful to the hunters, who, thanks to the intelligent
animal, were enabled to discover the road by which they had come. Half
an hour later they arrived at the river.

Pencroft soon made a raft of wood, as he had done before, though if
there was no fire it would be a useless task, and the raft following the
current, they returned towards the Chimneys.

But the sailor had not gone fifty paces when he stopped, and again
uttering a tremendous hurrah, pointed towards the angle of the cliff,--

"Herbert! Neb! Look!" he shouted.

Smoke was escaping and curling up among the rocks.

 

 

Chapter 10

In a few minutes the three hunters were before a crackling fire. The
captain and the reporter were there. Pencroft looked from one to the
other, his capybara in his hand, without saying a word.

"Well, yes, my brave fellow," cried the reporter.

"Fire, real fire, which will roast this splendid pig perfectly, and we
will have a feast presently!"

"But who lighted it?" asked Pencroft.

"The sun!"

Gideon Spilett was quite right in his reply. It was the sun which
had furnished the heat which so astonished Pencroft. The sailor could
scarcely believe his eyes, and he was so amazed that he did not think of
questioning the engineer.

"Had you a burning-glass, sir?" asked Herbert of Harding.

"No, my boy," replied he, "but I made one."

And he showed the apparatus which served for a burning-glass. It was
simply two glasses which he had taken from his own and the reporter's
watches. Having filled them with water and rendered their edges adhesive
by means of a little clay, he thus fabricated a regular burning-glass,
which, concentrating the solar rays on some very dry moss, soon caused
it to blaze.

The sailor considered the apparatus; then he gazed at the engineer
without saying a word, only a look plainly expressed his opinion that if
Cyrus Harding was not a magician, he was certainly no ordinary man. At
last speech returned to him, and he cried,--

"Note that, Mr. Spilett, note that down on your paper!"

"It is noted," replied the reporter.

Then, Neb helping him, the seaman arranged the spit, and the capybara,
properly cleaned, was soon roasting like a suckling-pig before a clear,
crackling fire.

The Chimneys had again become more habitable, not only because the
passages were warmed by the fire, but because the partitions of wood and
mud had been re-established.

It was evident that the engineer and his companions had employed their
day well. Cyrus Harding had almost entirely recovered his strength, and
had proved it by climbing to the upper plateau. From this point his eye,
accustomed to estimate heights and distances, was fixed for a long time
on the cone, the summit of which he wished to reach the next day. The
mountain, situated about six miles to the northwest, appeared to him to
measure 3,500 feet above the level of the sea. Consequently the gaze of
an observer posted on its summit would extend over a radius of at least
fifty miles. Therefore it was probable that Harding could easily solve
the question of "island or continent," to which he attached so much
importance.

They supped capitally. The flesh of the capybara was declared excellent.
The sargassum and the almonds of the stone-pine completed the repast,
during which the engineer spoke little. He was preoccupied with projects
for the next day.

Once or twice Pencroft gave forth some ideas upon what it would be best
to do; but Cyrus Harding, who was evidently of a methodical mind, only
shook his head without uttering a word.

"To-morrow," he repeated, "we shall know what we have to depend upon,
and we will act accordingly."

The meal ended, fresh armfuls of wood were thrown on the fire, and
the inhabitants of the Chimneys, including the faithful Top, were soon
buried in a deep sleep.

No incident disturbed this peaceful night, and the next day, the 29th
of March, fresh and active they awoke, ready to undertake the excursion
which must determine their fate.

All was ready for the start. The remains of the capybara would be enough
to sustain Harding and his companions for at least twenty-four hours.

Besides, they hoped to find more food on the way. As the glasses had
been returned to the watches of the engineer and reporter, Pencroft
burned a little linen to serve as tinder. As to flint, that would not be
wanting in these regions of Plutonic origin. It was half-past seven in
the morning when the explorers, armed with sticks, left the Chimneys.
Following Pencroft's advice, it appeared best to take the road already
traversed through the forest, and to return by another route. It was
also the most direct way to reach the mountain. They turned the south
angle and followed the left bank of the river, which was abandoned at
the point where it formed an elbow towards the southwest. The path,
already trodden under the evergreen trees, was found, and at nine
o'clock Cyrus Harding and his companions had reached the western border
of the forest. The ground, till then, very little undulated, boggy at
first, dry and sandy afterwards, had a gentle slope, which ascended from
the shore towards the interior of the country. A few very timid animals
were seen under the forest-trees. Top quickly started them, but his
master soon called him back, for the time had not come to commence
hunting; that would be attended to later. The engineer was not a man who
would allow himself to be diverted from his fixed idea. It might even
have been said that he did not observe the country at all, either in
its configuration or in its natural productions, his great aim being
to climb the mountain before him, and therefore straight towards it he
went. At ten o'clock a halt of a few minutes was made. On leaving
the forest, the mountain system of the country appeared before the
explorers. The mountain was composed of two cones; the first, truncated
at a height of about two thousand five hundred feet, was sustained by
buttresses, which appeared to branch out like the talons of an immense
claw set on the ground. Between these were narrow valleys, bristling
with trees, the last clumps of which rose to the top of the lowest cone.
There appeared to be less vegetation on that side of the mountain which
was exposed to the northeast, and deep fissures could be seen which, no
doubt, were watercourses.

On the first cone rested a second, slightly rounded, and placed a little
on one side, like a great round hat cocked over the ear. A Scotchman
would have said, "His bonnet was a thocht ajee." It appeared formed of
bare earth, here and there pierced by reddish rocks.

They wished to reach the second cone, and proceeding along the ridge of
the spurs seemed to be the best way by which to gain it.

"We are on volcanic ground," Cyrus Harding had said, and his companions
following him began to ascend by degrees on the back of a spur, which,
by a winding and consequently more accessible path, joined the first
plateau.

The ground had evidently been convulsed by subterranean force. Here and
there stray blocks, numerous debris of basalt and pumice-stone, were met
with. In isolated groups rose fir-trees, which, some hundred feet
lower, at the bottom of the narrow gorges, formed massive shades almost
impenetrable to the sun's rays.

During the first part of the ascent, Herbert remarked on the footprints
which indicated the recent passage of large animals.

"Perhaps these beasts will not let us pass by willingly," said Pencroft.

"Well," replied the reporter, who had already hunted the tiger in
India, and the lion in Africa, "we shall soon learn how successfully to
encounter them. But in the meantime we must be upon our guard!"

They ascended but slowly.

The distance, increased by detours and obstacles which could not be
surmounted directly, was long. Sometimes, too, the ground suddenly fell,
and they found themselves on the edge of a deep chasm which they had to
go round. Thus, in retracing their steps so as to find some practicable
path, much time was employed and fatigue undergone for nothing. At
twelve o'clock, when the small band of adventurers halted for breakfast
at the foot of a large group of firs, near a little stream which fell in
cascades, they found themselves still half way from the first plateau,
which most probably they would not reach till nightfall. From this
point the view of the sea was much extended, but on the right the high
promontory prevented their seeing whether there was land beyond it. On
the left, the sight extended several miles to the north; but, on the
northwest, at the point occupied by the explorers, it was cut short
by the ridge of a fantastically-shaped spur, which formed a powerful
support of the central cone.

At one o'clock the ascent was continued. They slanted more towards the
southwest and again entered among thick bushes. There under the shade
of the trees fluttered several couples of gallinaceae belonging to the
pheasant species. They were tragopans, ornamented by a pendant skin
which hangs over their throats, and by two small, round horns, planted
behind the eyes. Among these birds, which were about the size of a fowl,
the female was uniformly brown, while the male was gorgeous in his
red plumage, decorated with white spots. Gideon Spilett, with a stone
cleverly and vigorously thrown, killed one of these tragopans, on which
Pencroft, made hungry by the fresh air, had cast greedy eyes.

After leaving the region of bushes, the party, assisted by resting on
each other's shoulders, climbed for about a hundred feet up a steep
acclivity and reached a level place, with very few trees, where the soil
appeared volcanic. It was necessary to ascend by zigzags to make
the slope more easy, for it was very steep, and the footing being
exceedingly precarious required the greatest caution. Neb and Herbert
took the lead, Pencroft the rear, the captain and the reporter between
them. The animals which frequented these heights--and there were
numerous traces of them--must necessarily belong to those races of sure
foot and supple spine, chamois or goat. Several were seen, but this
was not the name Pencroft gave them, for all of a sudden--"Sheep!" he
shouted.

All stopped about fifty feet from half-a-dozen animals of a large size,
with strong horns bent back and flattened towards the point, with a
woolly fleece, hidden under long silky hair of a tawny color.

They were not ordinary sheep, but a species usually found in the
mountainous regions of the temperate zone, to which Herbert gave the
name of the musmon.

"Have they legs and chops?" asked the sailor.

"Yes," replied Herbert.

"Well, then, they are sheep!" said Pencroft.

The animals, motionless among the blocks of basalt, gazed with an
astonished eye, as if they saw human bipeds for the first time. Then
their fears suddenly aroused, they disappeared, bounding over the rocks.

"Good-bye, till we meet again," cried Pencroft, as he watched them, in
such a comical tone that Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Neb
could not help laughing.

The ascent was continued. Here and there were traces of lava. Sulphur
springs sometimes stopped their way, and they had to go round them. In
some places the sulphur had formed crystals among other substances, such
as whitish cinders made of an infinity of little feldspar crystals.

In approaching the first plateau formed by the truncating of the lower
cone, the difficulties of the ascent were very great. Towards four
o'clock the extreme zone of the trees had been passed. There only
remained here and there a few twisted, stunted pines, which must have
had a hard life in resisting at this altitude the high winds from the
open sea. Happily for the engineer and his companions the weather was
beautiful, the atmosphere tranquil; for a high breeze at an elevation of
three thousand feet would have hindered their proceedings. The purity
of the sky at the zenith was felt through the transparent air. A perfect
calm reigned around them. They could not see the sun, then hid by the
vast screen of the upper cone, which masked the half-horizon of the
west, and whose enormous shadow stretching to the shore increased as
the radiant luminary sank in its diurnal course. Vapor--mist rather than
clouds--began to appear in the east, and assume all the prismatic colors
under the influence of the solar rays.

Five hundred feet only separated the explorers from the plateau, which
they wished to reach so as to establish there an encampment for the
night, but these five hundred feet were increased to more than two miles
by the zigzags which they had to describe. The soil, as it were, slid
under their feet.

The slope often presented such an angle that they slipped when the
stones worn by the air did not give a sufficient support. Evening
came on by degrees, and it was almost night when Cyrus Harding and his
companions, much fatigued by an ascent of seven hours, arrived at
the plateau of the first cone. It was then necessary to prepare an
encampment, and to restore their strength by eating first and sleeping
afterwards. This second stage of the mountain rose on a base of rocks,
among which it would be easy to find a retreat. Fuel was not abundant.
However, a fire could be made by means of the moss and dry brushwood,
which covered certain parts of the plateau. While the sailor was
preparing his hearth with stones which he put to this use, Neb and
Herbert occupied themselves with getting a supply of fuel. They soon
returned with a load of brushwood. The steel was struck, the burnt linen
caught the sparks of flint, and, under Neb's breath, a crackling fire
showed itself in a few minutes under the shelter of the rocks. Their
object in lighting a fire was only to enable them to withstand the cold
temperature of the night, as it was not employed in cooking the bird,
which Neb kept for the next day. The remains of the capybara and
some dozens of the stone-pine almonds formed their supper. It was not
half-past six when all was finished.

Cyrus Harding then thought of exploring in the half-light the large
circular layer which supported the upper cone of the mountain. Before
taking any rest, he wished to know if it was possible to get round the
base of the cone in the case of its sides being too steep and its summit
being inaccessible. This question preoccupied him, for it was possible
that from the way the hat inclined, that is to say, towards the north,
the plateau was not practicable. Also, if the summit of the mountain
could not be reached on one side, and if, on the other, they could not
get round the base of the cone, it would be impossible to survey the
western part of the country, and their object in making the ascent would
in part be altogether unattained.

The engineer, accordingly, regardless of fatigue, leaving Pencroft and
Neb to arrange the beds, and Gideon Spilett to note the incidents of the
day, began to follow the edge of the plateau, going towards the north.
Herbert accompanied him.

The night was beautiful and still, the darkness was not yet deep. Cyrus
Harding and the boy walked near each other, without speaking. In
some places the plateau opened before them, and they passed without
hindrance. In others, obstructed by rocks, there was only a narrow path,
in which two persons could not walk abreast. After a walk of twenty
minutes, Cyrus Harding and Herbert were obliged to stop. From this point
the slope of the two cones became one. No shoulder here separated the
two parts of the mountain. The slope, being inclined almost seventy
degrees, the path became impracticable.

But if the engineer and the boy were obliged to give up thoughts of
following a circular direction, in return an opportunity was given for
ascending the cone.

In fact, before them opened a deep hollow. It was the rugged mouth
of the crater, by which the eruptive liquid matter had escaped at
the periods when the volcano was still in activity. Hardened lava and
crusted scoria formed a sort of natural staircase of large steps, which
would greatly facilitate the ascent to the summit of the mountain.

Harding took all this in at a glance, and without hesitating, followed
by the lad, he entered the enormous chasm in the midst of an increasing
obscurity.

There was still a height of a thousand feet to overcome. Would the
interior acclivities of the crater be practicable? It would soon be
seen. The persevering engineer resolved to continue his ascent until
he was stopped. Happily these acclivities wound up the interior of the
volcano and favored their ascent.

As to the volcano itself, it could not be doubted that it was completely
extinct. No smoke escaped from its sides; not a flame could be seen in
the dark hollows; not a roar, not a mutter, no trembling even issued
from this black well, which perhaps reached far into the bowels of the
earth. The atmosphere inside the crater was filled with no sulphurous
vapor. It was more than the sleep of a volcano; it was its complete
extinction. Cyrus Harding's attempt would succeed.

Little by little, Herbert and he climbing up the sides of the interior,
saw the crater widen above their heads. The radius of this circular
portion of the sky, framed by the edge of the cone, increased obviously.
At each step, as it were, that the explorers made, fresh stars entered
the field of their vision. The magnificent constellations of the
southern sky shone resplendently. At the zenith glittered the splendid
Antares in the Scorpion, and not far was Alpha Centauri, which is
believed to be the nearest star to the terrestrial globe. Then, as the
crater widened, appeared Fomalhaut of the Fish, the Southern Triangle,
and lastly, nearly at the Antarctic Pole, the glittering Southern Cross,
which replaces the Polar Star of the Northern Hemisphere.

It was nearly eight o'clock when Cyrus Harding and Herbert set foot on
the highest ridge of the mountain at the summit of the cone.

It was then perfectly dark, and their gaze could not extend over a
radius of two miles. Did the sea surround this unknown land, or was it
connected in the west with some continent of the Pacific? It could not
yet be made out. Towards the west, a cloudy belt, clearly visible at the
horizon, increased the gloom, and the eye could not discover if the sky
and water were blended together in the same circular line.

But at one point of the horizon a vague light suddenly appeared, which
descended slowly in proportion as the cloud mounted to the zenith.

It was the slender crescent moon, already almost disappearing; but its
light was sufficient to show clearly the horizontal line, then detached
from the cloud, and the engineer could see its reflection trembling for
an instant on a liquid surface. Cyrus Harding seized the lad's hand, and
in a grave voice,--

"An island!" said he, at the moment when the lunar crescent disappeared
beneath the waves.

 

 

Chapter 11

Half an hour later Cyrus Harding and Herbert had returned to the
encampment. The engineer merely told his companions that the land upon
which fate had thrown them was an island, and that the next day they
would consult. Then each settled himself as well as he could to sleep,
and in that rocky hole, at a height of two thousand five hundred feet
above the level of the sea, through a peaceful night, the islanders
enjoyed profound repose.

The next day, the 30th of March, after a hasty breakfast, which
consisted solely of the roasted tragopan, the engineer wished to climb
again to the summit of the volcano, so as more attentively to survey
the island upon which he and his companions were imprisoned for life
perhaps, should the island be situated at a great distance from any
land, or if it was out of the course of vessels which visited the
archipelagoes of the Pacific Ocean. This time his companions followed
him in the new exploration. They also wished to see the island, on the
productions of which they must depend for the supply of all their wants.

It was about seven o'clock in the morning when Cyrus Harding, Herbert,
Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Neb quitted the encampment. No one
appeared to be anxious about their situation. They had faith in
themselves, doubtless, but it must be observed that the basis of this
faith was not the same with Harding as with his companions. The engineer
had confidence, because he felt capable of extorting from this wild
country everything necessary for the life of himself and his companions;
the latter feared nothing, just because Cyrus Harding was with them.
Pencroft especially, since the incident of the relighted fire, would
not have despaired for an instant, even if he was on a bare rock, if the
engineer was with him on the rock.

"Pshaw," said he, "we left Richmond without permission from the
authorities! It will be hard if we don't manage to get away some day or
other from a place where certainly no one will detain us!"

Cyrus Harding followed the same road as the evening before. They went
round the cone by the plateau which formed the shoulder, to the mouth of
the enormous chasm. The weather was magnificent. The sun rose in a pure
sky and flooded with his rays all the eastern side of the mountain.

The crater was reached. It was just what the engineer had made it out to
be in the dark; that is to say, a vast funnel which extended, widening,
to a height of a thousand feet above the plateau. Below the chasm, large
thick streaks of lava wound over the sides of the mountain, and thus
marked the course of the eruptive matter to the lower valleys which
furrowed the northern part of the island.

The interior of the crater, whose inclination did not exceed thirty five
to forty degrees, presented no difficulties nor obstacles to the ascent.
Traces of very ancient lava were noticed, which probably had overflowed
the summit of the cone, before this lateral chasm had opened a new way
to it.

As to the volcanic chimney which established a communication between the
subterranean layers and the crater, its depth could not be calculated
with the eye, for it was lost in obscurity. But there was no doubt as to
the complete extinction of the volcano.

Before eight o'clock Harding and his companions were assembled at the
summit of the crater, on a conical mound which swelled the northern
edge.

"The sea, the sea everywhere!" they cried, as if their lips could not
restrain the words which made islanders of them.

The sea, indeed, formed an immense circular sheet of water all around
them! Perhaps, on climbing again to the summit of the cone, Cyrus
Harding had had a hope of discovering some coast, some island shore,
which he had not been able to perceive in the dark the evening before.
But nothing appeared on the farthest verge of the horizon, that is to
say over a radius of more than fifty miles. No land in sight. Not a
sail. Over all this immense space the ocean alone was visible--the
island occupied the center of a circumference which appeared to be
infinite.

The engineer and his companions, mute and motionless, surveyed for
some minutes every point of the ocean, examining it to its most extreme
limits. Even Pencroft, who possessed a marvelous power of sight, saw
nothing; and certainly if there had been land at the horizon, if it
appeared only as an indistinct vapor, the sailor would undoubtedly
have found it out, for nature had placed regular telescopes under his
eyebrows.

From the ocean their gaze returned to the island which they commanded
entirely, and the first question was put by Gideon Spilett in these
terms:

"About what size is this island?"

Truly, it did not appear large in the midst of the immense ocean.

Cyrus Harding reflected a few minutes; he attentively observed the
perimeter of the island, taking into consideration the height at which
he was placed; then,--

"My friends," said he, "I do not think I am mistaken in giving to the
shore of the island a circumference of more than a hundred miles."

"And consequently an area?"

"That is difficult to estimate," replied the engineer, "for it is so
uneven."

If Cyrus Harding was not mistaken in his calculation, the island had
almost the extent of Malta or Zante, in the Mediterranean, but it was at
the same time much more irregular and less rich in capes, promontories,
points, bays, or creeks. Its strange form caught the eye, and when
Gideon Spilett, on the engineer's advice, had drawn the outline, they
found that it resembled some fantastic animal, a monstrous leviathan,
which lay sleeping on the surface of the Pacific.

This was in fact the exact shape of the island, which it is of
consequence to know, and a tolerably correct map of it was immediately
drawn by the reporter.

The east part of the shore, where the castaways had landed, formed a
wide bay, terminated by a sharp cape, which had been concealed by a high
point from Pencroft on his first exploration. At the northeast two other
capes closed the bay, and between them ran a narrow gulf, which looked
like the half-open jaws of a formidable dog-fish.

From the northeast to the southwest the coast was rounded, like
the flattened cranium of an animal, rising again, forming a sort of
protuberance which did not give any particular shape to this part of the
island, of which the center was occupied by the volcano.

From this point the shore ran pretty regularly north and south, broken
at two-thirds of its perimeter by a narrow creek, from which it ended in
a long tail, similar to the caudal appendage of a gigantic alligator.

This tail formed a regular peninsula, which stretched more than thirty
miles into the sea, reckoning from the cape southeast of the island,
already mentioned; it curled round, making an open roadstead, which
marked out the lower shore of this strangely-formed land.

At the narrowest part, that is to say between the Chimneys and the creek
on the western shore, which corresponded to it in latitude, the island
only measured ten miles; but its greatest length, from the jaws at the
northeast to the extremity of the tail of the southwest, was not less
than thirty miles.

As to the interior of the island, its general aspect was this, very
woody throughout the southern part from the mountain to the shore, and
arid and sandy in the northern part. Between the volcano and the east
coast Cyrus Harding and his companions were surprised to see a
lake, bordered with green trees, the existence of which they had not
suspected. Seen from this height, the lake appeared to be on the same
level as the ocean, but, on reflection, the engineer explained to his
companions that the altitude of this little sheet of water must be about
three hundred feet, because the plateau, which was its basin, was but a
prolongation of the coast.

"Is it a freshwater lake?" asked Pencroft.

"Certainly," replied the engineer, "for it must be fed by the water
which flows from the mountain."

"I see a little river which runs into it," said Herbert, pointing out a
narrow stream, which evidently took its source somewhere in the west.

"Yes," said Harding; "and since this stream feeds the lake, most
probably on the side near the sea there is an outlet by which the
surplus water escapes. We shall see that on our return."

This little winding watercourse and the river already mentioned
constituted the water-system, at least such as it was displayed to the
eyes of the explorers. However, it was possible that under the masses of
trees which covered two-thirds of the island, forming an immense forest,
other rivers ran towards the sea. It might even be inferred that such
was the case, so rich did this region appear in the most magnificent
specimens of the flora of the temperate zones. There was no indication
of running water in the north, though perhaps there might be stagnant
water among the marshes in the northeast; but that was all, in addition
to the downs, sand, and aridity which contrasted so strongly with the
luxuriant vegetation of the rest of the island.

The volcano did not occupy the central part; it rose, on the contrary,
in the northwestern region, and seemed to mark the boundary of the two
zones. At the southwest, at the south, and the southeast, the first part
of the spurs were hidden under masses of verdure. At the north, on the
contrary, one could follow their ramifications, which died away on the
sandy plains. It was on this side that, at the time when the mountain
was in a state of eruption, the discharge had worn away a passage, and
a large heap of lava had spread to the narrow jaw which formed the
northeastern gulf.

Cyrus Harding and his companions remained an hour at the top of the
mountain. The island was displayed under their eyes, like a plan in
relief with different tints, green for the forests, yellow for the
sand, blue for the water. They viewed it in its tout-ensemble, nothing
remained concealed but the ground hidden by verdure, the hollows of the
valleys, and the interior of the volcanic chasms.

One important question remained to be solved, and the answer would have
a great effect upon the future of the castaways.

Was the island inhabited?

It was the reporter who put this question, to which after the close
examination they had just made, the answer seemed to be in the negative.

Nowhere could the work of a human hand be perceived. Not a group of
huts, not a solitary cabin, not a fishery on the shore. No smoke curling
in the air betrayed the presence of man. It is true, a distance of
nearly thirty miles separated the observers from the extreme points,
that is, of the tail which extended to the southwest, and it would have
been difficult, even to Pencroft's eyes, to discover a habitation there.
Neither could the curtain of verdure, which covered three-quarters
of the island, be raised to see if it did not shelter some straggling
village. But in general the islanders live on the shores of the narrow
spaces which emerge above the waters of the Pacific, and this shore
appeared to be an absolute desert.

Until a more complete exploration, it might be admitted that the island
was uninhabited. But was it frequented, at least occasionally, by
the natives of neighboring islands? It was difficult to reply to this
question. No land appeared within a radius of fifty miles. But fifty
miles could be easily crossed, either by Malay proas or by the large
Polynesian canoes. Everything depended on the position of the island,
of its isolation in the Pacific, or of its proximity to archipelagoes.
Would Cyrus Harding be able to find out their latitude and longitude
without instruments? It would be difficult. Since he was in doubt, it
was best to take precautions against a possible descent of neighboring
natives.

The exploration of the island was finished, its shape determined, its
features made out, its extent calculated, the water and mountain systems
ascertained. The disposition of the forests and plains had been marked
in a general way on the reporter's plan. They had now only to descend
the mountain slopes again, and explore the soil, in the triple point of
view, of its mineral, vegetable, and animal resources.

But before giving his companions the signal for departure, Cyrus Harding
said to them in a calm, grave voice,--

"Here, my friends, is the small corner of land upon which the hand of
the Almighty has thrown us. We are going to live here; a long time,
perhaps. Perhaps, too, unexpected help will arrive, if some ship passes
by chance. I say by chance, because this is an unimportant island; there
is not even a port in which ships could anchor, and it is to be feared
that it is situated out of the route usually followed, that is to say,
too much to the south for the ships which frequent the archipelagoes of
the Pacific, and too much to the north for those which go to Australia
by doubling Cape Horn. I wish to hide nothing of our position from
you--"

"And you are right, my dear Cyrus," replied the reporter, with
animation. "You have to deal with men. They have confidence in you, and
you can depend upon them. Is it not so, my friends?"

"I will obey you in everything, captain," said Herbert, seizing the
engineer's hand.

"My master always, and everywhere!" cried Neb.

"As for me," said the sailor, "if I ever grumble at work, my name's not
Jack Pencroft, and if you like, captain, we will make a little America
of this island! We will build towns, we will establish railways, start
telegraphs, and one fine day, when it is quite changed, quite put in
order and quite civilized, we will go and offer it to the government of
the Union. Only, I ask one thing."

"What is that?" said the reporter.

"It is, that we do not consider ourselves castaways, but colonists,
who have come here to settle." Harding could not help smiling, and the
sailor's idea was adopted. He then thanked his companions, and added,
that he would rely on their energy and on the aid of Heaven.

"Well, now let us set off to the Chimneys!" cried Pencroft.

"One minute, my friends," said the engineer. "It seems to me it would
be a good thing to give a name to this island, as well as to, the capes,
promontories, and watercourses, which we can see.

"Very good," said the reporter. "In the future, that will simplify the
instructions which we shall have to give and follow."

"Indeed," said the sailor, "already it is something to be able to say
where one is going, and where one has come from. At least, it looks like
somewhere."

"The Chimneys, for example," said Herbert.

"Exactly!" replied Pencroft. "That name was the most convenient, and it
came to me quite of myself. Shall we keep the name of the Chimneys for
our first encampment, captain?"

"Yes, Pencroft, since you have so christened it."

"Good! as for the others, that will be easy," returned the sailor, who
was in high spirits. "Let us give them names, as the Robinsons did,
whose story Herbert has often read to me; Providence Bay, Whale Point,
Cape Disappointment!"

"Or, rather, the names of Captain Harding," said Herbert, "of Mr.
Spilett, of Neb!--"

"My name!" cried Neb, showing his sparkling white teeth.

"Why not?" replied Pencroft. "Port Neb, that would do very well! And
Cape Gideon--"

"I should prefer borrowing names from our country," said the reporter,
"which would remind us of America."

"Yes, for the principal ones," then said Cyrus Harding; "for those of
the bays and seas, I admit it willingly. We might give to that vast bay
on the east the name of Union Bay, for example; to that large hollow on
the south, Washington Bay; to the mountain upon which we are standing,
that of Mount Franklin; to that lake which is extended under our eyes,
that of Lake Grant; nothing could be better, my friends. These names
will recall our country, and those of the great citizens who have
honored it; but for the rivers, gulfs, capes, and promontories, which we
perceive from the top of this mountain, rather let us choose names which
will recall their particular shape. They will impress themselves better
on our memory, and at the same time will be more practical. The shape of
the island is so strange that we shall not be troubled to imagine
what it resembles. As to the streams which we do not know as yet, in
different parts of the forest which we shall explore later, the creeks
which afterwards will be discovered, we can christen them as we find
them. What do you think, my friends?"

The engineer's proposal was unanimously agreed to by his companions. The
island was spread out under their eyes like a map, and they had only to
give names to all its angles and points. Gideon Spilett would write
them down, and the geographical nomenclature of the island would be
definitely adopted. First, they named the two bays and the mountain,
Union Bay, Washington Bay, and Mount Franklin, as the engineer had
suggested.

"Now," said the reporter, "to this peninsula at the southwest of the
island, I propose to give the name of Serpentine Peninsula, and that of
Reptile-end to the bent tail which terminates it, for it is just like a
reptile's tail."

"Adopted," said the engineer.

"Now," said Herbert, pointing to the other extremity of the island, "let
us call this gulf which is so singularly like a pair of open jaws, Shark
Gulf."

"Capital!" cried Pencroft, "and we can complete the resemblance by
naming the two parts of the jaws Mandible Cape."

"But there are two capes," observed the reporter.

"Well," replied Pencroft, "we can have North Mandible Cape and South
Mandible Cape."

"They are inscribed," said Spilett.

"There is only the point at the southeastern extremity of the island to
be named," said Pencroft.

"That is, the extremity of Union Bay?" asked Herbert.

"Claw Cape," cried Neb directly, who also wished to be godfather to some
part of his domain.

In truth, Neb had found an excellent name, for this cape was very like
the powerful claw of the fantastic animal which this singularly-shaped
island represented.

Pencroft was delighted at the turn things had taken, and their
imaginations soon gave to the river which furnished the settlers with
drinking water and near which the balloon had thrown them, the name of
the Mercy, in true gratitude to Providence. To the islet upon which the
castaways had first landed, the name of Safety Island; to the plateau
which crowned the high granite precipice above the Chimneys, and from
whence the gaze could embrace the whole of the vast bay, the name of
Prospect Heights.

Lastly, all the masses of impenetrable wood which covered the Serpentine
Peninsula were named the forests of the Far West.

The nomenclature of the visible and known parts of the island was
thus finished, and later, they would complete it as they made fresh
discoveries.

As to the points of the compass, the engineer had roughly fixed them by
the height and position of the sun, which placed Union Bay and Prospect
Heights to the east. But the next day, by taking the exact hour of the
rising and setting of the sun, and by marking its position between this
rising and setting, he reckoned to fix the north of the island exactly,
for, in consequence of its situation in the Southern Hemisphere, the
sun, at the precise moment of its culmination, passed in the north and
not in the south, as, in its apparent movement, it seems to do, to those
places situated in the Northern Hemisphere.

Everything was finished, and the settlers had only to descend Mount
Franklin to return to the Chimneys, when Pencroft cried out,--

"Well! we are preciously stupid!"

"Why?" asked Gideon Spilett, who had closed his notebook and risen to
depart.

"Why! our island! we have forgotten to christen it!"

Herbert was going to propose to give it the engineer's name and all his
companions would have applauded him, when Cyrus Harding said simply,--

"Let us give it the name of a great citizen, my friend; of him who now
struggles to defend the unity of the American Republic! Let us call it
Lincoln Island!"

The engineer's proposal was replied to by three hurrahs.

And that evening, before sleeping, the new colonists talked of their
absent country; they spoke of the terrible war which stained it with
blood; they could not doubt that the South would soon be subdued, and
that the cause of the North, the cause of justice, would triumph, thanks
to Grant, thanks to Lincoln!

Now this happened the 30th of March, 1865. They little knew that sixteen
days afterwards a frightful crime would be committed in Washington, and
that on Good Friday Abraham Lincoln would fall by the hand of a fanatic.

 

 

Chapter 12

They now began the descent of the mountain. Climbing down the crater,
they went round the cone and reached their encampment of the previous
night. Pencroft thought it must be breakfast-time, and the watches of
the reporter and engineer were therefore consulted to find out the hour.

That of Gideon Spilett had been preserved from the sea-water, as he had
been thrown at once on the sand out of reach of the waves. It was an
instrument of excellent quality, a perfect pocket chronometer, which the
reporter had not forgotten to wind up carefully every day.

As to the engineer's watch, it, of course, had stopped during the time
which he had passed on the downs.

The engineer now wound it up, and ascertaining by the height of the sun
that it must be about nine o'clock in the morning, he put his watch at
that hour.

"No, my dear Spilett, wait. You have kept the Richmond time, have you
not?"

"Yes, Cyrus."

"Consequently, your watch is set by the meridian of that town, which is
almost that of Washington?"

"Undoubtedly."

"Very well, keep it thus. Content yourself with winding it up very,
exactly, but do not touch the hands. This may be of use to us.

"What will be the good of that?" thought the sailor.

They ate, and so heartily, that the store of game and almonds was
totally exhausted. But Pencroft was not at all uneasy, they would supply
themselves on the way. Top, whose share had been very much to his taste,
would know how to find some fresh game among the brushwood. Moreover,
the sailor thought of simply asking the engineer to manufacture some
powder and one or two fowling-pieces; he supposed there would be no
difficulty in that.

On leaving the plateau, the captain proposed to his companions to return
to the Chimneys by a new way. He wished to reconnoiter Lake Grant, so
magnificently framed in trees. They therefore followed the crest of one
of the spurs, between which the creek that supplied the lake probably
had its source. In talking, the settlers already employed the names
which they had just chosen, which singularly facilitated the exchange
of their ideas. Herbert and Pencroft--the one young and the other very
boyish--were enchanted, and while walking, the sailor said,

"Hey, Herbert! how capital it sounds! It will be impossible to lose
ourselves, my boy, since, whether we follow the way to Lake Grant, or
whether we join the Mercy through the woods of the Far West, we shall be
certain to arrive at Prospect Heights, and, consequently, at Union Bay!"

It had been agreed, that without forming a compact band, the settlers
should not stray away from each other. It was very certain that the
thick forests of the island were inhabited by dangerous animals, and it
was prudent to be on their guard. In general, Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb
walked first, preceded by Top, who poked his nose into every bush. The
reporter and the engineer went together, Gideon Spilett ready to note
every incident, the engineer silent for the most part, and only stepping
aside to pick up one thing or another, a mineral or vegetable substance,
which he put into his pocket, without making any remark.

"What can he be picking up?" muttered Pencroft. "I have looked in vain
for anything that's worth the trouble of stooping for."

Towards ten o'clock the little band descended the last declivities of
Mount Franklin. As yet the ground was scantily strewn with bushes and
trees. They were walking over yellowish calcinated earth, forming a
plain of nearly a mile long, which extended to the edge of the wood.
Great blocks of that basalt, which, according to Bischof, takes three
hundred and fifty millions of years to cool, strewed the plain, very
confused in some places. However, there were here no traces of lava,
which was spread more particularly over the northern slopes.

Cyrus Harding expected to reach, without incident, the course of the
creek, which he supposed flowed under the trees at the border of the
plain, when he saw Herbert running hastily back, while Neb and the
sailor were hiding behind the rocks.

"What's the matter, my boy?" asked Spilett.

"Smoke," replied Herbert. "We have seen smoke among the rocks, a hundred
paces from us."

"Men in this place?" cried the reporter.

"We must avoid showing ourselves before knowing with whom we have to
deal," replied Cyrus Harding. "I trust that there are no natives on this
island; I dread them more than anything else. Where is Top?"

"Top is on before."

"And he doesn't bark?"

"No."

"That is strange. However, we must try to call him back."

In a few moments, the engineer, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert had rejoined
their two companions, and like them, they kept out of sight behind the
heaps of basalt.

From thence they clearly saw smoke of a yellowish color rising in the
air.

Top was recalled by a slight whistle from his master, and the latter,
signing to his companions to wait for him, glided away among the
rocks. The colonists, motionless, anxiously awaited the result of this
exploration, when a shout from the engineer made them hasten forward.
They soon joined him, and were at once struck with a disagreeable odor
which impregnated the atmosphere.

The odor, easily recognized, was enough for the engineer to guess what
the smoke was which at first, not without cause, had startled him.

"This fire," said he, "or rather, this smoke is produced by nature alone.
There is a sulphur spring there, which will cure all our sore throats."

"Captain!" cried Pencroft. "What a pity that I haven't got a cold!"

The settlers then directed their steps towards the place from which the
smoke escaped. They there saw a sulphur spring which flowed abundantly
between the rocks, and its waters discharged a strong sulphuric acid
odor, after having absorbed the oxygen of the air.

Cyrus Harding, dipping in his hand, felt the water oily to the touch.
He tasted it and found it rather sweet. As to its temperature, that he
estimated at ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit. Herbert having asked on
what he based this calculation,--

"Its quite simple, my boy," said he, "for, in plunging my hand into the
water, I felt no sensation either of heat or cold. Therefore it has the
same temperature as the human body, which is about ninety-five degrees."

The sulphur spring not being of any actual use to the settlers, they
proceeded towards the thick border of the forest, which began some
hundred paces off.

There, as they had conjectured, the waters of the stream flowed clear
and limpid between high banks of red earth, the color of which betrayed
the presence of oxide of iron. From this color, the name of Red Creek
was immediately given to the watercourse.

It was only a large stream, deep and clear, formed of the mountain
water, which, half river, half torrent, here rippling peacefully over
the sand, there falling against the rocks or dashing down in a cascade,
ran towards the lake, over a distance of a mile and a half, its breadth
varying from thirty to forty feet. Its waters were sweet, and it was
supposed that those of the lake were so also. A fortunate circumstance,
in the event of their finding on its borders a more suitable dwelling
than the Chimneys.

As to the trees, which some hundred feet downwards shaded the banks of
the creek, they belonged, for the most part, to the species which abound
in the temperate zone of America and Tasmania, and no longer to those
coniferae observed in that portion of the island already explored
to some miles from Prospect Heights. At this time of the year, the
commencement of the month of April, which represents the month of
October, in this hemisphere, that is, the beginning of autumn, they
were still in full leaf. They consisted principally of casuarinas and
eucalypti, some of which next year would yield a sweet manna, similar to
the manna of the East. Clumps of Australian cedars rose on the sloping
banks, which were also covered with the high grass called "tussac" in
New Holland; but the cocoanut, so abundant in the archipelagoes of the
Pacific, seemed to be wanting in the island, the latitude, doubtless,
being too low.

"What a pity!" said Herbert, "such a useful tree, and which has such
beautiful nuts!"

As to the birds, they swarmed among the scanty branches of the eucalypti
and casuarinas, which did not hinder the display of their wings.
Black, white, or gray cockatoos, paroquets, with plumage of all colors,
kingfishers of a sparkling green and crowned with red, blue lories,
and various other birds appeared on all sides, as through a prism,
fluttering about and producing a deafening clamor. Suddenly, a strange
concert of discordant voices resounded in the midst of a thicket. The
settlers heard successively the song of birds, the cry of quadrupeds,
and a sort of clacking which they might have believed to have escaped
from the lips of a native. Neb and Herbert rushed towards the bush,
forgetting even the most elementary principles of prudence. Happily,
they found there, neither a formidable wild beast nor a dangerous
native, but merely half a dozen mocking and singing birds, known as
mountain pheasants. A few skillful blows from a stick soon put an end to
their concert, and procured excellent food for the evening's dinner.

Herbert also discovered some magnificent pigeons with bronzed wings,
some superbly crested, others draped in green, like their congeners at
Port-Macquarie; but it was impossible to reach them, or the crows and
magpies which flew away in flocks.

A charge of small shot would have made great slaughter among these
birds, but the hunters were still limited to sticks and stones, and
these primitive weapons proved very insufficient.

Their insufficiency was still more clearly shown when a troop of
quadrupeds, jumping, bounding, making leaps of thirty feet, regular
flying mammiferae, fled over the thickets, so quickly and at such a
height, that one would have thought that they passed from one tree to
another like squirrels.

"Kangaroos!" cried Herbert.

"Are they good to eat?" asked Pencroft.

"Stewed," replied the reporter, "their flesh is equal to the best
venison!--"

Gideon Spilett had not finished this exciting sentence when the sailor,
followed by Neb and Herbert, darted on the kangaroos tracks. Cyrus
Harding called them back in vain. But it was in vain too for the hunters
to pursue such agile game, which went bounding away like balls. After a
chase of five minutes, they lost their breath, and at the same time all
sight of the creatures, which disappeared in the wood. Top was not more
successful than his masters.

"Captain," said Pencroft, when the engineer and the reporter had
rejoined them, "Captain, you see quite well we can't get on unless we
make a few guns. Will that be possible?"

"Perhaps," replied the engineer, "but we will begin by first
manufacturing some bows and arrows, and I don't doubt that you will
become as clever in the use of them as the Australian hunters."

"Bows and arrows!" said Pencroft scornfully. "That's all very well for
children!"

"Don't be proud, friend Pencroft," replied the reporter. "Bows and
arrows were sufficient for centuries to stain the earth with blood.
Powder is but a thing of yesterday, and war is as old as the human
race--unhappily."

"Faith, that's true, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "and I always
speak too quickly. You must excuse me!"

Meanwhile, Herbert constant to his favorite science, Natural History,
reverted to the kangaroos, saying,--

"Besides, we had to deal just now with the species which is most
difficult to catch. They were giants with long gray fur; but if I am not
mistaken, there exist black and red kangaroos, rock kangaroos, and rat
kangaroos, which are more easy to get hold of. It is reckoned that there
are about a dozen species."

"Herbert," replied the sailor sententiously, "there is only one species
of kangaroos to me, that is 'kangaroo on the spit,' and it's just the
one we haven't got this evening!"

They could not help laughing at Master Pencroft's new classification.
The honest sailor did not hide his regret at being reduced for dinner to
the singing pheasants, but fortune once more showed itself obliging to
him.

In fact, Top, who felt that his interest was concerned went and ferreted
everywhere with an instinct doubled by a ferocious appetite. It was even
probable that if some piece of game did fall into his clutches, none
would be left for the hunters, if Top was hunting on his own account;
but Neb watched him and he did well.

Towards three o'clock the dog disappeared in the brushwood and gruntings
showed that he was engaged in a struggle with some animal. Neb rushed
after him, and soon saw Top eagerly devouring a quadruped, which ten
seconds later would have been past recognizing in Top's stomach. But
fortunately the dog had fallen upon a brood, and besides the victim he
was devouring, two other rodents--the animals in question belonged to
that order--lay strangled on the turf.

Neb reappeared triumphantly holding one of the rodents in each hand.
Their size exceeded that of a rabbit, their hair was yellow, mingled
with green spots, and they had the merest rudiments of tails.

The citizens of the Union were at no loss for the right name of these
rodents. They were maras, a sort of agouti, a little larger than their
congeners of tropical countries, regular American rabbits, with long
ears, jaws armed on each side with five molars, which distinguish the
agouti.

"Hurrah!" cried Pencroft, "the roast has arrived! and now we can go
home."

The walk, interrupted for an instant, was resumed. The limpid waters of
the Red Creek flowed under an arch of casuannas, banksias, and gigantic
gum-trees. Superb lilacs rose to a height of twenty feet. Other
arborescent species, unknown to the young naturalist, bent over the
stream, which could be heard murmuring beneath the bowers of verdure.

Meanwhile the stream grew much wider, and Cyrus Harding supposed that
they would soon reach its mouth. In fact, on emerging from beneath a
thick clump of beautiful trees, it suddenly appeared before their eyes.

The explorers had arrived on the western shore of Lake Grant. The place
was well worth looking at. This extent of water, of a circumference of
nearly seven miles and an area of two hundred and fifty acres, reposed
in a border of diversified trees. Towards the east, through a curtain
of verdure, picturesquely raised in some places, sparkled an horizon of
sea. The lake was curved at the north, which contrasted with the sharp
outline of its lower part. Numerous aquatic birds frequented the shores
of this little Ontario, in which the thousand isles of its American
namesake were represented by a rock which emerged from its surface, some
hundred feet from the southern shore. There lived in harmony several
couples of kingfishers perched on a stone, grave, motionless, watching
for fish, then darting down, they plunged in with a sharp cry, and
reappeared with their prey in their beaks. On the shores and on the
islets, strutted wild ducks, pelicans, water-hens, red-beaks, philedons,
furnished with a tongue like a brush, and one or two specimens of the
splendid menura, the tail of which expands gracefully like a lyre.

As to the water of the lake, it was sweet, limpid, rather dark, and from
certain bubblings, and the concentric circles which crossed each other
on the surface, it could not be doubted that it abounded in fish.

"This lake is really beautiful!" said Gideon Spilett. "We could live on
its borders!"

"We will live there!" replied Harding.

The settlers, wishing to return to the Chimneys by the shortest way,
descended towards the angle formed on the south by the junction of
the lake's bank. It was not without difficulty that they broke a path
through the thickets and brushwood which had never been put aside by the
hand of men, and they thus went towards the shore, so as to arrive at
the north of Prospect Heights. Two miles were cleared in this direction,
and then, after they had passed the last curtain of trees, appeared the
plateau, carpeted with thick turf, and beyond that the infinite sea.

To return to the Chimneys, it was enough to cross the plateau obliquely
for the space of a mile, and then to descend to the elbow formed by
the first detour of the Mercy. But the engineer desired to know how
and where the overplus of the water from the lake escaped, and the
exploration was prolonged under the trees for a mile and a half towards
the north. It was most probable that an overfall existed somewhere, and
doubtless through a cleft in the granite. This lake was only, in short,
an immense center basin, which was filled by degrees by the creek, and
its waters must necessarily pass to the sea by some fall. If it was so,
the engineer thought that it might perhaps be possible to utilize this
fall and borrow its power, actually lost without profit to any one.
They continued then to follow the shores of Lake Grant by climbing the
plateau; but, after having gone a mile in this direction, Cyrus Harding
had not been able to discover the overfall, which, however, must exist
somewhere.

It was then half-past four. In order to prepare for dinner it was
necessary that the settlers should return to their dwelling. The little
band retraced their steps, therefore, and by the left bank of the Mercy,
Cyrus Harding and his companions arrived at the Chimneys.

The fire was lighted, and Neb and Pencroft, on whom the functions of
cooks naturally devolved, to the one in his quality of Negro, to the
other in that of sailor, quickly prepared some broiled agouti, to which
they did great justice.

The repast at length terminated; at the moment when each one was about
to give himself up to sleep, Cyrus Harding drew from his pocket little
specimens of different sorts of minerals, and just said,--

"My friends, this is iron mineral, this a pyrite, this is clay, this is
lime, and this is coal. Nature gives us these things. It is our business
to make a right use of them. To-morrow we will commence operations."

 

 

Chapter 13

"Well, captain, where are we going to begin?" asked Pencroft next
morning of the engineer.

"At the beginning," replied Cyrus Harding.

And in fact, the settlers were compelled to begin "at the very
beginning." They did not possess even the tools necessary for making
tools, and they were not even in the condition of nature, who, "having
time, husbands her strength." They had no time, since they had to
provide for the immediate wants of their existence, and though,
profiting by acquired experience, they had nothing to invent, still they
had everything to make; their iron and their steel were as yet only in
the state of minerals, their earthenware in the state of clay, their
linen and their clothes in the state of textile material.

It must be said, however, that the settlers were "men" in the complete
and higher sense of the word. The engineer Harding could not have been
seconded by more intelligent companions, nor with more devotion and
zeal. He had tried them. He knew their abilities.

Gideon Spilett, a talented reporter, having learned everything so as to
be able to speak of everything, would contribute largely with his head
and hands to the colonization of the island. He would not draw back from
any task: a determined sportsman, he would make a business of what till
then had only been a pleasure to him.

Herbert, a gallant boy, already remarkably well informed in the natural
sciences, would render greater service to the common cause.

Neb was devotion personified. Clever, intelligent, indefatigable,
robust, with iron health, he knew a little about the work of the forge,
and could not fail to be very useful in the colony.

As to Pencroft, he had sailed over every sea, a carpenter in the
dockyards in Brooklyn, assistant tailor in the vessels of the state,
gardener, cultivator, during his holidays, etc., and like all seamen,
fit for anything, he knew how to do everything.

It would have been difficult to unite five men, better fitted to
struggle against fate, more certain to triumph over it.

"At the beginning," Cyrus Harding had said. Now this beginning of which
the engineer spoke was the construction of an apparatus which would
serve to transform the natural substances. The part which heat plays in
these transformations is known. Now fuel, wood or coal, was ready for
immediate use, an oven must be built to use it.

"What is this oven for?" asked Pencroft.

"To make the pottery which we have need of," replied Harding.

"And of what shall we make the oven?"

"With bricks."

"And the bricks?"

"With clay. Let us start, my friends. To save trouble, we will establish
our manufactory at the place of production. Neb will bring provisions,
and there will be no lack of fire to cook the food."

"No," replied the reporter; "but if there is a lack of food for want of
instruments for the chase?"

"Ah, if we only had a knife!" cried the sailor.

"Well?" asked Cyrus Harding.

"Well! I would soon make a bow and arrows, and then there could be
plenty of game in the larder!"

"Yes, a knife, a sharp blade." said the engineer, as if he was speaking
to himself.

At this moment his eyes fell upon Top, who was running about on the
shore. Suddenly Harding's face became animated.

"Top, here," said he.

The dog came at his master's call. The latter took Top's head between
his hands, and unfastening the collar which the animal wore round his
neck, he broke it in two, saying,--

"There are two knives, Pencroft!"

Two hurrahs from the sailor was the reply. Top's collar was made of a
thin piece of tempered steel. They had only to sharpen it on a piece of
sandstone, then to raise the edge on a finer stone. Now sandstone was
abundant on the beach, and two hours after the stock of tools in the
colony consisted of two sharp blades, which were easily fixed in solid
handles.

The production of these their first tools was hailed as a triumph. It
was indeed a valuable result of their labor, and a very opportune one.
They set out.

Cyrus Harding proposed that they should return to the western shore of
the lake, where the day before he had noticed the clayey ground of which
he possessed a specimen. They therefore followed the bank of the Mercy,
traversed Prospect Heights, and after a walk of five miles or more they
reached a glade, situated two hundred feet from Lake Grant.

On the way Herbert had discovered a tree, the branches of which the
Indians of South America employ for making their bows. It was the
crejimba, of the palm family, which does not bear edible fruit. Long
straight branches were cut, the leaves stripped off; it was shaped,
stronger in the middle, more slender at the extremities, and nothing
remained to be done but to find a plant fit to make the bow-string.
This was the "hibiscus heterophyllus," which furnishes fibers of such
remarkable tenacity that they have been compared to the tendons of
animals. Pencroft thus obtained bows of tolerable strength, for which he
only wanted arrows. These were easily made with straight stiff branches,
without knots, but the points with which they must be armed, that is
to say, a substance to serve in lieu of iron, could not be met with so
easily. But Pencroft said, that having done his part of the work, chance
would do the rest.

The settlers arrived on the ground which had been discovered the day
before. Being composed of the sort of clay which is used for making
bricks and tiles, it was very useful for the work in question. There was
no great difficulty in it. It was enough to scour the clay with sand,
then to mold the bricks and bake them by the heat of a wood fire.

Generally bricks are formed in molds, but the engineer contented himself
with making them by hand. All that day and the day following were
employed in this work. The clay, soaked in water, was mixed by the feet
and hands of the manipulators, and then divided into pieces of equal
size. A practiced workman can make, without a machine, about ten
thousand bricks in twelve hours; but in their two days work the five
brickmakers on Lincoln Island had not made more than three thousand,
which were ranged near each other, until the time when their complete
desiccation would permit them to be used in building the oven, that is
to say, in three or four days.

It was on the 2nd of April that Harding had employed himself in fixing
the orientation of the island, or, in other words, the precise spot
where the sun rose. The day before he had noted exactly the hour when
the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, making allowance for the
refraction. This morning he noted, no less exactly, the hour at which
it reappeared. Between this setting and rising twelve hours, twenty-four
minutes passed. Then, six hours, twelve minutes after its rising, the
sun on this day would exactly pass the meridian and the point of the sky
which it occupied at this moment would be the north. At the said hour,
Cyrus marked this point, and putting in a line with the sun two trees
which would serve him for marks, he thus obtained an invariable meridian
for his ulterior operations.

The settlers employed the two days before the oven was built in
collecting fuel. Branches were cut all round the glade, and they picked
up all the fallen wood under the trees. They were also able to hunt with
greater success, since Pencroft now possessed some dozen arrows armed
with sharp points. It was Top who had famished these points, by bringing
in a porcupine, rather inferior eating, but of great value, thanks to
the quills with which it bristled. These quills were fixed firmly at the
ends of the arrows, the flight of which was made more certain by some
cockatoos' feathers. The reporter and Herbert soon became very skilful
archers. Game of all sorts in consequence abounded at the Chimneys,
capybaras, pigeons, agouties, grouse, etc. The greater part of these
animals were killed in the part of the forest on the left bank of the
Mercy, to which they gave the name of Jacamar Wood, in remembrance of
the bird which Pencroft and Herbert had pursued when on their first
exploration.

This game was eaten fresh, but they preserved some capybara hams, by
smoking them above a fire of green wood, after having perfumed them with
sweet-smelling leaves. However, this food, although very strengthening,
was always roast upon roast, and the party would have been delighted
to hear some soup bubbling on the hearth, but they must wait till a pot
could be made, and, consequently, till the oven was built.

During these excursions, which were not extended far from the
brick-field, the hunters could discern the recent passage of animals of
a large size, armed with powerful claws, but they could not recognize
the species. Cyrus Harding advised them to be very careful, as the
forest probably enclosed many dangerous beasts.

And he did right. Indeed, Gideon Spilett and Herbert one day saw an
animal which resembled a jaguar. Happily the creature did not attack
them, or they might not have escaped without a severe wound. As soon
as he could get a regular weapon, that is to say, one of the guns which
Pencroft begged for, Gideon Spilett resolved to make desperate war
against the ferocious beasts, and exterminate them from the island.

The Chimneys during these few days was not made more comfortable, for
the engineer hoped to discover, or build if necessary, a more convenient
dwelling. They contented themselves with spreading moss and dry leaves
on the sand of the passages, and on these primitive couches the tired
workers slept soundly.

They also reckoned the days they had passed on Lincoln Island, and from
that time kept a regular account. The 5th of April, which was Wednesday,
was twelve days from the time when the wind threw the castaways on this
shore.

On the 6th of April, at daybreak, the engineer and his companions were
collected in the glade, at the place where they were going to perform
the operation of baking the bricks. Naturally this had to be in the open
air, and not in a kiln, or rather, the agglomeration of bricks made an
enormous kiln, which would bake itself. The fuel, made of well-prepared
fagots, was laid on the ground and surrounded with several rows of dried
bricks, which soon formed an enormous cube, to the exterior of which
they contrived air-holes. The work lasted all day, and it was not till
the evening that they set fire to the fagots. No one slept that night,
all watching carefully to keep up the fire.

The operation lasted forty-eight hours, and succeeded perfectly. It then
became necessary to leave the smoking mass to cool, and during this time
Neb and Pencroft, guided by Cyrus Harding, brought, on a hurdle made of
interlaced branches, loads of carbonate of lime and common stones,
which were very abundant, to the north of the lake. These stones, when
decomposed by heat, made a very strong quicklime, greatly increased by
slacking, at least as pure as if it had been produced by the calcination
of chalk or marble. Mixed with sand the lime made excellent mortar.

The result of these different works was, that, on the 9th of April,
the engineer had at his disposal a quantity of prepared lime and some
thousands of bricks.

Without losing an instant, therefore, they began the construction of
a kiln to bake the pottery, which was indispensable for their domestic
use. They succeeded without much difficulty. Five days after, the kiln
was supplied with coal, which the engineer had discovered lying open to
the sky towards the mouth of the Red Creek, and the first smoke escaped
from a chimney twenty feet high. The glade was transformed into a
manufactory, and Pencroft was not far wrong in believing that from this
kiln would issue all the products of modern industry.

In the meantime what the settlers first manufactured was a common
pottery in which to cook their food. The chief material was clay, to
which Harding added a little lime and quartz. This paste made regular
"pipe-clay," with which they manufactured bowls, cups molded on stones
of a proper size, great jars and pots to hold water, etc. The shape of
these objects was clumsy and defective, but after they had been baked
in a high temperature, the kitchen of the Chimneys was provided with a
number of utensils, as precious to the settlers as the most beautifully
enameled china. We must mention here that Pencroft, desirous to know if
the clay thus prepared was worthy of its name of pipe-clay, made some
large pipes, which he thought charming, but for which, alas! he had no
tobacco, and that was a great privation to Pencroft. "But tobacco
will come, like everything else!" he repeated, in a burst of absolute
confidence.

This work lasted till the 15th of April, and the time was well employed.
The settlers, having become potters, made nothing but pottery. When
it suited Cyrus Harding to change them into smiths, they would become
smiths. But the next day being Sunday, and also Easter Sunday, all
agreed to sanctify the day by rest. These Americans were religious men,
scrupulous observers of the precepts of the Bible, and their situation
could not but develop sentiments of confidence towards the Author of all
things.

On the evening of the 15th of April they returned to the Chimneys,
carrying with them the pottery, the furnace being extinguished until
they could put it to a new use. Their return was marked by a fortunate
incident; the engineer discovered a substance which replaced tinder.
It is known that a spongy, velvety flesh is procured from a certain
mushroom of the genus polyporous. Properly prepared, it is extremely
inflammable, especially when it has been previously saturated with
gunpowder, or boiled in a solution of nitrate or chlorate of potash.
But, till then, they had not found any of these polypores or even any of
the morels which could replace them. On this day, the engineer, seeing
a plant belonging to the wormwood genus, the principal species of which
are absinthe, balm-mint, tarragon, etc., gathered several tufts, and,
presenting them to the sailor, said,--

"Here, Pencroft, this will please you."

Pencroft looked attentively at the plant, covered with long silky hair,
the leaves being clothed with soft down.

"What's that, captain?" asked Pencroft. "Is it tobacco?"

"No," replied Harding, "it is wormwood; Chinese wormwood to the learned,
but to us it will be tinder."

When the wormwood was properly dried it provided them with a very
inflammable substance, especially afterwards when the engineer had
impregnated it with nitrate of potash, of which the island possessed
several beds, and which is in truth saltpeter.

The colonists had a good supper that evening. Neb prepared some agouti
soup, a smoked capybara ham, to which was added the boiled tubercules of
the "caladium macrorhizum," an herbaceous plant of the arum family.
They had an excellent taste, and were very nutritious, being something
similar to the substance which is sold in England under the name of
"Portland sago"; they were also a good substitute for bread, which the
settlers in Lincoln Island did not yet possess.

When supper was finished, before sleeping, Harding and his companions
went to take the air on the beach. It was eight o'clock in the evening;
the night was magnificent. The moon, which had been full five days
before, had not yet risen, but the horizon was already silvered by those
soft, pale shades which might be called the dawn of the moon. At the
southern zenith glittered the circumpolar constellations, and above all
the Southern Cross, which some days before the engineer had greeted on
the summit of Mount Franklin.

Cyrus Harding gazed for some time at this splendid constellation, which
has at its summit and at its base two stars of the first magnitude, at
its left arm a star of the second, and at its right arm a star of the
third magnitude.

Then, after some minutes thought--

"Herbert," he asked of the lad, "is not this the 15th of April?"

"Yes, captain," replied Herbert.

"Well, if I am not mistaken, to-morrow will be one of the four days in
the year in which the real time is identical with average time; that
is to say, my boy, that to-morrow, to within some seconds, the sun will
pass the meridian just at midday by the clocks. If the weather is fine
I think that I shall obtain the longitude of the island with an
approximation of some degrees."

"Without instruments, without sextant?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"Yes," replied the engineer. "Also, since the night is clear, I will
try, this very evening, to obtain our latitude by calculating the
height of the Southern Cross, that is, from the southern pole above the
horizon. You understand, my friends, that before undertaking the work
of installation in earnest it is not enough to have found out that this
land is an island; we must, as nearly as possible, know at what distance
it is situated, either from the American continent or Australia, or from
the principal archipelagoes of the Pacific."

"In fact," said the reporter, "instead of building a house it would
be more important to build a boat, if by chance we are not more than a
hundred miles from an inhabited coast."

"That is why," returned Harding, "I am going to try this evening to
calculate the latitude of Lincoln Island, and to-morrow, at midday, I
will try to calculate the longitude."

If the engineer had possessed a sextant, an apparatus with which the
angular distance of objects can be measured with great precision, there
would have been no difficulty in the operation. This evening by the
height of the pole, the next day by the passing of the sun at the
meridian, he would obtain the position of the island. But as they had
not one he would have to supply the deficiency.

Harding then entered the Chimneys. By the light of the fire he cut two
little flat rulers, which he joined together at one end so as to form
a pair of compasses, whose legs could separate or come together. The
fastening was fixed with a strong acacia thorn which was found in the
wood pile. This instrument finished, the engineer returned to the beach,
but as it was necessary to take the height of the pole from above a
clear horizon, that is, a sea horizon, and as Claw Cape hid the southern
horizon, he was obliged to look for a more suitable station. The best
would evidently have been the shore exposed directly to the south; but
the Mercy would have to be crossed, and that was a difficulty. Harding
resolved, in consequence, to make his observation from Prospect Heights,
taking into consideration its height above the level of the sea--a
height which he intended to calculate next day by a simple process of
elementary geometry.

The settlers, therefore, went to the plateau, ascending the left bank of
the Mercy, and placed themselves on the edge which looked northwest and
southeast, that is, above the curiously-shaped rocks which bordered the
river.

This part of the plateau commanded the heights of the left bank, which
sloped away to the extremity of Claw Cape, and to the southern side of
the island. No obstacle intercepted their gaze, which swept the horizon
in a semi-circle from the cape to Reptile End. To the south the horizon,
lighted by the first rays of the moon, was very clearly defined against
the sky.

At this moment the Southern Cross presented itself to the observer in an
inverted position, the star Alpha marking its base, which is nearer to
the southern pole.

This constellation is not situated as near to the antarctic pole as the
Polar Star is to the arctic pole. The star Alpha is about twenty-seven
degrees from it, but Cyrus Harding knew this and made allowance for
it in his calculation. He took care also to observe the moment when it
passed the meridian below the pole, which would simplify the operation.

Cyrus Harding pointed one leg of the compasses to the horizon, the
other to Alpha, and the space between the two legs gave him the angular
distance which separated Alpha from the horizon. In order to fix the
angle obtained, he fastened with thorns the two pieces of wood on a
third placed transversely, so that their separation should be properly
maintained.

That done, there was only the angle to calculate by bringing back the
observation to the level of the sea, taking into consideration the
depression of the horizon, which would necessitate measuring the height
of the cliff. The value of this angle would give the height of Alpha,
and consequently that of the pole above the horizon, that is to say, the
latitude of the island, since the latitude of a point of the globe is
always equal to the height of the pole above the horizon of this point.

The calculations were left for the next day, and at ten o'clock every
one was sleeping soundly.

 

 

Chapter 14

 

The next day, the 16th of April, and Easter Sunday, the settlers issued
from the Chimneys at daybreak, and proceeded to wash their linen. The
engineer intended to manufacture soap as soon as he could procure the
necessary materials--soda or potash, fat or oil. The important question
of renewing their wardrobe would be treated of in the proper time and
place. At any rate their clothes would last at least six months longer,
for they were strong, and could resist the wear of manual labor. But
all would depend on the situation of the island with regard to inhabited
land. This would be settled to-day if the weather permitted.

The sun rising above a clear horizon, announced a magnificent day, one
of those beautiful autumn days which are like the last farewells of the
warm season.

It was now necessary to complete the observations of the evening before
by measuring the height of the cliff above the level of the sea.

"Shall you not need an instrument similar to the one which you used
yesterday?" said Herbert to the engineer.

"No, my boy," replied the latter, "we are going to proceed differently,
but in as precise a way."

Herbert, wishing to learn everything he could, followed the engineer to
the beach. Pencroft, Neb, and the reporter remained behind and occupied
themselves in different ways.

Cyrus Harding had provided himself with a straight stick, twelve feet
long, which he had measured as exactly as possible by comparing it with
his own height, which he knew to a hair. Herbert carried a plumb-line
which Harding had given him, that is to say, a simple stone fastened
to the end of a flexible fiber. Having reached a spot about twenty feet
from the edge of the beach, and nearly five hundred feet from the cliff,
which rose perpendicularly, Harding thrust the pole two feet into
the sand, and wedging it up carefully, he managed, by means of the
plumb-line, to erect it perpendicularly with the plane of the horizon.

 

That done, he retired the necessary distance, when, lying on the sand,
his eye glanced at the same time at the top of the pole and the crest of
the cliff. He carefully marked the place with a little stick.

Then addressing Herbert--"Do you know the first principles of geometry?"
he asked.

"Slightly, captain," replied Herbert, who did not wish to put himself
forward.

"You remember what are the properties of two similar triangles?"

"Yes," replied Herbert; "their homologous sides are proportional."

"Well, my boy, I have just constructed two similar right-angled
triangles; the first, the smallest, has for its sides the perpendicular
pole, the distance which separates the little stick from the foot of the
pole and my visual ray for hypothenuse; the second has for its sides
the perpendicular cliff, the height of which we wish to measure, the
distance which separates the little stick from the bottom of the
cliff, and my visual ray also forms its hypothenuse, which proves to be
prolongation of that of the first triangle."

"Ah, captain, I understand!" cried Herbert. "As the distance from the
stick to the pole is to the distance from the stick to the base of the
cliff, so is the height of the pole to the height of the cliff."

"Just so, Herbert," replied the engineer; "and when we have measured the
two first distances, knowing the height of the pole, we shall only have
a sum in proportion to do, which will give us the height of the cliff,
and will save us the trouble of measuring it directly."

The two horizontal distances were found out by means of the pole, whose
length above the sand was exactly ten feet.

The first distance was fifteen feet between the stick and the place
where the pole was thrust into the sand.

The second distance between the stick and the bottom of the cliff was
five hundred feet.

These measurements finished, Cyrus Harding and the lad returned to the
Chimneys.

The engineer then took a flat stone which he had brought back from one
of his previous excursions, a sort of slate, on which it was easy
to trace figures with a sharp shell. He then proved the following
proportions:--

 

15:500::10:x

500 x 10 = 5000

5000 / 15 = 333.3

 

From which it was proved that the granite cliff measured 333 feet in
height.

Cyrus Harding then took the instrument which he had made the evening
before, the space between its two legs giving the angular distance
between the star Alpha and the horizon. He measured, very exactly, the
opening of this angle on a circumference which he divided into 360 equal
parts. Now, this angle by adding to it the twenty-seven degrees which
separated Alpha from the antarctic pole, and by reducing to the level of
the sea the height of the cliff on which the observation had been made,
was found to be fifty-three degrees. These fifty-three degrees being
subtracted from ninety degrees--the distance from the pole to the
equator--there remained thirty-seven degrees. Cyrus Harding concluded,
therefore, that Lincoln Island was situated on the thirty-seventh degree
of the southern latitude, or taking into consideration through the
imperfection of the performance, an error of five degrees, that it must
be situated between the thirty-fifth and the fortieth parallel.

There was only the longitude to be obtained, and the position of the
island would be determined, The engineer hoped to attempt this the same
day, at twelve o'clock, at which moment the sun would pass the meridian.

It was decided that Sunday should be spent in a walk, or rather an
exploring expedition, to that side of the island between the north of
the lake and Shark Gulf, and if there was time they would push their
discoveries to the northern side of Cape South Mandible. They would
breakfast on the downs, and not return till evening.

At half-past eight the little band was following the edge of the
channel. On the other side, on Safety Islet, numerous birds were gravely
strutting. They were divers, easily recognized by their cry, which much
resembles the braying of a donkey. Pencroft only considered them in
an eatable point of view, and learnt with some satisfaction that their
flesh, though blackish, is not bad food.

Great amphibious creatures could also be seen crawling on the sand;
seals, doubtless, who appeared to have chosen the islet for a place of
refuge. It was impossible to think of those animals in an alimentary
point of view, for their oily flesh is detestable; however, Cyrus
Harding observed them attentively, and without making known his idea, he
announced to his companions that very soon they would pay a visit to the
islet. The beach was strewn with innumerable shells, some of which would
have rejoiced the heart of a conchologist; there were, among others, the
phasianella, the terebratual, etc. But what would be of more use, was
the discovery, by Neb, at low tide, of a large oysterbed among the
rocks, nearly five miles from the Chimneys.

"Neb will not have lost his day," cried Pencroft, looking at the
spacious oyster-bed.

"It is really a fortunate discovery," said the reporter, "and as it is
said that each oyster produces yearly from fifty to sixty thousand eggs,
we shall have an inexhaustible supply there."

"Only I believe that the oyster is not very nourishing," said Herbert.

"No," replied Harding. "The oyster contains very little nitrogen, and
if a man lived exclusively on them, he would have to eat not less than
fifteen to sixteen dozen a day."

"Capital!" replied Pencroft. "We might swallow dozens and dozens without
exhausting the bed. Shall we take some for breakfast?"

And without waiting for a reply to this proposal, knowing that it would
be approved of, the sailor and Neb detached a quantity of the molluscs.
They put them in a sort of net of hibiscus fiber, which Neb had
manufactured, and which already contained food; they then continued to
climb the coast between the downs and the sea.

From time to time Harding consulted his watch, so as to be prepared in
time for the solar observation, which had to be made exactly at midday.

All that part of the island was very barren as far as the point
which closed Union Bay, and which had received the name of Cape South
Mandible. Nothing could be seen there but sand and shells, mingled with
debris of lava. A few sea-birds frequented this desolate coast, gulls,
great albatrosses, as well as wild duck, for which Pencroft had a great
fancy. He tried to knock some over with an arrow, but without result,
for they seldom perched, and he could not hit them on the wing.

This led the sailor to repeat to the engineer,--

"You see, captain, so long as we have not one or two fowling-pieces, we
shall never get anything!"

"Doubtless, Pencroft," replied the reporter, "but it depends on you.
Procure us some iron for the barrels, steel for the hammers, saltpeter.
coal and sulphur for powder, mercury and nitric acid for the fulminate,
and lead for the shot, and the captain will make us first-rate guns."

"Oh!" replied the engineer, "we might, no doubt, find all these
substances on the island, but a gun is a delicate instrument, and needs
very particular tools. However, we shall see later!"

"Why," cried Pencroft, "were we obliged to throw overboard all the
weapons we had with us in the car, all our implements, even our
pocket-knives?"

"But if we had not thrown them away, Pencroft, the balloon would have
thrown us to the bottom of the sea!" said Herbert.

"What you say is true, my boy," replied the sailor.

Then passing to another idea,--"Think," said he, "how astounded Jonathan
Forster and his companions must have been when, next morning, they found
the place empty, and the machine flown away!"

"I am utterly indifferent about knowing what they may have thought,"
said the reporter.

"It was all my idea, that!" said Pencroft, with a satisfied air.

"A splendid idea, Pencroft!" replied Gideon Spilett, laughing, "and
which has placed us where we are."

"I would rather be here than in the hands of the Southerners," cried the
sailor, "especially since the captain has been kind enough to come and
join us again."

"So would I, truly!" replied the reporter. "Besides, what do we want?
Nothing."

"If that is not--everything!" replied Pencroft, laughing and shrugging
his shoulders. "But, some day or other, we shall find means of going
away!"

"Sooner, perhaps, than you imagine, my friends," remarked the engineer,
"if Lincoln Island is but a medium distance from an inhabited island,
or from a continent. We shall know in an hour. I have not a map of the
Pacific, but my memory has preserved a very clear recollection of
its southern part. The latitude which I obtained yesterday placed New
Zealand to the west of Lincoln Island, and the coast of Chile to the
east. But between these two countries, there is a distance of at least
six thousand miles. It has, therefore, to be determined what point in
this great space the island occupies, and this the longitude will give
us presently, with a sufficient approximation, I hope."

"Is not the archipelago of the Pomoutous the nearest point to us in
latitude?" asked Herbert.

"Yes," replied the engineer, "but the distance which separates us from
it is more than twelve hundred miles."

"And that way?" asked Neb, who followed the conversation with extreme
interest, pointing to the south.

"That way, nothing," replied Pencroft.

"Nothing, indeed," added the engineer.

"Well, Cyrus," asked the reporter, "if Lincoln Island is not more than
two or three thousand miles from New Zealand or Chile?"

"Well," replied the engineer, "instead of building a house we will build
a boat, and Master Pencroft shall be put in command--"

"Well then," cried the sailor, "I am quite ready to be captain--as soon
as you can make a craft that's able to keep at sea!"

"We shall do it, if it is necessary," replied Cyrus Harding.

But while these men, who really hesitated at nothing, were talking,
the hour approached at which the observation was to be made. What Cyrus
Harding was to do to ascertain the passage of the sun at the meridian of
the island, without an instrument of any sort, Herbert could not guess.

The observers were then about six miles from the Chimneys, not far from
that part of the downs in which the engineer had been found after his
enigmatical preservation. They halted at this place and prepared for
breakfast, for it was half-past eleven. Herbert went for some fresh
water from a stream which ran near, and brought it back in a jug, which
Neb had provided.

During these preparations Harding arranged everything for his
astronomical observation. He chose a clear place on the shore, which
the ebbing tide had left perfectly level. This bed of fine sand was as
smooth as ice, not a grain out of place. It was of little importance
whether it was horizontal or not, and it did not matter much whether the
stick six feet high, which was planted there, rose perpendicularly. On
the contrary, the engineer inclined it towards the south, that is to
say, in the direction of the coast opposite to the sun, for it must
not be forgotten that the settlers in Lincoln Island, as the island was
situated in the Southern Hemisphere, saw the radiant planet describe its
diurnal arc above the northern, and not above the southern horizon.

Herbert now understood how the engineer was going to proceed to
ascertain the culmination of the sun, that is to say its passing the
meridian of the island or, in other words, determine due south. It was
by means of the shadow cast on the sand by the stick, a way which, for
want of an instrument, would give him a suitable approach to the result
which he wished to obtain.

In fact, the moment when this shadow would reach its minimum of length
would be exactly twelve o'clock, and it would be enough to watch the
extremity of the shadow, so as to ascertain the instant when, after
having successively diminished, it began to lengthen. By inclining his
stick to the side opposite to the sun, Cyrus Harding made the shadow
longer, and consequently its modifications would be more easily
ascertained. In fact, the longer the needle of a dial is, the more
easily can the movement of its point be followed. The shadow of the
stick was nothing but the needle of a dial. The moment had come, and
Cyrus Harding knelt on the sand, and with little wooden pegs, which he
stuck into the sand, he began to mark the successive diminutions of the
stick's shadow. His companions, bending over him, watched the operation
with extreme interest. The reporter held his chronometer in his hand,
ready to tell the hour which it marked when the shadow would be at its
shortest. Moreover, as Cyrus Harding was working on the 16th of April,
the day on which the true and the average time are identical, the hour
given by Gideon Spilett would be the true hour then at Washington, which
would simplify the calculation. Meanwhile as the sun slowly advanced,
the shadow slowly diminished, and when it appeared to Cyrus Harding that
it was beginning to increase, he asked, "What o'clock is it?"

"One minute past five," replied Gideon Spilett directly. They had now
only to calculate the operation. Nothing could be easier. It could be
seen that there existed, in round numbers, a difference of five hours
between the meridian of Washington and that of Lincoln Island, that is
to say, it was midday in Lincoln Island when it was already five o'clock
in the evening in Washington. Now the sun, in its apparent movement
round the earth, traverses one degree in four minutes, or fifteen
degrees an hour. Fifteen degrees multiplied by five hours give
seventy-five degrees.

Then, since Washington is 77deg 3' 11" as much as to say seventy-seven
degrees counted from the meridian of Greenwich which the Americans
take for their starting-point for longitudes concurrently with the
English--it followed that the island must be situated seventy-seven and
seventy-five degrees west of the meridian of Greenwich, that is to say,
on the hundred and fifty-second degree of west longitude.

Cyrus Harding announced this result to his companions, and taking into
consideration errors of observation, as he had done for the latitude, he
believed he could positively affirm that the position of Lincoln Island
was between the thirty-fifth and the thirty-seventh parallel, and
between the hundred and fiftieth and the hundred and fifty-fifth
meridian to the west of the meridian of Greenwich.

The possible fault which he attributed to errors in the observation was,
it may be seen, of five degrees on both sides, which, at sixty miles
to a degree, would give an error of three hundred miles in latitude and
longitude for the exact position.

But this error would not influence the determination which it was
necessary to take. It was very evident that Lincoln Island was at such a
distance from every country or island that it would be too hazardous to
attempt to reach one in a frail boat.

In fact, this calculation placed it at least twelve hundred miles from
Tahiti and the islands of the archipelago of the Pomoutous, more than
eighteen hundred miles from New Zealand, and more than four thousand
five hundred miles from the American coast!

And when Cyrus Harding consulted his memory, he could not remember in
any way that such an island occupied, in that part of the Pacific, the
situation assigned to Lincoln Island.

 

 

Chapter 15

The next day, the 17th of April, the sailor's first words were addressed
to Gideon Spilett.

"Well, sir," he asked, "what shall we do to-day?"

"What the captain pleases," replied the reporter.

Till then the engineer's companions had been brickmakers and potters,
now they were to become metallurgists.

The day before, after breakfast, they had explored as far as the point
of Mandible Cape, seven miles distant from the Chimneys. There, the long
series of downs ended, and the soil had a volcanic appearance. There
were no longer high cliffs as at Prospect Heights, but a strange and
capricious border which surrounded the narrow gulf between the two
capes, formed of mineral matter, thrown up by the volcano. Arrived at
this point the settlers retraced their steps, and at nightfall entered
the Chimneys; but they did not sleep before the question of knowing
whether they could think of leaving Lincoln Island or not was definitely
settled.

The twelve hundred miles which separated the island from the Pomoutous
Island was a considerable distance. A boat could not cross it,
especially at the approach of the bad season. Pencroft had expressly
declared this. Now, to construct a simple boat even with the necessary
tools, was a difficult work, and the colonists not having tools they
must begin by making hammers, axes, adzes, saws, augers, planes, etc.,
which would take some time. It was decided, therefore, that they
would winter at Lincoln Island, and that they would look for a more
comfortable dwelling than the Chimneys, in which to pass the winter
months.

Before anything else could be done it was necessary to make the iron
ore, of which the engineer had observed some traces in the northwest
part of the island, fit for use by converting it either into iron or
into steel.

Metals are not generally found in the ground in a pure state. For the
most part they are combined with oxygen or sulphur. Such was the case
with the two specimens which Cyrus Harding had brought back, one of
magnetic iron, not carbonated, the other a pyrite, also called sulphuret
of iron. It was, therefore the first, the oxide of iron, which they must
reduce with coal, that is to say, get rid of the oxygen, to obtain it in
a pure state. This reduction is made by subjecting the ore with coal to
a high temperature, either by the rapid and easy Catalan method,
which has the advantage of transforming the ore into iron in a single
operation, or by the blast furnace, which first smelts the ore, then
changes it into iron, by carrying away the three to four per cent. of
coal, which is combined with it.

Now Cyrus Harding wanted iron, and he wished to obtain it as soon as
possible. The ore which he had picked up was in itself very pure and
rich. It was the oxydulous iron, which is found in confused masses of a
deep gray color; it gives a black dust, crystallized in the form of the
regular octahedron. Native lodestones consist of this ore, and iron
of the first quality is made in Europe from that with which Sweden and
Norway are so abundantly supplied. Not far from this vein was the vein
of coal already made use of by the settlers. The ingredients for the
manufacture being close together would greatly facilitate the treatment
of the ore. This is the cause of the wealth of the mines in Great
Britain, where the coal aids the manufacture of the metal extracted from
the same soil at the same time as itself.

"Then, captain," said Pencroft, "we are going to work iron ore?"

"Yes, my friend," replied the engineer, "and for that--something which
will please you--we must begin by having a seal hunt on the islet."

"A seal hunt!" cried the sailor, turning towards Gideon Spilett. "Are
seals needed to make iron?"

"Since Cyrus has said so!" replied the reporter.

But the engineer had already left the Chimneys, and Pencroft prepared
for the seal hunt, without having received any other explanation.

Cyrus Harding, Herbert, Gideon Spilett, Neb, and the sailor were
soon collected on the shore, at a place where the channel left a ford
passable at low tide. The hunters could therefore traverse it without
getting wet higher than the knee.

Harding then put his foot on the islet for the first, and his companions
for the second time.

On their landing some hundreds of penguins looked fearlessly at them.
The hunters, armed with sticks, could have killed them easily, but they
were not guilty of such useless massacre, as it was important not to
frighten the seals, who were lying on the sand several cable lengths
off. They also respected certain innocent-looking birds, whose wings
were reduced to the state of stumps, spread out like fins, ornamented
with feathers of a scaly appearance. The settlers, therefore, prudently
advanced towards the north point, walking over ground riddled with
little holes, which formed nests for the sea-birds. Towards the
extremity of the islet appeared great black heads floating just above
the water, having exactly the appearance of rocks in motion.

These were the seals which were to be captured. It was necessary,
however, first to allow them to land, for with their close, short
hair, and their fusiform conformation, being excellent swimmers, it is
difficult to catch them in the sea, while on land their short, webbed
feet prevent their having more than a slow, waddling movement.

Pencroft knew the habits of these creatures, and he advised waiting till
they were stretched on the sand, when the sun, before long, would send
them to sleep. They must then manage to cut off their retreat and knock
them on the head.

The hunters, having concealed themselves behind the rocks, waited
silently.

An hour passed before the seals came to play on the sand. They could
count half a dozen. Pencroft and Herbert then went round the point of
the islet, so as to take them in the rear, and cut off their retreat.
During this time Cyrus Harding, Spilett, and Neb, crawling behind the
rocks, glided towards the future scene of combat.

All at once the tall figure of the sailor appeared. Pencroft shouted.
The engineer and his two companions threw themselves between the sea and
the seals. Two of the animals soon lay dead on the sand, but the rest
regained the sea in safety.

"Here are the seals required, captain!" said the sailor, advancing
towards the engineer.

"Capital," replied Harding. "We will make bellows of them!"

"Bellows!" cried Pencroft. "Well! these are lucky seals!"

It was, in fact, a blowing-machine, necessary for the treatment of
the ore that the engineer wished to manufacture with the skins of the
amphibious creatures. They were of a medium size, for their length did
not exceed six feet. They resembled a dog about the head.

As it was useless to burden themselves with the weight of both the
animals, Neb and Pencroft resolved to skin them on the spot, while Cyrus
Harding and the reporter continued to explore the islet.

The sailor and the Negro cleverly performed the operation, and three
hours afterwards Cyrus Harding had at his disposal two seals' skins,
which he intended to use in this state, without subjecting them to any
tanning process.

The settlers waited till the tide was again low, and crossing the
channel they entered the Chimneys.

The skins had then to be stretched on a frame of wood and sewn by means
of fibers so as to preserve the air without allowing too much to escape.
Cyrus Harding had nothing but the two steel blades from Top's collar,
and yet he was so clever, and his companions aided him with so much
intelligence, that three days afterwards the little colony's stock of
tools was augmented by a blowing-machine, destined to inject the air
into the midst of the ore when it should be subjected to heat--an
indispensable condition to the success of the operation.

On the morning of the 20th of April began the "metallic period," as the
reporter called it in his notes. The engineer had decided, as has been
said, to operate near the veins both of coal and ore. Now, according to
his observations, these veins were situated at the foot of the northeast
spurs of Mount Franklin, that is to say, a distance of six miles from
their home. It was impossible, therefore, to return every day to the
Chimneys, and it was agreed that the little colony should camp under a
hut of branches, so that the important operation could be followed night
and day.

This settled, they set out in the morning. Neb and Pencroft dragged the
bellows on a hurdle; also a quantity of vegetables and animals, which
they besides could renew on the way.

The road led through Jacamar Wood, which they traversed obliquely from
southeast to northwest, and in the thickest part. It was necessary to
beat a path, which would in the future form the most direct road to
Prospect Heights and Mount Franklin. The trees, belonging to the species
already discovered, were magnificent. Herbert found some new ones, among
others some which Pencroft called "sham leeks"; for, in spite of their
size, they were of the same liliaceous family as the onion, chive,
shallot, or asparagus. These trees produce ligneous roots which, when
cooked, are excellent; from them, by fermentation, a very agreeable
liquor is made. They therefore made a good store of the roots.

The journey through the wood was long; it lasted the whole day, and so
allowed plenty of time for examining the flora and fauna. Top, who
took special charge of the fauna, ran through the grass and brushwood,
putting up all sorts of game. Herbert and Gideon Spilett killed two
kangaroos with bows and arrows, and also an animal which strongly
resembled both a hedgehog and an ant-eater. It was like the first
because it rolled itself into a ball, and bristled with spines, and the
second because it had sharp claws, a long slender snout which terminated
in a bird's beak, and an extendible tongue, covered with little thorns
which served to hold the insects.

"And when it is in the pot," asked Pencroft naturally, "what will it be
like?"

"An excellent piece of beef," replied Herbert.

"We will not ask more from it," replied the sailor.

During this excursion they saw several wild boars, which however, did
not offer to attack the little band, and it appeared as if they would
not meet with any dangerous beasts; when, in a thick part of the wood,
the reporter thought he saw, some paces from him, among the lower
branches of a tree, an animal which he took for a bear, and which he
very tranquilly began to draw. Happily for Gideon Spilett, the animal in
question did not belong to the redoubtable family of the plantigrades.
It was only a koala, better known under the name of the sloth, being
about the size of a large dog, and having stiff hair of a dirty color,
the paws armed with strong claws, which enabled it to climb trees and
feed on the leaves. Having identified the animal, which they did not
disturb, Gideon Spilett erased "bear" from the title of his sketch,
putting koala in its place, and the journey was resumed.

At five o'clock in the evening, Cyrus Harding gave the signal to halt.
They were now outside the forest, at the beginning of the powerful spurs
which supported Mount Franklin towards the west. At a distance of some
hundred feet flowed the Red Creek, and consequently plenty of fresh
water was within their reach.

The camp was soon organized. In less than an hour, on the edge of the
forest, among the trees, a hut of branches interlaced with creepers,
and pasted over with clay, offered a tolerable shelter. Their geological
researches were put off till the next day. Supper was prepared, a good
fire blazed before the hut, the roast turned, and at eight o'clock,
while one of the settlers watched to keep up the fire, in case any wild
beasts should prowl in the neighborhood, the others slept soundly.

The next day, the 21st of April, Cyrus Harding accompanied by Herbert,
went to look for the soil of ancient formation, on which he had already
discovered a specimen of ore. They found the vein above ground, near the
source of the creek, at the foot of one of the northeastern spurs. This
ore, very rich in iron, enclosed in its fusible veinstone, was perfectly
suited to the mode of reduction which the engineer intended to employ;
that is, the Catalan method, but simplified, as it is used in
Corsica. In fact, the Catalan method, properly so called, requires the
construction of kilns and crucibles, in which the ore and the coal,
placed in alternate layers, are transformed and reduced, But Cyrus
Harding intended to economize these constructions, and wished simply to
form, with the ore and the coal, a cubic mass, to the center of which he
would direct the wind from his bellows. Doubtless, it was the proceeding
employed by Tubalcain, and the first metallurgists of the inhabited
world. Now that which had succeeded with the grandson of Adam, and which
still yielded good results in countries rich in ore and fuel, could not
but succeed with the settlers in Lincoln Island.

The coal, as well as the ore, was collected without trouble on the
surface of the ground. They first broke the ore into little pieces,
and cleansed them with the hand from the impurities which soiled their
surface. Then coal and ore were arranged in heaps and in successive
layers, as the charcoal-burner does with the wood which he wishes to
carbonize. In this way, under the influence of the air projected by the
blowing-machine, the coal would be transformed into carbonic acid, then
into oxide of carbon, its use being to reduce the oxide of iron, that is
to say, to rid it of the oxygen.

Thus the engineer proceeded. The bellows of sealskin, furnished at its
extremity with a nozzle of clay, which had been previously fabricated
in the pottery kiln, was established near the heap of ore. Using the
mechanism which consisted of a frame, cords of fiber and counterpoise,
he threw into the mass an abundance of air, which by raising the
temperature also concurred with the chemical transformation to produce
in time pure iron.

The operation was difficult. All the patience, all the ingenuity of the
settlers was needed; but at last it succeeded, and the result was a lump
of iron, reduced to a spongy state, which it was necessary to shingle
and fagot, that is to say, to forge so as to expel from it the liquefied
veinstone. These amateur smiths had, of course, no hammer; but they were
in no worse a situation than the first metallurgist, and therefore did
what, no doubt, he had to do.

A handle was fixed to the first lump, and was used as a hammer to forge
the second on a granite anvil, and thus they obtained a coarse but
useful metal. At length, after many trials and much fatigue, on the 25th
of April several bars of iron were forged, and transformed into tools,
crowbars, pincers, pickaxes, spades, etc., which Pencroft and Neb
declared to be real jewels. But the metal was not yet in its most
serviceable state, that is, of steel. Now steel is a combination of iron
and coal, which is extracted, either from the liquid ore, by taking from
it the excess of coal, or from the iron by adding to it the coal which
was wanting. The first, obtained by the decarburation of the metal,
gives natural or puddled steel; the second, produced by the carburation
of the iron, gives steel of cementation.

It was the last which Cyrus Harding intended to forge, as he possessed
iron in a pure state. He succeeded by heating the metal with powdered
coal in a crucible which had previously been manufactured from clay
suitable for the purpose.

He then worked this steel, which is malleable both when hot or cold,
with the hammer. Neb and Pencroft, cleverly directed, made hatchets,
which, heated red-hot, and plunged suddenly into cold water, acquired an
excellent temper.

Other instruments, of course roughly fashioned, were also manufactured;
blades for planes, axes, hatchets, pieces of steel to be transformed
into saws, chisels; then iron for spades, pickaxes, hammers, nails,
etc. At last, on the 5th of May, the metallic period ended, the smiths
returned to the Chimneys, and new work would soon authorize them to take
a fresh title.

 

 

Chapter 16

It was the 6th of May, a day which corresponds to the 6th of November in
the countries of the Northern Hemisphere. The sky had been obscured for
some days, and it was of importance to make preparations for the winter.
However, the temperature was not as yet much lower, and a centigrade
thermometer, transported to Lincoln Island, would still have marked an
average of ten to twelve degrees above zero. This was not surprising,
since Lincoln Island, probably situated between the thirty-fifth and
fortieth parallel, would be subject, in the Southern Hemisphere, to
the same climate as Sicily or Greece in the Northern Hemisphere. But as
Greece and Sicily have severe cold, producing snow and ice, so doubtless
would Lincoln Island in the severest part of the winter and it was
advisable to provide against it.

In any case if cold did not yet threaten them, the rainy season would
begin, and on this lonely island, exposed to all the fury of the
elements, in mid-ocean, bad weather would be frequent, and probably
terrible. The question of a more comfortable dwelling than the Chimneys
must therefore be seriously considered and promptly resolved on.

Pencroft, naturally, had some predilection for the retreat which he
had discovered, but he well understood that another must be found. The
Chimneys had been already visited by the sea, under circumstances
which are known, and it would not do to be exposed again to a similar
accident.

"Besides," added Cyrus Harding, who this day was talking of these things
with his companions, "we have some precautions to take."

"Why? The island is not inhabited," said the reporter.

"That is probable," replied the engineer, "although we have not yet
explored the interior; but if no human beings are found, I fear that
dangerous animals may abound. It is necessary to guard against a
possible attack, so that we shall not be obliged to watch every night,
or to keep up a fire. And then, my friends, we must foresee everything.
We are here in a part of the Pacific often frequented by Malay
pirates--"

"What!" said Herbert, "at such a distance from land?"

"Yes, my boy," replied the engineer. "These pirates are bold sailors as
well as formidable enemies, and we must take measures accordingly."

"Well," replied Pencroft, "we will fortify ourselves against savages
with two legs as well as against savages with four. But, captain, will
it not be best to explore every part of the island before undertaking
anything else?"

"That would be best," added Gideon Spilett.

"Who knows if we might not find on the opposite side one of the caverns
which we have searched for in vain here?"

"That is true," replied the engineer, "but you forget, my friends, that
it will be necessary to establish ourselves in the neighborhood of a
watercourse, and that, from the summit of Mount Franklin, we could not
see towards the west, either stream or river. Here, on the contrary, we
are placed between the Mercy and Lake Grant, an advantage which must not
be neglected. And, besides, this side, looking towards the east, is not
exposed as the other is to the trade-winds, which in this hemisphere
blow from the northwest."

"Then, captain," replied the sailor, "let us build a house on the edge
of the lake. Neither bricks nor tools are wanting now. After having been
brickmakers, potters, smelters, and smiths, we shall surely know how to
be masons!"

"Yes, my friend; but before coming to any decision we must consider
the matter thoroughly. A natural dwelling would spare us much work,
and would be a surer retreat, for it would be as well defended against
enemies from the interior as those from outside."

"That is true, Cyrus," replied the reporter, "but we have already
examined all that mass of granite, and there is not a hole, not a
cranny!"

"No, not one!" added Pencroft. "Ah, if we were able to dig out a
dwelling in that cliff, at a good height, so as to be out of the reach
of harm, that would be capital! I can see that on the front which looks
seaward, five or six rooms--"

"With windows to light them!" said Herbert, laughing.

"And a staircase to climb up to them!" added Neb.

"You are laughing," cried the sailor, "and why? What is there impossible
in what I propose? Haven't we got pickaxes and spades? Won't Captain
Harding be able to make powder to blow up the mine? Isn't it true,
captain, that you will make powder the very day we want it?"

Cyrus Harding listened to the enthusiastic Pencroft developing his
fanciful projects. To attack this mass of granite, even by a mine, was
Herculean work, and it was really vexing that nature could not help them
at their need. But the engineer did not reply to the sailor except by
proposing to examine the cliff more attentively, from the mouth of the
river to the angle which terminated it on the north.

They went out, therefore, and the exploration was made with extreme
care, over an extent of nearly two miles. But in no place in the bare,
straight cliff, could any cavity be found. The nests of the rock pigeons
which fluttered at its summit were only, in reality, holes bored at the
very top, and on the irregular edge of the granite.

It was a provoking circumstance, and as to attacking this cliff, either
with pickaxe or with powder, so as to effect a sufficient excavation, it
was not to be thought of. It so happened that, on all this part of the
shore, Pencroft had discovered the only habitable shelter, that is to
say, the Chimneys, which now had to be abandoned.

The exploration ended, the colonists found themselves at the north angle
of the cliff, where it terminated in long slopes which died away on the
shore. From this place, to its extreme limit in the west, it only formed
a sort of declivity, a thick mass of stones, earth, and sand, bound
together by plants, bushes, and grass inclined at an angle of only
forty-five degrees. Clumps of trees grew on these slopes, which were
also carpeted with thick grass. But the vegetation did not extend
far, and a long, sandy plain, which began at the foot of these slopes,
reached to the beach.

Cyrus Harding thought, not without reason, that the overplus of the lake
must overflow on this side. The excess of water furnished by the Red
Creek must also escape by some channel or other. Now the engineer had
not yet found this channel on any part of the shore already explored,
that is to say, from the mouth of the stream on the west of Prospect
Heights.

The engineer now proposed to his companions to climb the slope, and to
return to the Chimneys by the heights, while exploring the northern
and eastern shores of the lake. The proposal was accepted, and in a few
minutes Herbert and Neb were on the upper plateau. Cyrus Harding, Gideon
Spilett, and Pencroft followed with more sedate steps.

The beautiful sheet of water glittered through the trees under the rays
of the sun. In this direction the country was charming. The eye feasted
on the groups of trees. Some old trunks, bent with age, showed black
against the verdant grass which covered the ground. Crowds of brilliant
cockatoos screamed among the branches, moving prisms, hopping from one
bough to another.

The settlers instead of going directly to the north bank of the lake,
made a circuit round the edge of the plateau, so as to join the mouth
of the creek on its left bank. It was a detour of more than a mile and a
half. Walking was easy, for the trees widely spread, left a considerable
space between them. The fertile zone evidently stopped at this point,
and vegetation would be less vigorous in the part between the course of
the Creek and the Mercy.

Cyrus Harding and his companions walked over this new ground with great
care. Bows, arrows, and sticks with sharp iron points were their only
weapons. However, no wild beast showed itself, and it was probable that
these animals frequented rather the thick forests in the south; but the
settlers had the disagreeable surprise of seeing Top stop before a snake
of great size, measuring from fourteen to fifteen feet in length. Neb
killed it by a blow from his stick. Cyrus Harding examined the reptile,
and declared it not venomous, for it belonged to that species of diamond
serpents which the natives of New South Wales rear. But it was possible
that others existed whose bite was mortal such as the deaf vipers with
forked tails, which rise up under the feet, or those winged snakes,
furnished with two ears, which enable them to proceed with great
rapidity. Top, the first moment of surprise over, began a reptile chase
with such eagerness, that they feared for his safety. His master called
him back directly.

The mouth of the Red Creek, at the place where it entered into the lake,
was soon reached. The explorers recognized on the opposite shore the
point which they had visited on their descent from Mount Franklin. Cyrus
Harding ascertained that the flow of water into it from the creek was
considerable. Nature must therefore have provided some place for the
escape of the overplus. This doubtless formed a fall, which, if it could
be discovered, would be of great use.

The colonists, walking apart, but not straying far from each other,
began to skirt the edge of the lake, which was very steep. The water
appeared to be full of fish, and Pencroft resolved to make some
fishing-rods, so as to try and catch some.

The northeast point was first to be doubled. It might have been supposed
that the discharge of water was at this place, for the extremity of the
lake was almost on a level with the edge of the plateau. But no signs of
this were discovered, and the colonists continued to explore the bank,
which, after a slight bend, descended parallel to the shore.

On this side the banks were less woody, but clumps of trees, here and
there, added to the picturesqueness of the country. Lake Grant was
viewed from thence in all its extent, and no breath disturbed the
surface of its waters. Top, in beating the bushes, put up flocks of
birds of different kinds, which Gideon Spilett and Herbert saluted with
arrows. One was hit by the lad, and fell into some marshy grass. Top
rushed forward, and brought a beautiful swimming bird, of a slate color,
short beak, very developed frontal plate, and wings edged with white. It
was a "coot," the size of a large partridge, belonging to the group of
macrodactyls which form the transition between the order of wading birds
and that of palmipeds. Sorry game, in truth, and its flavor is far from
pleasant. But Top was not so particular in these things as his masters,
and it was agreed that the coot should be for his supper.

The settlers were now following the eastern bank of the lake, and they
would not be long in reaching the part which they already knew.
The engineer was much surprised at not seeing any indication of the
discharge of water. The reporter and the sailor talked with him, and he
could not conceal his astonishment.

At this moment Top, who had been very quiet till then, gave signs of
agitation. The intelligent animal went backwards and forwards on the
shore, stopped suddenly, and looked at the water, one paw raised, as if
he was pointing at some invisible game; then he barked furiously, and
was suddenly silent.

Neither Cyrus Harding nor his companions had at first paid any attention
to Top's behavior; but the dog's barking soon became so frequent that
the engineer noticed it.

"What is there, Top?" he asked.

The dog bounded towards his master, seeming to be very uneasy, and then
rushed again towards the bank. Then, all at once, he plunged into the
lake.

"Here, Top!" cried Cyrus Harding, who did not like his dog to venture
into the treacherous water.

"What's happening down there?" asked Pencroft, examining the surface of
the lake.

"Top smells some amphibious creature," replied Herbert.

"An alligator, perhaps," said the reporter.

"I do not think so," replied Harding. "Alligators are only met with in
regions less elevated in latitude."

Meanwhile Top had returned at his master's call, and had regained the
shore: but he could not stay quiet; he plunged in among the tall grass,
and guided by instinct, he appeared to follow some invisible being which
was slipping along under the surface of the water. However the water
was calm; not a ripple disturbed its surface. Several times the settlers
stopped on the bank, and observed it attentively. Nothing appeared.
There was some mystery there.

The engineer was puzzled.

"Let us pursue this exploration to the end," said he.

Half an hour after they had all arrived at the southeast angle of the
lake, on Prospect Heights. At this point the examination of the banks of
the lake was considered finished, and yet the engineer had not been able
to discover how and where the waters were discharged. "There is no doubt
this overflow exists," he repeated, "and since it is not visible it must
go through the granite cliff at the west!"

"But what importance do you attach to knowing that, my dear Cyrus?"
asked Gideon Spilett.

"Considerable importance," replied the engineer; "for if it flows
through the cliff there is probably some cavity, which it would be easy
to render habitable after turning away the water."

"But is it not possible, captain, that the water flows away at the
bottom of the lake," said Herbert, "and that it reaches the sea by some
subterranean passage?"

"That might be," replied the engineer, "and should it be so we shall be
obliged to build our house ourselves, since nature has not done it for
us."

The colonists were about to begin to traverse the plateau to return to
the Chimneys, when Top gave new signs of agitation. He barked with fury,
and before his master could restrain him, he had plunged a second time
into the lake.

All ran towards the bank. The dog was already more than twenty feet off,
and Cyrus was calling him back, when an enormous head emerged from the
water, which did not appear to be deep in that place.

Herbert recognized directly the species of amphibian to which the
tapering head, with large eyes, and adorned with long silky mustaches,
belonged.

"A lamantin!" he cried.

It was not a lamantin, but one of that species of the order of
cetaceans, which bear the name of the "dugong," for its nostrils were
open at the upper part of its snout. The enormous animal rushed on the
dog, who tried to escape by returning towards the shore. His master
could do nothing to save him, and before Gideon Spilett or Herbert
thought of bending their bows, Top, seized by the dugong, had
disappeared beneath the water.

Neb, his iron-tipped spear in his hand, wished to go to Top's help, and
attack the dangerous animal in its own element.

"No, Neb," said the engineer, restraining his courageous servant.

Meanwhile, a struggle was going on beneath the water, an inexplicable
struggle, for in his situation Top could not possibly resist; and
judging by the bubbling of the surface it must be also a terrible
struggle, and could not but terminate in the death of the dog! But
suddenly, in the middle of a foaming circle, Top reappeared. Thrown in
the air by some unknown power, he rose ten feet above the surface of the
lake, fell again into the midst of the agitated waters, and then soon
gained the shore, without any severe wounds, miraculously saved.

Cyrus Harding and his companions could not understand it. What was not
less inexplicable was that the struggle still appeared to be going on.
Doubtless, the dugong, attacked by some powerful animal, after having
released the dog, was fighting on its own account. But it did not last
long. The water became red with blood, and the body of the dugong,
emerging from the sheet of scarlet which spread around, soon stranded on
a little beach at the south angle of the lake. The colonists ran towards
it. The dugong was dead. It was an enormous animal, fifteen or sixteen
feet long, and must have weighed from three to four thousand pounds. At
its neck was a wound, which appeared to have been produced by a sharp
blade.

What could the amphibious creature have been, who, by this terrible
blow had destroyed the formidable dugong? No one could tell, and much
interested in this incident, Harding and his companions returned to the
Chimneys.

 

 

Chapter 17

The next day, the 7th of May, Harding and Gideon Spilett, leaving Neb to
prepare breakfast, climbed Prospect Heights, while Herbert and Pencroft
ascended by the river, to renew their store of wood.

The engineer and the reporter soon reached the little beach on which the
dugong had been stranded. Already flocks of birds had attacked the mass
of flesh, and had to be driven away with stones, for Cyrus wished to
keep the fat for the use of the colony. As to the animal's flesh
it would furnish excellent food, for in the islands of the Malay
Archipelago and elsewhere, it is especially reserved for the table of
the native princes. But that was Neb's affair.

At this moment Cyrus Harding had other thoughts. He was much interested
in the incident of the day before. He wished to penetrate the mystery
of that submarine combat, and to ascertain what monster could have given
the dugong so strange a wound. He remained at the edge of the lake,
looking, observing; but nothing appeared under the tranquil waters,
which sparkled in the first rays of the rising sun.

At the beach, on which lay the body of the dugong, the water was
tolerably shallow, but from this point the bottom of the lake sloped
gradually, and it was probable that the depth was considerable in the
center. The lake might be considered as a large center basin, which was
filled by the water from the Red Creek.

"Well, Cyrus," said the reporter, "there seems to be nothing suspicious
in this water."

"No, my dear Spilett," replied the engineer, "and I really do not know
how to account for the incident of yesterday."

"I acknowledge," returned Spilett, "that the wound given this creature
is, at least, very strange, and I cannot explain either how Top was
so vigorously cast up out of the water. One could have thought that a
powerful arm hurled him up, and that the same arm with a dagger killed
the dugong!"

"Yes," replied the engineer, who had become thoughtful; "there is
something there that I cannot understand. But do you better understand
either, my dear Spilett, in what way I was saved myself--how I was drawn
from the waves, and carried to the downs? No! Is it not true? Now, I
feel sure that there is some mystery there, which, doubtless, we shall
discover some day. Let us observe, but do not dwell on these singular
incidents before our companions. Let us keep our remarks to ourselves,
and continue our work."

It will be remembered that the engineer had not as yet been able to
discover the place where the surplus water escaped, but he knew it must
exist somewhere. He was much surprised to see a strong current at this
place. By throwing in some bits of wood he found that it set towards the
southern angle. He followed the current, and arrived at the south point
of the lake.

There was there a sort of depression in the water, as if it was suddenly
lost in some fissure in the ground.

Harding listened; placing his ear to the level of the lake, he very
distinctly heard the noise of a subterranean fall.

"There," said he, rising, "is the discharge of the water; there,
doubtless, by a passage in the granite cliff, it joins the sea, through
cavities which we can use to our profit. Well, I can find it!"

The engineer cut a long branch, stripped it of its leaves, and plunging
it into the angle between the two banks, he found that there was a large
hole one foot only beneath the surface of the water. This hole was the
opening so long looked for in vain, and the force of the current was
such that the branch was torn from the engineer's hands and disappeared.

"There is no doubt about it now," repeated Harding. "There is the
outlet, and I will lay it open to view!"

"How?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"By lowering the level of the water of the lake three feet."

"And how will you lower the level?"

"By opening another outlet larger than this."

"At what place, Cyrus?"

"At the part of the bank nearest the coast."

"But it is a mass of granite!" observed Spilett.

"Well," replied Cyrus Harding, "I will blow up the granite, and the
water escaping, will subside, so as to lay bare this opening--"

"And make a waterfall, by falling on to the beach," added the reporter.

"A fall that we shall make use of!" replied Cyrus. "Come, come!"

The engineer hurried away his companion, whose confidence in Harding was
such that he did not doubt the enterprise would succeed. And yet, how
was this granite wall to be opened without powder, and with imperfect
instruments? Was not this work upon which the engineer was so bent above
their strength?

When Harding and the reporter entered the Chimneys, they found Herbert
and Pencroft unloading their raft of wood.

"The woodmen have just finished, captain." said the sailor, laughing,
"and when you want masons--"

"Masons,--no, but chemists," replied the engineer.

"Yes," added the reporter, "we are going to blow up the island--"

"Blow up the island?" cried Pencroft.

"Part of it, at least," replied Spilett.

"Listen to me, my friends," said the engineer. And he made known to them
the result of his observations.

According to him, a cavity, more or less considerable, must exist in
the mass of granite which supported Prospect Heights, and he intended
to penetrate into it. To do this, the opening through which the water
rushed must first be cleared, and the level lowered by making a larger
outlet. Therefore an explosive substance must be manufactured, which
would make a deep trench in some other part of the shore. This was what
Harding was going to attempt with the minerals which nature placed at
his disposal.

It is useless to say with what enthusiasm all, especially Pencroft,
received this project. To employ great means, open the granite, create a
cascade, that suited the sailor. And he would just as soon be a chemist
as a mason or bootmaker, since the engineer wanted chemicals. He would
be all that they liked, "even a professor of dancing and deportment,"
said he to Neb, if that was ever necessary.

Neb and Pencroft were first of all told to extract the grease from the
dugong, and to keep the flesh, which was destined for food. Such perfect
confidence had they in the engineer, that they set out directly,
without even asking a question. A few minutes after them, Cyrus Harding,
Herbert, and Gideon Spilett, dragging the hurdle, went towards the vein
of coals, where those shistose pyrites abound which are met with in the
most recent transition soil, and of which Harding had already found a
specimen. All the day being employed in carrying a quantity of these
stones to the Chimneys, by evening they had several tons.

The next day, the 8th of May, the engineer began his manipulations.
These shistose pyrites being composed principally of coal, flint,
alumina, and sulphuret of iron--the latter in excess--it was necessary
to separate the sulphuret of iron, and transform it into sulphate as
rapidly as possible. The sulphate obtained, the sulphuric acid could
then be extracted.

This was the object to be attained. Sulphuric acid is one of the agents
the most frequently employed, and the manufacturing importance of a
nation can be measured by the consumption which is made of it. This acid
would later be of great use to the settlers, in the manufacturing of
candles, tanning skins, etc., but this time the engineer reserved it for
another use.

Cyrus Harding chose, behind the Chimneys, a site where the ground
was perfectly level. On this ground he placed a layer of branches and
chopped wood, on which were piled some pieces of shistose pyrites,
buttressed one against the other, the whole being covered with a thin
layer of pyrites, previously reduced to the size of a nut.

This done, they set fire to the wood, the heat was communicated to the
shist, which soon kindled, since it contains coal and sulphur. Then new
layers of bruised pyrites were arranged so as to form an immense
heap, the exterior of which was covered with earth and grass, several
air-holes being left, as if it was a stack of wood which was to be
carbonized to make charcoal.

They then left the transformation to complete itself, and it would
not take less than ten or twelve days for the sulphuret of iron to be
changed to sulphate of iron and the alumina into sulphate of alumina,
two equally soluble substances, the others, flint, burnt coal, and
cinders, not being so.

While this chemical work was going on, Cyrus Harding proceeded with
other operations, which were pursued with more than zeal,--it was
eagerness.

Neb and Pencroft had taken away the fat from the dugong, and placed it
in large earthen pots. It was then necessary to separate the glycerine
from the fat by saponifying it. Now, to obtain this result, it had to
be treated either with soda or lime. In fact, one or other of these
substances, after having attacked the fat, would form a soap by
separating the glycerine, and it was just this glycerine which the
engineer wished to obtain. There was no want of lime, only treatment by
lime would give calcareous soap, insoluble, and consequently useless,
while treatment by soda would furnish, on the contrary, a soluble soap,
which could be put to domestic use. Now, a practical man, like Cyrus
Harding, would rather try to obtain soda. Was this difficult? No; for
marine plants abounded on the shore, glass-wort, ficoides, and all
those fucaceae which form wrack. A large quantity of these plants
was collected, first dried, then burnt in holes in the open air. The
combustion of these plants was kept up for several days, and the result
was a compact gray mass, which has been long known under the name of
"natural soda."

This obtained, the engineer treated the fat with soda, which gave both a
soluble soap and that neutral substance, glycerine.

But this was not all. Cyrus Harding still needed, in view of his future
preparation, another substance, nitrate of potash, which is better known
under the name of salt niter, or of saltpeter.

Cyrus Harding could have manufactured this substance by treating the
carbonate of potash, which would be easily extracted from the cinders of
the vegetables, by azotic acid. But this acid was wanting, and he would
have been in some difficulty, if nature had not happily furnished the
saltpeter, without giving them any other trouble than that of picking it
up. Herbert found a vein of it at the foot of Mount Franklin, and they
had nothing to do but purify this salt.

These different works lasted a week. They were finished before
the transformation of the sulphuret into sulphate of iron had been
accomplished. During the following days the settlers had time to
construct a furnace of bricks of a particular arrangement, to serve for
the distillation of the sulphate or iron when it had been obtained. All
this was finished about the 18th of May, nearly at the time when the
chemical transformation terminated. Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Neb, and
Pencroft, skillfully directed by the engineer, had become most clever
workmen. Before all masters, necessity is the one most listened to, and
who teaches the best.

When the heap of pyrites had been entirely reduced by fire, the result
of the operation, consisting of sulphate of iron, sulphate of alumina,
flint, remains of coal, and cinders was placed in a basinful of water.
They stirred this mixture, let it settle, then decanted it, and obtained
a clear liquid containing in solution sulphate of iron and sulphate of
alumina, the other matters remaining solid, since they are insoluble.
Lastly, this liquid being partly evaporated, crystals of sulphate of
iron were deposited, and the not evaporated liquid, which contained the
sulphate of alumina, was thrown away.

Cyrus Harding had now at his disposal a large quantity of these sulphate
of iron crystals, from which the sulphuric acid had to be extracted. The
making of sulphuric acid is a very expensive manufacture. Considerable
works are necessary--a special set of tools, an apparatus of
platina, leaden chambers, unassailable by the acid, and in which the
transformation is performed, etc. The engineer had none of these at his
disposal, but he knew that, in Bohemia especially, sulphuric acid is
manufactured by very simple means, which have also the advantage of
producing it to a superior degree of concentration. It is thus that the
acid known under the name of Nordhausen acid is made.

To obtain sulphuric acid, Cyrus Harding had only one operation to make,
to calcine the sulphate of iron crystals in a closed vase, so that the
sulphuric acid should distil in vapor, which vapor, by condensation,
would produce the acid.

The crystals were placed in pots, and the heat from the furnace would
distil the sulphuric acid. The operation was successfully completed, and
on the 20th of May, twelve days after commencing it, the engineer
was the possessor of the agent which later he hoped to use in so many
different ways.

Now, why did he wish for this agent? Simply to produce azotic acid;
and that was easy, since saltpeter, attacked by sulphuric acid, gives
azotic, or nitric, acid by distillation.

But, after all, how was he going to employ this azotic acid? His
companions were still ignorant of this, for he had not informed them of
the result at which he aimed.

However, the engineer had nearly accomplished his purpose, and by a
last operation he would procure the substance which had given so much
trouble.

Taking some azotic acid, he mixed it with glycerine, which had been
previously concentrated by evaporation, subjected to the water-bath, and
he obtained, without even employing a refrigerant mixture, several pints
of an oily yellow mixture.

This last operation Cyrus Harding had made alone, in a retired place, at
a distance from the Chimneys, for he feared the danger of an explosion,
and when he showed a bottle of this liquid to his friends, he contented
himself with saying,--

"Here is nitro-glycerine!"

It was really this terrible production, of which the explosive power is
perhaps tenfold that of ordinary powder, and which has already caused so
many accidents. However, since a way has been found to transform it into
dynamite, that is to say, to mix with it some solid substance, clay or
sugar, porous enough to hold it, the dangerous liquid has been used
with some security. But dynamite was not yet known at the time when the
settlers worked on Lincoln Island.

"And is it that liquid that is going to blow up our rocks?" said
Pencroft incredulously.

"Yes, my friend," replied the engineer, "and this nitro-glycerine will
produce so much the more effect, as the granite is extremely hard, and
will oppose a greater resistance to the explosion."

"And when shall we see this, captain?"

"To-morrow, as soon as we have dug a hole for the mine, replied the
engineer."

The next day, the 21st of May, at daybreak, the miners went to the point
which formed the eastern shore of Lake Grant, and was only five hundred
feet from the coast. At this place, the plateau inclined downwards from
the waters, which were only restrained by their granite case. Therefore,
if this case was broken, the water would escape by the opening and form
a stream, which, flowing over the inclined surface of the plateau,
would rush on to the beach. Consequently, the level of the lake would
be greatly lowered, and the opening where the water escaped would be
exposed, which was their final aim.

Under the engineer's directions, Pencroft, armed with a pickaxe, which
he handled skillfully and vigorously, attacked the granite. The hole was
made on the point of the shore, slanting, so that it should meet a
much lower level than that of the water of the lake. In this way the
explosive force, by scattering the rock, would open a large place for
the water to rush out.

The work took some time, for the engineer, wishing to produce a great
effect, intended to devote not less than seven quarts of nitro-glycerine
to the operation. But Pencroft, relieved by Neb, did so well, that
towards four o'clock in the evening, the mine was finished.

Now the question of setting fire to the explosive substance was raised.
Generally, nitro-glycerine is ignited by caps of fulminate, which in
bursting cause the explosion. A shock is therefore needed to produce
the explosion, for, simply lighted, this substance would burn without
exploding.

Cyrus Harding could certainly have fabricated a percussion cap. In
default of fulminate, he could easily obtain a substance similar to
guncotton, since he had azotic acid at his disposal. This substance,
pressed in a cartridge, and introduced among the nitro-glycerine, would
burst by means of a fuse, and cause the explosion.

But Cyrus Harding knew that nitro-glycerine would explode by a shock.
He resolved to employ this means, and try another way, if this did not
succeed.

In fact, the blow of a hammer on a few drops of nitro-glycerine, spread
out on a hard surface, was enough to create an explosion. But the
operator could not be there to give the blow, without becoming a victim
to the operation. Harding, therefore, thought of suspending a mass of
iron, weighing several pounds, by means of a fiber, to an upright just
above the mine. Another long fiber, previously impregnated with sulphur,
was attached to the middle of the first, by one end, while the other lay
on the ground several feet distant from the mine. The second fiber being
set on fire, it would burn till it reached the first. This catching
fire in its turn, would break, and the mass of iron would fall on the
nitro-glycerine. This apparatus being then arranged, the engineer, after
having sent his companions to a distance, filled the hole, so that the
nitro-glycerine was on a level with the opening; then he threw a few
drops of it on the surface of the rock, above which the mass of iron was
already suspended.

This done, Harding lit the end of the sulphured fiber, and leaving the
place, he returned with his companions to the Chimneys.

The fiber was intended to burn five and twenty minutes, and, in fact,
five and twenty minutes afterwards a most tremendous explosion was
heard. The island appeared to tremble to its very foundation. Stones
were projected in the air as if by the eruption of a volcano. The shock
produced by the displacing of the air was such, that the rocks of the
Chimneys shook. The settlers, although they were more than two miles
from the mine, were thrown on the ground.

They rose, climbed the plateau, and ran towards the place where the bank
of the lake must have been shattered by the explosion.

A cheer escaped them! A large rent was seen in the granite! A rapid
stream of water rushed foaming across the plateau and dashed down a
height of three hundred feet on to the beach!

 

 

Chapter 18

Cyrus Harding's project had succeeded, but, according to his usual
habit he showed no satisfaction; with closed lips and a fixed look, he
remained motionless. Herbert was in ecstasies, Neb bounded with joy,
Pencroft nodded his great head, murmuring these words,--

"Come, our engineer gets on capitally!"

The nitro-glycerine had indeed acted powerfully. The opening which it
had made was so large that the volume of water which escaped through
this new outlet was at least treble that which before passed through the
old one. The result was, that a short time after the operation the level
of the lake would be lowered two feet, or more.

The settlers went to the Chimneys to take some pickaxes, iron-tipped
spears, string made of fibers, flint and steel; they then returned to
the plateau, Top accompanying them.

On the way the sailor could not help saying to the engineer,--

"Don't you think, captain, that by means of that charming liquid you
have made, one could blow up the whole of our island?"

"Without any doubt, the island, continents, and the world itself,"
replied the engineer. "It is only a question of quantity."

"Then could you not use this nitro-glycerine for loading firearms?"
asked the sailor.

"No, Pencroft; for it is too explosive a substance. But it would be easy
to make some guncotton, or even ordinary powder, as we have azotic acid,
saltpeter, sulphur, and coal. Unhappily, it is the guns which we have
not got.

"Oh, captain," replied the sailor, "with a little determination--"

Pencroft had erased the word "impossible" from the dictionary of Lincoln
Island.

The settlers, having arrived at Prospect Heights, went immediately
towards that point of the lake near which was the old opening now
uncovered. This outlet had now become practicable, since the water no
longer rushed through it, and it would doubtless be easy to explore the
interior.

In a few minutes the settlers had reached the lower point of the lake,
and a glance showed them that the object had been attained.

In fact, in the side of the lake, and now above the surface of the
water, appeared the long-looked-for opening. A narrow ridge, left bare
by the retreat of the water, allowed them to approach it. This orifice
was nearly twenty feet in width, but scarcely two in height. It was like
the mouth of a drain at the edge of the pavement, and therefore did
not offer an easy passage to the settlers; but Neb and Pencroft, taking
their pickaxes, soon made it of a suitable height.

The engineer then approached, and found that the sides of the opening,
in its upper part at least, had not a slope of more than from thirty to
thirty-five degrees. It was therefore practicable, and, provided that
the declivity did not increase, it would be easy to descend even to the
level of the sea. If then, as was probable, some vast cavity existed in
the interior of the granite, it might, perhaps, be of great use.

"Well, captain, what are we stopping for?" asked the sailor, impatient
to enter the narrow passage. "You see Top has got before us!"

"Very well," replied the engineer. "But we must see our way. Neb, go and
cut some resinous branches."

Neb and Herbert ran to the edge of the lake, shaded with pines and other
green trees, and soon returned with some branches, which they made
into torches. The torches were lighted with flint and steel, and Cyrus
Harding leading, the settlers ventured into the dark passage, which the
overplus of the lake had formerly filled.

Contrary to what might have been supposed, the diameter of the passage
increased as the explorers proceeded, so that they very soon were able
to stand upright. The granite, worn by the water for an infinite time,
was very slippery, and falls were to be dreaded. But the settlers were
all attached to each other by a cord, as is frequently done in ascending
mountains. Happily some projections of the granite, forming regular
steps, made the descent less perilous. Drops, still hanging from the
rocks, shone here and there under the light of the torches, and
the explorers guessed that the sides were clothed with innumerable
stalactites. The engineer examined this black granite. There was not a
stratum, not a break in it. The mass was compact, and of an extremely
close grain. The passage dated, then, from the very origin of the
island. It was not the water which little by little had hollowed it.
Pluto and not Neptune had bored it with his own hand, and on the wall
traces of an eruptive work could be distinguished, which all the washing
of the water had not been able totally to efface.

The settlers descended very slowly. They could not but feel a certain
awe, in this venturing into these unknown depths, for the first time
visited by human beings. They did not speak, but they thought; and
the thought came to more than one, that some polypus or other
gigantic cephalopod might inhabit the interior cavities, which were in
communication with the sea. However, Top kept at the head of the little
band, and they could rely on the sagacity of the dog, who would not fail
to give the alarm if there was any need for it.

After having descended about a hundred feet, following a winding road,
Harding who was walking on before, stopped, and his companions came up
with him. The place where they had halted was wider, so as to form a
cavern of moderate dimensions. Drops of water fell from the vault, but
that did not prove that they oozed through the rock. They were simply
the last traces left by the torrent which had so long thundered through
this cavity, and the air there was pure though slightly damp, but
producing no mephitic exhalation.

"Well, my dear Cyrus," said Gideon Spilett, "here is a very secure
retreat, well hid in the depths of the rock, but it is, however,
uninhabitable."

"Why uninhabitable?" asked the sailor.

"Because it is too small and too dark."

"Couldn't we enlarge it, hollow it out, make openings to let in light
and air?" replied Pencroft, who now thought nothing impossible.

"Let us go on with our exploration," said Cyrus Harding. "Perhaps lower
down, nature will have spared us this labor."

"We have only gone a third of the way," observed Herbert.

"Nearly a third," replied Harding, "for we have descended a hundred feet
from the opening, and it is not impossible that a hundred feet farther
down--"

"Where is Top?" asked Neb, interrupting his master.

They searched the cavern, but the dog was not there.

"Most likely he has gone on," said Pencroft.

"Let us join him," replied Harding.

The descent was continued. The engineer carefully observed all the
deviations of the passage, and notwithstanding so many detours, he
could easily have given an account of its general direction, which went
towards the sea.

The settlers had gone some fifty feet farther, when their attention was
attracted by distant sounds which came up from the depths. They stopped
and listened. These sounds, carried through the passage as through an
acoustic tube, came clearly to the ear.

"That is Top barking!" cried Herbert.

"Yes," replied Pencroft, "and our brave dog is barking furiously!"

"We have our iron-tipped spears," said Cyrus Harding. "Keep on your
guard, and forward!"

"It is becoming more and more interesting," murmured Gideon Spilett in
the sailor's ear, who nodded. Harding and his companions rushed to the
help of their dog. Top's barking became more and more perceptible,
and it seemed strangely fierce. Was he engaged in a struggle with some
animal whose retreat he had disturbed? Without thinking of the danger
to which they might be exposed, the explorers were now impelled by an
irresistible curiosity, and in a few minutes, sixteen feet lower they
rejoined Top.

There the passage ended in a vast and magnificent cavern.

Top was running backwards and forwards, barking furiously. Pencroft and
Neb, waving their torches, threw the light into every crevice; and
at the same time, Harding, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert, their spears
raised, were ready for any emergency which might arise. The enormous
cavern was empty. The settlers explored it in every direction. There was
nothing there, not an animal, not a human being; and yet Top continued
to bark. Neither caresses nor threats could make him be silent.

"There must be a place somewhere, by which the waters of the lake
reached the sea," said the engineer.

"Of course," replied Pencroft, "and we must take care not to tumble into
a hole."

"Go, Top, go!" cried Harding.

The dog, excited by his master's words, ran towards the extremity of the
cavern, and there redoubled his barking.

They followed him, and by the light of the torches, perceived the mouth
of a regular well in the granite. It was by this that the water escaped;
and this time it was not an oblique and practicable passage, but a
perpendicular well, into which it was impossible to venture.

The torches were held over the opening: nothing could be seen. Harding
took a lighted branch, and threw it into the abyss. The blazing resin,
whose illuminating power increased still more by the rapidity of its
fall, lighted up the interior of the well, but yet nothing appeared. The
flame then went out with a slight hiss, which showed that it had reached
the water, that is to say, the level of the sea.

The engineer, calculating the time employed in its fall, was able to
calculate the depth of the well, which was found to be about ninety
feet.

The floor of the cavern must thus be situated ninety feet above the
level of the sea.

"Here is our dwelling," said Cyrus Harding.

"But it was occupied by some creature," replied Gideon Spilett, whose
curiosity was not yet satisfied.

"Well, the creature, amphibious or otherwise, has made off through this
opening," replied the engineer, "and has left the place for us."

"Never mind," added the sailor, "I should like very much to be Top just
for a quarter of an hour, for he doesn't bark for nothing!"

Cyrus Harding looked at his dog, and those of his companions who were
near him might have heard him murmur these words,--

"Yes, I believe that Top knows more than we do about a great many
things."

However, the wishes of the settlers were for the most part satisfied.
Chance, aided by the marvelous sagacity of their leader, had done them
great service. They had now at their disposal a vast cavern, the size
of which could not be properly calculated by the feeble light of their
torches, but it would certainly be easy to divide it into rooms, by
means of brick partitions, or to use it, if not as a house, at least as
a spacious apartment. The water which had left it could not return. The
place was free.

Two difficulties remained; firstly, the possibility of lighting this
excavation in the midst of solid rock; secondly, the necessity of
rendering the means of access more easy. It was useless to think of
lighting it from above, because of the enormous thickness of the granite
which composed the ceiling; but perhaps the outer wall next the sea
might be pierced. Cyrus Harding, during the descent, had roughly
calculated its obliqueness, and consequently the length of the passage,
and was therefore led to believe that the outer wall could not be very
thick. If light was thus obtained, so would a means of access, for
it would be as easy to pierce a door as windows, and to establish an
exterior ladder.

Harding made known his ideas to his companions.

"Then, captain, let us set to work!" replied Pencroft. "I have my
pickaxe, and I shall soon make my way through this wall. Where shall I
strike?"

"Here," replied the engineer, showing the sturdy sailor a considerable
recess in the side, which would much diminish the thickness.

Pencroft attacked the granite, and for half an hour, by the light of the
torches, he made the splinters fly around him. Neb relieved him, then
Spilett took Neb's place.

This work had lasted two hours, and they began to fear that at this spot
the wall would not yield to the pickaxe, when at a last blow given by
Gideon Spilett, the instrument, passing through the rock, fell outside.

"Hurrah! hurrah!" cried Pencroft.

The wall only measured there three feet in thickness.

Harding applied his eye to the aperture, which overlooked the ground
from a height of eighty feet. Before him was extended the sea-coast, the
islet, and beyond the open sea.

Floods of light entered by this hole, inundating the splendid cavern and
producing a magic effect! On its left side it did not measure more than
thirty feet in height and breadth, but on the right it was enormous, and
its vaulted roof rose to a height of more than eighty feet.

In some places granite pillars, irregularly disposed, supported the
vaulted roof, as those in the nave of a cathedral, here forming lateral
piers, there elliptical arches, adorned with pointed moldings, losing
themselves in dark bays, amid the fantastic arches of which glimpses
could be caught in the shade, covered with a profusion of projections
formed like so many pendants. This cavern was a picturesque mixture of
all the styles of Byzantine, Roman, or Gothic architecture ever produced
by the hand of man. And yet this was only the work of nature. She alone
had hollowed this fairy Alhambra in a mass of granite.

The settlers were overwhelmed with admiration. Where they had only
expected to find a narrow cavity, they had found a sort of marvelous
palace, and Neb had taken off his hat, as if he had been transported
into a temple!

Cries of admiration issued from every mouth. Hurrahs resounded, and the
echo was repeated again and again till it died away in the dark naves.

"Ah, my friends!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding, "when we have lighted the
interior of this place, and have arranged our rooms and storehouses in
the left part, we shall still have this splendid cavern, which we will
make our study and our museum!"

"And we will call it?--" asked Herbert.

"Granite House," replied Harding; a name which his companions again
saluted with a cheer.

The torches were now almost consumed, and as they were obliged to return
by the passage to reach the summit of the plateau, it was decided to put
off the work necessary for the arrangement of their new dwelling till
the next day.

Before departing, Cyrus Harding leaned once more over the dark well,
which descended perpendicularly to the level of the sea. He listened
attentively. No noise was heard, not even that of the water, which the
undulations of the surge must sometimes agitate in its depths. A flaming
branch was again thrown in. The sides of the well were lighted up for an
instant, but as at the first time, nothing suspicious was seen.

If some marine monster had been surprised unawares by the retreat of the
water, he would by this time have regained the sea by the subterranean
passage, before the new opening had been offered to him.

Meanwhile, the engineer was standing motionless, his eyes fixed on the
gulf, without uttering a word.

The sailor approached him, and touching his arm, "Captain!" said he.

"What do you want, my friend?" asked the engineer, as if he had returned
from the land of dreams.

"The torches will soon go out."

"Forward!" replied Cyrus Harding.

The little band left the cavern and began to ascend through the dark
passage. Top closed the rear, still growling every now and then. The
ascent was painful enough. The settlers rested a few minutes in the
upper grotto, which made a sort of landing-place halfway up the long
granite staircase. Then they began to climb again.

Soon fresher air was felt. The drops of water, dried by evaporation, no
longer sparkled on the walls. The flaring torches began to grow dim. The
one which Neb carried went out, and if they did not wish to find their
way in the dark, they must hasten.

This was done, and a little before four o'clock, at the moment when the
sailor's torch went out in its turn, Cyrus Harding and his companions
passed out of the passage.

 

 

Chapter 19

The next day, the 22nd of May, the arrangement of their new dwelling
was commenced. In fact, the settlers longed to exchange the insufficient
shelter of the Chimneys for this large and healthy retreat, in the midst
of solid rock, and sheltered from the water both of the sea and sky.
Their former dwelling was not, however, to be entirely abandoned, for
the engineer intended to make a manufactory of it for important works.
Cyrus Harding's first care was to find out the position of the front of
Granite House from the outside. He went to the beach, and as the
pickaxe when it escaped from the hands of the reporter must have fallen
perpendicularly to the foot of the cliff, the finding it would be
sufficient to show the place where the hole had been pierced in the
granite.

The pickaxe was easily found, and the hole could be seen in a
perpendicular line above the spot where it was stuck in the sand. Some
rock pigeons were already flying in and out of the narrow opening; they
evidently thought that Granite House had been discovered on purpose for
them. It was the engineer's intention to divide the right portion of the
cavern into several rooms, preceded by an entrance passage, and to light
it by means of five windows and a door, pierced in the front. Pencroft
was much pleased with the five windows, but he could not understand the
use of the door, since the passage offered a natural staircase, through
which it would always be easy to enter Granite House.

"My friend," replied Harding, "if it is easy for us to reach our
dwelling by this passage, it will be equally easy for others besides
us. I mean, on the contrary, to block up that opening, to seal it
hermetically, and, if it is necessary, to completely hide the entrance
by making a dam, and thus causing the water of the lake to rise."

"And how shall we get in?" asked the sailor.

"By an outside ladder," replied Cyrus Harding, "a rope ladder, which,
once drawn up, will render access to our dwelling impossible."

"But why so many precautions?" asked Pencroft. "As yet we have seen no
dangerous animals. As to our island being inhabited by natives, I don't
believe it!"

"Are you quite sure of that, Pencroft?" asked the engineer, looking at
the sailor.

"Of course we shall not be quite sure, till we have explored it in every
direction," replied Pencroft.

"Yes," said Harding, "for we know only a small portion of it as yet. But
at any rate, if we have no enemies in the interior, they may come from
the exterior, for parts of the Pacific are very dangerous. We must be
provided against every contingency."

Cyrus Harding spoke wisely; and without making any further objection,
Pencroft prepared to execute his orders.

The front of Granite House was then to be lighted by five windows and a
door, besides a large bay window and some smaller oval ones, which would
admit plenty of light to enter into the marvelous nave which was to be
their chief room. This facade, situated at a height of eighty feet above
the ground, was exposed to the east, and the rising sun saluted it with
its first rays. It was found to be just at that part of the cliff which
was between the projection at the mouth of the Mercy and a perpendicular
line traced above the heap of rocks which formed the Chimneys. Thus
the winds from the northeast would only strike it obliquely, for it was
protected by the projection. Besides, until the window-frames were made,
the engineer meant to close the openings with thick shutters, which
would prevent either wind or rain from entering, and which could be
concealed in need.

The first work was to make the openings. This would have taken too long
with the pickaxe alone, and it is known that Harding was an ingenious
man. He had still a quantity of nitro-glycerine at his disposal, and he
employed it usefully. By means of this explosive substance the rock was
broken open at the very places chosen by the engineer. Then, with the
pickaxe and spade, the windows and doors were properly shaped, the
jagged edges were smoothed off, and a few days after the beginning of
the work, Granite House was abundantly lighted by the rising sun,
whose rays penetrated into its most secret recesses. Following the
plan proposed by Cyrus Harding, the space was to be divided into five
compartments looking out on the sea; to the right, an entry with a
door, which would meet the ladder; then a kitchen, thirty feet long; a
dining-room, measuring forty feet; a sleeping-room, of equal size; and
lastly, a "Visitor's room," petitioned for by Pencroft, and which was
next to the great hall. These rooms, or rather this suite of rooms,
would not occupy all the depth of the cave. There would be also a
corridor and a storehouse, in which their tools, provisions, and stores
would be kept. All the productions of the island, the flora as well as
the fauna, were to be there in the best possible state of preservation,
and completely sheltered from the damp. There was no want of space, so
that each object could be methodically arranged. Besides, the colonists
had still at their disposal the little grotto above the great cavern,
which was like the garret of the new dwelling.

This plan settled, it had only to be put into execution. The miners
became brickmakers again, then the bricks were brought to the foot of
Granite House. Till then, Harding and his companions had only entered
the cavern by the long passage. This mode of communication obliged them
first to climb Prospect Heights, making a detour by the river's bank,
and then to descend two hundred feet through the passage, having to
climb as far when they wished to return to the plateau. This was a great
loss of time, and was also very fatiguing. Cyrus Harding, therefore,
resolved to proceed without any further delay to the fabrication of
a strong rope ladder, which, once raised, would render Granite House
completely inaccessible.

This ladder was manufactured with extreme care, and its uprights, formed
of the twisted fibers of a species of cane, had the strength of a thick
cable. As to the rounds, they were made of a sort of red cedar, with
light, strong branches; and this apparatus was wrought by the masterly
hand of Pencroft.

Other ropes were made with vegetable fibers, and a sort of crane with a
tackle was fixed at the door. In this way bricks could easily be
raised into Granite House. The transport of the materials being thus
simplified, the arrangement of the interior could begin immediately.
There was no want of lime, and some thousands of bricks were there
ready to be used. The framework of the partitions was soon raised, very
roughly at first, and in a short time, the cave was divided into rooms
and storehouses, according to the plan agreed upon.

These different works progressed rapidly under the direction of the
engineer, who himself handled the hammer and the trowel. No labor came
amiss to Cyrus Harding, who thus set an example to his intelligent and
zealous companions. They worked with confidence, even gaily, Pencroft
always having some joke to crack, sometimes carpenter, sometimes
rope-maker, sometimes mason, while he communicated his good humor to
all the members of their little world. His faith in the engineer
was complete; nothing could disturb it. He believed him capable of
undertaking anything and succeeding in everything. The question of boots
and clothes--assuredly a serious question,--that of light during the
winter months, utilizing the fertile parts of the island, transforming
the wild flora into cultivated flora, it all appeared easy to him; Cyrus
Harding helping, everything would be done in time. He dreamed of canals
facilitating the transport of the riches of the ground; workings
of quarries and mines; machines for every industrial manufacture;
railroads; yes, railroads! of which a network would certainly one day
cover Lincoln Island.

The engineer let Pencroft talk. He did not put down the aspirations of
this brave heart. He knew how communicable confidence is; he even smiled
to hear him speak, and said nothing of the uneasiness for the future
which he felt. In fact, in that part of the Pacific, out of the course
of vessels, it was to be feared that no help would ever come to them. It
was on themselves, on themselves alone, that the settlers must depend,
for the distance of Lincoln Island from all other land was such, that
to hazard themselves in a boat, of a necessarily inferior construction,
would be a serious and perilous thing.

"But," as the sailor said, "they quite took the wind out of the sails of
the Robinsons, for whom everything was done by a miracle."

In fact, they were energetic; an energetic man will succeed where an
indolent one would vegetate and inevitably perish.

Herbert distinguished himself in these works. He was intelligent and
active; understanding quickly, he performed well; and Cyrus Harding
became more and more attached to the boy. Herbert had a lively and
reverent love for the engineer. Pencroft saw the close sympathy which
existed between the two, but he was not in the least jealous. Neb
was Neb: he was what he would be always, courage, zeal, devotion,
self-denial personified. He had the same faith in his master that
Pencroft had, but he showed it less vehemently. When the sailor was
enthusiastic, Neb always looked as if he would say, "Nothing could be
more natural." Pencroft and he were great friends.

As to Gideon Spilett, he took part in the common work, and was not less
skilful in it than his companions, which always rather astonished
the sailor. A "journalist," clever, not only in understanding, but in
performing everything.

The ladder was finally fixed on the 28th of May. There were not less
than a hundred rounds in this perpendicular height of eighty feet.
Harding had been able, fortunately, to divide it in two parts, profiting
by an overhanging of the cliff which made a projection forty feet above
the ground. This projection, carefully leveled by the pickaxe, made a
sort of platform, to which they fixed the first ladder, of which the
oscillation was thus diminished one-half, and a rope permitted it to be
raised to the level of Granite House. As to the second ladder, it was
secured both at its lower part, which rested on the projection, and at
its upper end, which was fastened to the door. In short the ascent had
been made much easier. Besides, Cyrus Harding hoped later to establish
an hydraulic apparatus, which would avoid all fatigue and loss of time,
for the inhabitants of Granite House.

The settlers soon became habituated to the use of this ladder. They were
light and active, and Pencroft, as a sailor, accustomed to run up
the masts and shrouds, was able to give them lessons. But it was also
necessary to give them to Top. The poor dog, with his four paws, was
not formed for this sort of exercise. But Pencroft was such a zealous
master, that Top ended by properly performing his ascents, and soon
mounted the ladder as readily as his brethren in the circus. It need not
be said that the sailor was proud of his pupil. However, more than once
Pencroft hoisted him on his back, which Top never complained of.

It must be mentioned here, that during these works, which were actively
conducted, for the bad season was approaching, the alimentary question
was not neglected. Every day, the reporter and Herbert, who had been
voted purveyors to the colony, devoted some hours to the chase. As yet,
they only hunted in Jacamar Wood, on the left of the river, because, for
want of a bridge or boat, the Mercy had not yet been crossed. All the
immense woods, to which the name of the Forests of the Far West had been
given, were not explored. They reserved this important excursion for the
first fine days of the next spring. But Jacamar Wood was full of game;
kangaroos and boars abounded, and the hunters iron-tipped spears and
bows and arrows did wonders. Besides, Herbert discovered towards the
southwest point of the lagoon a natural warren, a slightly damp meadow,
covered with willows and aromatic herbs which scented the air, such
as thyme, basil, savory, all the sweet-scented species of the labiated
plants, which the rabbits appeared to be particularly fond of.

On the reporter observing that since the table was spread for the
rabbits, it was strange that the rabbits themselves should be wanting,
the two sportsmen carefully explored the warren. At any rate, it
produced an abundance of useful plants, and a naturalist would have had
a good opportunity of studying many specimens of the vegetable kingdom.
Herbert gathered several shoots of the basil, rosemary, balm, betony,
etc., which possess different medicinal properties, some pectoral,
astringent, febrifuge, others anti-spasmodic, or anti-rheumatic. When,
afterwards, Pencroft asked the use of this collection of herbs,--

"For medicine," replied the lad, "to treat us when we are ill."

"Why should we be ill, since there are no doctors in the island?" asked
Pencroft quite seriously.

There was no reply to be made to that, but the lad went on with his
collection all the same, and it was well received at Granite House.
Besides these medicinal herbs, he added a plant known in North America
as "Oswego tea," which made an excellent beverage.

At last, by searching thoroughly, the hunters arrived at the real site
of the warren. There the ground was perforated like a sieve.

"Here are the burrows!" cried Herbert.

"Yes," replied the reporter, "so I see."

"But are they inhabited?"

"That is the question."

This was soon answered. Almost immediately, hundreds of little animals,
similar to rabbits, fled in every direction, with such rapidity that
even Top could not overtake them. Hunters and dog ran in vain; these
rodents escaped them easily. But the reporter resolved not to leave the
place, until he had captured at least half-a-dozen of the quadrupeds.
He wished to stock their larder first, and domesticate those which they
might take later. It would not have been difficult to do this, with a
few snares stretched at the openings of the burrows. But at this moment
they had neither snares, nor anything to make them of. They must,
therefore, be satisfied with visiting each hole, and rummaging in it
with a stick, hoping by dint of patience to do what could not be done in
any other way.

At last, after half an hour, four rodents were taken in their holes.
They were similar to their European brethren, and are commonly known by
the name of American rabbits.

This produce of the chase was brought back to Granite House, and figured
at the evening repast. The tenants of the warren were not at all to be
despised, for they were delicious. It was a valuable resource of the
colony, and it appeared to be inexhaustible.

On the 31st of May the partitions were finished. The rooms had now only
to be furnished, and this would be work for the long winter days. A
chimney was established in the first room, which served as a kitchen.
The pipe destined to conduct the smoke outside gave some trouble to
these amateur bricklayers. It appeared simplest to Harding to make it of
brick clay; as creating an outlet for it to the upper plateau was not to
be thought of, a hole was pierced in the granite above the window of
the kitchen, and the pipe met it like that of an iron stove. Perhaps
the winds which blew directly against the facade would make the chimney
smoke, but these winds were rare, and besides, Master Neb, the cook, was
not so very particular about that.

When these interior arrangements were finished, the engineer occupied
himself in blocking up the outlet by the lake, so as to prevent any
access by that way. Masses of rock were rolled to the entrance and
strongly cemented together. Cyrus Harding did not yet realize his plan
of drowning this opening under the waters of the lake, by restoring
them to their former level by means of a dam. He contented himself with
hiding the obstruction with grass and shrubs, which were planted in the
interstices of the rocks, and which next spring would sprout thickly.
However, he used the waterfall so as to lead a small stream of fresh
water to the new dwelling. A little trench, made below their level,
produced this result; and this derivation from a pure and inexhaustible
source yielded twenty-five or thirty gallons a day. There would never be
any want of water at Granite House. At last all was finished, and it was
time, for the bad season was near. Thick shutters closed the windows of
the facade, until the engineer had time to make glass.

Gideon Spilett had very artistically arranged on the rocky projections
around the windows plants of different kinds, as well as long streaming
grass, so that the openings were picturesquely framed in green, which
had a pleasing effect.

The inhabitants of this solid, healthy, and secure dwelling, could not
but be charmed with their work. The view from the windows extended over
a boundless horizon, which was closed by the two Mandible Capes on the
north, and Claw Cape on the south. All Union Bay was spread before them.
Yes, our brave settlers had reason to be satisfied, and Pencroft was
lavish in his praise of what he humorously called, "his apartments on
the fifth floor above the ground!"

 

 

Chapter 20

The winter season set in with the month of June, which corresponds with
the month of December in the Northern Hemisphere. It began with showers
and squalls, which succeeded each other without intermission. The
tenants of Granite House could appreciate the advantages of a dwelling
which sheltered them from the inclement weather. The Chimneys would have
been quite insufficient to protect them against the rigor of winter, and
it was to be feared that the high tides would make another irruption.
Cyrus Harding had taken precautions against this contingency, so as
to preserve as much as possible the forge and furnace which were
established there.

During the whole of the month of June the time was employed in different
occupations, which excluded neither hunting nor fishing, the larder
being, therefore, abundantly supplied. Pencroft, so soon as he had
leisure, proposed to set some traps, from which he expected great
results. He soon made some snares with creepers, by the aid of which the
warren henceforth every day furnished its quota of rodents. Neb employed
nearly all his time in salting or smoking meat, which insured their
always having plenty of provisions. The question of clothes was now
seriously discussed, the settlers having no other garments than those
they wore when the balloon threw them on the island. These clothes were
warm and good; they had taken great care of them as well as of their
linen, and they were perfectly whole, but they would soon need to be
replaced. Moreover, if the winter was severe, the settlers would suffer
greatly from cold.

On this subject the ingenuity of Harding was at fault. They must provide
for their most pressing wants, settle their dwelling, and lay in a
store of food; thus the cold might come upon them before the question
of clothes had been settled. They must therefore make up their minds to
pass this first winter without additional clothing. When the fine season
came round again, they would regularly hunt those musmons which had been
seen on the expedition to Mount Franklin, and the wool once collected,
the engineer would know how to make it into strong warm stuff.... How?
He would consider.

"Well, we are free to roast ourselves at Granite House!" said Pencroft.
"There are heaps of fuel, and no reason for sparing it."

"Besides," added Gideon Spilett, "Lincoln Island is not situated under
a very high latitude, and probably the winters here are not severe. Did
you not say, Cyrus, that this thirty-fifth parallel corresponded to that
of Spain in the other hemisphere?"

"Doubtless," replied the engineer, "but some winters in Spain are very
cold! No want of snow and ice; and perhaps Lincoln Island is just as
rigourously tried. However, it is an island, and as such, I hope that
the temperature will be more moderate."

"Why, captain?" asked Herbert.

"Because the sea, my boy, may be considered as an immense reservoir, in
which is stored the heat of the summer. When winter comes, it restores
this heat, which insures for the regions near the ocean a medium
temperature, less high in summer, but less low in winter."

"We shall prove that," replied Pencroft. "But I don't want to bother
myself about whether it will be cold or not. One thing is certain, that
is that the days are already short, and the evenings long. Suppose we
talk about the question of light."

"Nothing is easier," replied Harding.

"To talk about?" asked the sailor.

"To settle."

"And when shall we begin?"

"To-morrow, by having a seal hunt."

"To make candles?"

"Yes."

Such was the engineer's project; and it was quite feasible, since he had
lime and sulphuric acid, while the amphibians of the islet would furnish
the fat necessary for the manufacture.

They were now at the 4th of June. It was Whit Sunday and they agreed to
observe this feast. All work was suspended, and prayers were offered
to Heaven. But these prayers were now thanksgivings. The settlers in
Lincoln Island were no longer the miserable castaways thrown on the
islet. They asked for nothing more--they gave thanks. The next day, the
5th of June, in rather uncertain weather, they set out for the islet.
They had to profit by the low tide to cross the Channel, and it was
agreed that they would construct, for this purpose, as well as they
could, a boat which would render communication so much easier, and
would also permit them to ascend the Mercy, at the time of their grand
exploration of the southwest of the island, which was put off till the
first fine days.

The seals were numerous, and the hunters, armed with their iron-tipped
spears, easily killed half-a-dozen. Neb and Pencroft skinned them, and
only brought back to Granite House their fat and skin, this skin being
intended for the manufacture of boots.

The result of the hunt was this: nearly three hundred pounds of fat, all
to be employed in the fabrication of candles.

The operation was extremely simple, and if it did not yield absolutely
perfect results, they were at least very useful. Cyrus Harding would
only have had at his disposal sulphuric acid, but by heating this acid
with the neutral fatty bodies he could separate the glycerine; then from
this new combination, he easily separated the olein, the margarin, and
the stearin, by employing boiling water. But to simplify the operation,
he preferred to saponify the fat by means of lime. By this he obtained a
calcareous soap, easy to decompose by sulphuric acid, which precipitated
the lime into the state of sulphate, and liberated the fatty acids.

From these three acids-oleic, margaric, and stearic-the first, being
liquid, was driven out by a sufficient pressure. As to the two others,
they formed the very substance of which the candles were to be molded.

This operation did not last more than four and twenty hours. The wicks,
after several trials, were made of vegetable fibers, and dipped in the
liquefied substance, they formed regular stearic candles, molded by the
hand, which only wanted whiteness and polish. They would not doubtless
have the advantages of the wicks which are impregnated with boracic
acid, and which vitrify as they burn and are entirely consumed, but
Cyrus Harding having manufactured a beautiful pair of snuffers, these
candles would be greatly appreciated during the long evenings in Granite
House.

During this month there was no want of work in the interior of their new
dwelling. The joiners had plenty to do. They improved their tools, which
were very rough, and added others also.

Scissors were made among other things, and the settlers were at last
able to cut their hair, and also to shave, or at least trim their
beards. Herbert had none, Neb but little, but their companions were
bristling in a way which justified the making of the said scissors.

The manufacture of a hand-saw cost infinite trouble, but at last an
instrument was obtained which, when vigorously handled, could divide the
ligneous fibers of the wood. They then made tables, seats, cupboards,
to furnish the principal rooms, and bedsteads, of which all the bedding
consisted of grass mattresses. The kitchen, with its shelves, on which
rested the cooking utensils, its brick stove, looked very well, and Neb
worked away there as earnestly as if he was in a chemist's laboratory.

But the joiners had soon to be replaced by carpenters. In fact, the
waterfall created by the explosion rendered the construction of two
bridges necessary, one on Prospect Heights, the other on the shore. Now
the plateau and the shore were transversely divided by a watercourse,
which had to be crossed to reach the northern part of the island. To
avoid it the colonists had been obliged to make a considerable detour,
by climbing up to the source of the Red Creek. The simplest thing was to
establish on the plateau, and on the shore, two bridges from twenty to
five and twenty feet in length. All the carpenter's work that was needed
was to clear some trees of their branches: this was a business of some
days. Directly the bridges were established, Neb and Pencroft profited
by them to go to the oyster-bed which had been discovered near the
downs. They dragged with them a sort of rough cart, which replaced the
former inconvenient hurdle, and brought back some thousands of oysters,
which soon increased among the rocks and formed a bed at the mouth of
the Mercy. These molluscs were of excellent quality, and the colonists
consumed some daily.

It has been seen that Lincoln Island, although its inhabitants had as
yet only explored a small portion of it, already contributed to almost
all their wants. It was probable that if they hunted into its most
secret recesses, in all the wooded part between the Mercy and Reptile
Point, they would find new treasures.

The settlers in Lincoln Island had still one privation. There was no
want of meat, nor of vegetable products; those ligneous roots which
they had found, when subjected to fermentation, gave them an acid drink,
which was preferable to cold water; they also made sugar, without canes
or beet-roots, by collecting the liquor which distils from the "acer
saceharinum," a sort of maple-tree, which flourishes in all the temperate
zones, and of which the island possessed a great number; they made
a very agreeable tea by employing the herbs brought from the warren;
lastly, they had an abundance of salt, the only mineral which is used in
food... but bread was wanting.

Perhaps in time the settlers could replace this want by some equivalent,
it was possible that they might find the sago or the breadfruit tree
among the forests of the south, but they had not as yet met with these
precious trees. However, Providence came directly to their aid, in an
infinitesimal proportion it is true, but Cyrus Harding, with all his
intelligence, all his ingenuity, would never have been able to produce
that which, by the greatest chance, Herbert one day found in the lining
of his waistcoat, which he was occupied in setting to rights.

On this day, as it was raining in torrents, the settlers were assembled
in the great hall in Granite House, when the lad cried out all at
once,--

"Look here, captain--A grain of corn!"

And he showed his companions a grain--a single grain--which from a hole
in his pocket had got into the lining of his waistcoat.

The presence of this grain was explained by the fact that Herbert, when
at Richmond, used to feed some pigeons, of which Pencroft had made him a
present.

"A grain of corn?" said the engineer quickly.

"Yes, captain; but one, only one!"

"Well, my boy," said Pencroft, laughing, "we're getting on capitally,
upon my word! What shall we make with one grain of corn?"

"We will make bread of it," replied Cyrus Harding.

"Bread, cakes, tarts!" replied the sailor. "Come, the bread that this
grain of corn will make won't choke us very soon!"

Herbert, not attaching much importance to his discovery, was going to
throw away the grain in question; but Harding took it, examined it,
found that it was in good condition, and looking the sailor full in the
face--"Pencroft," he asked quietly, "do you know how many ears one grain
of corn can produce?"

"One, I suppose!" replied the sailor, surprised at the question.

"Ten, Pencroft! And do you know how many grains one ear bears?"

"No, upon my word."

"About eighty!" said Cyrus Harding. "Then, if we plant this grain, at
the first crop we shall reap eight hundred grains which at the second
will produce six hundred and forty thousand; at the third, five hundred
and twelve millions; at the fourth, more than four hundred thousands of
millions! There is the proportion."

Harding's companions listened without answering. These numbers
astonished them. They were exact, however.

"Yes, my friends," continued the engineer, "such are the arithmetical
progressions of prolific nature; and yet what is this multiplication
of the grain of corn, of which the ear only bears eight hundred grains,
compared to the poppy-plant, which bears thirty-two thousand seeds; to
the tobacco-plant, which produces three hundred and sixty thousand? In
a few years, without the numerous causes of destruction, which arrests
their fecundity, these plants would overrun the earth."

But the engineer had not finished his lecture.

"And now, Pencroft," he continued, "do you know how many bushels four
hundred thousand millions of grains would make?"

"No," replied the sailor; "but what I do know is, that I am nothing
better than a fool!"

"Well, they would make more than three millions, at a hundred and thirty
thousand a bushel, Pencroft."

"Three millions!" cried Pencroft.

"Three millions."

"In four years?"

"In four years," replied Cyrus Harding, "and even in two years, if, as I
hope, in this latitude we can obtain two crops a year."

At that, according to his usual custom, Pencroft could not reply
otherwise than by a tremendous hurrah.

"So, Herbert," added the engineer, "you have made a discovery of great
importance to us. Everything, my friends, everything can serve us in the
condition in which we are. Do not forget that, I beg of you."

"No, captain, no, we shan't forget it," replied Pencroft; "and if ever
I find one of those tobacco-seeds, which multiply by three hundred and
sixty thousand, I assure you I won't throw it away! And now, what must
we do?"

"We must plant this grain," replied Herbert.

"Yes," added Gideon Spilett, "and with every possible care, for it bears
in itself our future harvests."

"Provided it grows!" cried the sailor.

"It will grow," replied Cyrus Harding.

This was the 20th of June. The time was then propitious for sowing this
single precious grain of corn. It was first proposed to plant it in
a pot, but upon reflection it was decided to leave it to nature, and
confide it to the earth. This was done that very day, and it is needless
to add, that every precaution was taken that the experiment might
succeed.

The weather having cleared, the settlers climbed the height above
Granite House. There, on the plateau, they chose a spot, well sheltered
from the wind, and exposed to all the heat of the midday sun. The place
was cleared, carefully weeded, and searched for insects and worms;
then a bed of good earth, improved with a little lime, was made; it was
surrounded by a railing; and the grain was buried in the damp earth.

Did it not seem as if the settlers were laying the first stone of some
edifice? It recalled to Pencroft the day on which he lighted his only
match, and all the anxiety of the operation. But this time the thing
was more serious. In fact, the castaways would have been always able
to procure fire, in some mode or other, but no human power could supply
another grain of corn, if unfortunately this should be lost!

 

 

Chapter 21

From this time Pencroft did not let a single day pass without going to
visit what he gravely called his "corn-field." And woe to the insects
which dared to venture there! No mercy was shown them.

Towards the end of the month of June, after incessant rain, the weather
became decidedly colder, and on the 29th a Fahrenheit thermometer
would certainly have announced only twenty degrees above zero, that is
considerably below the freezing-point. The next day, the 30th of June,
the day which corresponds to the 31st of December in the northern year,
was a Friday. Neb remarked that the year finished on a bad day, but
Pencroft replied that naturally the next would begin on a good one,
which was better.

At any rate it commenced by very severe cold. Ice accumulated at the
mouth of the Mercy, and it was not long before the whole expanse of the
lake was frozen.

The settlers had frequently been obliged to renew their store of wood.
Pencroft also had wisely not waited till the river was frozen, but had
brought enormous rafts of wood to their destination. The current was
an indefatigable moving power, and it was employed in conveying the
floating wood to the moment when the frost enchained it. To the fuel
which was so abundantly supplied by the forest, they added several
cartloads of coal, which had to be brought from the foot of the spurs of
Mount Franklin. The powerful heat of the coal was greatly appreciated in
the low temperature, which on the 4th of July fell to eight degrees of
Fahrenheit, that is, thirteen degrees below zero. A second fireplace had
been established in the dining-room, where they all worked together at
their different avocations. During this period of cold, Cyrus Harding
had great cause to congratulate himself on having brought to Granite
House the little stream of water from Lake Grant. Taken below the frozen
surface, and conducted through the passage, it preserved its fluidity,
and arrived at an interior reservoir which had been hollowed out at the
back part of the storeroom, while the overflow ran through the well to
the sea.

About this time, the weather being extremely dry, the colonists, clothed
as warmly as possible, resolved to devote a day to the exploration of
that part of the island between the Mercy and Claw Cape. It was a wide
extent of marshy land, and they would probably find good sport, for
water-birds ought to swarm there.

They reckoned that it would be about eight or nine miles to go there,
and as much to return, so that the whole of the day would be occupied.
As an unknown part of the island was about to be explored, the whole
colony took part in the expedition. Accordingly, on the 5th of July, at
six o'clock in the morning, when day had scarcely broken, Cyrus Harding,
Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft, armed with spears, snares,
bows and arrows, and provided with provisions, left Granite House,
preceded by Top, who bounded before them.

Their shortest way was to cross the Mercy on the ice, which then covered
it.

"But," as the engineer justly observed, "that could not take the place
of a regular bridge!" So, the construction of a regular bridge was noted
in the list of future works.

It was the first time that the settlers had set foot on the right bank
of the Mercy, and ventured into the midst of those gigantic and superb
coniferae now sprinkled over with snow.

But they had not gone half a mile when from a thicket a whole family of
quadrupeds, who had made a home there, disturbed by Top, rushed forth
into the open country.

"Ah! I should say those are foxes!" cried Herbert, when he saw the troop
rapidly decamping.

They were foxes, but of a very large size, who uttered a sort of
barking, at which Top seemed to be very much astonished, for he stopped
short in the chase, and gave the swift animals time to disappear.

The dog had reason to be surprised, as he did not know Natural History.
But, by their barking, these foxes, with reddish-gray hair, black tails
terminating in a white tuft, had betrayed their origin. So Herbert
was able, without hesitating, to give them their real name of "Arctic
foxes." They are frequently met with in Chile, in the Falkland Islands,
and in all parts of America traversed by the thirtieth and fortieth
parallels. Herbert much regretted that Top had not been able to catch
one of these carnivora.

"Are they good to eat?" asked Pencroft, who only regarded the
representatives of the fauna in the island from one special point of
view.

"No," replied Herbert; "but zoologists have not yet found out if the
eye of these foxes is diurnal or nocturnal, or whether it is correct to
class them in the genus dog, properly so called."

Harding could not help smiling on hearing the lad's reflection, which
showed a thoughtful mind. As to the sailor, from the moment when he
found that the foxes were not classed in the genus eatable, they were
nothing to him. However, when a poultry-yard was established at Granite
House, he observed that it would be best to take some precautions
against a probable visit from these four-legged plunderers, and no one
disputed this.

After having turned the point, the settlers saw a long beach washed by
the open sea. It was then eight o'clock in the morning. The sky was very
clear, as it often is after prolonged cold; but warmed by their walk,
neither Harding nor his companions felt the sharpness of the atmosphere
too severely. Besides there was no wind, which made it much more
bearable. A brilliant sun, but without any calorific action, was just
issuing from the ocean. The sea was as tranquil and blue as that of a
Mediterranean gulf, when the sky is clear. Claw Cape, bent in the form
of a yataghan, tapered away nearly four miles to the southeast. To
the left the edge of the marsh was abruptly ended by a little point.
Certainly, in this part of Union Bay, which nothing sheltered from the
open sea, not even a sandbank, ships beaten by the east winds would
have found no shelter. They perceived by the tranquillity of the sea, in
which no shallows troubled the waters, by its uniform color, which was
stained by no yellow shades, by the absence of even a reef, that the
coast was steep and that the ocean there covered a deep abyss. Behind in
the west, but at a distance of four miles, rose the first trees of the
forests of the Far West. They might have believed themselves to be on
the desolate coast of some island in the Antarctic regions which the ice
had invaded. The colonists halted at this place for breakfast. A fire of
brushwood and dried seaweed was lighted, and Neb prepared the breakfast
of cold meat, to which he added some cups of Oswego tea.

While eating they looked around them. This part of Lincoln Island was
very sterile, and contrasted with all the western part. The reporter
was thus led to observe that if chance had thrown them at first on the
shore, they would have had but a deplorable idea of their future domain.

"I believe that we should not have been able to reach it," replied the
engineer, "for the sea is deep, and there is not a rock on which we
could have taken refuge. Before Granite House, at least, there were
sandbanks, an islet, which multiplied our chances of safety. Here,
nothing but the depths!"

"It is singular enough," remarked Spilett, "that this comparatively
small island should present such varied ground. This diversity of
aspect, logically only belongs to continents of a certain extent. One
would really say, that the western part of Lincoln Island, so rich and
so fertile, is washed by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and that
its shores to the north and the southeast extend over a sort of Arctic
sea."

"You are right, my dear Spilett," replied Cyrus Harding, "I have also
observed this. I think the form and also the nature of this island
strange. It is a summary of all the aspects which a continent presents,
and I should not be surprised if it was a continent formerly."

"What! a continent in the middle of the Pacific?" cried Pencroft.

"Why not?" replied Cyrus Harding. "Why should not Australia, New
Ireland, Australasia, united to the archipelagoes of the Pacific, have
once formed a sixth part of the world, as important as Europe or Asia,
as Africa or the two Americas? To my mind, it is quite possible that all
these islands, emerging from this vast ocean, are but the summits of
a continent, now submerged, but which was above the waters at a
prehistoric period."

"As the Atlantis was formerly," replied Herbert.

"Yes, my boy... if, however, it existed."

"And would Lincoln Island have been a part of that continent?" asked
Pencroft.

"It is probable," replied Cyrus Harding, "and that would sufficiently,
explain the variety of productions which are seen on its surface."

"And the great number of animals which still inhabit it," added Herbert.

"Yes, my boy," replied the engineer, "and you furnish me with an
argument to support my theory. It is certain, after what we have seen,
that animals are numerous in this island, and what is more strange, that
the species are extremely varied. There is a reason for that, and to
me it is that Lincoln Island may have formerly been a part of some vast
continent which had gradually sunk below the Pacific."

"Then, some fine day," said Pencroft, who did not appear to be entirely
convinced, "the rest of this ancient continent may disappear in its
turn, and there will be nothing between America and Asia."

"Yes," replied Harding, "there will be new continents which millions and
millions of animalculae are building at this moment."

"And what are these masons?" asked Pencroft.

"Coral insects," replied Cyrus Harding. "By constant work they made the
island of Clermont-Tonnerre, and numerous other coral islands in the
Pacific Ocean. Forty-seven millions of these insects are needed to weigh
a grain, and yet, with the sea-salt they absorb, the solid elements of
water which they assimilate, these animalculae produce limestone, and
this limestone forms enormous submarine erections, of which the hardness
and solidity equal granite. Formerly, at the first periods of creation,
nature employing fire, heaved up the land, but now she entrusts to these
microscopic creatures the task of replacing this agent, of which
the dynamic power in the interior of the globe has evidently
diminished--which is proved by the number of volcanoes on the surface of
the earth, now actually extinct. And I believe that centuries succeeding
to centuries, and insects to insects, this Pacific may one day be
changed into a vast continent, which new generations will inhabit and
civilize in their turn."

"That will take a long time," said Pencroft.

"Nature has time for it," replied the engineer.

"But what would be the use of new continents?" asked Herbert. "It
appears to me that the present extent of habitable countries is
sufficient for humanity. Yet nature does nothing uselessly."

"Nothing uselessly, certainly," replied the engineer, "but this is
how the necessity of new continents for the future, and exactly on the
tropical zone occupied by the coral islands, may be explained. At least
to me this explanation appears plausible."

"We are listening, captain," said Herbert.

"This is my idea: philosophers generally admit that some day our globe
will end, or rather that animal and vegetable life will no longer be
possible, because of the intense cold to which it will be subjected.
What they are not agreed upon, is the cause of this cold. Some think
that it will arise from the falling of the temperature, which the
sun will experience after millions of years; others, from the gradual
extinction of the fires in the interior of our globe, which have a
greater influence on it than is generally supposed. I hold to this last
hypothesis, grounding it on the fact that the moon is really a cold
star, which is no longer habitable, although the sun continues to throw
on its surface the same amount of heat. If, then, the moon has become
cold, it is because the interior fires to which, as do all the stars of
the stellar world, it owes its origin, are completely extinct. Lastly,
whatever may be the cause, our globe will become cold some day, but this
cold will only operate gradually. What will happen, then? The temperate
zones, at a more or less distant period, will not be more habitable than
the polar regions now are. Then the population of men, as well as the
animals, will flow towards the latitudes which are more directly under
the solar influence. An immense emigration will take place. Europe,
Central Asia, North America, will gradually be abandoned, as well as
Australasia and the lower parts of South America. The vegetation will
follow the human emigration. The flora will retreat towards the Equator
at the same time as the fauna. The central parts of South America and
Africa will be the continents chiefly inhabited. The Laplanders and the
Samoides will find the climate of the polar regions on the shores of the
Mediterranean. Who can say, that at this period, the equatorial regions
will not be too small, to contain and nourish terrestrial humanity? Now,
may not provident nature, so as to give refuge to all the vegetable
and animal emigration, be at present laying the foundation of a new
continent under the Equator, and may she not have entrusted these
insects with the construction of it? I have often thought of all these
things, my friends, and I seriously believe that the aspect of our
globe will some day be completely changed; that by the raising of new
continents the sea will cover the old, and that, in future ages,
a Columbus will go to discover the islands of Chimborazo, of the
Himalayas, or of Mont Blanc, remains of a submerged America, Asia,
and Europe. Then these new continents will become, in their turn,
uninhabitable; heat will die away, as does the heat from a body when
the soul has left it; and life will disappear from the globe, if not for
ever, at least for a period. Perhaps then, our spheroid will rest--will
be left to death--to revive some day under superior conditions! But
all that, my friends, is the secret of the Author of all things; and
beginning by the work of the insects, I have perhaps let myself be
carried too far, in investigating the secrets of the future.

"My dear Cyrus," replied Spilett, "these theories are prophecies to me,
and they will be accomplished some day."

"That is the secret of God," said the engineer.

"All that is well and good," then said Pencroft, who had listened with
all his might, "but will you tell me, captain, if Lincoln Island has
been made by your insects?"

"No," replied Harding; "it is of a purely volcanic origin."

"Then it will disappear some day?"

"That is probable."

"I hope we won't be here then."

"No, don't be uneasy, Pencroft; we shall not be here then, as we have no
wish to die here, and hope to get away some time."

"In the meantime," replied Gideon Spilett, "let us establish ourselves
here as if forever. There is no use in doing things by halves."

This ended the conversation. Breakfast was finished, the exploration was
continued, and the settlers arrived at the border of the marshy
region. It was a marsh of which the extent, to the rounded coast which
terminated the island at the southeast, was about twenty square miles.
The soil was formed of clayey flint-earth, mingled with vegetable
matter, such as the remains of rushes, reeds, grass, etc. Here and there
beds of grass, thick as a carpet, covered it. In many places icy pools
sparkled in the sun. Neither rain nor any river, increased by a sudden
swelling, could supply these ponds. They therefore naturally concluded
that the marsh was fed by the infiltrations of the soil and it was
really so. It was also to be feared that during the heat miasmas would
arise, which might produce fevers.

Above the aquatic plants, on the surface of the stagnant water,
fluttered numbers of birds. Wild duck, teal, snipe lived there in
flocks, and those fearless birds allowed themselves to be easily
approached.

One shot from a gun would certainly have brought down some dozen of the
birds, they were so close together. The explorers were, however, obliged
to content themselves with bows and arrows. The result was less, but the
silent arrow had the advantage of not frightening the birds, while the
noise of firearms would have dispersed them to all parts of the marsh.
The hunters were satisfied, for this time, with a dozen ducks, which had
white bodies with a band of cinnamon, a green head, wings black, white,
and red, and flattened beak. Herbert called them tadorns. Top helped in
the capture of these birds, whose name was given to this marshy part of
the island. The settlers had here an abundant reserve of aquatic game.
At some future time they meant to explore it more carefully, and it was
probable that some of the birds there might be domesticated, or at least
brought to the shores of the lake, so that they would be more within
their reach.

About five o'clock in the evening Cyrus Harding and his companions
retraced their steps to their dwelling by traversing Tadorn's Fens, and
crossed the Mercy on the ice-bridge.

At eight in the evening they all entered Granite House.

 

 

Chapter 22

This intense cold lasted till the 15th of August, without, however,
passing the degree of Fahrenheit already mentioned. When the atmosphere
was calm, the low temperature was easily borne, but when the wind blew,
the poor settlers, insufficiently clothed, felt it severely. Pencroft
regretted that Lincoln Island was not the home of a few families of
bears rather than of so many foxes and seals.

"Bears," said he, "are generally very well dressed, and I ask no more
than to borrow for the winter the warm cloaks which they have on their
backs."

"But," replied Neb, laughing, "perhaps the bears would not consent to
give you their cloaks, Pencroft. These beasts are not St. Martins."

"We would make them do it, Neb, we would make them," replied Pencroft,
in quite an authoritative tone.

But these formidable carnivora did not exist in the island, or at any
rate they had not yet shown themselves.

In the meanwhile, Herbert, Pencroft, and the reporter occupied
themselves with making traps on Prospect Heights and at the border of
the forest.

According to the sailor, any animal, whatever it was, would be a lawful
prize, and the rodents or carnivora which might get into the new snares
would be well received at Granite House.

The traps were besides extremely simple; being pits dug in the ground,
a platform of branches and grass above, which concealed the opening, and
at the bottom some bait, the scent of which would attract animals. It
must be mentioned also, that they had not been dug at random, but
at certain places where numerous footprints showed that quadrupeds
frequented the ground. They were visited every day, and at three
different times, during the first days, specimens of those Antarctic
foxes which they had already seen on the right bank of the Mercy were
found in them.

"Why, there are nothing but foxes in this country!" cried Pencroft, when
for the third time he drew one of the animals out of the pit. Looking at
it in great disgust, he added, "beasts which are good for nothing!"

"Yes," said Gideon Spilett, "they are good for something!"

"And what is that?"

"To make bait to attract other creatures!"

The reporter was right, and the traps were henceforward baited with the
foxes carcasses.

The sailor had also made snares from the long tough fibers of a certain
plant, and they were even more successful than the traps. Rarely a day
passed without some rabbits from the warren being caught. It was always
rabbit, but Neb knew how to vary his sauces and the settlers did not
think of complaining.

However, once or twice in the second week of August, the traps supplied
the hunters with other animals more useful than foxes, namely, several
of those small wild boars which had already been seen to the north of
the lake. Pencroft had no need to ask if these beasts were eatable. He
could see that by their resemblance to the pig of America and Europe.

"But these are not pigs," said Herbert to him, "I warn you of that,
Pencroft."

"My boy," replied the sailor, bending over the trap and drawing out one
of these representatives of the family of sus by the little appendage
which served it as a tail. "Let me believe that these are pigs."

"Why?"

"Because that pleases me!"

"Are you very fond of pig then, Pencroft?"

"I am very fond of pig," replied the sailor, "particularly of its feet,
and if it had eight instead of four, I should like it twice as much!"

As to the animals in question, they were peccaries belonging to one of
the four species which are included in the family, and they were also of
the species of Tajacu, recognizable by their deep color and the absence
of those long teeth with which the mouths of their congeners are armed.
These peccaries generally live in herds, and it was probable that they
abounded in the woody parts of the island.

At any rate, they were eatable from head to foot, and Pencroft did not
ask more from them.

Towards the 15th of August, the state of the atmosphere was suddenly
moderated by the wind shifting to the northwest. The temperature rose
some degrees, and the accumulated vapor in the air was not long in
resolving into snow. All the island was covered with a sheet of white,
and showed itself to its inhabitants under a new aspect. The snow fell
abundantly for several days, and it soon reached a thickness of two
feet.

The wind also blew with great violence, and at the height of Granite
House the sea could be heard thundering against the reefs. In some
places, the wind, eddying round the corners, formed the snow into tall
whirling columns, resembling those waterspouts which turn round on their
base, and which vessels attack with a shot from a gun. However, the
storm, coming from the northwest, blew across the island, and the
position of Granite House preserved it from a direct attack.

But in the midst of this snow-storm, as terrible as if it had been
produced in some polar country, neither Cyrus Harding nor his companions
could, notwithstanding their wish for it, venture forth, and they
remained shut up for five days, from the 20th to the 25th of August.
They could hear the tempest raging in Jacamar Wood, which would surely
suffer from it. Many of the trees would no doubt be torn up by the
roots, but Pencroft consoled himself by thinking that he would not have
the trouble of cutting them down.

"The wind is turning woodman, let it alone," he repeated.

Besides, there was no way of stopping it, if they had wished to do so.

How grateful the inhabitants of Granite House then were to Heaven for
having prepared for them this solid and immovable retreat! Cyrus Harding
had also his legitimate share of thanks, but after all, it was Nature
who had hollowed out this vast cavern, and he had only discovered it.
There all were in safety, and the tempest could not reach them. If
they had constructed a house of bricks and wood on Prospect Heights,
it certainly would not have resisted the fury of this storm. As to
the Chimneys, it must have been absolutely uninhabitable, for the sea,
passing over the islet, would beat furiously against it. But here, in
Granite House, in the middle of a solid mass, over which neither the sea
nor air had any influence, there was nothing to fear.

During these days of seclusion the settlers did not remain inactive.

There was no want of wood, cut up into planks, in the storeroom, and
little by little they completed their furnishing; constructing the
most solid of tables and chairs, for material was not spared. Neb and
Pencroft were very proud of this rather heavy furniture, which they
would not have changed on any account.

Then the carpenters became basket-makers, and they did not succeed badly
in this new manufacture. At the point of the lake which projected to the
north, they had discovered an osier-bed in which grew a large number
of purple osiers. Before the rainy season, Pencroft and Herbert had cut
down these useful shrubs, and their branches, well prepared, could now
be effectively employed. The first attempts were somewhat crude, but
in consequence of the cleverness and intelligence of the workmen,
by consulting, and recalling the models which they had seen, and by
emulating each other, the possessions of the colony were soon increased
by several baskets of different sizes. The storeroom was provided with
them, and in special baskets Neb placed his collection of rhizomes,
stone-pine almonds, etc.

During the last week of the month of August the weather moderated again.
The temperature fell a little, and the tempest abated. The colonists
sallied out directly. There was certainly two feet of snow on the shore,
but they were able to walk without much difficulty on the hardened
surface. Cyrus Harding and his companions climbed Prospect Heights.

What a change! The woods, which they had left green, especially in the
part at which the firs predominated, had disappeared under a uniform
color. All was white, from the summit of Mount Franklin to the shore,
the forests, the plains, the lake, the river. The waters of the Mercy
flowed under a roof of ice, which, at each rising and ebbing of the
tide, broke up with loud crashes. Numerous birds fluttered over the
frozen surface of the lake. Ducks and snipe, teal and guillemots were
assembled in thousands. The rocks among which the cascade flowed were
bristling with icicles. One might have said that the water escaped by a
monstrous gargoyle, shaped with all the imagination of an artist of the
Renaissance. As to the damage caused by the storm in the forest, that
could not as yet be ascertained; they would have to wait till the snowy
covering was dissipated.

Gideon Spilett, Pencroft, and Herbert did not miss this opportunity of
going to visit their traps. They did not find them easily, under the
snow with which they were covered. They had also to be careful not to
fall into one or other of them, which would have been both dangerous and
humiliating; to be taken in their own snares! But happily they avoided
this unpleasantness, and found their traps perfectly intact. No animal
had fallen into them, and yet the footprints in the neighborhood were
very numerous, among others, certain very clear marks of claws. Herbert
did not hesitate to affirm that some animal of the feline species had
passed there, which justified the engineer's opinion that dangerous
beasts existed in Lincoln Island. These animals doubtless generally
lived in the forests of the Far West, but pressed by hunger, they had
ventured as far as Prospect Heights. Perhaps they had smelled out the
inhabitants of Granite House. "Now, what are these feline creatures?"
asked Pencroft. "They are tigers," replied Herbert. "I thought those
beasts were only found in hot countries?"

"On the new continent," replied the lad, "they are found from Mexico to
the Pampas of Buenos Aires. Now, as Lincoln Island is nearly under the
same latitude as the provinces of La Plata, it is not surprising that
tigers are to be met with in it."

"Well, we must look out for them," replied Pencroft.

However, the snow soon disappeared, quickly dissolving under the
influence of the rising temperature. Rain fell, and the sheet of white
soon vanished. Notwithstanding the bad weather, the settlers renewed
their stores of different things, stone-pine almonds, rhizomes, syrup
from the maple-tree, for the vegetable part; rabbits from the warren,
agouties, and kangaroos for the animal part. This necessitated several
excursions into the forest, and they found that a great number of trees
had been blown down by the last hurricane. Pencroft and Neb also pushed
with the cart as far as the vein of coal, and brought back several tons
of fuel. They saw in passing that the pottery kiln had been severely
damaged by the wind, at least six feet of it having been blown off.

At the same time as the coal, the store of wood was renewed at Granite
House, and they profited by the current of the Mercy having again become
free, to float down several rafts. They could see that the cold period
was not ended.

A visit was also paid to the Chimneys, and the settlers could not but
congratulate themselves on not having been living there during the
hurricane. The sea had left unquestionable traces of its ravages.
Sweeping over the islet, it had furiously assailed the passages, half
filling them with sand, while thick beds of seaweed covered the rocks.
While Neb, Herbert, and Pencroft hunted or collected wood, Cyrus Harding
and Gideon Spilett busied themselves in putting the Chimneys to rights,
and they found the forge and the bellows almost unhurt, protected as
they had been from the first by the heaps of sand.

The store of fuel had not been made uselessly. The settlers had not done
with the rigorous cold. It is known that, in the Northern Hemisphere,
the month of February is principally distinguished by rapid fallings of
the temperature. It is the same in the Southern Hemisphere, and the end
of the month of August, which is the February of North America, does not
escape this climatic law.

About the 25th, after another change from snow to rain, the wind shifted
to the southeast, and the cold became, suddenly, very severe. According
to the engineer's calculation, the mercurial column of a Fahrenheit
thermometer would not have marked less than eight degrees below zero,
and this intense cold, rendered still more painful by a sharp gale,
lasted for several days. The colonists were again shut up in Granite
House, and as it was necessary to hermetically seal all the openings
of the facade, only leaving a narrow passage for renewing the air, the
consumption of candles was considerable. To economize them, the cavern
was often only lighted by the blazing hearths, on which fuel was not
spared. Several times, one or other of the settlers descended to the
beach in the midst of ice which the waves heaped up at each tide, but
they soon climbed up again to Granite House, and it was not without pain
and difficulty that their hands could hold to the rounds of the ladder.
In consequence of the intense cold, their fingers felt as if burned when
they touched the rounds. To occupy the leisure hours, which the tenants
of Granite House now had at their disposal, Cyrus Harding undertook an
operation which could be performed indoors.

We know that the settlers had no other sugar at their disposal than
the liquid substance which they drew from the maple, by making deep
incisions in the tree. They contented themselves with collecting this
liquor in jars and employing it in this state for different culinary
purposes, and the more so, as on growing old, this liquid began to
become white and to be of a syrupy consistence.

But there was something better to be made of it, and one day Cyrus
Harding announced that they were going to turn into refiners.

"Refiners!" replied Pencroft. "That is rather a warm trade, I think."

"Very warm," answered the engineer.

"Then it will be seasonable!" said the sailor.

This word refining need not awake in the mind thoughts of an elaborate
manufactory with apparatus and numerous workmen. No! to crystallize this
liquor, only an extremely easy operation is required. Placed on the fire
in large earthen pots, it was simply subjected to evaporation, and
soon a scum arose to its surface. As soon as this began to thicken,
Neb carefully removed it with a wooden spatula; this accelerated the
evaporation, and at the same time prevented it from contracting an
empyreumatic flavor.

After boiling for several hours on a hot fire, which did as much good to
the operators as the substance operated upon, the latter was transformed
into a thick syrup. This syrup was poured into clay molds, previously
fabricated in the kitchen stove, and to which they had given various
shapes. The next day this syrup had become cold, and formed cakes
and tablets. This was sugar of rather a reddish color, but nearly
transparent and of a delicious taste.

The cold continued to the middle of September, and the prisoners in
Granite House began to find their captivity rather tedious. Nearly every
day they attempted sorties which they could not prolong. They constantly
worked at the improvement of their dwelling. They talked while working.
Harding instructed his companions in many things, principally explaining
to them the practical applications of science. The colonists had no
library at their disposal; but the engineer was a book which was always
at hand, always open at the page which one wanted, a book which answered
all their questions, and which they often consulted. The time thus
passed away pleasantly, these brave men not appearing to have any fears
for the future.

However, all were anxious to see, if not the fine season, at least the
cessation of the insupportable cold. If only they had been clothed in a
way to meet it, how many excursions they would have attempted, either to
the downs or to Tadorn's Fens! Game would have been easily approached,
and the chase would certainly have been most productive. But Cyrus
Harding considered it of importance that no one should injure his
health, for he had need of all his hands, and his advice was followed.

But it must be said, that the one who was most impatient of this
imprisonment, after Pencroft perhaps, was Top. The faithful dog found
Granite House very narrow. He ran backwards and forwards from one
room to another, showing in his way how weary he was of being shut
up. Harding often remarked that when he approached the dark well which
communicated with the sea, and of which the orifice opened at the back
of the storeroom, Top uttered singular growlings. He ran round and round
this hole, which had been covered with a wooden lid. Sometimes even he
tried to put his paws under the lid, as if he wished to raise it.
He then yelped in a peculiar way, which showed at once anger and
uneasiness.

The engineer observed this maneuver several times.

What could there be in this abyss to make such an impression on the
intelligent animal? The well led to the sea, that was certain. Could
narrow passages spread from it through the foundations of the island?
Did some marine monster come from time to time, to breathe at the bottom
of this well? The engineer did not know what to think, and could not
refrain from dreaming of many strange improbabilities. Accustomed to go
far into the regions of scientific reality, he would not allow
himself to be drawn into the regions of the strange and almost of the
supernatural; but yet how to explain why Top, one of those sensible dogs
who never waste their time in barking at the moon, should persist in
trying with scent and hearing to fathom this abyss, if there was nothing
there to cause his uneasiness? Top's conduct puzzled Cyrus Harding even
more than he cared to acknowledge to himself.

At all events, the engineer only communicated his impressions to Gideon
Spilett, for he thought it useless to explain to his companions the
suspicions which arose from what perhaps was only Top's fancy.

At last the cold ceased. There had been rain, squalls mingled with snow,
hailstorms, gusts of wind, but these inclemencies did not last. The ice
melted, the snow disappeared; the shore, the plateau, the banks of
the Mercy, the forest, again became practicable. This return of spring
delighted the tenants of Granite House, and they soon only passed it in
the hours necessary for eating and sleeping.

They hunted much in the second part of September, which led Pencroft to
again entreat for the firearms, which he asserted had been promised by
Cyrus Harding. The latter, knowing well that without special tools it
would be nearly impossible for him to manufacture a gun which would be
of any use, still drew back and put off the operation to some future
time, observing in his usual dry way, that Herbert and Spilett had
become very skilful archers, so that many sorts of excellent animals,
agouties, kangaroos, capybaras, pigeons, bustards, wild ducks, snipes,
in short, game both with fur and feathers, fell victims to their arrows,
and that, consequently, they could wait. But the obstinate sailor would
listen to nothing of this, and he would give the engineer no peace till
he promised to satisfy his desire. Gideon Spilett, however, supported
Pencroft.

"If, which may be doubted," said he, "the island is inhabited by wild
beasts, we must think how to fight with and exterminate them. A time may
come when this will be our first duty."

But at this period, it was not the question of firearms which occupied
Harding, but that of clothes. Those which the settlers wore had passed
this winter, but they would not last until next winter. Skins of
carnivora or the wool of ruminants must be procured at any price, and
since there were plenty of musmons, it was agreed to consult on the
means of forming a flock which might be brought up for the use of the
colony. An enclosure for the domestic animals, a poultry-yard for the
birds, in a word to establish a sort of farm in the island, such were
the two important projects for the fine season.

In consequence and in view of these future establishments, it became
of much importance that they should penetrate into all the yet unknown
parts of Lincoln Island, that is to say, through that thick forest which
extended on the right bank of the Mercy, from its mouth to the extremity
of the Serpentine Peninsula, as well as on the whole of its western
side. But this needed settled weather, and a month must pass before this
exploration could be profitably undertaken.

They therefore waited with some impatience, when an incident occurred
which increased the desire the settlers had to visit the whole of their
domain.

It was the 24th of October. On this day, Pencroft had gone to visit his
traps, which he always kept properly baited. In one of them he found
three animals which would be very welcome for the larder. They were a
female peccary and her two young ones.

Pencroft then returned to Granite House, enchanted with his capture,
and, as usual, he made a great show of his game.

"Come, we shall have a grand feast, captain!" he exclaimed. "And you
too, Mr. Spilett, you will eat some!"

"I shall be very happy," replied the reporter; "but what is it that I am
going to eat?"

"Suckling-pig."

"Oh, indeed, suckling-pig, Pencroft? To hear you, I thought that you
were bringing back a young partridge stuffed with truffles!"

"What?" cried Pencroft. "Do you mean to say that you turn up your nose
at suckling-pig?'

"No," replied Gideon Spilett, without showing any enthusiasm; "provided
one doesn't eat too much."

"That's right, that's right," returned the sailor, who was not pleased
whenever he heard his chase made light of. "You like to make objections.
Seven months ago, when we landed on the island, you would have been only
too glad to have met with such game!"

"Well, well," replied the reporter, "man is never perfect, nor
contented."

"Now," said Pencroft, "I hope that Neb will distinguish himself. Look
here! These two little peccaries are not more than three months old!
They will be as tender as quails! Come along, Neb, come! I will look
after the cooking myself."

And the sailor, followed by Neb, entered the kitchen, where they were
soon absorbed in their culinary labors.

They were allowed to do it in their own way. Neb, therefore, prepared
a magnificent repast--the two little peccaries, kangaroo soup, a smoked
ham, stone-pine almonds, Oswego tea; in fact, all the best that they
had, but among all the dishes figured in the first rank the savory
peccaries.

At five o'clock dinner was served in the dining-room of Granite House.
The kangaroo soup was smoking on the table. They found it excellent.

To the soup succeeded the peccaries, which Pencroft insisted on carving
himself, and of which he served out monstrous portions to each of the
guests.

These suckling-pigs were really delicious, and Pencroft was devouring
his share with great gusto, when all at once a cry and an oath escaped
him.

"What's the matter?" asked Cyrus Harding.

"The matter? the matter is that I have just broken a tooth!" replied the
sailor.

"What, are there pebbles in your peccaries?" said Gideon Spilett.

"I suppose so," replied Pencroft, drawing from his lips the object which
had cost him a grinder--!

It was not a pebble--it was a leaden bullet.

 

 

 

 

PART 2

ABANDONED

 

 

Chapter 1

It was now exactly seven months since the balloon voyagers had been
thrown on Lincoln Island. During that time, notwithstanding the
researches they had made, no human being had been discovered. No smoke
even had betrayed the presence of man on the surface of the island. No
vestiges of his handiwork showed that either at an early or at a late
period had man lived there. Not only did it now appear to be uninhabited
by any but themselves, but the colonists were compelled to believe that
it never had been inhabited. And now, all this scaffolding of reasonings
fell before a simple ball of metal, found in the body of an inoffensive
rodent! In fact, this bullet must have issued from a firearm, and who
but a human being could have used such a weapon?

When Pencroft had placed the bullet on the table, his companions looked
at it with intense astonishment. All the consequences likely to result
from this incident, notwithstanding its apparent insignificance,
immediately took possession of their minds. The sudden apparition of a
supernatural being could not have startled them more completely.

Cyrus Harding did not hesitate to give utterance to the suggestions
which this fact, at once surprising and unexpected, could not fail to
raise in his mind. He took the bullet, turned it over and over, rolled
it between his finger and thumb; then, turning to Pencroft, he asked,--

"Are you sure that the peccary wounded by this bullet was not more than
three months old?"

"Not more, captain," replied Pencroft. "It was still sucking its mother
when I found it in the trap."

"Well," said the engineer, "that proves that within three months a
gun-shot was fired in Lincoln Island."

"And that a bullet," added Gideon Spilett, "wounded, though not
mortally, this little animal."

"That is unquestionable," said Cyrus Harding, "and these are the
deductions which must be drawn from this incident: that the island was
inhabited before our arrival, or that men have landed here within three
months. Did these men arrive here voluntarily or involuntarily, by
disembarking on the shore or by being wrecked? This point can only be
cleared up later. As to what they were, Europeans or Malays, enemies or
friends of our race, we cannot possibly guess; and if they still inhabit
the island, or if they have left it, we know not. But these questions
are of too much importance to be allowed to remain long unsettled."

"No! a hundred times no! a thousand times no!" cried the sailor,
springing up from the table. "There are no other men than ourselves on
Lincoln Island! By my faith! The island isn't large and if it had been
inhabited, we should have seen some of the inhabitants long before
this!"

"In fact, the contrary would be very astonishing," said Herbert.

"But it would be much more astonishing, I should think," observed the
reporter, "if this peccary had been born with a bullet in its inside!"

"At least," said Neb seriously, "if Pencroft has not had--"

"Look here, Neb," burst out Pencroft. "Do you think I could have a
bullet in my jaw for five or six months without finding it out?
Where could it be hidden?" he asked, opening his mouth to show the
two-and-thirty teeth with which it was furnished. "Look well, Neb, and
if you find one hollow tooth in this set, I will let you pull out half a
dozen!"

"Neb's supposition is certainly inadmissible," replied Harding, who,
notwithstanding the gravity of his thoughts, could not restrain a smile.
"It is certain that a gun has been fired in the island, within three
months at most. But I am inclined to think that the people who landed
on this coast were only here a very short time ago, or that they just
touched here; for if, when we surveyed the island from the summit of
Mount Franklin, it had been inhabited, we should have seen them or we
should have been seen ourselves. It is therefore, probable that within
only a few weeks castaways have been thrown by a storm on some part of
the coast. However that may be, it is of consequence to us to have this
point settled."

"I think that we should act with caution," said the reporter.

"Such is my advice," replied Cyrus Harding, "for it is to be feared that
Malay pirates have landed on the island!"

"Captain," asked the sailor, "would it not be a good plan, before
setting out, to build a canoe in which we could either ascend the
river, or, if we liked, coast round the inland? It will not do to be
unprovided."

"Your idea is good, Pencroft," replied the engineer, "but we cannot wait
for that. It would take at least a month to build a boat."

"Yes, a real boat," replied the sailor; "but we do not want one for a
sea voyage, and in five days at the most, I will undertake to construct
a canoe fit to navigate the Mercy."

"Five days," cried Neb, "to build a boat?"

"Yes, Neb; a boat in the Indian fashion."

"Of wood?" asked the Negro, looking still unconvinced.

"Of wood," replied Pencroft, "of rather of bark. I repeat, captain, that
in five days the work will be finished!"

"In five days, then, be it," replied the engineer.

"But till that time we must be very watchful," said Herbert.

"Very watchful indeed, my friends," replied Harding; "and I beg you to
confine your hunting excursions to the neighborhood of Granite House."

The dinner ended less gaily than Pencroft had hoped.

So, then, the island was, or had been, inhabited by others than the
settlers. Proved as it was by the incident of the bullet, it was
hereafter an unquestionable fact, and such a discovery could not but
cause great uneasiness among the colonists.

Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett, before sleeping, conversed long about
the matter. They asked themselves if by chance this incident might not
have some connection with the inexplicable way in which the engineer had
been saved, and the other peculiar circumstances which had struck them
at different times. However, Cyrus Harding, after having discussed the
pros and cons of the question, ended by saying,--

"In short, would you like to know my opinion, my dear Spilett?"

"Yes, Cyrus."

"Well, then, it is this: however minutely we explore the island, we
shall find nothing."

The next day Pencroft set to work. He did not mean to build a boat with
boards and planking, but simply a flat-bottomed canoe, which would be
well suited for navigating the Mercy--above all, for approaching its
source, where the water would naturally be shallow. Pieces of bark,
fastened one to the other, would form a light boat; and in case of
natural obstacles, which would render a portage necessary, it would be
easily carried. Pencroft intended to secure the pieces of bark by means
of nails, to insure the canoe being water-tight.

It was first necessary to select the trees which would afford a strong
and supple bark for the work. Now the last storm had brought down a
number of large birch-trees, the bark of which would be perfectly suited
for their purpose. Some of these trees lay on the ground, and they had
only to be barked, which was the most difficult thing of all, owing to
the imperfect tools which the settlers possessed. However, they overcame
all difficulties.

While the sailor, seconded by the engineer, thus occupied himself
without losing an hour, Gideon Spilett and Herbert were not idle.

They were made purveyors to the colony. The reporter could not but
admire the boy, who had acquired great skill in handling the bow and
spear. Herbert also showed great courage and much of that presence of
mind which may justly be called "the reasoning of bravery." These two
companions of the chase, remembering Cyrus Harding's recommendations,
did not go beyond a radius of two miles round Granite House; but
the borders of the forest furnished a sufficient tribute of agoutis,
capybaras, kangaroos, peccaries, etc.; and if the result from the traps
was less than during the cold, still the warren yielded its accustomed
quota, which might have fed all the colony in Lincoln Island.

Often during these excursions, Herbert talked with Gideon Spilett on the
incident of the bullet, and the deductions which the engineer drew from
it, and one day--it was the 26th of October--he said--"But, Mr. Spilett,
do you not think it very extraordinary that, if any castaways have
landed on the island, they have not yet shown themselves near Granite
House?"

"Very astonishing if they are still here," replied the reporter, "but
not astonishing at all if they are here no longer!"

"So you think that these people have already quitted the island?"
returned Herbert.

"It is more than probable, my boy; for if their stay was prolonged, and
above all, if they were still here, some accident would have at last
betrayed their presence."

"But if they were able to go away," observed the lad, "they could not
have been castaways."

"No, Herbert; or, at least, they were what might be called provisional
castaways. It is very possible that a storm may have driven them to the
island without destroying their vessel, and that, the storm over, they
went away again."

"I must acknowledge one thing," said Herbert, "it is that Captain
Harding appears rather to fear than desire the presence of human beings
on our island."

"In short," responded the reporter, "there are only Malays who frequent
these seas, and those fellows are ruffians which it is best to avoid."

"It is not impossible, Mr. Spilett," said Herbert, "that some day or
other we may find traces of their landing."

"I do not say no, my boy. A deserted camp, the ashes of a fire, would
put us on the track, and this is what we will look for in our next
expedition."

The day on which the hunters spoke thus, they were in a part of the
forest near the Mercy, remarkable for its beautiful trees. There, among
others, rose, to a height of nearly 200 feet above the ground, some of
those superb coniferae, to which, in New Zealand, the natives give the
name of Kauris.

"I have an idea, Mr. Spilett," said Herbert. "If I were to climb to the
top of one of these kauris, I could survey the country for an immense
distance round."

"The idea is good," replied the reporter; "but could you climb to the
top of those giants?"

"I can at least try," replied Herbert.

The light and active boy then sprang on the first branches, the
arrangement of which made the ascent of the kauri easy, and in a few
minutes he arrived at the summit, which emerged from the immense plain
of verdure.

From this elevated situation his gaze extended over all the southern
portion of the island, from Claw Cape on the southeast, to Reptile End
on the southwest. To the northwest rose Mount Franklin, which concealed
a great part of the horizon.

But Herbert, from the height of his observatory, could examine all the
yet unknown portion of the island, which might have given shelter to the
strangers whose presence they suspected.

The lad looked attentively. There was nothing in sight on the sea, not
a sail, neither on the horizon nor near the island. However, as the bank
of trees hid the shore, it was possible that a vessel, especially if
deprived of her masts, might lie close to the land and thus be invisible
to Herbert.

Neither in the forests of the Far West was anything to be seen. The wood
formed an impenetrable screen, measuring several square miles, without a
break or an opening. It was impossible even to follow the course of the
Mercy, or to ascertain in what part of the mountain it took its source.
Perhaps other creeks also ran towards the west, but they could not be
seen.

But at last, if all indication of an encampment escaped Herbert's sight
could he not even catch a glimpse of smoke, the faintest trace of which
would be easily discernible in the pure atmosphere?

For an instant Herbert thought he could perceive a slight smoke in the
west, but a more attentive examination showed that he was mistaken. He
strained his eyes in every direction, and his sight was excellent. No,
decidedly there was nothing there.

Herbert descended to the foot of the kauri, and the two sportsmen
returned to Granite House. There Cyrus Harding listened to the lad's
account, shook his head and said nothing. It was very evident that
no decided opinion could be pronounced on this question until after a
complete exploration of the island.

Two days after--the 28th of October--another incident occurred, for
which an explanation was again required.

While strolling along the shore about two miles from Granite House,
Herbert and Neb were fortunate enough to capture a magnificent specimen
of the order of chelonia. It was a turtle of the species Midas, the
edible green turtle, so called from the color both of its shell and fat.

Herbert caught sight of this turtle as it was crawling among the rocks
to reach the sea.

"Help, Neb, help!" he cried.

Neb ran up.

"What a fine animal!" said Neb; "but how are we to catch it?"

"Nothing is easier, Neb," replied Herbert. "We have only to turn the
turtle on its back, and it cannot possibly get away. Take your spear and
do as I do."

The reptile, aware of danger, had retired between its carapace and
plastron. They no longer saw its head or feet, and it was motionless as
a rock.

Herbert and Neb then drove their sticks underneath the animal, and by
their united efforts managed without difficulty to turn it on its back.
The turtle, which was three feet in length, would have weighed at least
four hundred pounds.

"Capital!" cried Neb; "this is something which will rejoice friend
Pencroft's heart."

In fact, the heart of friend Pencroft could not fail to be rejoiced,
for the flesh of the turtle, which feeds on wrack-grass, is extremely
savory. At this moment the creature's head could be seen, which was
small, flat, but widened behind by the large temporal fossae hidden
under the long roof.

"And now, what shall we do with our prize?" said Neb. "We can't drag it
to Granite House!"

"Leave it here, since it cannot turn over," replied Herbert, "and we
will come back with the cart to fetch it."

"That is the best plan."

However, for greater precaution, Herbert took the trouble, which Neb
deemed superfluous, to wedge up the animal with great stones; after
which the two hunters returned to Granite House, following the beach,
which the tide had left uncovered. Herbert, wishing to surprise
Pencroft, said nothing about the "superb specimen of a chelonian" which
they had turned over on the sand; but, two hours later, he and Neb
returned with the cart to the place where they had left it. The "superb
specimen of a chelonian" was no longer there!

Neb and Herbert stared at each other first; then they stared about them.
It was just at this spot that the turtle had been left. The lad even
found the stones which he had used, and therefore he was certain of not
being mistaken.

"Well!" said Neb, "these beasts can turn themselves over, then?''

"It appears so," replied Herbert, who could not understand it at all,
and was gazing at the stones scattered on the sand.

"Well, Pencroft will be disgusted!"

"And Captain Harding will perhaps be very perplexed how to explain this
disappearance," thought Herbert.

"Look here," said Neb, who wished to hide his ill-luck, "we won't speak
about it."

"On the contrary, Neb, we must speak about it," replied Herbert.

And the two, taking the cart, which there was now no use for, returned
to Granite House.

Arrived at the dockyard, where the engineer and the sailor were working
together, Herbert recounted what had happened.

"Oh! the stupids!" cried the sailor, "to have let at least fifty meals
escape!"

"But, Pencroft," replied Neb, "it wasn't our fault that the beast got
away; as I tell you, we had turned it over on its back!"

"Then you didn't turn it over enough!" returned the obstinate sailor.

"Not enough!" cried Herbert.

And he told how he had taken care to wedge up the turtle with stones.

"It is a miracle, then!" replied Pencroft.

"I thought, captain," said Herbert, "that turtles, once placed on their
backs, could not regain their feet, especially when they are of a large
size?'

"That is true, my boy," replied Cyrus Harding.

"Then how did it manage?"

"At what distance from the sea did you leave this turtle?" asked
the engineer, who, having suspended his work, was reflecting on this
incident.

"Fifteen feet at the most," replied Herbert.

"And the tide was low at the time?"

"Yes, captain."

"Well," replied the engineer, "what the turtle could not do on the sand
it might have been able to do in the water. It turned over when the tide
overtook it, and then quietly returned to the deep sea."

"Oh! what stupids we were!" cried Neb.

"That is precisely what I had the honor of telling you before!" returned
the sailor.

Cyrus Harding had given this explanation, which, no doubt, was
admissible. But was he himself convinced of the accuracy of this
explanation? It cannot be said that he was.

 

 

Chapter 2

On the 9th of October the bark canoe was entirely finished. Pencroft
had kept his promise, and a light boat, the shell of which was joined
together by the flexible twigs of the crejimba, had been constructed in
five days. A seat in the stern, a second seat in the middle to preserve
the equilibrium, a third seat in the bows, rowlocks for the two oars, a
scull to steer with, completed the little craft, which was twelve feet
long, and did not weigh more than two hundred pounds. The operation of
launching it was extremely simple. The canoe was carried to the beach
and laid on the sand before Granite House, and the rising tide floated
it. Pencroft, who leaped in directly, maneuvered it with the scull and
declared it to be just the thing for the purpose to which they wished to
put it.

"Hurrah!" cried the sailor, who did not disdain to celebrate thus his
own triumph. "With this we could go round--"

"The world?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"No, the island. Some stones for ballast, a mast and a sail, which the
captain will make for us some day, and we shall go splendidly! Well,
captain--and you, Mr. Spilett; and you, Herbert; and you, Neb--aren't
you coming to try our new vessel? Come along! we must see if it will
carry all five of us!"

This was certainly a trial which ought to be made. Pencroft soon brought
the canoe to the shore by a narrow passage among the rocks, and it was
agreed that they should make a trial of the boat that day by following
the shore as far as the first point at which the rocks of the south
ended.

As they embarked, Neb cried,--

"But your boat leaks rather, Pencroft."

"That's nothing, Neb," replied the sailor; "the wood will get seasoned.
In two days there won't be a single leak, and our boat will have no more
water in her than there is in the stomach of a drunkard. Jump in!"

They were soon all seated, and Pencroft shoved off. The weather was
magnificent, the sea as calm as if its waters were contained within
the narrow limits of a lake. Thus the boat could proceed with as much
security as if it was ascending the tranquil current of the Mercy.

Neb took one of the oars, Herbert the other, and Pencroft remained in
the stern in order to use the scull.

The sailor first crossed the channel, and steered close to the southern
point of the islet. A light breeze blew from the south. No roughness was
found either in the channel or the green sea. A long swell, which the
canoe scarcely felt, as it was heavily laden, rolled regularly over the
surface of the water. They pulled out about half a mile distant from the
shore, that they might have a good view of Mount Franklin.

Pencroft afterwards returned towards the mouth of the river. The boat
then skirted the shore, which, extending to the extreme point, hid all
Tadorn's Fens.

This point, of which the distance was increased by the irregularity of
the coast, was nearly three miles from the Mercy. The settlers resolved
to go to its extremity, and only go beyond it as much as was necessary
to take a rapid survey of the coast as far as Claw Cape.

The canoe followed the windings of the shore, avoiding the rocks
which fringed it, and which the rising tide began to cover. The cliff
gradually sloped away from the mouth of the river to the point. This was
formed of granite rocks, capriciously distributed, very different from
the cliff at Prospect Heights, and of an extremely wild aspect. It might
have been said that an immense cartload of rocks had been emptied out
there. There was no vegetation on this sharp promontory, which projected
two miles from the forest, and it thus represented a giant's arm
stretched out from a leafy sleeve.

The canoe, impelled by the two oars, advanced without difficulty. Gideon
Spilett, pencil in one hand and notebook in the other, sketched the
coast in bold strokes. Neb, Herbert, and Pencroft chatted, while
examining this part of their domain, which was new to them, and, in
proportion as the canoe proceeded towards the south, the two Mandible
Capes appeared to move, and surround Union Bay more closely.

As to Cyrus Harding, he did not speak; he simply gazed, and by the
mistrust which his look expressed, it appeared that he was examining
some strange country.

In the meantime, after a voyage of three-quarters of an hour, the
canoe reached the extremity of the point, and Pencroft was preparing to
return, when Herbert, rising, pointed to a black object, saying,--

"What do I see down there on the beach?"

All eyes turned towards the point indicated.

"Why," said the reporter, "there is something. It looks like part of a
wreck half buried in the sand."

"Ah!" cried Pencroft, "I see what it is!"

"What?" asked Neb.

"Barrels, barrels, which perhaps are full," replied the sailor.

"Pull to the shore, Pencroft!" said Cyrus.

A few strokes of the oar brought the canoe into a little creek, and its
passengers leaped on shore.

Pencroft was not mistaken. Two barrels were there, half buried in the
sand, but still firmly attached to a large chest, which, sustained by
them, had floated to the moment when it stranded on the beach.

"There has been a wreck, then, in some part of the island," said
Herbert.

"Evidently," replied Spilett.

"But what's in this chest?" cried Pencroft, with very natural
impatience. "What's in this chest? It is shut up, and nothing to open it
with! Well, perhaps a stone--"

And the sailor, raising a heavy block, was about to break in one of the
sides of the chest, when the engineer arrested his hand.

"Pencroft," said he, "can you restrain your impatience for one hour
only?"

"But, captain, just think! Perhaps there is everything we want in
there!"

"We shall find that out, Pencroft," replied the engineer; "but trust
to me, and do not break the chest, which may be useful to us. We must
convey it to Granite House, where we can open it easily, and without
breaking it. It is quite prepared for a voyage; and since it has floated
here, it may just as well float to the mouth of the river."

"You are right, captain, and I was wrong, as usual," replied the sailor.

The engineer's advice was good. In fact, the canoe probably would not
have been able to contain the articles possibly enclosed in the chest,
which doubtless was heavy, since two empty barrels were required to buoy
it up. It was, therefore, much better to tow it to the beach at Granite
House.

And now, whence had this chest come? That was the important question.
Cyrus Harding and his companions looked attentively around them, and
examined the shore for several hundred steps. No other articles or
pieces of wreck could be found. Herbert and Neb climbed a high rock
to survey the sea, but there was nothing in sight--neither a dismasted
vessel nor a ship under sail.

However, there was no doubt that there had been a wreck. Perhaps this
incident was connected with that of the bullet? Perhaps strangers had
landed on another part of the island? Perhaps they were still there?
But the thought which came naturally to the settlers was, that these
strangers could not be Malay pirates, for the chest was evidently of
American or European make.

All the party returned to the chest, which was of an unusually large
size. It was made of oak wood, very carefully closed and covered with
a thick hide, which was secured by copper nails. The two great barrels,
hermetically sealed, but which sounded hollow and empty, were fastened
to its sides by strong ropes, knotted with a skill which Pencroft
directly pronounced sailors alone could exhibit. It appeared to be in a
perfect state of preservation, which was explained by the fact that it
had stranded on a sandy beach, and not among rocks. They had no doubt
whatever, on examining it carefully, that it had not been long in the
water, and that its arrival on this coast was recent. The water did
not appear to have penetrated to the inside, and the articles which it
contained were no doubt uninjured.

It was evident that this chest had been thrown overboard from some
dismasted vessel driven towards the island, and that, in the hope
that it would reach the land, where they might afterwards find it,
the passengers had taken the precaution to buoy it up by means of this
floating apparatus.

"We will tow this chest to Granite House," said the engineer, "where we
can make an inventory of its contents; then, if we discover any of the
survivors from the supposed wreck, we can return it to those to whom it
belongs. If we find no one--"

"We will keep it for ourselves!" cried Pencroft. "But what in the world
can there be in it?"

The sea was already approaching the chest, and the high tide would
evidently float it. One of the ropes which fastened the barrels was
partly unlashed and used as a cable to unite the floating apparatus with
the canoe. Pencroft and Neb then dug away the sand with their oars, so
as to facilitate the moving of the chest, towing which the boat soon
began to double the point, to which the name of Flotsam Point was given.

The chest was heavy, and the barrels were scarcely sufficient to keep
it above water. The sailor also feared every instant that it would get
loose and sink to the bottom of the sea. But happily his fears were not
realized, and an hour and a half after they set out--all that time had
been taken up in going a distance of three miles--the boat touched the
beach below Granite House.

Canoe and chest were then hauled up on the sands; and as the tide was
then going out, they were soon left high and dry. Neb, hurrying home,
brought back some tools with which to open the chest in such a way that
it might be injured as little as possible, and they proceeded to its
inventory. Pencroft did not try to hide that he was greatly excited.

The sailor began by detaching the two barrels, which, being in good
condition, would of course be of use. Then the locks were forced with a
cold chisel and hammer, and the lid thrown back. A second casing of zinc
lined the interior of the chest, which had been evidently arranged
that the articles which it enclosed might under any circumstances be
sheltered from damp.

"Oh!" cried Neb, "suppose it's jam!

"I hope not," replied the reporter.

"If only there was--" said the sailor in a low voice.

"What?" asked Neb, who overheard him.

"Nothing!"

The covering of zinc was torn off and thrown back over the sides of the
chest, and by degrees numerous articles of very varied character were
produced and strewn about on the sand. At each new object Pencroft
uttered fresh hurrahs, Herbert clapped his hands, and Neb danced up and
down. There were books which made Herbert wild with joy, and cooking
utensils which Neb covered with kisses!

In short, the colonists had reason to be extremely satisfied, for this
chest contained tools, weapons, instruments, clothes, books; and this
is the exact list of them as stated in Gideon Spilett's note-book:
--Tools:--3 knives with several blades, 2 woodmen's axes, 2 carpenter's
hatchets, 3 planes, 2 adzes, 1 twibil or mattock, 6 chisels, 2 files,
3 hammers, 3 gimlets, 2 augers, 10 bags of nails and screws, 3 saws of
different sizes, 2 boxes of needles.

Weapons:--2 flint-lock guns, 2 for percussion caps, 2 breach-loader
carbines, 5 boarding cutlasses, 4 sabers, 2 barrels of powder, each
containing twenty-five pounds; 12 boxes of percussion caps.

Instruments:--1 sextant, 1 double opera-glass, 1 telescope, 1 box of
mathematical instruments, 1 mariner's compass, 1 Fahrenheit thermometer,
1 aneroid barometer, 1 box containing a photographic apparatus,
object-glass, plates, chemicals, etc.

Clothes:--2 dozen shirts of a peculiar material resembling wool, but
evidently of a vegetable origin; 3 dozen stockings of the same material.

Utensils:--1 iron pot, 6 copper saucepans, 3 iron dishes, 10 metal
plates, 2 kettles, 1 portable stove, 6 table-knives.

Books:--1 Bible, 1 atlas, 1 dictionary of the different Polynesian
idioms, 1 dictionary of natural science, in six volumes; 3 reams of
white paper, 2 books with blank pages.

"It must be allowed," said the reporter, after the inventory had been
made, "that the owner of this chest was a practical man! Tools, weapons,
instruments, clothes, utensils, books--nothing is wanting! It might
really be said that he expected to be wrecked, and had prepared for it
beforehand."

"Nothing is wanting, indeed," murmured Cyrus Harding thoughtfully.

"And for a certainty," added Herbert, "the vessel which carried this
chest and its owner was not a Malay pirate!"

"Unless," said Pencroft, "the owner had been taken prisoner by
pirates--"

"That is not admissible," replied the reporter. "It is more probable
that an American or European vessel has been driven into this quarter,
and that her passengers, wishing to save necessaries at least, prepared
this chest and threw it overboard."

"Is that your opinion, captain?" asked Herbert.

"Yes, my boy," replied the engineer, "that may have been the case. It
is possible that at the moment, or in expectation of a wreck, they
collected into this chest different articles of the greatest use in
hopes of finding it again on the coast--"

"Even the photographic box!" exclaimed the sailor incredulously.

"As to that apparatus," replied Harding, "I do not quite see the use of
it; and a more complete supply of clothes or more abundant ammunition
would have been more valuable to us as well as to any other castaways!"

"But isn't there any mark or direction on these instruments, tools, or
books, which would tell us something about them?" asked Gideon Spilett.

That might be ascertained. Each article was carefully examined,
especially the books, instruments and weapons. Neither the weapons nor
the instruments, contrary to the usual custom, bore the name of the
maker; they were, besides, in a perfect state, and did not appear to
have been used. The same peculiarity marked the tools and utensils; all
were new, which proved that the articles had not been taken by chance
and thrown into the chest, but, on the contrary, that the choice of
things had been well considered and arranged with care. This was also
indicated by the second case of metal which had preserved them from
damp, and which could not have been soldered in a moment of haste.

As to the dictionaries of natural science and Polynesian idioms, both
were English; but they neither bore the name of the publisher nor the
date of publication.

The same with the Bible printed in English, in quarto, remarkable from a
typographic point of view, and which appeared to have been often used.

The atlas was a magnificent work, comprising maps of every country in
the world, and several planispheres arranged upon Mercator's projection,
and of which the nomenclature was in French--but which also bore neither
date nor name of publisher.

There was nothing, therefore, on these different articles by which
they could be traced, and nothing consequently of a nature to show the
nationality of the vessel which must have recently passed these shores.

But, wherever the chest might have come from, it was a treasure to the
settlers on Lincoln Island. Till then, by making use of the productions
of nature, they had created everything for themselves, and, thanks to
their intelligence, they had managed without difficulty. But did it not
appear as if Providence had wished to reward them by sending them these
productions of human industry? Their thanks rose unanimously to Heaven.

However, one of them was not quite satisfied: it was Pencroft. It
appeared that the chest did not contain something which he evidently
held in great esteem, for in proportion as they approached the bottom
of the box, his hurrahs diminished in heartiness, and, the inventory
finished, he was heard to mutter these words:--"That's all very fine,
but you can see that there is nothing for me in that box!"

This led Neb to say,--

"Why, friend Pencroft, what more do you expect?"

"Half a pound of tobacco," replied Pencroft seriously, "and nothing
would have been wanting to complete my happiness!"

No one could help laughing at this speech of the sailor's.

But the result of this discovery of the chest was, that it was now more
than ever necessary to explore the island thoroughly. It was therefore
agreed that the next morning at break of day, they should set out, by
ascending the Mercy so as to reach the western shore. If any castaways
had landed on the coast, it was to be feared they were without
resources, and it was therefore the more necessary to carry help to them
without delay.

During the day the different articles were carried to Granite House,
where they were methodically arranged in the great hall. This day--the
29th of October--happened to be a Sunday, and, before going to bed,
Herbert asked the engineer if he would not read them something from the
Gospel.

"Willingly," replied Cyrus Harding.

He took the sacred volume, and was about to open it, when Pencroft
stopped him, saying,--"Captain, I am superstitious. Open at random
and read the first verse which, your eye falls upon. We will see if it
applies to our situation."

Cyrus Harding smiled at the sailor's idea, and, yielding to his wish, he
opened exactly at a place where the leaves were separated by a marker.

Immediately his eyes were attracted by a cross which, made with a
pencil, was placed against the eighth verse of the seventh chapter of
the Gospel of St. Matthew. He read the verse, which was this:--

"For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth."

 

 

Chapter 3

The next day, the 30th of October, all was ready for the proposed
exploring expedition, which recent events had rendered so necessary. In
fact, things had so come about that the settlers in Lincoln Island no
longer needed help for themselves, but were even able to carry it to
others.

It was therefore agreed that they should ascend the Mercy as far as
the river was navigable. A great part of the distance would thus be
traversed without fatigue, and the explorers could transport their
provisions and arms to an advanced point in the west of the island.

It was necessary to think not only of the things which they should take
with them, but also of those which they might have by chance to bring
back to Granite House. If there had been a wreck on the coast, as was
supposed, there would be many things cast up, which would be lawfully
their prizes. In the event of this, the cart would have been of more use
than the light canoe, but it was heavy and clumsy to drag, and therefore
more difficult to use; this led Pencroft to express his regret that the
chest had not contained, besides "his halfpound of tobacco," a pair
of strong New Jersey horses, which would have been very useful to the
colony!

The provisions, which Neb had already packed up, consisted of a store
of meat and of several gallons of beer, that is to say enough to sustain
them for three days, the time which Harding assigned for the expedition.
They hoped besides to supply themselves on the road, and Neb took care
not to forget the portable stove.

The only tools the settlers took were the two woodmen's axes, which
they could use to cut a path through the thick forests, as also the
instruments, the telescope and pocket-compass.

For weapons they selected the two flint-lock guns, which were likely
to be more useful to them than the percussion fowling-pieces, the first
only requiring flints which could be easily replaced, and the latter
needing fulminating caps, a frequent use of which would soon exhaust
their limited stock. However, they took also one of the carbines and
some cartridges. As to the powder, of which there was about fifty pounds
in the barrel, a small supply of it had to be taken, but the engineer
hoped to manufacture an explosive substance which would allow them to
husband it. To the firearms were added the five cutlasses well sheathed
in leather, and, thus supplied, the settlers could venture into the vast
forest with some chance of success.

It is useless to add that Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb, thus armed, were
at the summit of their happiness, although Cyrus Harding made them
promise not to fire a shot unless it was necessary.

At six in the morning the canoe put off from the shore; all had
embarked, including Top, and they proceeded to the mouth of the Mercy.

The tide had begun to come up half an hour before. For several hours,
therefore, there would be a current, which it was well to profit by, for
later the ebb would make it difficult to ascend the river. The tide was
already strong, for in three days the moon would be full, and it was
enough to keep the boat in the center of the current, where it floated
swiftly along between the high banks without its being necessary
to increase its speed by the aid of the oars. In a few minutes the
explorers arrived at the angle formed by the Mercy and exactly at the
place where, seven months before, Pencroft had made his first raft of
wood.

After this sudden angle the river widened and flowed under the shade of
great evergreen firs.

The aspect of the banks was magnificent. Cyrus Harding and his
companions could not but admire the lovely effects so easily produced
by nature with water and trees. As they advanced the forest element
diminished. On the right bank of the river grew magnificent specimens of
the ulmaceae tribe, the precious elm, so valuable to builders, and which
withstands well the action of water. Then there were numerous groups
belonging to the same family, among others one in particular, the fruit
of which produces a very useful oil. Further on, Herbert remarked the
lardizabala, a twining shrub which, when bruised in water, furnishes
excellent cordage; and two or three ebony trees of a beautiful black,
crossed with capricious veins.

From time to time, in certain places where the landing was easy, the
canoe was stopped, when Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Pencroft, their
guns in their hands, and preceded by Top, jumped on shore. Without
expecting game, some useful plant might be met with, and the young
naturalist was delighted with discovering a sort of wild spinach,
belonging to the order of chenopodiaceae, and numerous specimens of
cruciferae, belonging to the cabbage tribe, which it would certainly be
possible to cultivate by transplanting. There were cresses, horseradish,
turnips, and lastly, little branching hairy stalks, scarcely more than
three feet high, which produced brownish grains.

"Do you know what this plant is?" asked Herbert of the sailor.

"Tobacco!" cried Pencroft, who evidently had never seen his favorite
plant except in the bowl of his pipe.

"No, Pencroft," replied Herbert; "this is not tobacco, it is mustard."

"Mustard be hanged!" returned the sailor; "but if by chance you happen
to come across a tobacco-plant, my boy, pray don't scorn that!"

"We shall find it some day!" said Gideon Spilett.

"Well!" exclaimed Pencroft, "when that day comes, I do not know what
more will be wanting in our island!"

These different plants, which had been carefully rooted up, were carried
to the canoe, where Cyrus Harding had remained buried in thought.

The reporter, Herbert, and Pencroft in this manner frequently
disembarked, sometimes on the right bank, sometimes on the left bank of
the Mercy.

The latter was less abrupt, but the former more wooded. The engineer
ascertained by consulting his pocket-compass that the direction of the
river from the first turn was obviously southwest and northeast, and
nearly straight for a length of about three miles. But it was to be
supposed that this direction changed beyond that point, and that the
Mercy continued to the north-west, towards the spurs of Mount Franklin,
among which the river rose.

During one of these excursions, Gideon Spilett managed to get hold
of two couples of living gallinaceae. They were birds with long, thin
beaks, lengthened necks, short wings, and without any appearance of
a tail. Herbert rightly gave them the name of tinamous, and it
was resolved that they should be the first tenants of their future
poultry-yard.

But till then the guns had not spoken, and the first report which awoke
the echoes of the forest of the Far West was provoked by the appearance
of a beautiful bird, resembling the kingfisher.

"I recognize him!" cried Pencroft, and it seemed as if his gun went off
by itself.

"What do you recognize?" asked the reporter.

"The bird which escaped us on our first excursion, and from which we
gave the name to that part of the forest."

"A jacamar!" cried Herbert.

It was indeed a jacamar, of which the plumage shines with a metallic
luster. A shot brought it to the ground, and Top carried it to the
canoe. At the same time half a dozen lories were brought down. The lory
is of the size of a pigeon, the plumage dashed with green, part of
the wings crimson, and its crest bordered with white. To the young boy
belonged the honor of this shot, and he was proud enough of it. Lories
are better food than the jacamar, the flesh of which is rather tough,
but it was difficult to persuade Pencroft that he had not killed the
king of eatable birds. It was ten o'clock in the morning when the canoe
reached a second angle of the Mercy, nearly five miles from its mouth.
Here a halt was made for breakfast under the shade of some splendid
trees. The river still measured from sixty to seventy feet in breadth,
and its bed from five to six feet in depth. The engineer had observed
that it was increased by numerous affluents, but they were unnavigable,
being simply little streams. As to the forest, including Jacamar Wood,
as well as the forests of the Far West, it extended as far as the eye
could reach. In no place, either in the depths of the forests or under
the trees on the banks of the Mercy, was the presence of man revealed.
The explorers could not discover one suspicious trace. It was evident
that the woodman's axe had never touched these trees, that the pioneer's
knife had never severed the creepers hanging from one trunk to another
in the midst of tangled brushwood and long grass. If castaways had
landed on the island, they could not have yet quitted the shore, and it
was not in the woods that the survivors of the supposed shipwreck should
be sought.

The engineer therefore manifested some impatience to reach the western
coast of Lincoln Island, which was at least five miles distant according
to his estimation.

The voyage was continued, and as the Mercy appeared to flow not towards
the shore, but rather towards Mount Franklin, it was decided that they
should use the boat as long as there was enough water under its keel
to float it. It was both fatigue spared and time gained, for they would
have been obliged to cut a path through the thick wood with their axes.
But soon the flow completely failed them, either the tide was going
down, and it was about the hour, or it could no longer be felt at this
distance from the mouth of the Mercy. They had therefore to make use of
the oars. Herbert and Neb each took one, and Pencroft took the scull.
The forest soon became less dense, the trees grew further apart and
often quite isolated. But the further they were from each other the more
magnificent they appeared, profiting, as they did, by the free, pure air
which circulated around them.

What splendid specimens of the flora of this latitude! Certainly
their presence would have been enough for a botanist to name without
hesitation the parallel which traversed Lincoln Island.

"Eucalypti!" cried Herbert.

They were, in fact, those splendid trees, the giants of the
extratropical zone, the congeners of the Australian and New Zealand
eucalyptus, both situated under the same latitude as Lincoln Island.
Some rose to a height of two hundred feet. Their trunks at the base
measured twenty feet in circumference, and their bark was covered by a
network of farrows containing a red, sweet-smelling gum. Nothing is more
wonderful or more singular than those enormous specimens of the order of
the myrtaceae, with their leaves placed vertically and not horizontally,
so that an edge and not a surface looks upwards, the effect being that
the sun's rays penetrate more freely among the trees.

The ground at the foot of the eucalypti was carpeted with grass, and
from the bushes escaped flights of little birds, which glittered in the
sunlight like winged rubies.

"These are something like trees!" cried Neb; "but are they good for
anything?"

"Pooh!" replied Pencroft. "Of course there are vegetable giants as well
as human giants, and they are no good, except to show themselves at
fairs!"

"I think that you are mistaken, Pencroft," replied Gideon Spilett, "and
that the wood of the eucalyptus has begun to be very advantageously
employed in cabinet-making."

"And I may add," said Herbert, "that the eucalyptus belongs to a family
which comprises many useful members; the guava-tree, from whose fruit
guava jelly is made; the clove-tree, which produces the spice; the
pomegranate-tree, which bears pomegranates; the Eugeacia Cauliflora,
the fruit of which is used in making a tolerable wine; the Ugui myrtle,
which contains an excellent alcoholic liquor; the Caryophyllus myrtle,
of which the bark forms an esteemed cinnamon; the Eugenia Pimenta, from
whence comes Jamaica pepper; the common myrtle, from whose buds and
berries spice is sometimes made; the Eucalyptus manifera, which yields
a sweet sort of manna; the Guinea Eucalyptus, the sap of which is
transformed into beer by fermentation; in short, all those trees known
under the name of gum-trees or iron-bark trees in Australia, belong
to this family of the myrtaceae, which contains forty-six genera and
thirteen hundred species!"

The lad was allowed to run on, and he delivered his little botanical
lecture with great animation. Cyrus Harding listened smiling, and
Pencroft with an indescribable feeling of pride.

"Very good, Herbert," replied Pencroft, "but I could swear that all
those useful specimens you have just told us about are none of them
giants like these!"

"That is true, Pencroft."

"That supports what I said," returned the sailor, "namely, that these
giants are good for nothing!"

"There you are wrong, Pencroft," said the engineer; "these gigantic
eucalypti, which shelter us, are good for something."

"And what is that?"

"To render the countries which they inhabit healthy. Do you know what
they are called in Australia and New Zealand?"

"No, captain."

"They are called 'fever trees.'"

"Because they give fevers?"

"No, because they prevent them!"

"Good. I must note that," said the reporter.

"Note it then, my dear Spilett; for it appears proved that the presence
of the eucalyptus is enough to neutralize miasmas. This natural antidote
has been tried in certain countries in the middle of Europe and the
north of Africa where the soil was absolutely unhealthy, and the
sanitary condition of the inhabitants has been gradually ameliorated. No
more intermittent fevers prevail in the regions now covered with forests
of the myrtaceae. This fact is now beyond doubt, and it is a happy
circumstance for us settlers in Lincoln Island."

"Ah! what an island! What a blessed island!" cried Pencroft. "I tell
you, it wants nothing--unless it is--"

"That will come, Pencroft, that will be found," replied the engineer;
"but now we must continue our voyage and push on as far as the river
will carry our boat!"

The exploration was therefore continued for another two miles in the
midst of country covered with eucalypti, which predominated in the woods
of this portion of the island. The space which they occupied extended as
far as the eye could reach on each side of the Mercy, which wound along
between high green banks. The bed was often obstructed by long weeds,
and even by pointed rocks, which rendered the navigation very difficult.
The action of the oars was prevented, and Pencroft was obliged to push
with a pole. They found also that the water was becoming shallower
and shallower, and that the canoe must soon stop. The sun was already
sinking towards the horizon, and the trees threw long shadows on the
ground. Cyrus Harding, seeing that he could not hope to reach the
western coast of the island in one journey, resolved to camp at the
place where any further navigation was prevented by want of water. He
calculated that they were still five or six miles from the coast, and
this distance was too great for them to attempt during the night in the
midst of unknown woods.

The boat was pushed on through the forest, which gradually became
thicker again, and appeared also to have more inhabitants; for if the
eyes of the sailor did not deceive him, he thought he saw bands of
monkeys springing among the trees. Sometimes even two or three of these
animals stopped at a little distance from the canoe and gazed at the
settlers without manifesting any terror, as if, seeing men for the first
time, they had not yet learned to fear them. It would have been easy
to bring down one of these quadramani with a gunshot, and Pencroft was
greatly tempted to fire, but Harding opposed so useless a massacre.
This was prudent, for the monkeys, or apes rather, appearing to be very
powerful and extremely active, it was useless to provoke an unnecessary
aggression, and the creatures might, ignorant of the power of the
explorers' firearms, have attacked them. It is true that the sailor
considered the monkeys from a purely alimentary point of view, for those
animals which are herbivorous make very excellent game; but since they
had an abundant supply of provisions, it was a pity to waste their
ammunition.

Towards four o'clock, the navigation of the Mercy became exceedingly
difficult, for its course was obstructed by aquatic plants and rocks.
The banks rose higher and higher, and already they were approaching the
spurs of Mount Franklin. The source could not be far off, since it was
fed by the water from the southern slopes of the mountain.

"In a quarter of an hour," said the sailor, "we shall be obliged to
stop, captain."

"Very well, we will stop, Pencroft, and we will make our encampment for
the night."

"At what distance are we from Granite House?" asked Herbert.

"About seven miles," replied the engineer, "taking into calculation,
however, the detours of the river, which has carried us to the
northwest."

"Shall we go on?" asked the reporter.

"Yes, as long as we can," replied Cyrus Harding. "To-morrow, at break of
day, we will leave the canoe, and in two hours I hope we shall cross the
distance which separates us from the coast, and then we shall have the
whole day in which to explore the shore."

"Go ahead!" replied Pencroft.

But soon the boat grated on the stony bottom of the river, which was
now not more than twenty feet in breadth. The trees met like a bower
overhead, and caused a half-darkness. They also heard the noise of a
waterfall, which showed that a few hundred feet up the river there was a
natural barrier.

Presently, after a sudden turn of the river, a cascade appeared through
the trees. The canoe again touched the bottom, and in a few minutes it
was moored to a trunk near the right bank.

It was nearly five o'clock. The last rays of the sun gleamed through
the thick foliage and glanced on the little waterfall, making the spray
sparkle with all the colors of the rainbow. Beyond that, the Mercy was
lost in the bushwood, where it was fed from some hidden source. The
different streams which flowed into it increased it to a regular river
further down, but here it was simply a shallow, limpid brook.

It was agreed to camp here, as the place was charming. The colonists
disembarked, and a fire was soon lighted under a clump of trees, among
the branches of which Cyrus Harding and his companions could, if it was
necessary, take refuge for the night.

Supper was quickly devoured, for they were very hungry, and then there
was only sleeping to think of. But, as roarings of rather a suspicious
nature had been heard during the evening, a good fire was made up for
the night, so as to protect the sleepers with its crackling flames. Neb
and Pencroft also watched by turns, and did not spare fuel. They thought
they saw the dark forms of some wild animals prowling round the camp
among the bushes, but the night passed without incident, and the next
day, the 31st of October, at five o'clock in the morning, all were on
foot, ready for a start.

 

 

Chapter 4

It was six o' clock in the morning when the settlers, after a hasty
breakfast, set out to reach by the shortest way, the western coast of
the island. And how long would it take to do this? Cyrus Harding
had said two hours, but of course that depended on the nature of the
obstacles they might meet with. As it was probable that they would have
to cut a path through the grass, shrubs, and creepers, they marched axe
in hand, and with guns also ready, wisely taking warning from the cries
of the wild beasts heard in the night.

The exact position of the encampment could be determined by the bearing
of Mount Franklin, and as the volcano arose in the north at a distance
of less than three miles, they had only to go straight towards the
southwest to reach the western coast. They set out, having first
carefully secured the canoe. Pencroft and Neb carried sufficient
provision for the little band for at least two days. It would not thus
be necessary to hunt. The engineer advised his companions to refrain
from firing, that their presence might not be betrayed to any one near
the shore. The first hatchet blows were given among the brushwood in the
midst of some mastic-trees, a little above the cascade; and his compass
in his hand, Cyrus Harding led the way.

The forest here was composed for the most part of trees which had
already been met with near the lake and on Prospect Heights. There
were deodars, Douglas firs, casuarinas, gum trees, eucalypti, hibiscus,
cedars, and other trees, generally of a moderate size, for their number
prevented their growth.

Since their departure, the settlers had descended the slopes which
constituted the mountain system of the island, on to a dry soil, but the
luxuriant vegetation of which indicated it to be watered either by some
subterranean marsh or by some stream. However, Cyrus Harding did not
remember having seen, at the time of his excursion to the crater, any
other watercourses but the Red Creek and the Mercy.

During the first part of their excursion, they saw numerous troops of
monkeys who exhibited great astonishment at the sight of men, whose
appearance was so new to them. Gideon Spilett jokingly asked whether
these active and merry quadrupeds did not consider him and his
companions as degenerate brothers.

And certainly, pedestrians, hindered at each step by bushes, caught by
creepers, barred by trunks of trees, did not shine beside those supple
animals, who, bounding from branch to branch, were hindered by nothing
on their course. The monkeys were numerous, but happily they did not
manifest any hostile disposition.

Several pigs, agoutis, kangaroos, and other rodents were seen, also two
or three koalas, at which Pencroft longed to have a shot.

"But," said he, "you may jump and play just now; we shall have one or
two words to say to you on our way back!"

At half-past nine the way was suddenly found to be barred by an unknown
stream, from thirty to forty feet broad, whose rapid current dashed
foaming over the numerous rocks which interrupted its course. This creek
was deep and clear, but it was absolutely unnavigable.

"We are cut off!" cried Neb.

"No," replied Herbert, "it is only a stream, and we can easily swim
over."

"What would be the use of that?" returned Harding. "This creek evidently
runs to the sea. Let us remain on this side and follow the bank, and
I shall be much astonished if it does not lead us very quickly to the
coast. Forward!"

"One minute," said the reporter. "The name of this creek, my friends? Do
not let us leave our geography incomplete."

"All right!" said Pencroft.

"Name it, my boy," said the engineer, addressing the lad.

"Will it not be better to wait until we have explored it to its mouth?"
answered Herbert.

"Very well," replied Cyrus Harding. "Let us follow it as fast as we can
without stopping."

"Still another minute!" said Pencroft.

"What's the matter?" asked the reporter.

"Though hunting is forbidden, fishing is allowed, I suppose," said the
sailor.

"We have no time to lose," replied the engineer.

"Oh! five minutes!" replied Pencroft, "I only ask for five minutes to
use in the interest of our breakfast!"

And Pencroft, lying down on the bank, plunged his arm into the water,
and soon pulled up several dozen of fine crayfish from among the stones.

"These will be good!" cried Neb, going to the sailor's aid.

"As I said, there is everything in this island, except tobacco!"
muttered Pencroft with a sigh.

The fishing did not take five minutes, for the crayfish were swarming in
the creek. A bag was filled with the crustaceae, whose shells were of a
cobalt blue. The settlers then pushed on.

They advanced more rapidly and easily along the bank of the river than
in the forest. From time to time they came upon the traces of animals of
a large size who had come to quench their thirst at the stream, but none
were actually seen, and it was evidently not in this part of the forest
that the peccary had received the bullet which had cost Pencroft a
grinder.

In the meanwhile, considering the rapid current, Harding was led to
suppose that he and his companions were much farther from the western
coast than they had at first supposed. In fact, at this hour, the rising
tide would have turned back the current of the creek, if its mouth had
only been a few miles distant. Now, this effect was not produced, and
the water pursued its natural course. The engineer was much astonished
at this, and frequently consulted his compass, to assure himself that
some turn of the river was not leading them again into the Far West.

However, the creek gradually widened and its waters became less
tumultuous. The trees on the right bank were as close together as on the
left bank, and it was impossible to distinguish anything beyond them;
but these masses of wood were evidently uninhabited, for Top did not
bark, and the intelligent animal would not have failed to signal the
presence of any stranger in the neighborhood.

At half-past ten, to the great surprise of Cyrus Harding, Herbert, who
was a little in front, suddenly stopped and exclaimed,--

"The sea!"

In a few minutes more, the whole western shore of the island lay
extended before the eyes of the settlers.

But what a contrast between this and the eastern coast, upon which
chance had first thrown them. No granite cliff, no rocks, not even a
sandy beach. The forest reached the shore, and the tall trees bending
over the water were beaten by the waves. It was not such a shore as is
usually formed by nature, either by extending a vast carpet of sand,
or by grouping masses of rock, but a beautiful border consisting of the
most splendid trees. The bank was raised a little above the level of the
sea, and on this luxuriant soil, supported by a granite base, the fine
forest trees seemed to be as firmly planted as in the interior of the
island.

The colonists were then on the shore of an unimportant little harbor,
which would scarcely have contained even two or three fishing-boats. It
served as a neck to the new creek, of which the curious thing was that
its waters, instead of joining the sea by a gentle slope, fell from a
height of more than forty feet, which explained why the rising tide was
not felt up the stream. In fact, the tides of the Pacific, even at
their maximum elevation, could never reach the level of the river, and,
doubtless, millions of years would pass before the water would have worn
away the granite and hollowed a practicable mouth.

It was settled that the name of Falls River should be given to this
stream. Beyond, towards the north, the forest border was prolonged for
a space of nearly two miles; then the trees became scarcer, and beyond
that again the picturesque heights described a nearly straight line,
which ran north and south. On the contrary, all the part of the shore
between Falls River and Reptile End was a mass of wood, magnificent
trees, some straight, others bent, so that the long sea-swell bathed
their roots. Now, it was this coast, that is, all the Serpentine
Peninsula, that was to be explored, for this part of the shore offered
a refuge to castaways, which the other wild and barren side must have
refused.

The weather was fine and clear, and from a height of a hillock on which
Neb and Pencroft had arranged breakfast, a wide view was obtained. There
was, however, not a sail in sight; nothing could be seen along the shore
as far as the eye could reach. But the engineer would take nothing for
granted until he had explored the coast to the very extremity of the
Serpentine Peninsula.

Breakfast was soon despatched, and at half-past eleven the captain gave
the signal for departure. Instead of proceeding over the summit of a
cliff or along a sandy beach, the settlers were obliged to remain under
cover of the trees so that they might continue on the shore.

The distance which separated Falls River from Reptile End was about
twelve miles. It would have taken the settlers four hours to do this,
on a clear ground and without hurrying themselves; but as it was they
needed double the time, for what with trees to go round, bushes to cut
down, and creepers to chop away, they were impeded at every step, these
obstacles greatly lengthening their journey.

There was, however, nothing to show that a shipwreck had taken place
recently. It is true that, as Gideon Spilett observed, any remains of
it might have drifted out to sea, and they must not take it for granted
that because they could find no traces of it, a ship had not been
castaway on the coast.

The reporter's argument was just, and besides, the incident of the
bullet proved that a shot must have been fired in Lincoln Island within
three months.

It was already five o'clock, and there were still two miles between the
settlers and the extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula. It was evident
that after having reached Reptile End, Harding and his companions would
not have time to return before dark to their encampment near the source
of the Mercy. It would therefore be necessary to pass the night on the
promontory. But they had no lack of provisions, which was lucky, for
there were no animals on the shore, though birds, on the contrary,
abound--jacamars, couroucous, tragopans, grouse, lories, parrots,
cockatoos, pheasants, pigeons, and a hundred others. There was not
a tree without a nest, and not a nest which was not full of flapping
wings.

Towards seven o'clock the weary explorers arrived at Reptile End. Here
the seaside forest ended, and the shore resumed the customary appearance
of a coast, with rocks, reefs, and sands. It was possible that something
might be found here, but darkness came on, and the further exploration
had to be put off to the next day.

Pencroft and Herbert hastened on to find a suitable place for their
camp. Among the last trees of the forest of the Far West, the boy found
several thick clumps of bamboos.

"Good," said he; "this is a valuable discovery."

"Valuable?" returned Pencroft.

"Certainly," replied Herbert. "I may say, Pencroft, that the bark of the
bamboo, cut into flexible laths, is used for making baskets; that this
bark, mashed into a paste, is used for the manufacture of Chinese paper;
that the stalks furnish, according to their size, canes and pipes
and are used for conducting water; that large bamboos make excellent
material for building, being light and strong, and being never attacked
by insects. I will add that by sawing the bamboo in two at the joint,
keeping for the bottom the part of the transverse film which forms
the joint, useful cups are obtained, which are much in use among the
Chinese. No! you don't care for that. But--"

"But what?"

"But I can tell you, if you are ignorant of it, that in India these
bamboos are eaten like asparagus."

"Asparagus thirty feet high!" exclaimed the sailor. "And are they good?"

"Excellent," replied Herbert. "Only it is not the stems of thirty feet
high which are eaten, but the young shoots."

"Perfect, my boy, perfect!" replied Pencroft.

"I will also add that the pith of the young stalks, preserved in
vinegar, makes a good pickle."

"Better and better, Herbert!"

"And lastly, that the bamboos exude a sweet liquor which can be made
into a very agreeable drink."

"Is that all?" asked the sailor.

"That is all!"

"And they don't happen to do for smoking?"

"No, my poor Pencroft."

Herbert and the sailor had not to look long for a place in which to pass
the night. The rocks, which must have been violently beaten by the
sea under the influence of the winds of the southwest, presented many
cavities in which shelter could be found against the night air. But just
as they were about to enter one of these caves a loud roaring arrested
them.

"Back!" cried Pencroft. "Our guns are only loaded with small shot, and
beasts which can roar as loud as that would care no more for it than for
grains of salt!" And the sailor, seizing Herbert by the arm, dragged
him behind a rock, just as a magnificent animal showed itself at the
entrance of the cavern.

It was a jaguar of a size at least equal to its Asiatic congeners, that
is to say, it measured five feet from the extremity of its head to the
beginning of its tail. The yellow color of its hair was relieved by
streaks and regular oblong spots of black, which contrasted with the
white of its chest. Herbert recognized it as the ferocious rival of
the tiger, as formidable as the puma, which is the rival of the largest
wolf!

The jaguar advanced and gazed around him with blazing eyes, his hair
bristling as if this was not the first time he had scented men.

At this moment the reporter appeared round a rock, and Herbert, thinking
that he had not seen the jaguar, was about to rush towards him, when
Gideon Spilett signed to him to remain where he was. This was not his
first tiger, and advancing to within ten feet of the animal he remained
motionless, his gun to his shoulder, without moving a muscle. The jaguar
collected itself for a spring, but at that moment a shot struck it in
the eyes, and it fell dead.

Herbert and Pencroft rushed towards the jaguar. Neb and Harding also ran
up, and they remained for some instants contemplating the animal as it
lay stretched on the ground, thinking that its magnificent skin would be
a great ornament to the hall at Granite House.

"Oh, Mr. Spilett, how I admire and envy you!" cried Herbert, in a fit of
very natural enthusiasm.

"Well, my boy," replied the reporter, "you could have done the same."

"I! with such coolness!--"

"Imagine to yourself, Herbert, that the jaguar is only a hare, and you
would fire as quietly as possible."

"That is," rejoined Pencroft, "that it is not more dangerous than a
hare!"

"And now," said Gideon Spilett, "since the jaguar has left its abode, I
do not see, my friends, why we should not take possession of it for the
night."

"But others may come," said Pencroft.

"It will be enough to light a fire at the entrance of the cavern," said
the reporter, "and no wild beasts will dare to cross the threshold."

"Into the jaguar's house, then!" replied the sailor, dragging after him
the body of the animal.

While Neb skinned the jaguar, his companions collected an abundant
supply of dry wood from the forest, which they heaped up at the cave.

Cyrus Harding, seeing the clump of bamboos, cut a quantity, which he
mingled with the other fuel.

This done, they entered the grotto, of which the floor was strewn with
bones, the guns were carefully loaded, in case of a sudden attack, they
had supper, and then just before they lay down to rest, the heap of wood
piled at the entrance was set fire to. Immediately, a regular explosion,
or rather a series of reports, broke the silence! The noise was caused
by the bamboos, which, as the flames reached them, exploded like
fireworks. The noise was enough to terrify even the boldest of wild
beasts.

It was not the engineer who had invented this way of causing loud
explosions, for, according to Marco Polo, the Tartars have employed it
for many centuries to drive away from their encampments the formidable
wild beasts of Central Asia.

 

 

Chapter 5

Cyrus Harding and his companions slept like innocent marmots in the cave
which the jaguar had so politely left at their disposal.

At sunrise all were on the shore at the extremity of the promontory, and
their gaze was directed towards the horizon, of which two-thirds of
the circumference were visible. For the last time the engineer could
ascertain that not a sail nor the wreck of a ship was on the sea, and
even with the telescope nothing suspicious could be discovered.

There was nothing either on the shore, at least, in the straight line
of three miles which formed the south side of the promontory, for
beyond that, rising ground had the rest of the coast, and even from the
extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula Claw Cape could not be seen.

The southern coast of the island still remained to be explored. Now
should they undertake it immediately, and devote this day to it?

This was not included in their first plan. In fact, when the boat was
abandoned at the sources of the Mercy, it had been agreed that after
having surveyed the west coast, they should go back to it, and return to
Granite House by the Mercy. Harding then thought that the western coast
would have offered refuge, either to a ship in distress, or to a vessel
in her regular course; but now, as he saw that this coast presented no
good anchorage, he wished to seek on the south what they had not been
able to find on the west.

Gideon Spilett proposed to continue the exploration, that the question
of the supposed wreck might be completely settled, and he asked at what
distance Claw Cape might be from the extremity of the peninsula.

"About thirty miles," replied the engineer, "if we take into
consideration the curvings of the coast."

 

"Thirty miles!" returned Spilett. "That would be a long day's march.
Nevertheless, I think that we should return to Granite House by the
south coast."

"But," observed Herbert, "from Claw Cape to Granite House there must be
at least another ten miles.

"Make it forty miles in all," replied the engineer, "and do not hesitate
to do it. At least we should survey the unknown shore, and then we shall
not have to begin the exploration again."

"Very good," said Pencroft. "But the boat?"

"The boat has remained by itself for one day at the sources of the
Mercy," replied Gideon Spilett; "it may just as well stay there two
days! As yet, we have had no reason to think that the island is infested
by thieves!"

"Yet," said the sailor, "when I remember the history of the turtle, I am
far from confident of that."

"The turtle! the turtle!" replied the reporter. "Don't you know that the
sea turned it over?"

"Who knows?" murmured the engineer.

"But,--" said Neb.

Neb had evidently something to say, for he opened his mouth to speak and
yet said nothing.

"What do you want to say, Neb?" asked the engineer.

"If we return by the shore to Claw Cape," replied Neb, "after having
doubled the Cape, we shall be stopped--"

"By the Mercy! of course," replied Herbert, "and we shall have neither
bridge nor boat by which to cross."

"But, captain," added Pencroft, "with a few floating trunks we shall
have no difficulty in crossing the river."

"Never mind," said Spilett, "it will be useful to construct a bridge if
we wish to have an easy access to the Far West!"

"A bridge!" cried Pencroft. "Well, is not the captain the best engineer
in his profession? He will make us a bridge when we want one. As to
transporting you this evening to the other side of the Mercy, and that
without wetting one thread of your clothes, I will take care of that. We
have provisions for another day, and besides we can get plenty of game.
Forward!"

The reporter's proposal, so strongly seconded by the sailor, received
general approbation, for each wished to have their doubts set at rest,
and by returning by Claw Cape the exploration would be ended. But there
was not an hour to lose, for forty miles was a long march, and they
could not hope to reach Granite House before night.

At six o'clock in the morning the little band set out. As a precaution
the guns were loaded with ball, and Top, who led the van, received
orders to beat about the edge of the forest.

From the extremity of the promontory which formed the tail of the
peninsula the coast was rounded for a distance of five miles, which
was rapidly passed over, without even the most minute investigations
bringing to light the least trace of any old or recent landings; no
debris, no mark of an encampment, no cinders of a fire, nor even a
footprint!

From the point of the peninsula on which the settlers now were their
gaze could extend along the southwest. Twenty-five miles off the coast
terminated in the Claw Cape, which loomed dimly through the morning
mists, and which, by the phenomenon of the mirage, appeared as if
suspended between land and water.

Between the place occupied by the colonists and the other side of the
immense bay, the shore was composed, first, of a tract of low land,
bordered in the background by trees; then the shore became more
irregular, projecting sharp points into the sea, and finally ended in
the black rocks which, accumulated in picturesque disorder, formed Claw
Cape.

Such was the development of this part of the island, which the settlers
took in at a glance, while stopping for an instant.

"If a vessel ran in here," said Pencroft, "she would certainly be lost.
Sandbanks and reefs everywhere! Bad quarters!"

"But at least something would be left of the ship," observed the
reporter.

"There might be pieces of wood on the rocks, but nothing on the sands,"
replied the sailor.

"Why?"

"Because the sands are still more dangerous than the rocks, for they
swallow up everything that is thrown on them. In a few days the hull of
a ship of several hundred tons would disappear entirely in there!"

"So, Pencroft," asked the engineer, "if a ship has been wrecked on
these banks, is it not astonishing that there is now no trace of her
remaining?"

"No, captain, with the aid of time and tempest. However, it would be
surprising, even in this case, that some of the masts or spars should
not have been thrown on the beach, out of reach of the waves."

"Let us go on with our search, then," returned Cyrus Harding.

At one o'clock the colonists arrived at the other side of Washington
Bay, they having now gone a distance of twenty miles.

They then halted for breakfast.

Here began the irregular coast, covered with lines of rocks and
sandbanks. The long sea-swell could be seen breaking over the rocks in
the bay, forming a foamy fringe. From this point to Claw Cape the beach
was very narrow between the edge of the forest and the reefs.

Walking was now more difficult, on account of the numerous rocks which
encumbered the beach. The granite cliff also gradually increased in
height, and only the green tops of the trees which crowned it could be
seen.

After half an hour's rest, the settlers resumed their journey, and not
a spot among the rocks was left unexamined. Pencroft and Neb even rushed
into the surf whenever any object attracted their attention. But they
found nothing, some curious formations of the rocks having deceived
them. They ascertained, however, that eatable shellfish abounded there,
but these could not be of any great advantage to them until some easy
means of communication had been established between the two banks of the
Mercy, and until the means of transport had been perfected.

Nothing therefore which threw any light on the supposed wreck could be
found on this shore, yet an object of any importance, such as the hull
of a ship, would have been seen directly, or any of her masts and spars
would have been washed on shore, just as the chest had been, which was
found twenty miles from here. But there was nothing.

Towards three o'clock Harding and his companions arrived at a snug
little creek. It formed quite a natural harbor, invisible from the sea,
and was entered by a narrow channel.

At the back of this creek some violent convulsion had torn up the
rocky border, and a cutting, by a gentle slope, gave access to an upper
plateau, which might be situated at least ten miles from Claw Cape, and
consequently four miles in a straight line from Prospect Heights. Gideon
Spilett proposed to his companions that they should make a halt here.
They agreed readily, for their walk had sharpened their appetites;
and although it was not their usual dinner-hour, no one refused to
strengthen himself with a piece of venison. This luncheon would sustain
them until their supper, which they intended to take at Granite House.
In a few minutes the settlers, seated under a clump of fine sea-pines,
were devouring the provisions which Neb produced from his bag.

This spot was raised from fifty to sixty feet above the level of the
sea. The view was very extensive, but beyond the cape it ended in Union
Bay. Neither the islet nor Prospect Heights was visible, and could not
be from thence, for the rising ground and the curtain of trees closed
the northern horizon.

It is useless to add that notwithstanding the wide extent of sea which
the explorers could survey, and though the engineer swept the horizon
with his glass, no vessel could be found.

The shore was of course examined with the same care from the edge of the
water to the cliff, and nothing could be discovered even with the aid of
the instrument.

"Well," said Gideon Spilett, "it seems we must make up our minds to
console ourselves with thinking that no one will come to dispute with us
the possession of Lincoln Island!"

"But the bullet," cried Herbert. "That was not imaginary, I suppose!"

"Hang it, no!" exclaimed Pencroft, thinking of his absent tooth.

"Then what conclusion may be drawn?" asked the reporter.

"This," replied the engineer, "that three months or more ago, a vessel,
either voluntarily or not, came here."

"What! then you admit, Cyrus, that she was swallowed up without leaving
any trace?" cried the reporter.

"No, my dear Spilett; but you see that if it is certain that a human
being set foot on the island, it appears no less certain that he has now
left it."

"Then, if I understand you right, captain," said Herbert, "the vessel
has left again?"

"Evidently."

"And we have lost an opportunity to get back to our country?" said Neb.

"I fear so."

"Very well, since the opportunity is lost, let us go on; it can't be
helped," said Pencroft, who felt home-sickness for Granite House.

But just as they were rising, Top was heard loudly barking; and the dog
issued from the wood, holding in his mouth a rag soiled with mud.

Neb seized it. It was a piece of strong cloth!

Top still barked, and by his going and coming, seemed to invite his
master to follow him into the forest.

"Now there's something to explain the bullet!" exclaimed Pencroft.

"A castaway!" replied Herbert.

"Wounded, perhaps!" said Neb.

"Or dead!" added the reporter.

All ran after the dog, among the tall pines on the border of the forest.
Harding and his companions made ready their firearms, in case of an
emergency.

They advanced some way into the wood, but to their great disappointment,
they as yet saw no signs of any human being having passed that way.
Shrubs and creepers were uninjured, and they had even to cut them away
with the axe, as they had done in the deepest recesses of the forest.
It was difficult to fancy that any human creature had ever passed there,
but yet Top went backward and forward, not like a dog who searches at
random, but like a dog being endowed with a mind, who is following up an
idea.

In about seven or eight minutes Top stopped in a glade surrounded with
tall trees. The settlers gazed around them, but saw nothing, neither
under the bushes nor among the trees.

"What is the matter, Top?" said Cyrus Harding.

Top barked louder, bounding about at the foot of a gigantic pine. All at
once Pencroft shouted,--"Ho, splendid! capital!"

"What is it?" asked Spilett.

"We have been looking for a wreck at sea or on land!"

"Well?"

"Well; and here we've found one in the air!"

And the sailor pointed to a great white rag, caught in the top of the
pine, a fallen scrap of which the dog had brought to them.

"But that is not a wreck!" cried Gideon Spilett.

"I beg your pardon!" returned Pencroft.

"Why? is it--?"

"It is all that remains of our airy boat, of our balloon, which has been
caught up aloft there, at the top of that tree!"

Pencroft was not mistaken, and he gave vent to his feelings in a
tremendous hurrah, adding,--

"There is good cloth! There is what will furnish us with linen for
years. There is what will make us handkerchiefs and shirts! Ha, ha, Mr.
Spilett, what do you say to an island where shirts grow on the trees?"

It was certainly a lucky circumstance for the settlers in Lincoln Island
that the balloon, after having made its last bound into the air, had
fallen on the island and thus given them the opportunity of finding it
again, whether they kept the case under its present form, or whether
they wished to attempt another escape by it, or whether they usefully
employed the several hundred yards of cotton, which was of fine quality.
Pencroft's joy was therefore shared by all.

But it was necessary to bring down the remains of the balloon from
the tree, to place it in security, and this was no slight task. Neb,
Herbert, and the sailor, climbing to the summit of the tree, used all
their skill to disengage the now reduced balloon.

The operation lasted two hours, and then not only the case, with its
valve, its springs, its brasswork, lay on the ground, but the net, that
is to say a considerable quantity of ropes and cordage, and the
circle and the anchor. The case, except for the fracture, was in good
condition, only the lower portion being torn.

It was a fortune which had fallen from the sky.

"All the same, captain," said the sailor, "if we ever decide to leave
the island, it won't be in a balloon, will it? These airboats won't go
where we want them to go, and we have had some experience in that way!
Look here, we will build a craft of some twenty tons, and then we can
make a main-sail, a foresail, and a jib out of that cloth. As to the
rest of it, that will help to dress us."

"We shall see, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding; "we shall see."

"In the meantime, we must put it in a safe place," said Neb.

They certainly could not think of carrying this load of cloth,
ropes, and cordage, to Granite House, for the weight of it was very
considerable, and while waiting for a suitable vehicle in which to
convey it, it was of importance that this treasure should not be left
longer exposed to the mercies of the first storm. The settlers, uniting
their efforts, managed to drag it as far as the shore, where they
discovered a large rocky cavity, which owing to its position could not
be visited either by the wind or rain.

"We needed a locker, and now we have one," said Pencroft; "but as we
cannot lock it up, it will be prudent to hide the opening. I don't mean
from two-legged thieves, but from those with four paws!"

At six o'clock, all was stowed away, and after having given the creek
the very suitable name of "Port Balloon," the settlers pursued their
way along Claw Cape. Pencroft and the engineer talked of the different
projects which it was agreed to put into execution with the briefest
possible delay. It was necessary first of all to throw a bridge over the
Mercy, so as to establish an easy communication with the south of the
island; then the cart must be taken to bring back the balloon, for the
canoe alone could not carry it, then they would build a decked boat, and
Pencroft would rig it as a cutter, and they would be able to undertake
voyages of circumnavigation round the island, etc.

In the meanwhile night came on, and it was already dark when the
settlers reached Flotsam Point, where they had found the precious chest.

The distance between Flotsam Point and Granite House was another four
miles, and it was midnight when, after having followed the shore to the
mouth of the Mercy, the settlers arrived at the first angle formed by
the Mercy.

There the river was eighty feet in breadth, which was awkward to cross,
but as Pencroft had taken upon himself to conquer this difficulty, he
was compelled to do it. The settlers certainly had reason to be pretty
tired. The journey had been long, and the task of getting down the
balloon had not rested either their arms or legs. They were anxious
to reach Granite House to eat and sleep, and if the bridge had been
constructed, in a quarter of an hour they would have been at home.

The night was very dark. Pencroft prepared to keep his promise by
constructing a sort of raft, on which to make the passage of the Mercy.
He and Neb, armed with axes, chose two trees near the water, and began
to attack them at the base.

Cyrus Harding and Spilett, seated on the bank, waited till their
companions were ready for their help, while Herbert roamed about, though
without going to any distance. All at once, the lad, who had strolled by
the river, came running back, and, pointing up the Mercy, exclaimed,--

"What is floating there?"

Pencroft stopped working, and seeing an indistinct object moving through
the gloom,--

"A canoe!" cried he.

All approached, and saw to their extreme surprise, a boat floating down
the current.

"Boat ahoy!" shouted the sailor, without thinking that perhaps it would
be best to keep silence.

No reply. The boat still drifted onward, and it was not more than twelve
feet off, when the sailor exclaimed,--

"But it is our own boat! she has broken her moorings, and floated down
the current. I must say she has arrived very opportunely."

"Our boat?" murmured the engineer.

Pencroft was right. It was indeed the canoe, of which the rope had
undoubtedly broken, and which had come alone from the sources of the
Mercy. It was very important to seize it before the rapid current should
have swept it away out of the mouth of the river, but Neb and Pencroft
cleverly managed this by means of a long pole.

The canoe touched the shore. The engineer leaped in first, and found,
on examining the rope, that it had been really worn through by rubbing
against the rocks.

"Well," said the reporter to him, in a low voice, "this is a strange
thing."

"Strange indeed!" returned Cyrus Harding.

Strange or not, it was very fortunate. Herbert, the reporter, Neb, and
Pencroft, embarked in turn. There was no doubt about the rope having
been worn through, but the astonishing part of the affair was, that the
boat should arrive just at the moment when the settlers were there to
seize it on its way, for a quarter of an hour earlier or later it would
have been lost in the sea.

If they had been living in the time of genii, this incident would
have given them the right to think that the island was haunted by some
supernatural being, who used his power in the service of the castaways!

A few strokes of the oar brought the settlers to the mouth of the
Mercy. The canoe was hauled up on the beach near the Chimneys, and all
proceeded towards the ladder of Granite House.

But at that moment, Top barked angrily, and Neb, who was looking for the
first steps, uttered a cry.

There was no longer a ladder!

 

 

Chapter 6

Cyrus Harding stood still, without saying a word. His companions
searched in the darkness on the wall, in case the wind should have
moved the ladder, and on the ground, thinking that it might have fallen
down.... But the ladder had quite disappeared. As to ascertaining if
a squall had blown it on the landing-place, half way up, that was
impossible in the dark.

"If it is a joke," cried Pencroft, "it is a very stupid one! To come
home and find no staircase to go up to your room by--that's nothing for
weary men to laugh at."

Neb could do nothing but cry out "Oh! oh! oh!"

"I begin to think that very curious things happen in Lincoln Island!"
said Pencroft.

"Curious?" replied Gideon Spilett, "not at all, Pencroft, nothing can be
more natural. Some one has come during our absence, taken possession of
our dwelling and drawn up the ladder."

"Some one," cried the sailor. "But who?"

"Who but the hunter who fired the bullet?" replied the reporter.

"Well, if there is any one up there," replied Pencroft, who began to
lose patience, "I will give them a hail, and they must answer."

And in a stentorian voice the sailor gave a prolonged "Halloo!" which
was echoed again and again from the cliff and rocks.

The settlers listened and they thought they heard a sort of chuckling
laugh, of which they could not guess the origin. But no voice replied to
Pencroft, who in vain repeated his vigorous shouts.

There was something indeed in this to astonish the most apathetic
of men, and the settlers were not men of that description. In their
situation every incident had its importance, and, certainly, during the
seven months which they had spent on the island, they had not before met
with anything of so surprising a character.

Be that as it may, forgetting their fatigue in the singularity of the
event, they remained below Granite House, not knowing what to think,
not knowing what to do, questioning each other without any hope of
a satisfactory reply, every one starting some supposition each more
unlikely than the last. Neb bewailed himself, much disappointed at not
being able to get into his kitchen, for the provisions which they
had had on their expedition were exhausted, and they had no means of
renewing them.

"My friends," at last said Cyrus Harding, "there is only one thing to be
done at present; wait for day, and then act according to circumstances.
But let us go to the Chimneys. There we shall be under shelter, and if
we cannot eat, we can at least sleep."

"But who is it that has played us this cool trick?" again asked
Pencroft, unable to make up his mind to retire from the spot.

Whoever it was, the only thing practicable was to do as the engineer
proposed, to go to the Chimneys and there wait for day. In the meanwhile
Top was ordered to mount guard below the windows of Granite House, and
when Top received an order he obeyed it without any questioning. The
brave dog therefore remained at the foot of the cliff while his master
with his companions sought a refuge among the rocks.

To say that the settlers, notwithstanding their fatigue, slept well on
the sandy floor of the Chimneys would not be true. It was not only that
they were extremely anxious to find out the cause of what had happened,
whether it was the result of an accident which would be discovered at
the return of day, or whether on the contrary it was the work of a human
being; but they also had very uncomfortable beds. That could not be
helped, however, for in some way or other at that moment their dwelling
was occupied, and they could not possibly enter it.

Now Granite House was more than their dwelling, it was their warehouse.
There were all the stores belonging to the colony, weapons, instruments,
tools, ammunition, provisions, etc. To think that all that might be
pillaged and that the settlers would have all their work to do over
again, fresh weapons and tools to make, was a serious matter. Their
uneasiness led one or other of them also to go out every few minutes to
see if Top was keeping good watch. Cyrus Harding alone waited with his
habitual patience, although his strong mind was exasperated at being
confronted with such an inexplicable fact, and he was provoked at
himself for allowing a feeling to which he could not give a name, to
gain an influence over him. Gideon Spilett shared his feelings in this
respect, and the two conversed together in whispers of the inexplicable
circumstance which baffled even their intelligence and experience.

"It is a joke," said Pencroft; "it is a trick some one has played us.
Well, I don't like such jokes, and the joker had better look out for
himself, if he falls into my hands, I can tell him."

As soon as the first gleam of light appeared in the east, the colonists,
suitably armed, repaired to the beach under Granite House. The rising
sun now shone on the cliff and they could see the windows, the shutters
of which were closed, through the curtains of foliage.

All here was in order; but a cry escaped the colonists when they saw
that the door, which they had closed on their departure, was now wide
open.

Some one had entered Granite House--there could be no more doubt about
that.

The upper ladder, which generally hung from the door to the landing,
was in its place, but the lower ladder was drawn up and raised to
the threshold. It was evident that the intruders had wished to guard
themselves against a surprise.

Pencroft hailed again.

No reply.

"The beggars," exclaimed the sailor. "There they are sleeping quietly
as if they were in their own house. Hallo there, you pirates, brigands,
robbers, sons of John Bull!"

When Pencroft, being a Yankee, treated any one to the epithet of "son of
John Bull," he considered he had reached the last limits of insult.

The sun had now completely risen, and the whole facade of Granite House
became illuminated by its rays; but in the interior as well as on the
exterior all was quiet and calm.

The settlers asked if Granite House was inhabited or not, and yet the
position of the ladder was sufficient to show that it was; it was also
certain that the inhabitants, whoever they might be, had not been able
to escape. But how were they to be got at?

Herbert then thought of fastening a cord to an arrow, and shooting the
arrow so that it should pass between the first rounds of the ladder
which hung from the threshold. By means of the cord they would then
be able to draw down the ladder to the ground, and so re-establish the
communication between the beach and Granite House. There was evidently
nothing else to be done, and, with a little skill, this method might
succeed. Very fortunately bows and arrows had been left at the Chimneys,
where they also found a quantity of light hibiscus cord. Pencroft
fastened this to a well-feathered arrow. Then Herbert fixing it to his
bow, took a careful aim for the lower part of the ladder.

Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Pencroft, and Neb drew back, so as to see
if anything appeared at the windows. The reporter lifted his gun to his
shoulder and covered the door.

The bow was bent, the arrow flew, taking the cord with it, and passed
between the two last rounds.

The operation had succeeded.

Herbert immediately seized the end of the cord, but, at that moment when
he gave it a pull to bring down the ladder, an arm, thrust suddenly out
between the wall and the door, grasped it and dragged it inside Granite
House.

"The rascals!" shouted the sailor. "If a ball can do anything for you,
you shall not have long to wait for it.

"But who was it?" asked Neb.

"Who was it? Didn't you see?"

"No."

"It was a monkey, a sapajou, an orangoutang, a baboon, a gorilla, a
sagoin. Our dwelling has been invaded by monkeys, who climbed up the
ladder during our absence."

And, at this moment, as if to bear witness to the truth of the sailor's
words, two or three quadrumana showed themselves at the windows,
from which they had pushed back the shutters, and saluted the real
proprietors of the place with a thousand hideous grimaces.

"I knew that it was only a joke," cried Pencroft; "but one of the jokers
shall pay the penalty for the rest."

So saying, the sailor, raising his piece, took a rapid aim at one of the
monkeys and fired. All disappeared, except one who fell mortally wounded
on the beach. This monkey, which was of a large size, evidently belonged
to the first order of the quadrumana. Whether this was a chimpanzee, an
orangoutang, or a gorilla, he took rank among the anthropoid apes, who
are so called from their resemblance to the human race. However, Herbert
declared it to be an orangoutang.

"What a magnificent beast!" cried Neb.

"Magnificent, if you like," replied Pencroft; "but still I do not see
how we are to get into our house."

"Herbert is a good marksman," said the reporter, "and his bow is here.
He can try again."

"Why, these apes are so cunning," returned Pencroft; "they won't show
themselves again at the windows and so we can't kill them; and when I
think of the mischief they may do in the rooms and storehouse--"

"Have patience," replied Harding; "these creatures cannot keep us long
at bay."

"I shall not be sure of that till I see them down here," replied the
sailor. "And now, captain, do you know how many dozens of these fellows
are up there?"

It was difficult to reply to Pencroft, and as for the young boy making
another attempt, that was not easy; for the lower part of the ladder
had been drawn again into the door, and when another pull was given, the
line broke and the ladder remained firm. The case was really perplexing.
Pencroft stormed. There was a comic side to the situation, but he did
not think it funny at all. It was certain that the settlers would end by
reinstating themselves in their domicile and driving out the intruders,
but when and how? this is what they were not able to say.

Two hours passed, during which the apes took care not to show
themselves, but they were still there, and three or four times a nose or
a paw was poked out at the door or windows, and was immediately saluted
by a gun-shot.

"Let us hide ourselves," at last said the engineer. "Perhaps the apes
will think we have gone quite away and will show themselves again. Let
Spilett and Herbert conceal themselves behind those rocks and fire on
all that may appear."

The engineer's orders were obeyed, and while the reporter and the lad,
the best marksmen in the colony, posted themselves in a good position,
but out of the monkeys' sight, Neb, Pencroft, and Cyrus climbed the
plateau and entered the forest in order to kill some game, for it was
now time for breakfast and they had no provisions remaining.

In half an hour the hunters returned with a few rock pigeons, which they
roasted as well as they could. Not an ape had appeared. Gideon Spilett
and Herbert went to take their share of the breakfast, leaving Top to
watch under the windows. They then, having eaten, returned to their
post.

Two hours later, their situation was in no degree improved. The
quadrumana gave no sign of existence, and it might have been supposed
that they had disappeared; but what seemed more probable was that,
terrified by the death of one of their companions, and frightened by the
noise of the firearms, they had retreated to the back part of the house
or probably even into the store-room. And when they thought of
the valuables which this storeroom contained, the patience so much
recommended by the engineer, fast changed into great irritation, and
there certainly was room for it.

"Decidedly it is too bad," said the reporter; "and the worst of it is,
there is no way of putting an end to it."

"But we must drive these vagabonds out somehow," cried the sailor.
"We could soon get the better of them, even if there are twenty of the
rascals; but for that, we must meet them hand to hand. Come now, is
there no way of getting at them?"

"Let us try to enter Granite House by the old opening at the lake,"
replied the engineer.

"Oh!" shouted the sailor, "and I never thought of that."

This was in reality the only way by which to penetrate into Granite
House so as to fight with and drive out the intruders. The opening was,
it is true, closed up with a wall of cemented stones, which it would be
necessary to sacrifice, but that could easily be rebuilt. Fortunately,
Cyrus Harding had not as yet effected his project of hiding this opening
by raising the waters of the lake, for the operation would then have
taken some time.

It was already past twelve o'clock, when the colonists, well armed and
provided with picks and spades, left the Chimneys, passed beneath the
windows of Granite House, after telling Top to remain at his post, and
began to ascend the left bank of the Mercy, so as to reach Prospect
Heights.

But they had not made fifty steps in this direction, when they heard the
dog barking furiously.

And all rushed down the bank again.

Arrived at the turning, they saw that the situation had changed.

In fact, the apes, seized with a sudden panic, from some unknown cause,
were trying to escape. Two or three ran and clambered from one window
to another with the agility of acrobats. They were not even trying to
replace the ladder, by which it would have been easy to descend; perhaps
in their terror they had forgotten this way of escape. The colonists,
now being able to take aim without difficulty, fired. Some, wounded or
killed, fell back into the rooms, uttering piercing cries. The rest,
throwing themselves out, were dashed to pieces in their fall, and in a
few minutes, so far as they knew, there was not a living quadrumana in
Granite House.

At this moment the ladder was seen to slip over the threshold, then
unroll and fall to the ground.

"Hullo!" cried the sailor, "this is queer!"

"Very strange!" murmured the engineer, leaping first up the ladder.

"Take care, captain!" cried Pencroft, "perhaps there are still some of
these rascals.

"We shall soon see," replied the engineer, without stopping however.

All his companions followed him, and in a minute they had arrived at the
threshold. They searched everywhere. There was no one in the rooms nor
in the storehouse, which had been respected by the band of quadrumana.

"Well now, and the ladder," cried the sailor; "who can the gentleman
have been who sent us that down?"

But at that moment a cry was heard, and a great orang, who had hidden
himself in the passage, rushed into the room, pursued by Neb.

"Ah, the robber!" cried Pencroft.

And hatchet in hand, he was about to cleave the head of the animal, when
Cyrus Harding seized his arm, saying,--

"Spare him, Pencroft."

"Pardon this rascal?"

"Yes! it was he who threw us the ladder!"

And the engineer said this in such a peculiar voice that it was
difficult to know whether he spoke seriously or not.

Nevertheless, they threw themselves on the orang, who defended himself
gallantly, but was soon overpowered and bound.

"There!" said Pencroft. "And what shall we make of him, now we've got
him?"

"A servant!" replied Herbert.

The lad was not joking in saying this, for he knew how this intelligent
race could be turned to account.

The settlers then approached the ape and gazed at it attentively. He
belonged to the family of anthropoid apes, of which the facial angle is
not much inferior to that of the Australians and Hottentots. It was an
orangoutang, and as such, had neither the ferocity of the gorilla, nor
the stupidity of the baboon. It is to this family of the anthropoid apes
that so many characteristics belong which prove them to be possessed
of an almost human intelligence. Employed in houses, they can wait at
table, sweep rooms, brush clothes, clean boots, handle a knife, fork,
and spoon properly, and even drink wine... doing everything as well as
the best servant that ever walked upon two legs. Buffon possessed one
of these apes, who served him for a long time as a faithful and zealous
servant.

The one which had been seized in the hall of Granite House was a great
fellow, six feet high, with an admirably poportioned frame, a broad
chest, head of a moderate size, the facial angle reaching sixty-five
degrees, round skull, projecting nose, skin covered with soft glossy
hair, in short, a fine specimen of the anthropoids. His eyes, rather
smaller than human eyes, sparkled with intelligence; his white teeth
glittered under his mustache, and he wore a little curly brown beard.

"A handsome fellow!" said Pencroft; "if we only knew his language, we
could talk to him."

"But, master," said Neb, "are you serious? Are we going to take him as a
servant?"

"Yes, Neb," replied the engineer, smiling. "But you must not be
jealous."

"And I hope he will make an excellent servant," added Herbert. "He
appears young, and will be easy to educate, and we shall not be obliged
to use force to subdue him, nor draw his teeth, as is sometimes done. He
will soon grow fond of his masters if they are kind to him."

"And they will be," replied Pencroft, who had forgotten all his rancor
against "the jokers."

Then, approaching the orang,--

"Well, old boy!" he asked, "how are you?"

The orang replied by a little grunt which did not show any anger.

"You wish to join the colony?" again asked the sailor. "You are going to
enter the service of Captain Cyrus Harding?"

Another respondent grunt was uttered by the ape.

"And you will be satisfied with no other wages than your food?"

Third affirmative grunt.

"This conversation is slightly monotonous," observed Gideon Spilett.

"So much the better," replied Pencroft; "the best servants are those who
talk the least. And then, no wages, do you hear, my boy? We will give
you no wages at first, but we will double them afterwards if we are
pleased with you."

Thus the colony was increased by a new member. As to his name the sailor
begged that in memory of another ape which he had known, he might be
called Jupiter, and Jup for short.

And so, without more ceremony, Master Jup was installed in Granite
House.

 

 

Chapter 7

The settlers in Lincoln Island had now regained their dwelling, without
having been obliged to reach it by the old opening, and were therefore
spared the trouble of mason's work. It was certainly lucky, that at the
moment they were about to set out to do so, the apes had been seized
with that terror, no less sudden than inexplicable, which had driven
them out of Granite House. Had the animals discovered that they
were about to be attacked from another direction? This was the only
explanation of their sudden retreat.

During the day the bodies of the apes were carried into the wood, where
they were buried; then the settlers busied themselves in repairing the
disorder caused by the intruders, disorder but not damage, for although
they had turned everything in the rooms topsy-turvy, yet they had broken
nothing. Neb relighted his stove, and the stores in the larder furnished
a substantial repast, to which all did ample justice.

Jup was not forgotten, and he ate with relish some stonepine almonds
and rhizome roots, with which he was abundantly supplied. Pencroft had
unfastened his arms, but judged it best to have his legs tied until they
were more sure of his submission.

Then, before retiring to rest, Harding and his companions seated round
their table, discussed those plans, the execution of which was most
pressing. The most important and most urgent was the establishment of a
bridge over the Mercy, so as to form a communication with the southern
part of the island and Granite House; then the making of an enclosure
for the musmons or other woolly animals which they wished to capture.

These two projects would help to solve the difficulty as to their
clothing, which was now serious. The bridge would render easy the
transport of the balloon case, which would furnish them with linen, and
the inhabitants of the enclosure would yield wool which would supply
them with winter clothes.

As to the enclosure, it was Cyrus Harding's intention to establish it at
the sources of the Red Creek, where the ruminants would find fresh and
abundant pasture. The road between Prospect Heights and the sources of
the stream was already partly beaten, and with a better cart than the
first, the material could be easily conveyed to the spot, especially if
they could manage to capture some animals to draw it.

But though there might be no inconvenience in the enclosure being so far
from Granite House, it would not be the same with the poultry-yard, to
which Neb called the attention of the colonists. It was indeed necessary
that the birds should be close within reach of the cook, and no place
appeared more favorable for the establishment of the said poultry-yard
than that portion of the banks of the lake which was close to the old
opening.

Water-birds would prosper there as well as others, and the couple
of tinamous taken in their last excursion would be the first to be
domesticated.

The next day, the 3rd of November, the new works were begun by the
construction of the bridge, and all hands were required for this
important task. Saws, hatchets, and hammers were shouldered by the
settlers, who, now transformed into carpenters, descended to the shore.

There Pencroft observed,--

"Suppose, that during our absence, Master Jup takes it into his head to
draw up the ladder which he so politely returned to us yesterday?"

"Let us tie its lower end down firmly," replied Cyrus Harding.

This was done by means of two stakes securely fixed in the sand. Then
the settlers, ascending the left bank of the Mercy, soon arrived at the
angle formed by the river.

There they halted, in order to ascertain if the bridge could be thrown
across. The place appeared suitable.

In fact, from this spot, to Port Balloon, discovered the day before on
the southern coast, there was only a distance of three miles and a
half, and from the bridge to the Port, it would be easy to make a good
cart-road which would render the communication between Granite House and
the south of the island extremely easy.

Cyrus Harding now imparted to his companions a scheme for completely
isolating Prospect Heights so as to shelter it from the attacks both of
quadrupeds and quadrumana. In this way, Granite House, the Chimneys, the
poultry-yard, and all the upper part of the plateau which was to be used
for cultivation, would be protected against the depredations of animals.
Nothing could be easier than to execute this project, and this is how
the engineer intended to set to work.

The plateau was already defended on three sides by water-courses, either
artificial or natural. On the northwest, by the shores of Lake Grant,
from the entrance of the passage to the breach made in the banks of the
lake for the escape of the water.

On the north, from this breach to the sea, by the new water-course which
had hollowed out a bed for itself across the plateau and shore, above
and below the fall, and it would be enough to dig the bed of this creek
a little deeper to make it impracticable for animals, on all the eastern
border by the sea itself, from the mouth of the aforesaid creek to the
mouth of the Mercy.

Lastly, on the south, from the mouth to the turn of the Mercy where the
bridge was to be established.

The western border of the plateau now remained between the turn of the
river and the southern angle of the lake, a distance of about a mile,
which was open to all comers. But nothing could be easier than to dig a
broad deep ditch, which could be filled from the lake, and the overflow
of which would throw itself by a rapid fall into the bed of the Mercy.
The level of the lake would, no doubt, be somewhat lowered by this fresh
discharge of its waters, but Cyrus Harding had ascertained that the
volume of water in the Red Creek was considerable enough to allow of the
execution of this project.

"So then," added the engineer, "Prospect Heights will become a regular
island, being surrounded with water on all sides, and only communicating
with the rest of our domain by the bridge which we are about to throw
across the Mercy, the two little bridges already established above and
below the fall; and, lastly, two other little bridges which must be
constructed, one over the canal which I propose to dig, the other across
to the left bank of the Mercy. Now, if these bridges can be raised at
will, Prospect Heights will be guarded from any surprise."

The bridge was the most urgent work. Trees were selected, cut down,
stripped of their branches, and cut into beams, joists, and planks. The
end of the bridge which rested on the right bank of the Mercy was to be
firm, but the other end on the left bank was to be movable, so that it
might be raised by means of a counterpoise, as some canal bridges are
managed.

This was certainly a considerable work, and though it was skillfully
conducted, it took some time, for the Mercy at this place was eighty
feet wide. It was therefore necessary to fix piles in the bed of
the river so as to sustain the floor of the bridge and establish a
pile-driver to act on the tops of these piles, which would thus form two
arches and allow the bridge to support heavy loads.

Happily there was no want of tools with which to shape the wood, nor
of iron-work to make it firm, nor of the ingenuity of a man who had a
marvelous knowledge of the work, nor lastly, the zeal of his companions,
who in seven months had necessarily acquired great skill in the use of
their tools; and it must be said that not the least skilful was Gideon
Spilett, who in dexterity almost equaled the sailor himself. "Who would
ever have expected so much from a newspaper man!" thought Pencroft.

The construction of the Mercy bridge lasted three weeks of regular
hard work. They even breakfasted on the scene of their labors, and the
weather being magnificent, they only returned to Granite House to sleep.

During this period it may be stated that Master Jup grew more accustomed
to his new masters, whose movements he always watched with very
inquisitive eyes. However, as a precautionary measure, Pencroft did not
as yet allow him complete liberty, rightly wishing to wait until the
limits of the plateau should be settled by the projected works. Top
and Jup were good friends and played willingly together, but Jup did
everything solemnly.

On the 20th of November the bridge was finished. The movable part,
balanced by the counterpoise, swung easily, and only a slight effort was
needed to rise it; between its hinge and the last cross-bar on which
it rested when closed, there existed a space of twenty feet, which was
sufficiently wide to prevent any animals from crossing.

The settlers now began to talk of fetching the balloon-case, which they
were anxious to place in perfect security; but to bring it, it would be
necessary to take a cart to Port Balloon, and consequently, necessary to
beat a road through the dense forests of the Far West. This would take
some time. Also, Neb and Pencroft having gone to examine into the state
of things at Port Balloon, and reported that the stock of cloth would
suffer no damage in the grotto where it was stored, it was decided that
the work at Prospect Heights should not be discontinued.

"That," observed Pencroft, "will enable us to establish our poultry-yard
under better conditions, since we need have no fear of visits from foxes
nor the attacks of other beasts."

"Then," added Neb, "we can clear the plateau, and transplant wild plants
to it."

"And prepare our second corn-field!" cried the sailor with a triumphant
air.

In fact, the first corn-field sown with a single grain had prospered
admirably, thanks to Pencroft's care. It had produced the ten ears
foretold by the engineer, and each ear containing eighty grains, the
colony found itself in possession of eight hundred grains, in six
months, which promised a double harvest each year.

These eight hundred grains, except fifty, which were prudently reserved,
were to be sown in a new field, but with no less care than was bestowed
on the single grain.

The field was prepared, then surrounded with a strong palisade, high and
pointed, which quadrupeds would have found difficulty in leaping. As to
birds, some scarecrows, due to Pencroft's ingenious brain, were enough
to frighten them. The seven hundred and fifty grains deposited in very
regular furrows were then left for nature to do the rest.

On the 21st of November, Cyrus Harding began to plan the canal which was
to close the plateau on the west, from the south angle of Lake Grant to
the angle of the Mercy. There was there two or three feet of vegetable
earth, and below that granite. It was therefore necessary to manufacture
some more nitro-glycerine, and the nitro-glycerine did its accustomed
work. In less than a fortnight a ditch, twelve feet wide and six deep,
was dug out in the hard ground of the plateau. A new trench was made by
the same means in the rocky border of the lake, forming a small stream,
to which they gave the name of Creek Glycerine, and which was thus an
affluent of the Mercy. As the engineer had predicted, the level of the
lake was lowered, though very slightly. To complete the enclosure the
bed of the stream on the beach was considerably enlarged, and the sand
supported by means of stakes.

By the end of the first fortnight of December these works were finished,
and Prospect Heights--that is to say, a sort of irregular pentagon,
having a perimeter of nearly four miles, surrounded by a liquid
belt--was completely protected from depredators of every description.

During the month of December, the heat was very great. In spite of it,
however, the settlers continued their work, and as they were anxious to
possess a poultry-yard they forthwith commenced it.

It is useless to say that since the enclosing of the plateau had been
completed, Master Jup had been set at liberty. He did not leave his
masters, and evinced no wish to escape. He was a gentle animal, though
very powerful and wonderfully active. He was already taught to make
himself useful by drawing loads of wood and carting away the stones
which were extracted from the bed of Creek Glycerine.

The poultry-yard occupied an area of two hundred square yards, on the
southeastern bank of the lake. It was surrounded by a palisade, and
in it were constructed various shelters for the birds which were to
populate it. These were simply built of branches and divided into
compartments, made ready for the expected guests.

The first were the two tinamous, which were not long in having a number
of young ones; they had for companions half a dozen ducks, accustomed to
the borders of the lake. Some belonged to the Chinese species, of which
the wings open like a fan, and which by the brilliancy of their plumage
rival the golden pheasants. A few days afterwards, Herbert snared a
couple of gallinaceae, with spreading tails composed of long feathers,
magnificent alectors, which soon became tame. As to pelicans,
kingfishers, water-hens, they came of themselves to the shores of the
poultry-yard, and this little community, after some disputes, cooing,
screaming, clucking, ended by settling down peacefully, and increased in
encouraging proportion for the future use of the colony.

Cyrus Harding, wishing to complete his performance, established a
pigeon-house in a corner of the poultry-yard. There he lodged a dozen
of those pigeons which frequented the rocks of the plateau. These birds
soon became accustomed to returning every evening to their new dwelling,
and showed more disposition to domesticate themselves than their
congeners, the wood-pigeons.

Lastly, the time had come for turning the balloon-case to use, by
cutting it up to make shirts and other articles; for as to keeping it in
its present form, and risking themselves in a balloon filled with gas,
above a sea of the limits of which they had no idea, it was not to be
thought of.

It was necessary to bring the case to Granite House, and the colonists
employed themselves in rendering their heavy cart lighter and more
manageable. But though they had a vehicle, the moving power was yet to
be found.

But did there not exist in the island some animal which might supply the
place of the horse, ass, or ox? That was the question.

"Certainly," said Pencroft, "a beast of burden would be very useful to
us until the captain has made a steam cart, or even an engine, for some
day we shall have a railroad from Granite House to Port Balloon, with a
branch line to Mount Franklin!"

One day, the 23rd of December, Neb and Top were heard shouting and
barking, each apparently trying to see who could make the most noise.
The settlers, who were busy at the Chimneys, ran, fearing some vexatious
incident.

What did they see? Two fine animals of a large size that had imprudently
ventured on the plateau, when the bridges were open. One would have said
they were horses, or at least donkeys, male and female, of a fine shape,
dove-colored, the legs and tail white, striped with black on the head
and neck. They advanced quietly without showing any uneasiness, and
gazed at the men, in whom they could not as yet recognize their future
masters.

"These are onagers!" cried Herbert, "animals something between the zebra
and the quagga!"

"Why not donkeys?" asked Neb.

"Because they have not long ears, and their shape is more graceful!"

"Donkeys or horses," interrupted Pencroft, "they are 'moving powers,' as
the captain would say, and as such must be captured!"

The sailor, without frightening the animals, crept through the grass
to the bridge over Creek Glycerine, lowered it, and the onagers were
prisoners.

Now, should they seize them with violence and master them by force? No.
It was decided that for a few days they should be allowed to roam
freely about the plateau, where there was an abundance of grass, and the
engineer immediately began to prepare a stable near the poultry-yard,
in which the onagers might find food, with a good litter, and shelter
during the night.

This done, the movements of the two magnificent creatures were left
entirely free, and the settlers avoided even approaching them so as to
terrify them. Several times, however, the onagers appeared to wish to
leave the plateau, too confined for animals accustomed to the plains
and forests. They were then seen following the water-barrier which
everywhere presented itself before them, uttering short neighs, then
galloping through the grass, and becoming calmer, they would remain
entire hours gazing at the woods, from which they were cut off for ever!

In the meantime harness of vegetable fiber had been manufactured, and
some days after the capture of the onagers, not only the cart was ready,
but a straight road, or rather a cutting, had been made through the
forests of the Far West, from the angle of the Mercy to Port Balloon.
The cart might then be driven there, and towards the end of December
they tried the onagers for the first time.

Pencroft had already coaxed the animals to come and eat out of his hand,
and they allowed him to approach without making any difficulty, but once
harnessed they reared and could with difficulty be held in. However, it
was not long before they submitted to this new service, for the onager,
being less refractory than the zebra, is frequently put in harness
in the mountainous regions of Southern Africa, and it has even been
acclimatized in Europe, under zones of a relative coolness.

On this day all the colony, except Pencroft who walked at the animals'
heads, mounted the cart, and set out on the road to Port Balloon.

Of course they were jolted over the somewhat rough road, but the vehicle
arrived without any accident, and was soon loaded with the case and
rigging of the balloon.

At eight o'clock that evening the cart, after passing over the Mercy
bridge, descended the left bank of the river, and stopped on the beach.
The onagers being unharnessed, were thence led to their stable, and
Pencroft before going to sleep gave vent to his feelings in a deep sigh
of satisfaction that awoke all the echoes of Granite House.

 

 

Chapter 8

The first week of January was devoted to the manufacture of the linen
garments required by the colony. The needles found in the box were used
by sturdy if not delicate fingers, and we may be sure that what was sewn
was sewn firmly.

There was no lack of thread, thanks to Cyrus Harding's idea of
re-employing that which had been already used in the covering of the
balloon. This with admirable patience was all unpicked by Gideon Spilett
and Herbert, for Pencroft had been obliged to give this work up, as it
irritated him beyond measure; but he had no equal in the sewing part
of the business. Indeed, everybody knows that sailors have a remarkable
aptitude for tailoring.

The cloth of which the balloon-case was made was then cleaned by means
of soda and potash, obtained by the incineration of plants, in such a
way that the cotton, having got rid of the varnish, resumed its natural
softness and elasticity; then, exposed to the action of the atmosphere,
it soon became perfectly white. Some dozen shirts and sock--the latter
not knitted, of course, but made of cotton--were thus manufactured. What
a comfort it was to the settlers to clothe themselves again in clean
linen, which was doubtless rather rough, but they were not troubled
about that! and then to go to sleep between sheets, which made the
couches at Granite House into quite comfortable beds!

It was about this time also that they made boots of seal-leather, which
were greatly needed to replace the shoes and boots brought from America.
We may be sure that these new shoes were large enough and never pinched
the feet of the wearers.

With the beginning of the year 1866 the heat was very great, but
the hunting in the forests did not stand still. Agouties, peccaries,
capybaras, kangaroos, game of all sorts, actually swarmed there, and
Spilett and Herbert were too good marksmen ever to throw away their shot
uselessly.

Cyrus Harding still recommended them to husband the ammunition, and he
took measures to replace the powder and shot which had been found in
the box, and which he wished to reserve for the future. How did he know
where chance might one day cast his companions and himself in the
event of their leaving their domain? They should, then, prepare for the
unknown future by husbanding their ammunition and by substituting for it
some easily renewable substance.

To replace lead, of which Harding had found no traces in the island, he
employed granulated iron, which was easy to manufacture. These bullets,
not having the weight of leaden bullets, were made larger, and each
charge contained less, but the skill of the sportsmen made up this
deficiency. As to powder, Cyrus Harding would have been able to make
that also, for he had at his disposal saltpeter, sulphur, and coal; but
this preparation requires extreme care, and without special tools it is
difficult to produce it of a good quality. Harding preferred, therefore,
to manufacture pyroxyle, that is to say gun-cotton, a substance in which
cotton is not indispensable, as the elementary tissue of vegetables may
be used, and this is found in an almost pure state, not only in cotton,
but in the textile fiber of hemp and flax, in paper, the pith of the
elder, etc. Now, the elder abounded in the island towards the mouth of
Red Creek, and the colonists had already made coffee of the berries of
these shrubs, which belong to the family of the caprifoliaceae.

The only thing to be collected, therefore, was elder-pith, for as to the
other substance necessary for the manufacture of pyroxyle, it was only
fuming azotic acid. Now, Harding having sulphuric acid at his disposal,
had already been easily able to produce azotic acid by attacking the
saltpeter with which nature supplied him. He accordingly resolved to
manufacture and employ pyroxyle, although it has some inconveniences,
that is to say, a great inequality of effect, an excessive
inflammability, since it takes fire at one hundred and seventy
degrees instead of two hundred and forty, and lastly, an instantaneous
deflagration which might damage the firearms. On the other hand, the
advantages of pyroxyle consist in this, that it is not injured by damp,
that it does not make the gun-barrels dirty, and that its force is four
times that of ordinary powder.

To make pyroxyle, the cotton must be immersed in the fuming azotic acid
for a quarter of an hour, then washed in cold water and dried. Nothing
could be more simple.

Cyrus Harding had only at his disposal the ordinary azotic acid and not
the fuming or monohydrate azotic acid, that is to say, acid which emits
white vapors when it comes in contact with damp air; but by substituting
for the latter ordinary azotic acid, mixed, in the proportion of from
three to five volumes of concentrated sulphuric acid, the engineer
obtained the same result. The sportsmen of the island therefore soon
had a perfectly prepared substance, which, employed discreetly, produced
admirable results.

About this time the settlers cleared three acres of the plateau, and
the rest was preserved in a wild state, for the benefit of the onagers.
Several excursions were made into the Jacamar Wood and the forests of
the Far West, and they brought back from thence a large collection of
wild vegetables, spinach, cress, radishes, and turnips, which careful
culture would soon improve, and which would temper the regimen on which
the settlers had till then subsisted. Supplies of wood and coal were
also carted. Each excursion was at the same time a means of improving
the roads, which gradually became smoother under the wheels of the cart.

The rabbit-warren still continued to supply the larder of Granite House.
As fortunately it was situated on the other side of Creek Glycerine,
its inhabitants could not reach the plateau nor ravage the newly-made
plantation. The oyster-bed among the rocks was frequently renewed and
furnished excellent molluscs. Besides that, the fishing, either in
the lake or the Mercy, was very profitable, for Pencroft had made some
lines, armed with iron hooks, with which they frequently caught fine
trout, and a species of fish whose silvery sides were speckled with
yellow, and which were also extremely savory. Master Neb, who was
skilled in the culinary art, knew how to vary agreeably the bill of
fare. Bread alone was wanting at the table of the settlers, and as has
been said, they felt this privation greatly.

The settlers hunted too the turtles which frequented the shores of
Cape Mandible. At this place the beach was covered with little mounds,
concealing perfectly spherical turtles' eggs, with white hard shells,
the albumen of which does not coagulate as that of birds' eggs. They
were hatched by the sun, and their number was naturally considerable, as
each turtle can lay annually two hundred and fifty.

"A regular egg-field," observed Gideon Spilett, "and we have nothing to
do but to pick them up."

But not being contented with simply the produce, they made chase after
the producers, the result of which was that they were able to bring back
to Granite House a dozen of these chelonians, which were really valuable
from an alimentary point of view. The turtle soup, flavored with
aromatic herbs, often gained well-merited praises for its preparer, Neb.

We must here mention another fortunate circumstance by which new stores
for the winter were laid in. Shoals of salmon entered the Mercy, and
ascended the country for several miles. It was the time at which the
females, going to find suitable places in which to spawn, precede the
males and make a great noise through the fresh water. A thousand of
these fish, which measured about two feet and a half in length, came up
the river, and a large quantity were retained by fixing dams across
the stream. More than a hundred were thus taken, which were salted and
stored for the time when winter, freezing up the streams, would render
fishing impracticable. By this time the intelligent Jup was raised
to the duty of valet. He had been dressed in a jacket, white linen
breeches, and an apron, the pockets of which were his delight. The
clever orang had been marvelously trained by Neb, and any one would have
said that the Negro and the ape understood each other when they talked
together. Jup had besides a real affection for Neb, and Neb returned
it. When his services were not required, either for carrying wood or for
climbing to the top of some tree, Jup passed the greatest part of his
time in the kitchen, where he endeavored to imitate Neb in all that he
saw him do. The black showed the greatest patience and even extreme
zeal in instructing his pupil, and the pupil exhibited remarkable
intelligence in profiting by the lessons he received from his master.

Judge then of the pleasure Master Jup gave to the inhabitants of Granite
House when, without their having had any idea of it, he appeared one
day, napkin on his arm, ready to wait at table. Quick, attentive, he
acquitted himself perfectly, changing the plates, bringing dishes,
pouring out water, all with a gravity which gave intense amusement to
the settlers, and which enraptured Pencroft.

"Jup, some soup!"

"Jup, a little agouti!"

"Jup, a plate!"

"Jup! Good Jup! Honest Jup!"

Nothing was heard but that, and Jup without ever being disconcerted,
replied to every one, watched for everything, and he shook his head in a
knowing way when Pencroft, referring to his joke of the first day, said
to him,--

"Decidedly, Jup, your wages must be doubled."

It is useless to say that the orang was now thoroughly domesticated at
Granite House, and that he often accompanied his masters to the forest
without showing any wish to leave them. It was most amusing to see him
walking with a stick which Pencroft had given him, and which he carried
on his shoulder like a gun. If they wished to gather some fruit from
the summit of a tree, how quickly he climbed for it. If the wheel of the
cart stuck in the mud, with what energy did Jup with a single heave of
his shoulder put it right again.

"What a jolly fellow he is!" cried Pencroft often. "If he was as
mischievous as he is good, there would be no doing anything with him!"

It was towards the end of January the colonists began their labors in
the center of the island. It had been decided that a corral should be
established near the sources of the Red Creek, at the foot of Mount
Franklin, destined to contain the ruminants, whose presence would have
been troublesome at Granite House, and especially for the musmons, who
were to supply the wool for the settlers' winter garments.

Each morning, the colony, sometimes entire, but more often represented
only by Harding, Herbert, and Pencroft, proceeded to the sources of the
Creek, a distance of not more than five miles, by the newly beaten road
to which the name of Corral Road had been given.

There a site was chosen, at the back of the southern ridge of the
mountain. It was a meadow land, dotted here and there with clumps of
trees, and watered by a little stream, which sprung from the slopes
which closed it in on one side. The grass was fresh, and it was not
too much shaded by the trees which grew about it. This meadow was to
be surrounded by a palisade, high enough to prevent even the most agile
animals from leaping over. This enclosure would be large enough to
contain a hundred musmons and wild goats, with all the young ones they
might produce.

The perimeter of the corral was then traced by the engineer, and
they would then have proceeded to fell the trees necessary for the
construction of the palisade, but as the opening up of the road had
already necessitated the sacrifice of a considerable number, those were
brought and supplied a hundred stakes, which were firmly fixed in the
ground.

The construction of this corral did not take less than three weeks,
for besides the palisade, Cyrus Harding built large sheds, in which the
animals could take shelter. These buildings had also to be made very
strong, for musmons are powerful animals, and their first fury was to be
feared. The stakes, sharpened at their upper end and hardened by fire,
had been fixed by means of cross-bars, and at regular distances props
assured the solidity of the whole.

The corral finished, a raid had to be made on the pastures frequented
by the ruminants. This was done on the 7th of February, on a beautiful
summer's day, and every one took part in it. The onagers, already well
trained, were ridden by Spilett and Herbert, and were of great use.

The maneuver consisted simply in surrounding the musmons and goats, and
gradually narrowing the circle around them. Cyrus Harding, Pencroft,
Neb, and Jup, posted themselves in different parts of the wood, while
the two cavaliers and Top galloped in a radius of half a mile round the
corral.

The musmons were very numerous in this part of the island. These fine
animals were as large as deer; their horns were stronger than those of
the ram, and their gray-colored fleece was mixed with long hair.

This hunting day was very fatiguing. Such going and coming, and running
and riding and shouting! Of a hundred musmons which had been surrounded,
more than two-thirds escaped, but at last, thirty of these animals and
ten wild goats were gradually driven back towards the corral, the open
door of which appearing to offer a means of escape, they rushed in and
were prisoners.

In short, the result was satisfactory, and the settlers had no reason to
complain. There was no doubt that the flock would prosper, and that at
no distant time not only wool but hides would be abundant.

That evening the hunters returned to Granite House quite exhausted.
However, notwithstanding their fatigue, they returned the next day
to visit the corral. The prisoners had been trying to overthrow the
palisade, but of course had not succeeded, and were not long in becoming
more tranquil.

During the month of February, no event of any importance occurred. The
daily labors were pursued methodically, and, as well as improving the
roads to the corral and to Port Balloon, a third was commenced, which,
starting from the enclosure, proceeded towards the western coast. The
yet unknown portion of Lincoln Island was that of the wood-covered
Serpentine Peninsula, which sheltered the wild beasts, from which Gideon
Spilett was so anxious to clear their domain.

Before the cold season should appear the most assiduous care was given
to the cultivation of the wild plants which had been transplanted from
the forest to Prospect Heights. Herbert never returned from an excursion
without bringing home some useful vegetable. One day, it was some
specimens of the chicory tribe, the seeds of which by pressure yield an
excellent oil; another, it was some common sorrel, whose antiscorbutic
qualities were not to be despised; then, some of those precious tubers,
which have at all times been cultivated in South America, potatoes, of
which more than two hundred species are now known. The kitchen garden,
now well stocked and carefully defended from the birds, was divided
into small beds, where grew lettuces, kidney potatoes, sorrel, turnips,
radishes, and other coneiferae. The soil on the plateau was particularly
fertile, and it was hoped that the harvests would be abundant.

They had also a variety of different beverages, and so long as they did
not demand wine, the most hard to please would have had no reason to
complain. To the Oswego tea, and the fermented liquor extracted from the
roots of the dragonnier, Harding had added a regular beer, made from
the young shoots of the spruce-fir, which, after having been boiled
and fermented, made that agreeable drink called by the Anglo-Americans
spring-beer.

Towards the end of the summer, the poultry-yard was possessed of
a couple of fine bustards, which belonged to the houbara species,
characterized by a sort of feathery mantle; a dozen shovelers, whose
upper mandible was prolonged on each side by a membraneous appendage;
and also some magnificent cocks, similar to the Mozambique cocks,
the comb, caruncle, and epidermis being black. So far, everything had
succeeded, thanks to the activity of these courageous and intelligent
men. Nature did much for them, doubtless; but faithful to the great
precept, they made a right use of what a bountiful Providence gave them.

After the heat of these warm summer days, in the evening when their work
was finished and the sea-breeze began to blow, they liked to sit on the
edge of Prospect Heights, in a sort of veranda, covered with creepers,
which Neb had made with his own hands. There they talked, they
instructed each other, they made plans, and the rough good-humor of
the sailor always amused this little world, in which the most perfect
harmony had never ceased to reign.

They often spoke of their country, of their dear and great America. What
was the result of the War of Secession? It could not have been greatly
prolonged. Richmond had doubtless soon fallen into the hands of General
Grant. The taking of the capital of the Confederates must have been the
last action of this terrible struggle. Now the North had triumphed in
the good cause, how welcome would have been a newspaper to the exiles in
Lincoln Island! For eleven months all communication between them and the
rest of their fellow-creatures had been interrupted, and in a short time
the 24th of March would arrive, the anniversary of the day on which
the balloon had thrown them on this unknown coast. They were then mere
castaways, not even knowing how they should preserve their miserable
lives from the fury of the elements! And now, thanks to the knowledge of
their captain, and their own intelligence, they were regular colonists,
furnished with arms, tools, and instruments; they had been able to turn
to their profit the animals, plants, and minerals of the island, that is
to say, the three kingdoms of Nature.

Yes; they often talked of all these things and formed still more plans.

As to Cyrus Harding he was for the most part silent, and listened to
his companions more often than he spoke to them. Sometimes he smiled
at Herbert's ideas or Pencroft's nonsense, but always and everywhere he
pondered over those inexplicable facts, that strange enigma, of which
the secret still escaped him!

 

 

Chapter 9

The weather changed during the first week of March. There had been a
full moon at the commencement of the month, and the heat was excessive.
The atmosphere was felt to be full of electricity, and a period of some
length of tempestuous weather was to be feared.

Indeed, on the 2nd, peals of thunder were heard, the wind blew from the
east, and hail rattled against the facade of Granite House like
volleys of grape-shot. The door and windows were immediately closed,
or everything in the rooms would have been drenched. On seeing these
hailstones, some of which were the size of a pigeon's egg, Pencroft's
first thought was that his cornfield was in serious danger.

He directly rushed to his field, where little green heads were already
appearing, and by means of a great cloth, he managed to protect his
crop.

This bad weather lasted a week, during which time the thunder rolled
without cessation in the depths of the sky.

The colonists, not having any pressing work out of doors, profited
by the bad weather to work at the interior of Granite House, the
arrangement of which was becoming more complete from day to day. The
engineer made a turning-lathe, with which he turned several articles
both for the toilet and the kitchen, particularly buttons, the want of
which was greatly felt. A gunrack had been made for the firearms, which
were kept with extreme care, and neither tables nor cupboards were left
incomplete. They sawed, they planed, they filed, they turned; and during
the whole of this bad season, nothing was heard but the grinding
of tools or the humming of the turning-lathe which responded to the
growling of the thunder.

Master Jup had not been forgotten, and he occupied a room at the back,
near the storeroom, a sort of cabin with a cot always full of good
litter, which perfectly suited his taste.

"With good old Jup there is never any quarreling," often repeated
Pencroft, "never any improper reply. What a servant, Neb, what a
servant!"

Of course Jup was now well used to service. He brushed their clothes,
he turned the spit, he waited at table, he swept the rooms, he gathered
wood, and he performed another admirable piece of service which
delighted Pencroft--he never went to sleep without first coming to tuck
up the worthy sailor in his bed.

As to the health of the members of the colony, bipeds or bimana,
quadrumana or quadrupeds, it left nothing to be desired. With their life
in the open air, on this salubrious soil, under that temperate zone,
working both with head and hands, they could not suppose that illness
would ever attack them.

All were indeed wonderfully well. Herbert had already grown two inches
in the year. His figure was forming and becoming more manly, and he
promised to be an accomplished man, physically as well as morally.
Besides he improved himself during the leisure hours which manual
occupations left to him; he read the books found in the case; and after
the practical lessons which were taught by the very necessity of their
position, he found in the engineer for science, and the reporter for
languages, masters who were delighted to complete his education.

The tempest ended about the 9th of March, but the sky remained covered
with clouds during the whole of this last summer month. The atmosphere,
violently agitated by the electric commotions, could not recover its
former purity, and there was almost invariably rain and fog, except for
three or four fine days on which several excursions were made. About
this time the female onager gave birth to a young one which belonged to
the same sex as its mother, and which throve capitally. In the corral,
the flock of musmons had also increased, and several lambs already
bleated in the sheds, to the great delight of Neb and Herbert, who had
each their favorite among these newcomers. An attempt was also made
for the domestication of the peccaries, which succeeded well. A sty was
constructed under the poultry-yard, and soon contained several young
ones in the way to become civilized, that is to say, to become fat
under Neb's care. Master Jup, entrusted with carrying them their
daily nourishment, leavings from the kitchen, etc., acquitted himself
conscientiously of his task. He sometimes amused himself at the expense
of his little pensioners by tweaking their tails; but this was mischief,
and not wickedness, for these little twisted tails amused him like a
plaything, and his instinct was that of a child. One day in this month
of March, Pencroft, talking to the engineer, reminded Cyrus Harding of a
promise which the latter had not as yet had time to fulfil.

"You once spoke of an apparatus which would take the place of the long
ladders at Granite House, captain," said he; "won't you make it some
day?"

"Nothing will be easier; but is this a really useful thing?"

"Certainly, captain. After we have given ourselves necessaries, let us
think a little of luxury. For us it may be luxury, if you like, but
for things it is necessary. It isn't very convenient to climb up a long
ladder when one is heavily loaded."

"Well, Pencroft, we will try to please you," replied Cyrus Harding.

"But you have no machine at your disposal."

"We will make one."

"A steam machine?"

"No, a water machine."

And, indeed, to work his apparatus there was already a natural force
at the disposal of the engineer which could be used without great
difficulty. For this, it was enough to augment the flow of the little
stream which supplied the interior of Granite House with water. The
opening among the stones and grass was then increased, thus producing
a strong fall at the bottom of the passage, the overflow from which
escaped by the inner well. Below this fall the engineer fixed a cylinder
with paddles, which was joined on the exterior with a strong cable
rolled on a wheel, supporting a basket. In this way, by means of a long
rope reaching to the ground, which enabled them to regulate the motive
power, they could rise in the basket to the door of Granite House.

It was on the 17th of March that the lift acted for the first time, and
gave universal satisfaction. Henceforward all the loads, wood, coal,
provisions, and even the settlers themselves, were hoisted by this
simple system, which replaced the primitive ladder, and, as may be
supposed, no one thought of regretting the change. Top particularly was
enchanted with this improvement, for he had not, and never could have
possessed Master Jup's skill in climbing ladders, and often it was on
Neb's back, or even on that of the orang that he had been obliged to
make the ascent to Granite House. About this time, too, Cyrus Harding
attempted to manufacture glass, and he at first put the old pottery-kiln
to this new use. There were some difficulties to be encountered; but,
after several fruitless attempts, he succeeded in setting up a glass
manufactory, which Gideon Spilett and Herbert, his usual assistants, did
not leave for several days. As to the substances used in the composition
of glass, they are simply sand, chalk, and soda, either carbonate or
sulphate. Now the beach supplied sand, lime supplied chalk, sea-weeds
supplied soda, pyrites supplied sulphuric acid, and the ground supplied
coal to heat the kiln to the wished-for temperature. Cyrus Harding thus
soon had everything ready for setting to work.

The tool, the manufacture of which presented the most difficulty, was
the pipe of the glass-maker, an iron tube, five or six feet long, which
collects on one end the material in a state of fusion. But by means of
a long, thin piece of iron rolled up like the barrel of a gun, Pencroft
succeeded in making a tube soon ready for use.

On the 28th of March the tube was heated. A hundred parts of sand,
thirty-five of chalk, forty of sulphate of soda, mixed with two or three
parts of powdered coal, composed the substance, which was placed in
crucibles. When the high temperature of the oven had reduced it to a
liquid, or rather a pasty state, Cyrus Harding collected with the tube
a quantity of the paste: he turned it about on a metal plate, previously
arranged, so as to give it a form suitable for blowing, then he passed
the tube to Herbert, telling him to blow at the other extremity.

And Herbert, swelling out his cheeks, blew so much and so well into the
tube-taking care to twirl it round at the same time--that his breath
dilated the glassy mass. Other quantities of the substance in a state
of fusion were added to the first, and in a short time the result was a
bubble which measured a foot in diameter. Harding then took the tube
out of Herbert's hands, and, giving it a pendulous motion, he ended by
lengthening the malleable bubble so as to give it a cylindroconic shape.

The blowing operation had given a cylinder of glass terminated by two
hemispheric caps, which were easily detached by means of a sharp iron
dipped in cold water; then, by the same proceeding, this cylinder was
cut lengthways, and after having been rendered malleable by a second
heating, it was extended on a plate and spread out with a wooden roller.

The first pane was thus manufactured, and they had only to perform this
operation fifty times to have fifty panes. The windows at Granite House
were soon furnished with panes; not very white, perhaps, but still
sufficiently transparent.

As to bottles and tumblers, that was only play. They were satisfied with
them, besides, just as they came from the end of the tube. Pencroft had
asked to be allowed to "blow" in his turn, and it was great fun for
him; but he blew so hard that his productions took the most ridiculous
shapes, which he admired immensely.

Cyrus Harding and Herbert, while hunting one day, had entered the forest
of the Far West, on the left bank of the Mercy, and, as usual, the
lad was asking a thousand questions of the engineer, who answered them
heartily. Now, as Harding was not a sportsman, and as, on the other
side, Herbert was talking chemistry and natural philosophy, numbers of
kangaroos, capybaras, and agouties came within range, which, however,
escaped the lad's gun; the consequence was that the day was already
advanced, and the two hunters were in danger of having made a
useless excursion, when Herbert, stopping, and uttering a cry of joy,
exclaimed,--

"Oh, Captain Harding, do you see that tree?" and he pointed to a shrub,
rather than a tree, for it was composed of a single stem, covered with a
scaly bark, which bore leaves streaked with little parallel veins.

"And what is this tree which resembles a little palm?" asked Harding.

"It is a 'cycas revoluta,' of which I have a picture in our dictionary
of Natural History!" said Herbert.

"But I can't see any fruit on this shrub!" observed his companion.

"No, captain," replied Herbert; "but its stem contains a flour with
which nature has provided us all ready ground."

"It is, then, the bread-tree?"

"Yes, the bread-tree."

"Well, my boy," replied the engineer, "this is a valuable discovery,
since our wheat harvest is not yet ripe; I hope that you are not
mistaken!"

Herbert was not mistaken: he broke the stem of a cycas, which was
composed of a glandulous tissue, containing a quantity of floury pith,
traversed with woody fiber, separated by rings of the same substance,
arranged concentrically. With this fecula was mingled a mucilaginous
juice of disagreeable flavor, but which it would be easy to get rid of
by pressure. This cellular substance was regular flour of a superior
quality, extremely nourishing; its exportation was formerly forbidden by
the Japanese laws.

Cyrus Harding and Herbert, after having examined that part of the Far
West where the cycas grew, took their bearings, and returned to Granite
House, where they made known their discovery.

The next day the settlers went to collect some, and returned to Granite
House with an ample supply of cycas stems. The engineer constructed a
press, with which to extract the mucilaginous juice mingled with the
fecula, and he obtained a large quantity of flour, which Neb soon
transformed into cakes and puddings. This was not quite real wheaten
bread, but it was very like it.

Now, too, the onager, the goats, and the sheep in the corral furnished
daily the milk necessary to the colony. The cart, or rather a sort of
light carriole which had replaced it, made frequent journeys to the
corral, and when it was Pencroft's turn to go he took Jup, and let him
drive, and Jup, cracking his whip, acquitted himself with his customary
intelligence.

Everything prospered, as well in the corral as in Granite House, and
certainly the settlers, if it had not been that they were so far from
their native land, had no reason to complain. They were so well suited
to this life, and were, besides, so accustomed to the island, that they
could not have left its hospitable soil without regret!

And yet so deeply is the love of his country implanted in the heart of
man, that if a ship had unexpectedly come in sight of the island, the
colonists would have made signals, would have attracted her attention,
and would have departed!

It was the 1st of April, a Sunday, Easter Day, which Harding and his
companions sanctified by rest and prayer. The day was fine, such as an
October day in the Northern Hemisphere might be.

All, towards the evening after dinner, were seated under the veranda
on the edge of Prospect Heights, and they were watching the
darkness creeping up from the horizon. Some cups of the infusion of
elder-berries, which took the place of coffee, had been served by Neb.
They were speaking of the island and of its isolated situation in the
Pacific, which led Gideon Spilett to say,--

"My dear Cyrus, have you ever, since you possessed the sextant found in
the case, again taken the position of our island?"

"No," replied the engineer.

"But it would perhaps be a good thing to do it with this instrument,
which is more perfect than that which you before used."

"What is the good?" said Pencroft. "The island is quite comfortable
where it is!"

"Well, who knows," returned the reporter, "who knows but that we may be
much nearer inhabited land than we think?"

"We shall know to-morrow," replied Cyrus Harding, "and if it had not
been for the occupations which left me no leisure, we should have known
it already."

"Good!" said Pencroft. "The captain is too good an observer to be
mistaken, and, if it has not moved from its place, the island is just
where he put it."

"We shall see."

On the next day, therefore, by means of the sextant, the engineer made
the necessary observations to verify the position which he had
already obtained, and this was the result of his operation. His first
observation had given him the situation of Lincoln Island,--

 

In west longitude: from 150deg. to 155deg.;

In south latitude: from 30deg. to 35deg.

 

The second gave exactly:

 

In longitude: 150deg. 30'

In south latitude: 34deg. 57'

So then, notwithstanding the imperfection of his apparatus, Cyrus
Harding had operated with so much skill that his error did not exceed
five degrees.

"Now," said Gideon Spilett, "since we possess an atlas as well as a
sextant, let us see, my dear Cyrus, the exact position which Lincoln
Island occupies in the Pacific."

Herbert fetched the atlas, and the map of the Pacific was opened, and
the engineer, compass in hand, prepared to determine their position.

Suddenly the compasses stopped, and he exclaimed,

"But an island exists in this part of the Pacific already!"

"An island?" cried Pencroft.

"Tabor Island."

"An important island?"

"No, an islet lost in the Pacific, and which perhaps has never been
visited."

"Well, we will visit it," said Pencroft.

"We?"

"Yes, captain. We will build a decked boat, and I will undertake to
steer her. At what distance are we from this Tabor Island?"

"About a hundred and fifty miles to the northeast," replied Harding.

"A hundred and fifty miles! And what's that?" returned Pencroft. "In
forty-eight hours, with a good wind, we should sight it!"

And, on this reply, it was decided that a vessel should be constructed
in time to be launched towards the month of next October, on the return
of the fine season.

 

 

Chapter 10

When Pencroft had once got a plan in his head, he had no peace till it
was executed. Now he wished to visit Tabor Island, and as a boat of a
certain size was necessary for this voyage, he determined to build one.

What wood should he employ? Elm or fir, both of which abounded in the
island? They decided for the fir, as being easy to work, but which
stands water as well as the elm.

These details settled, it was agreed that since the fine season would
not return before six months, Cyrus Harding and Pencroft should work
alone at the boat. Gideon Spilett and Herbert were to continue to
hunt, and neither Neb nor Master Jup, his assistant, were to leave the
domestic duties which had devolved upon them.

Directly the trees were chosen, they were felled, stripped of their
branches, and sawn into planks as well as sawyers would have been able
to do it. A week after, in the recess between the Chimneys and the
cliff, a dockyard was prepared, and a keel five-and-thirty feet long,
furnished with a stern-post at the stern and a stem at the bows, lay
along the sand.

Cyrus Harding was not working in the dark at this new trade. He knew as
much about ship-building as about nearly everything else, and he had
at first drawn the model of his ship on paper. Besides, he was ably
seconded by Pencroft, who, having worked for several years in a dockyard
in Brooklyn, knew the practical part of the trade. It was not until
after careful calculation and deep thought that the timbers were laid on
the keel.

Pencroft, as may be believed, was all eagerness to carry out his new
enterprise, and would not leave his work for an instant.

A single thing had the honor of drawing him, but for one day only, from
his dockyard. This was the second wheat-harvest, which was gathered in
on the 15th of April. It was as much a success as the first, and yielded
the number of grains which had been predicted.

"Five bushels, captain," said Pencroft, after having scrupulously
measured his treasure.

"Five bushels," replied the engineer; "and a hundred and thirty thousand
grains a bushel will make six hundred and fifty thousand grains."

"Well, we will sow them all this time," said the sailor, "except a
little in reserve."

"Yes, Pencroft, and if the next crop gives a proportionate yield, we
shall have four thousand bushels."

"And shall we eat bread?"

"We shall eat bread."

"But we must have a mill.

"We will make one."

The third corn-field was very much larger than the two first, and the
soil, prepared with extreme care, received the precious seed. That done,
Pencroft returned to his work.

During this time Spilett and Herbert hunted in the neighborhood, and
they ventured deep into the still unknown parts of the Far West, their
guns loaded with ball, ready for any dangerous emergency. It was a vast
thicket of magnificent trees, crowded together as if pressed for room.
The exploration of these dense masses of wood was difficult in
the extreme, and the reporter never ventured there without the
pocket-compass, for the sun scarcely pierced through the thick foliage
and it would have been very difficult for them to retrace their way.
It naturally happened that game was more rare in those situations where
there was hardly sufficient room to move; two or three large herbivorous
animals were however killed during the last fortnight of April. These
were koalas, specimens of which the settlers had already seen to the
north of the lake, and which stupidly allowed themselves to be killed
among the thick branches of the trees in which they took refuge. Their
skins were brought back to Granite House, and there, by the help of
sulphuric acid, they were subjected to a sort of tanning process which
rendered them capable of being used.

On the 30th of April, the two sportsmen were in the depth of the Far
West, when the reporter, preceding Herbert a few paces, arrived in
a sort of clearing, into which the trees more sparsely scattered had
permitted a few rays to penetrate. Gideon Spilett was at first surprised
at the odor which exhaled from certain plants with straight stalks,
round and branchy, bearing grape-like clusters of flowers and very small
berries. The reporter broke off one or two of these stalks and returned
to the lad, to whom he said,--

"What can this be, Herbert?"

"Well, Mr. Spilett," said Herbert, "this is a treasure which will secure
you Pencroft's gratitude forever."

"Is it tobacco?"

"Yes, and though it may not be of the first quality, it is none the less
tobacco!"

"Oh, good old Pencroft! Won't he be pleased! But we must not let him
smoke it all, he must give us our share."

"Ah! an idea occurs to me, Mr. Spilett," replied Herbert. "Don't let us
say anything to Pencroft yet; we will prepare these leaves, and one fine
day we will present him with a pipe already filled!"

"All right, Herbert, and on that day our worthy companion will have
nothing left to wish for in this world."

The reporter and the lad secured a good store of the precious plant, and
then returned to Granite House, where they smuggled it in with as much
precaution as if Pencroft had been the most vigilant and severe of
custom-house officers.

Cyrus Harding and Neb were taken into confidence, and the sailor
suspected nothing during the whole time, necessarily somewhat long,
which was required in order to dry the small leaves, chop them up, and
subject them to a certain torrefaction on hot stones. This took two
months; but all these manipulations were successfully carried on unknown
to Pencroft, for, occupied with the construction of his boat, he only
returned to Granite House at the hour of rest.

For some days they had observed an enormous animal two or three miles
out in the open sea swimming around Lincoln Island. This was a whale
of the largest size, which apparently belonged to the southern species,
called the "Cape Whale."

"What a lucky chance it would be if we could capture it!" cried the
sailor. "Ah! if we only had a proper boat and a good harpoon, I would
say 'After the beast,' for he would be well worth the trouble of
catching!"

"Well, Pencroft," observed Harding, "I should much like to watch you
handling a harpoon. It would be very interesting."

"I am astonished," said the reporter, "to see a whale in this
comparatively high latitude."

"Why so, Mr. Spilett?" replied Herbert. "We are exactly in that part of
the Pacific which English and American whalemen call the whale field,
and it is here, between New Zealand and South America, that the whales
of the Southern Hemisphere are met with in the greatest numbers."

And Pencroft returned to his work, not without uttering a sigh of
regret, for every sailor is a born fisherman, and if the pleasure of
fishing is in exact proportion to the size of the animal, one can judge
how a whaler feels in sight of a whale. And if this had only been for
pleasure! But they could not help feeling how valuable such a prize
would have been to the colony, for the oil, fat, and bones would have
been put to many uses.

Now it happened that this whale appeared to have no wish to leave the
waters of the island. Therefore, whether from the windows of Granite
House, or from Prospect Heights, Herbert and Gideon Spilett, when they
were not hunting, or Neb, unless presiding over his fires, never left
the telescope, but watched all the animal's movements. The cetacean,
having entered far into Union Bay, made rapid furrows across it from
Mandible Cape to Claw Cape, propelled by its enormously powerful flukes,
on which it supported itself, and making its way through the water
at the rate little short of twelve knots an hour. Sometimes also it
approached so near to the island that it could be clearly distinguished.
It was the southern whale, which is completely black, the head being
more depressed than that of the northern whale.

They could also see it throwing up from its air-holes to a great
height a cloud of vapor, or of water, for, strange as it may appear,
naturalists and whalers are not agreed on this subject. Is it air or is
it water which is thus driven out? It is generally admitted to be vapor,
which, condensing suddenly by contact with the cold air, falls again as
rain.

However, the presence of this mammifer preoccupied the colonists. It
irritated Pencroft especially, as he could think of nothing else while
at work. He ended by longing for it, like a child for a thing which it
has been denied. At night he talked about it in his sleep, and certainly
if he had had the means of attacking it, if the sloop had been in a fit
state to put to sea, he would not have hesitated to set out in pursuit.

But what the colonists could not do for themselves chance did for them,
and on the 3rd of May shouts from Neb, who had stationed himself at the
kitchen window, announced that the whale was stranded on the beach of
the island.

Herbert and Gideon Spilett, who were just about to set out hunting,
left their guns, Pencroft threw down his ax, and Harding and Neb joining
their companions, all rushed towards the scene of action.

The stranding had taken place on the beach of Flotsam Point, three miles
from Granite House, and at high tide. It was therefore probable that the
cetacean would not be able to extricate itself easily; at any rate it
was best to hasten, so as to cut off its retreat if necessary. They ran
with pick-axes and iron-tipped poles in their hands, passed over the
Mercy bridge, descended the right bank of the river, along the beach,
and in less than twenty minutes the settlers were close to the enormous
animal, above which flocks of birds already hovered.

"What a monster!" cried Neb.

And the exclamation was natural, for it was a southern whale, eighty
feet long, a giant of the species, probably not weighing less than a
hundred and fifty thousand pounds!

In the meanwhile, the monster thus stranded did not move, nor attempt by
struggling to regain the water while the tide was still high.

It was dead, and a harpoon was sticking out of its left side.

"There are whalers in these quarters, then?" said Gideon Spilett
directly.

"Oh, Mr. Spilett, that doesn't prove anything!" replied Pencroft.
"Whales have been known to go thousands of miles with a harpoon in
the side, and this one might even have been struck in the north of the
Atlantic and come to die in the south of the Pacific, and it would be
nothing astonishing."

Pencroft, having torn the harpoon from the animal's side, read this
inscription on it:

 

MARIA STELLA, VINEYARD

 

"A vessel from the Vineyard! A ship from my country!" he cried. "The
'Maria Stella!' A fine whaler, 'pon my word; I know her well! Oh, my
friends, a vessel from the Vineyard!--a whaler from the Vineyard!"

And the sailor brandishing the harpoon, repeated, not without emotion,
the name which he loved so well--the name of his birthplace.

But as it could not be expected that the "Maria Stella" would come to
reclaim the animal harpooned by her, they resolved to begin cutting it
up before decomposition should commence. The birds, who had watched
this rich prey for several days, had determined to take possession of it
without further delay, and it was necessary to drive them off by firing
at them repeatedly.

The whale was a female, and a large quantity of milk was taken from it,
which, according to the opinion of the naturalist Duffenbach, might pass
for cow's milk, and, indeed, it differs from it neither in taste, color,
nor density.

Pencroft had formerly served on board a whaling-ship, and he could
methodically direct the operation of cutting up, a sufficiently
disagreeable operation lasting three days, but from which the settlers
did not flinch, not even Gideon Spilett, who, as the sailor said, would
end by making a "real good castaway."

The blubber, cut in parallel slices of two feet and a half in thickness,
then divided into pieces which might weigh about a thousand pounds each,
was melted down in large earthen pots brought to the spot, for they did
not wish to taint the environs of Granite House, and in this fusion it
lost nearly a third of its weight.

But there was an immense quantity of it; the tongue alone yielded six
thousand pounds of oil, and the lower lip four thousand. Then, besides
the fat, which would insure for a long time a store of stearine and
glycerine, there were still the bones, for which a use could doubtless
be found, although there were neither umbrellas nor stays used at
Granite House. The upper part of the mouth of the cetacean was, indeed,
provided on both sides with eight hundred horny blades, very elastic,
of a fibrous texture, and fringed at the edge like great combs, at which
the teeth, six feet long, served to retain the thousands of animalculae,
little fish, and molluscs, on which the whale fed.

The operation finished, to the great satisfaction of the operators, the
remains of the animal were left to the birds, who would soon make every
vestige of it disappear, and their usual daily occupations were resumed
by the inmates of Granite House.

However, before returning to the dockyard, Cyrus Harding conceived
the idea of fabricating certain machines, which greatly excited the
curiosity of his companions. He took a dozen of the whale's bones, cut
them into six equal parts, and sharpened their ends.

"This machine is not my own invention, and it is frequently employed
by the Aleutian hunters in Russian America. You see these bones, my
friends; well, when it freezes, I will bend them, and then wet them
with water till they are entirely covered with ice, which will keep them
bent, and I will strew them on the snow, having previously covered them
with fat. Now, what will happen if a hungry animal swallows one of these
baits? Why, the heat of his stomach will melt the ice, and the bone,
springing straight, will pierce him with its sharp points."

"Well! I do call that ingenious!" said Pencroft.

"And it will spare the powder and shot," rejoined Cyrus Harding.

"That will be better than traps!" added Neb.

In the meanwhile the boat-building progressed, and towards the end of
the month half the planking was completed. It could already be seen that
her shape was excellent, and that she would sail well.

Pencroft worked with unparalleled ardor, and only a sturdy frame could
have borne such fatigue; but his companions were preparing in secret a
reward for his labors, and on the 31st of May he was to meet with one of
the greatest joys of his life.

On that day, after dinner, just as he was about to leave the table,
Pencroft felt a hand on his shoulder.

It was the hand of Gideon Spilett, who said,--

"One moment, Master Pencroft, you mustn't sneak off like that! You've
forgotten your dessert."

"Thank you, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "I am going back to my
work."

"Well, a cup of coffee, my friend?"

"Nothing more."

"A pipe, then?"

Pencroft jumped up, and his great good-natured face grew pale when he
saw the reporter presenting him with a ready-filled pipe, and Herbert
with a glowing coal.

The sailor endeavored to speak, but could not get out a word; so,
seizing the pipe, he carried it to his lips, then applying the coal,
he drew five or six great whiffs. A fragrant blue cloud soon arose, and
from its depths a voice was heard repeating excitedly,--

"Tobacco! real tobacco!"

"Yes, Pencroft," returned Cyrus Harding, "and very good tobacco too!"

"O, divine Providence; sacred Author of all things!" cried the sailor.
"Nothing more is now wanting to our island."

And Pencroft smoked, and smoked, and smoked.

"And who made this discovery?" he asked at length. "You, Herbert, no
doubt?"

"No, Pencroft, it was Mr. Spilett."

"Mr. Spilett!" exclaimed the sailor, seizing the reporter, and clasping
him to his breast with such a squeeze that he had never felt anything
like it before.

"Oh Pencroft," said Spilett, recovering his breath at last, "a truce for
one moment. You must share your gratitude with Herbert, who recognized
the plant, with Cyrus, who prepared it, and with Neb, who took a great
deal of trouble to keep our secret."

"Well, my friends, I will repay you some day," replied the sailor. "Now
we are friends for life."

 

 

Chapter 11

Winter arrived with the month of June, which is the December of the
northern zones, and the great business was the making of warm and solid
clothing.

The musmons in the corral had been stripped of their wool, and this
precious textile material was now to be transformed into stuff.

Of course Cyrus Harding, having at his disposal neither carders,
combers, polishers, stretchers, twisters, mule-jenny, nor self-acting
machine to spin the wool, nor loom to weave it, was obliged to proceed
in a simpler way, so as to do without spinning and weaving. And indeed
he proposed to make use of the property which the filaments of wool
possess when subjected to a powerful pressure of mixing together, and of
manufacturing by this simple process the material called felt. This felt
could then be obtained by a simple operation which, if it diminished
the flexibility of the stuff, increased its power of retaining heat in
proportion. Now the wool furnished by the musmons was composed of very
short hairs, and was in a good condition to be felted.

The engineer, aided by his companions, including Pencroft, who was once
more obliged to leave his boat, commenced the preliminary operations,
the subject of which was to rid the wool of that fat and oily substance
with which it is impregnated, and which is called grease. This cleaning
was done in vats filled with water, which was maintained at the
temperature of seventy degrees, and in which the wool was soaked for
four-and-twenty hours; it was then thoroughly washed in baths of soda,
and, when sufficiently dried by pressure, it was in a state to be
compressed, that is to say, to produce a solid material, rough, no
doubt, and such as would have no value in a manufacturing center of
Europe or America, but which would be highly esteemed in the Lincoln
Island markets.

This sort of material must have been known from the most ancient times,
and, in fact, the first woolen stuffs were manufactured by the process
which Harding was now about to employ. Where Harding's engineering
qualifications now came into play was in the construction of the machine
for pressing the wool; for he knew how to turn ingeniously to profit
the mechanical force, hitherto unused, which the waterfall on the beach
possessed to move a fulling-mill.

Nothing could be more rudimentary. The wool was placed in troughs, and
upon it fell in turns heavy wooden mallets; such was the machine in
question, and such it had been for centuries until the time when the
mallets were replaced by cylinders of compression, and the material was
no longer subjected to beating, but to regular rolling.

The operation, ably directed by Cyrus Harding, was a complete success.
The wool, previously impregnated with a solution of soap, intended on
the one hand to facilitate the interlacing, the compression, and the
softening of the wool, and on the other to prevent its diminution by
the beating, issued from the mill in the shape of thick felt cloth. The
roughnesses with which the staple of wool is naturally filled were so
thoroughly entangled and interlaced together that a material was formed
equally suitable either for garments or bedclothes. It was certainly
neither merino, muslin, cashmere, rep, satin, alpaca, cloth, nor
flannel. It was "Lincolnian felt," and Lincoln Island possessed yet
another manufacture. The colonists had now warm garments and thick
bedclothes, and they could without fear await the approach of the winter
of 1866-67.

The severe cold began to be felt about the 20th of June, and, to his
great regret, Pencroft was obliged to suspend his boat-building, which
he hoped to finish in time for next spring.

The sailor's great idea was to make a voyage of discovery to Tabor
Island, although Harding could not approve of a voyage simply for
curiosity's sake, for there was evidently nothing to be found on this
desert and almost arid rock. A voyage of a hundred and fifty miles in a
comparatively small vessel, over unknown seas, could not but cause him
some anxiety. Suppose that their vessel, once out at sea, should be
unable to reach Tabor Island, and could not return to Lincoln Island,
what would become of her in the midst of the Pacific, so fruitful of
disasters?

Harding often talked over this project with Pencroft, and he found him
strangely bent upon undertaking this voyage, for which determination he
himself could give no sufficient reason.

"Now," said the engineer one day to him, "I must observe, my friend,
that after having said so much, in praise of Lincoln Island, after
having spoken so often of the sorrow you would feel if you were obliged
to forsake it, you are the first to wish to leave it."

"Only to leave it for a few days," replied Pencroft, "only for a few
days, captain. Time to go and come back, and see what that islet is
like!"

"But it is not nearly as good as Lincoln Island."

"I know that beforehand."

"Then why venture there?"

"To know what is going on in Tabor Island."

"But nothing is going on there; nothing could happen there."

"Who knows?"

"And if you are caught in a hurricane?"

"There is no fear of that in the fine season," replied Pencroft.
"But, captain, as we must provide against everything, I shall ask your
permission to take Herbert only with me on this voyage."

"Pencroft," replied the engineer, placing his hand on the sailor's
shoulder, "if any misfortune happens to you, or to this lad, whom
chance has made our child, do you think we could ever cease to blame
ourselves?"

"Captain Harding," replied Pencroft, with unshaken confidence, "we
shall not cause you that sorrow. Besides, we will speak further of this
voyage, when the time comes to make it. And I fancy, when you have seen
our tight-rigged little craft, when you have observed how she behaves at
sea, when we sail round our island, for we will do so together--I fancy,
I say, that you will no longer hesitate to let me go. I don't conceal
from you that your boat will be a masterpiece."

"Say 'our' boat, at least, Pencroft," replied the engineer, disarmed for
the moment. The conversation ended thus, to be resumed later on, without
convincing either the sailor or the engineer.

The first snow fell towards the end of the month of June. The corral had
previously been largely supplied with stores, so that daily visits to
it were not requisite; but it was decided that more than a week should
never be allowed to pass without someone going to it.

Traps were again set, and the machines manufactured by Harding were
tried. The bent whalebones, imprisoned in a case of ice, and covered
with a thick outer layer of fat, were placed on the border of the forest
at a spot where animals usually passed on their way to the lake.

To the engineer's great satisfaction, this invention, copied from the
Aleutian fishermen, succeeded perfectly. A dozen foxes, a few wild
boars, and even a jaguar, were taken in this way, the animals being
found dead, their stomachs pierced by the unbent bones.

An incident must here be related, not only as interesting in itself, but
because it was the first attempt made by the colonists to communicate
with the rest of mankind.

Gideon Spilett had already several times pondered whether to throw into
the sea a letter enclosed in a bottle, which currents might perhaps
carry to an inhabited coast, or to confide it to pigeons.

But how could it be seriously hoped that either pigeons or bottles could
cross the distance of twelve hundred miles which separated the island
from any inhabited land? It would have been pure folly.

But on the 30th of June the capture was effected, not without
difficulty, of an albatross, which a shot from Herbert's gun had
slightly wounded in the foot. It was a magnificent bird, measuring ten
feet from wing to wing, and which could traverse seas as wide as the
Pacific.

Herbert would have liked to keep this superb bird, as its wound would
soon heal, and he thought he could tame it; but Spilett explained to
him that they should not neglect this opportunity of attempting to
communicate by this messenger with the lands of the Pacific; for if the
albatross had come from some inhabited region, there was no doubt but
that it would return there so soon as it was set free.

Perhaps in his heart Gideon Spilett, in whom the journalist sometimes
came to the surface, was not sorry to have the opportunity of sending
forth to take its chance an exciting article relating the adventures
of the settlers in Lincoln Island. What a success for the authorized
reporter of the New York Herald, and for the number which should contain
the article, if it should ever reach the address of its editor, the
Honorable James Bennett!

Gideon Spilett then wrote out a concise account, which was placed in a
strong waterproof bag, with an earnest request to whoever might find it
to forward it to the office of the New York Herald. This little bag was
fastened to the neck of the albatross, and not to its foot, for these
birds are in the habit of resting on the surface of the sea; then
liberty was given to this swift courier of the air, and it was not
without some emotion that the colonists watched it disappear in the
misty west.

"Where is he going to?" asked Pencroft.

"Towards New Zealand," replied Herbert.

"A good voyage to you," shouted the sailor, who himself did not expect
any great result from this mode of correspondence.

With the winter, work had been resumed in the interior of Granite House,
mending clothes and different occupations, among others making the sails
for their vessel, which were cut from the inexhaustible balloon-case.

During the month of July the cold was intense, but there was no lack of
either wood or coal. Cyrus Harding had established a second fireplace in
the dining-room, and there the long winter evenings were spent. Talking
while they worked, reading when the hands remained idle, the time passed
with profit to all.

It was real enjoyment to the settlers when in their room, well lighted
with candles, well warmed with coal, after a good dinner, elderberry
coffee smoking in the cups, the pipes giving forth an odoriferous smoke,
they could hear the storm howling without. Their comfort would have been
complete, if complete comfort could ever exist for those who are far
from their fellow-creatures, and without any means of communication with
them. They often talked of their country, of the friends whom they had
left, of the grandeur of the American Republic, whose influence could
not but increase; and Cyrus Harding, who had been much mixed up with the
affairs of the Union, greatly interested his auditors by his recitals,
his views, and his prognostics.

It chanced one day that Spilett was led to say--

"But now, my dear Cyrus, all this industrial and commercial movement
to which you predict a continual advance, does it not run the danger of
being sooner or later completely stopped?"

"Stopped! And by what?"

"By the want of coal, which may justly be called the most precious of
minerals."

"Yes, the most precious indeed," replied the engineer; "and it would
seem that nature wished to prove that it was so by making the diamond,
which is simply pure carbon crystallized."

"You don't mean to say, captain," interrupted Pencroft, "that we burn
diamonds in our stoves in the shape of coal?"

"No, my friend," replied Harding.

"However," resumed Gideon Spilett, "you do not deny that some day the
coal will be entirely consumed?"

"Oh! the veins of coal are still considerable, and the hundred
thousand miners who annually extract from them a hundred millions of
hundredweights have not nearly exhausted them."

"With the increasing consumption of coal," replied Gideon Spilett, "it
can be foreseen that the hundred thousand workmen will soon become two
hundred thousand, and that the rate of extraction will be doubled."

"Doubtless; but after the European mines, which will be soon worked more
thoroughly with new machines, the American and Australian mines will for
a long time yet provide for the consumption in trade."

"For how long a time?" asked the reporter.

"For at least two hundred and fifty or three hundred years."

"That is reassuring for us, but a bad look-out for our
great-grandchildren!" observed Pencroft.

"They will discover something else," said Herbert.

"It is to be hoped so," answered Spilett, "for without coal there would
be no machinery, and without machinery there would be no railways, no
steamers, no manufactories, nothing of that which is indispensable to
modern civilization!"

"But what will they find?" asked Pencroft. "Can you guess, captain?"

"Nearly, my friend."

"And what will they burn instead of coal?"

"Water," replied Harding.

"Water!" cried Pencroft, "water as fuel for steamers and engines! water
to heat water!"

"Yes, but water decomposed into its primitive elements," replied Cyrus
Harding, "and decomposed doubtless, by electricity, which will then have
become a powerful and manageable force, for all great discoveries, by
some inexplicable laws, appear to agree and become complete at the same
time. Yes, my friends, I believe that water will one day be employed
as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or
together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of
an intensity of which coal is not capable. Some day the coalrooms of
steamers and the tenders of locomotives will, instead of coal, be stored
with these two condensed gases, which will burn in the furnaces with
enormous calorific power. There is, therefore, nothing to fear. As long
as the earth is inhabited it will supply the wants of its inhabitants,
and there will be no want of either light or heat as long as the
productions of the vegetable, mineral or animal kingdoms do not fail us.
I believe, then, that when the deposits of coal are exhausted we shall
heat and warm ourselves with water. Water will be the coal of the
future."

"I should like to see that," observed the sailor.

"You were born too soon, Pencroft," returned Neb, who only took part in
the discussion by these words.

However, it was not Neb's speech which interrupted the conversation, but
Top's barking, which broke out again with that strange intonation which
had before perplexed the engineer. At the same time Top began to run
round the mouth of the well, which opened at the extremity of the
interior passage.

"What can Top be barking in that way for?" asked Pencroft.

"And Jup be growling like that?" added Herbert.

In fact the orang, joining the dog, gave unequivocal signs of agitation,
and, singular to say, the two animals appeared more uneasy than angry.

"It is evident," said Gideon Spilett, "that this well is in direct
communication with the sea, and that some marine animal comes from time
to time to breathe at the bottom."

"That's evident," replied the sailor, "and there can be no other
explanation to give. Quiet there, Top!" added Pencroft, turning to the
dog, "and you, Jup, be off to your room!"

The ape and the dog were silent. Jup went off to bed, but Top remained
in the room, and continued to utter low growls at intervals during the
rest of the evening. There was no further talk on the subject, but the
incident, however, clouded the brow of the engineer.

During the remainder of the month of July there was alternate rain and
frost. The temperature was not so low as during the preceding winter,
and its maximum did not exceed eight degrees Fahrenheit. But although
this winter was less cold, it was more troubled by storms and squalls;
the sea besides often endangered the safety of the Chimneys. At times
it almost seemed as if an under-current raised these monstrous billows
which thundered against the wall of Granite House.

When the settlers, leaning from their windows, gazed on the huge watery
masses breaking beneath their eyes, they could not but admire the
magnificent spectacle of the ocean in its impotent fury. The waves
rebounded in dazzling foam, the beach entirely disapppearing under the
raging flood, and the cliff appearing to emerge from the sea itself, the
spray rising to a height of more than a hundred feet.

During these storms it was difficult and even dangerous to venture out,
owing to the frequently falling trees; however, the colonists never
allowed a week to pass without having paid a visit to the corral.
Happily, this enclosure, sheltered by the southeastern spur of Mount
Franklin, did not greatly suffer from the violence of the hurricanes,
which spared its trees, sheds, and palisades; but the poultry-yard on
Prospect Heights, being directly exposed to the gusts of wind from the
east, suffered considerable damage. The pigeon-house was twice unroofed
and the paling blown down. All this required to be remade more solidly
than before, for, as may be clearly seen, Lincoln Island was situated in
one of the most dangerous parts of the Pacific. It really appeared as if
it formed the central point of vast cyclones, which beat it perpetually
as the whip does the top, only here it was the top which was motionless
and the whip which moved. During the first week of the month of August
the weather became more moderate, and the atmosphere recovered the calm
which it appeared to have lost forever. With the calm the cold again
became intense, and the thermometer fell to eight degrees Fahrenheit,
below zero.

On the 3rd of August an excursion which had been talked of for several
days was made into the southeastern part of the island, towards Tadorn
Marsh. The hunters were tempted by the aquatic game which took up their
winter quarters there. Wild duck, snipe, teal and grebe abounded there,
and it was agreed that a day should be devoted to an expedition against
these birds.

Not only Gideon Spilett and Herbert, but Pencroft and Neb also took part
in this excursion. Cyrus Harding alone, alleging some work as an excuse,
did not join them, but remained at Granite House.

The hunters proceeded in the direction of Port Balloon, in order to
reach the marsh, after having promised to be back by the evening. Top
and Jup accompanied them. As soon as they had passed over the Mercy
Bridge, the engineer raised it and returned, intending to put into
execution a project for the performance of which he wished to be alone.

Now this project was to minutely explore the interior well, the mouth
of which was on a level with the passage of Granite House, and which
communicated with the sea, since it formerly supplied a way to the
waters of the lake.

Why did Top so often run round this opening? Why did he utter such
strange barks when a sort of uneasiness seemed to draw him towards this
well? Why did Jup join Top in a sort of common anxiety? Had this well
branches besides the communication with the sea? Did it spread towards
other parts of the island? This is what Cyrus Harding wished to know. He
had resolved, therefore, to attempt the exploration of the well during
the absence of his companions, and an opportunity for doing so had now
presented itself.

It was easy to descend to the bottom of the well by employing the rope
ladder which had not been used since the establishment of the lift. The
engineer drew the ladder to the hole, the diameter of which measured
nearly six feet, and allowed it to unroll itself after having securely
fastened its upper extremity. Then, having lighted a lantern, taken a
revolver, and placed a cutlass in his belt, he began the descent.

The sides were everywhere entire; but points of rock jutted out here and
there, and by means of these points it would have been quite possible
for an active creature to climb to the mouth of the well.

The engineer remarked this; but although he carefully examined these
points by the light of his lantern, he could find no impression, no
fracture which could give any reason to suppose that they had either
recently or at any former time been used as a staircase. Cyrus Harding
descended deeper, throwing the light of his lantern on all sides.

He saw nothing suspicious.

When the engineer had reached the last rounds he came upon the water,
which was then perfectly calm. Neither at its level nor in any other
part of the well, did any passage open, which could lead to the interior
of the cliff. The wall which Harding struck with the hilt of his cutlass
sounded solid. It was compact granite, through which no living being
could force a way. To arrive at the bottom of the well and then climb
up to its mouth it was necessary to pass through the channel under the
rocky subsoil of the beach, which placed it in communication with the
sea, and this was only possible for marine animals. As to the question
of knowing where this channel ended, at what point of the shore, and at
what depth beneath the water, it could not be answered.

Then Cyrus Harding, having ended his survey, re-ascended, drew up the
ladder, covered the mouth of the well, and returned thoughtfully to the
diningroom, saying to himself,--

"I have seen nothing, and yet there is something there!"

 

 

Chapter 12

In the evening the hunters returned, having enjoyed good sport, and
being literally loaded with game; indeed, they had as much as four men
could possibly carry. Top wore a necklace of teal and Jup wreaths of
snipe round his body.

"Here, master," cried Neb; "here's something to employ our time!
Preserved and made into pies we shall have a welcome store! But I must
have some one to help me. I count on you, Pencroft."

"No, Neb," replied the sailor; "I have the rigging of the vessel to
finish and to look after, and you will have to do without me."

"And you, Mr. Herbert?"

"I must go to the corral to-morrow, Neb," replied the lad.

"It will be you then, Mr. Spilett, who will help me?"

"To oblige you, Neb, I will," replied the reporter; "but I warn you that
if you disclose your recipes to me, I shall publish them."

"Whenever you like, Mr. Spilett," replied Neb; "whenever you like."

And so the next day Gideon Spilett became Neb's assistant and was
installed in his culinary laboratory. The engineer had previously made
known to him the result of the exploration which he had made the day
before, and on this point the reporter shared Harding's opinion, that
although he had found nothing, a secret still remained to be discovered!

The frost continued for another week, and the settlers did not leave
Granite House unless to look after the poultry-yard. The dwelling
was filled with appetizing odors, which were emitted from the learned
manipulation of Neb and the reporter. But all the results of the chase
were not made into preserved provisions; and as the game kept perfectly
in the intense cold, wild duck and other fowl were eaten fresh, and
declared superior to all other aquatic birds in the known world.

During this week, Pencroft, aided by Herbert, who handled the
sailmaker's needle with much skill, worked with such energy that the
sails of the vessel were finished. There was no want of cordage. Thanks
to the rigging which had been discovered with the case of the balloon,
the ropes and cables from the net were all of good quality, and the
sailor turned them all to account. To the sails were attached strong
bolt ropes, and there still remained enough from which to make the
halyards, shrouds, and sheets, etc. The blocks were manufactured by
Cyrus Harding under Pencroft's directions by means of the turning lathe.
It therefore happened that the rigging was entirely prepared before the
vessel was finished. Pencroft also manufactured a flag, that flag so
dear to every true American, containing the stars and stripes of their
glorious Union. The colors for it were supplied from certain plants
used in dyeing, and which were very abundant in the island; only to the
thirty-seven stars, representing the thirty-seven States of the Union,
which shine on the American flag, the sailor added a thirty-eighth, the
star of "the State of Lincoln," for he considered his island as already
united to the great republic. "And," said he, "it is so already in
heart, if not in deed!"

In the meantime, the flag was hoisted at the central window of Granite
House, and the settlers saluted it with three cheers.

The cold season was now almost at an end, and it appeared as if this
second winter was to pass without any unusual occurrence, when on the
night of the 11th of August, the plateau of Prospect Heights was menaced
with complete destruction.

After a busy day the colonists were sleeping soundly, when towards four
o'clock in the morning they were suddenly awakened by Top's barking.

The dog was not this time barking near the mouth of the well, but at
the threshold of the door, at which he was scratching as if he wished to
burst it open. Jup was also uttering piercing cries.

"Hello, Top!" cried Neb, who was the first awake. But the dog continued
to bark more furiously than ever.

"What's the matter now?" asked Harding.

And all dressing in haste rushed to the windows, which they opened.

Beneath their eyes was spread a sheet of snow which looked gray in the
dim light. The settlers could see nothing, but they heard a singular
yelping noise away in the darkness. It was evident that the beach had
been invaded by a number of animals which could not be seen.

"What are they?" cried Pencroft.

"Wolves, jaguars, or apes?" replied Neb.

"They have nearly reached the plateau," said the reporter.

"And our poultry-yard," exclaimed Herbert, "and our garden!"

"Where can they have crossed?" asked Pencroft.

"They must have crossed the bridge on the shore," replied the engineer,
"which one of us must have forgotten to close."

"True," said Spilett, "I remember having left it open."

"A fine job you have made of it, Mr. Spilett," cried the sailor.

"What is done cannot be undone," replied Cyrus Harding. "We must consult
what it will now be best to do."

Such were the questions and answers which were rapidly exchanged between
Harding and his companions. It was certain that the bridge had been
crossed, that the shore had been invaded by animals, and that whatever
they might be they could by ascending the left bank of the Mercy reach
Prospect Heights. They must therefore be advanced against quickly and
fought with if necessary.

"But what are these beasts?" was asked a second time, as the yelpings
were again heard more loudly than before. These yelps made Herbert
start, and he remembered having heard them before during his first visit
to the sources of the Red Creek.

"They are colpeo foxes!" he exclaimed.

"Forward!" shouted the sailor.

And all arming themselves with hatchets, carbines, and revolvers, threw
themselves into the lift and soon set foot on the shore.

Colpeos are dangerous animals when in great numbers and irritated by
hunger, nevertheless the colonists did not hesitate to throw themselves
into the midst of the troop, and their first shots vividly lighting up
the darkness made their assailants draw back.

The chief thing was to hinder these plunderers from reaching the
plateau, for the garden and the poultry-yard would then have been at
their mercy, and immense, perhaps irreparable mischief, would inevitably
be the result, especially with regard to the corn-field. But as the
invasion of the plateau could only be made by the left bank of the
Mercy, it was sufficient to oppose the colpeos on the narrow bank
between the river and the cliff of granite.

This was plain to all, and, by Cyrus Harding's orders, they reached the
spot indicated by him, while the colpeos rushed fiercely through
the gloom. Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Pencroft and Neb posted
themselves in impregnable line. Top, his formidable jaws open, preceded
the colonists, and he was followed by Jup, armed with knotty cudgel,
which he brandished like a club.

The night was extremely dark, it was only by the flashes from the
revolvers as each person fired that they could see their assailants, who
were at least a hundred in number, and whose eyes were glowing like hot
coals.

"They must not pass!" shouted Pencroft.

"They shall not pass!" returned the engineer.

But if they did not pass it was not for want of having attempted it.
Those in the rear pushed on the foremost assailants, and it was an
incessant struggle with revolvers and hatchets. Several colpeos already
lay dead on the ground, but their number did not appear to diminish,
and it might have been supposed that reinforcements were continually
arriving over the bridge.

The colonists were soon obliged to fight at close quarters, not without
receiving some wounds, though happily very slight ones. Herbert had,
with a shot from his revolver, rescued Neb, on whose back a colpeo had
sprung like a tiger cat. Top fought with actual fury, flying at the
throats of the foxes and strangling them instantaneously. Jup wielded
his weapon valiantly, and it was in vain that they endeavored to keep
him in the rear. Endowed doubtless with sight which enabled him to
pierce the obscurity, he was always in the thick of the fight uttering
from time to time--a sharp hissing sound, which was with him the sign of
great rejoicing.

At one moment he advanced so far, that by the light from a revolver
he was seen surrounded by five or six large colpeos, with whom he was
coping with great coolness.

However, the struggle was ended at last, and victory was on the side
of the settlers, but not until they had fought for two long hours! The
first signs of the approach of day doubtless determined the retreat of
their assailants, who scampered away towards the North, passing over the
bridge, which Neb ran immediately to raise. When day had sufficiently
lighted up the field of battle, the settlers counted as many as fifty
dead bodies scattered about on the shore.

"And Jup!" cried Pencroft; "where is Jup?" Jup had disappeared. His
friend Neb called him, and for the first time Jup did not reply to his
friend's call.

Everyone set out in search of Jup, trembling lest he should be found
among the slain; they cleared the place of the bodies which stained the
snow with their blood. Jup was found in the midst of a heap of colpeos
whose broken jaws and crushed bodies showed that they had to do with the
terrible club of the intrepid animal.

Poor Jup still held in his hand the stump of his broken cudgel, but
deprived of his weapon he had been overpowered by numbers, and his chest
was covered with severe wounds.

"He is living," cried Neb, who was bending over him.

"And we will save him," replied the sailor. "We will nurse him as if he
was one of ourselves."

It appeared as if Jup understood, for he leaned his head on Pencroft's
shoulder as if to thank him. The sailor was wounded himself, but his
wound was insignificant, as were those of his companions; for thanks to
their firearms they had been almost always able to keep their assailants
at a distance. It was therefore only the orang whose condition was
serious.

Jup, carried by Neb and Pencroft, was placed in the lift, and only a
slight moan now and then escaped his lips. He was gently drawn up to
Granite House. There he was laid on a mattress taken from one of the
beds, and his wounds were bathed with the greatest care. It did not
appear that any vital part had been reached, but Jup was very weak from
loss of blood, and a high fever soon set in after his wounds had been
dressed. He was laid down, strict diet was imposed, "just like a real
person," as Neb said, and they made him swallow several cups of
a cooling drink, for which the ingredients were supplied from the
vegetable medicine chest of Granite House. Jup was at first restless,
but his breathing gradually became more regular, and he was left
sleeping quietly. From time to time Top, walking on tip-toe, as one
might say, came to visit his friend, and seemed to approve of all the
care that had been taken of him. One of Jup's hands hung over the side
of his bed, and Top licked it with a sympathizing air.

They employed the day in interring the dead, who were dragged to the
forest of the Far West, and there buried deep.

This attack, which might have had such serious consequences, was a
lesson to the settlers, who from this time never went to bed until one
of their number had made sure that all the bridges were raised, and that
no invasion was possible.

However, Jup, after having given them serious anxiety for several
days, began to recover. His constitution brought him through, the fever
gradually subsided, and Gideon Spilett, who was a bit of a doctor,
pronounced him quite out of danger. On the 16th of August, Jup began to
eat. Neb made him nice little sweet dishes, which the invalid devoured
with great relish, for if he had a pet failing it was that of being
somewhat of a gourmend, and Neb had never done anything to cure him of
this fault.

"What would you have?" said he to Gideon Spilett, who sometimes
expostulated with him for spoiling the ape. "Poor Jup has no other
pleasure than that of the palate, and I am only too glad to be able to
reward his services in this way!"

Ten days after taking to his bed, on the 21st of August, Master Jup
arose. His wounds were healed, and it was evident that he would not
be long in regaining his usual strength and agility. Like all
convalescents, he was tremendously hungry, and the reporter allowed him
to eat as much as he liked, for he trusted to that instinct, which
is too often wanting in reasoning beings, to keep the orang from any
excess. Neb was delighted to see his pupil's appetite returning.

"Eat away, my Jup," said he, "and don't spare anything; you have shed
your blood for us, and it is the least I can do to make you strong
again!"

On the 25th of August Neb's voice was heard calling to his companions.

"Captain, Mr. Spilett, Mr. Herbert, Pencroft, come! come!"

The colonists, who were together in the dining-room, rose at Neb's call,
who was then in Jup's room.

"What's the matter?" asked the reporter.

"Look," replied Neb, with a shout of laughter. And what did they see?
Master Jup smoking calmly and seriously, sitting crosslegged like a Turk
at the entrance to Granite House!

"My pipe," cried Pencroft. "He has taken my pipe! Hello, my honest Jup,
I make you a present of it! Smoke away, old boy, smoke away!"

And Jup gravely puffed out clouds of smoke which seemed to give him
great satisfaction. Harding did not appear to be much astonished at this
incident, and he cited several examples of tame apes, to whom the use of
tobacco had become quite familiar.

But from this day Master Jup had a pipe of his own, the sailor's
ex-pipe, which was hung in his room near his store of tobacco. He filled
it himself, lighted it with a glowing coal, and appeared to be
the happiest of quadrumana. It may readily be understood that this
similarity of tastes of Jup and Pencroft served to tighten the bonds of
friendship which already existed between the honest ape and the worthy
sailor.

"Perhaps he is really a man," said Pencroft sometimes to Neb. "Should
you be surprised to hear him beginning to speak to us some day?"

"My word, no," replied Neb. "What astonishes me is that he hasn't spoken
to us before, for now he wants nothing but speech!"

"It would amuse me all the same," resumed the sailor, "if some fine day
he said to me, 'Suppose we change pipes, Pencroft.'"

"Yes," replied Neb, "what a pity he was born dumb!"

With the month of September the winter ended, and the works were again
eagerly commenced. The building of the vessel advanced rapidly, she was
already completely decked over, and all the inside parts of the hull
were firmly united with ribs bent by means of steam, which answered all
the purposes of a mold.

As there was no want of wood, Pencroft proposed to the engineer to give
a double lining to the hull, to insure the strength of the vessel.

Harding, not knowing what the future might have in store for them,
approved the sailor's idea of making the craft as strong as possible.
The interior and deck of the vessel was entirely finished towards the
15th of September. For calking the seams they made oakum of dry seaweed,
which was hammered in between the planks; then these seams were covered
with boiling tar, which was obtained in great abundance from the pines
in the forest.

The management of the vessel was very simple. She had from the first
been ballasted with heavy blocks of granite walled up, in a bed of lime,
twelve thousand pounds of which they stowed away.

A deck was placed over this ballast, and the interior was divided into
two cabins; two benches extended along them and served also as lockers.
The foot of the mast supported the partition which separated the two
cabins, which were reached by two hatchways let into the deck.

Pencroft had no trouble in finding a tree suitable for the mast. He
chose a straight young fir, with no knots, and which he had only to
square at the step, and round off at the top. The ironwork of the mast,
the rudder and the hull had been roughly but strongly forged at the
Chimneys. Lastly, yards, masts, boom, spars, oars, etc., were all
furnished by the first week in October, and it was agreed that a trial
trip should be taken round the island, so as to ascertain how the vessel
would behave at sea, and how far they might depend upon her.

During all this time the necessary works had not been neglected.
The corral was enlarged, for the flock of musmons and goats had been
increased by a number of young ones, who had to be housed and fed. The
colonists had paid visits also to the oyster bed, the warren, the coal
and iron mines, and to the till then unexplored districts of the Far
West forest, which abounded in game. Certain indigenous plants were
discovered, and those fit for immediate use contributed to vary the
vegetable stores of Granite House.

They were a species of ficoide, some similar to those of the Cape, with
eatable fleshy leaves, others bearing seeds containing a sort of flour.

On the 10th of October the vessel was launched. Pencroft was radiant
with joy, the operation was perfectly successful; the boat completely
rigged, having been pushed on rollers to the water's edge, was floated
by the rising tide, amid the cheers of the colonists, particularly of
Pencroft, who showed no modesty on this occasion. Besides his importance
was to last beyond the finishing of the vessel, since, after having
built her, he was to command her. The grade of captain was bestowed upon
him with the approbation of all. To satisfy Captain Pencroft, it was now
necessary to give a name to the vessel, and, after many propositions had
been discussed, the votes were all in favor of the "Bonadventure." As
soon as the "Bonadventure" had been lifted by the rising tide, it was
seen that she lay evenly in the water, and would be easily navigated.
However, the trial trip was to be made that very day, by an excursion
off the coast. The weather was fine, the breeze fresh, and the sea
smooth, especially towards the south coast, for the wind was blowing
from the northwest.

"All hands on board," shouted Pencroft; but breakfast was first
necessary, and it was thought best to take provisions on board, in the
event of their excursion being prolonged until the evening.

Cyrus Harding was equally anxious to try the vessel, the model of which
had originated with him, although on the sailor's advice he had altered
some parts of it, but he did not share Pencroft's confidence in her,
and as the latter had not again spoken of the voyage to Tabor Island,
Harding hoped he had given it up. He would have indeed great reluctance
in letting two or three of his companions venture so far in so small a
boat, which was not of more than fifteen tons' burden.

At half-past ten everybody was on board, even Top and Jup, and Herbert
weighed the anchor, which was fast in the sand near the mouth of the
Mercy. The sail was hoisted, the Lincolnian flag floated from the
masthead, and the "Bonadventure," steered by Pencroft, stood out to sea.

The wind blowing out of Union Bay she ran before it, and thus showed her
owners, much to their satisfaction, that she possessed a remarkably fast
pair of heels, according to Pencroft's mode of speaking. After having
doubled Flotsam Point and Claw Cape, the captain kept her close hauled,
so as to sail along the southern coast of the island, when it was found
she sailed admirably within five points of the wind. All hands were
enchanted, they had a good vessel, which, in case of need, would be
of great service to them, and with fine weather and a fresh breeze the
voyage promised to be charming.

Pencroft now stood off the shore, three or four miles across from Port
Balloon. The island then appeared in all its extent and under a new
aspect, with the varied panorama of its shore from Claw Cape to Reptile
End, the forests in which dark firs contrasted with the young foliage
of other trees and overlooked the whole, and Mount Franklin whose lofty
head was still whitened with snow.

"How beautiful it is!" cried Herbert.

"Yes, our island is beautiful and good," replied Pencroft. "I love it as
I loved my poor mother. It received us poor and destitute, and now what
is wanting to us five fellows who fell on it from the sky?"

"Nothing," replied Neb; "nothing, captain."

And the two brave men gave three tremendous cheers in honor of their
island!

During all this time Gideon Spilett, leaning against the mast, sketched
the panorama which was developed before his eyes.

Cyrus Harding gazed on it in silence.

"Well, Captain Harding," asked Pencroft, "what do you think of our
vessel?"

"She appears to behave well," replied the engineer.

"Good! And do you think now that she could undertake a voyage of some
extent?"

"What voyage, Pencroft?"

"One to Tabor Island, for instance."

"My friend," replied Harding, "I think that in any pressing emergency
we need not hesitate to trust ourselves to the 'Bonadventure' even for
a longer voyage; but you know I should see you set off to Tabor Island
with great uneasiness, since nothing obliges you to go there."

"One likes to know one's neighbors," returned the sailor, who was
obstinate in his idea. "Tabor Island is our neighbor, and the only one!
Politeness requires us to go at least to pay a visit."

"By Jove," said Spilett, "our friend Pencroft has become very particular
about the proprieties all at once!"

"I am not particular about anything at all," retorted the sailor, who
was rather vexed by the engineer's opposition, but who did not wish to
cause him anxiety.

"Consider, Pencroft," resumed Harding, "you cannot go alone to Tabor
Island."

"One companion will be enough for me."

"Even so," replied the engineer, "you will risk depriving the colony of
Lincoln Island of two settlers out of five."

"Out of six," answered Pencroft; "you forget Jup."

"Out of seven," added Neb; "Top is quite worth another."

"There is no risk at all in it, captain," replied Pencroft.

"That is possible, Pencroft; but I repeat it is to expose ourselves
uselessly."

The obstinate sailor did not reply, and let the conversation drop, quite
determined to resume it again. But he did not suspect that an incident
would come to his aid and change into an act of humanity that which was
at first only a doubtful whim.

After standing off the shore the "Bonadventure" again approached it
in the direction of Port Balloon. It was important to ascertain the
channels between the sandbanks and reefs, that buoys might be laid down
since this little creek was to be the harbor.

They were not more than half a mile from the coast, and it was necessary
to tack to beat against the wind. The "Bonadventure" was then going at a
very moderate rate, as the breeze, partly intercepted by the high land,
scarcely swelled her sails, and the sea, smooth as glass, was only
rippled now and then by passing gusts.

Herbert had stationed himself in the bows that he might indicate the
course to be followed among the channels, when all at once he shouted,--

"Luff, Pencroft, luff!"

"What's the matter," replied the sailor; "a rock?"

"No--wait," said Herbert; "I don't quite see. Luff again--right--now."

So saying, Herbert, leaning over the side, plunged his arm into the
water, and pulled it out, exclaiming,--

"A bottle!"

He held in his hand a corked bottle which he had just seized a few
cables' length from the shore.

Cyrus Harding took the bottle. Without uttering a single word he drew
the cork, and took from it a damp paper, on which were written these
words:--

"Castaway.... Tabor island: 153deg W. long., 37deg 11' S. lat."

 

 

Chapter 13

"A castaway!" exclaimed Pencroft; "left on this Tabor Island not two
hundred miles from us! Ah, Captain Harding, you won't now oppose my
going."

"No, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding; "and you shall set out as soon as
possible."

"To-morrow?"

"To-morrow!"

The engineer still held in his hand the paper which he had taken from
the bottle. He contemplated it for some instants, then resumed,

"From this document, my friends, from the way in which it is worded,
we may conclude this: first, that the castaway on Tabor Island is a man
possessing a considerable knowledge of navigation, since he gives the
latitude and longitude of the island exactly as we ourselves found it,
and to a second of approximation; secondly, that he is either English or
American, as the document is written in the English language."

"That is perfectly logical," answered Spilett; "and the presence of this
castaway explains the arrival of the case on the shores of our island.
There must have been a wreck, since there is a castaway. As to the
latter, whoever he may be, it is lucky for him that Pencroft thought of
building this boat and of trying her this very day, for a day later and
this bottle might have been broken on the rocks."

"Indeed," said Herbert, "it is a fortunate chance that the
'Bonadventure' passed exactly where the bottle was still floating!"

"Does not this appear strange to you?" asked Harding of Pencroft.

"It appears fortunate, that's all," answered the sailor. "Do you see
anything extraordinary in it, captain? The bottle must go somewhere, and
why not here as well as anywhere else?"

"Perhaps you are right, Pencroft," replied the engineer; "and yet--"

"But," observed Herbert, "there's nothing to prove that this bottle has
been floating long in the sea."

"Nothing," replied Gideon Spilett, "and the document appears even to
have been recently written. What do you think about it, Cyrus?"

During this conversation Pencroft had not remained inactive. He had put
the vessel about, and the "Bonadventure," all sails set, was running
rapidly towards Claw Cape.

Every one was thinking of the castaway on Tabor Island. Should they
be in time to save him? This was a great event in the life of the
colonists! They themselves were but castaways, but it was to be feared
that another might not have been so fortunate, and their duty was to go
to his succor.

Claw Cape was doubled, and about four o'clock the "Bonadventure" dropped
her anchor at the mouth of the Mercy.

That same evening the arrangements for the new expedition were made.
It appeared best that Pencroft and Herbert, who knew how to work the
vessel, should undertake the voyage alone. By setting out the next day,
the 10th of October, they would arrive on the 13th, for with the present
wind it would not take more than forty-eight hours to make this passage
of a hundred and fifty miles. One day in the island, three or four to
return, they might hope therefore that on the 17th they would again
reach Lincoln Island. The weather was fine, the barometer was rising,
the wind appeared settled, everything then was in favor of these brave
men whom an act of humanity was taking far from their island.

Thus it had been agreed that Cyrus Harding, Neb, and Gideon Spilett
should remain at Granite House, but an objection was raised, and
Spilett, who had not forgotten his business as reporter to the New York
Herald, having declared that he would go by swimming rather than lose
such an opportunity, he was admitted to take a part in the voyage.

The evening was occupied in transporting on board the "Bonadventure,"
articles of bedding, utensils, arms, ammunition, a compass, provisions
for a week; this being rapidly done, the colonists ascended to Granite
House.

The next day, at five o'clock in the morning, the farewells were said,
not without some emotion on both sides, and Pencroft setting sail made
towards Claw Cape, which had to be doubled in order to proceed to the
southwest.

The "Bonadventure" was already a quarter of a mile from the coast when
the passengers perceived on the heights of Granite House two men waving
their farewells; they were Cyrus Harding and Neb.

"Our friends," exclaimed Spilett, "this is our first separation in
fifteen months."

Pencroft, the reporter and Herbert waved in return, and Granite House
soon disappeared behind the high rocks of the Cape.

During the first part of the day the "Bonadventure" was still in sight
of the southern coast of Lincoln Island, which soon appeared just like
a green basket, with Mount Franklin rising from the center. The heights,
diminished by distance, did not present an appearance likely to tempt
vessels to touch there. Reptile End was passed in about an hour, though
at a distance of about ten miles.

At this distance it was no longer possible to distinguish anything of
the Western Coast, which stretched away to the ridges of Mount Franklin,
and three hours after the last of Lincoln Island sank below the horizon.

The "Bonadventure" behaved capitally. Bounding over the waves she
proceeded rapidly on her course. Pencroft had hoisted the foresail, and
steering by the compass followed a rectilinear direction. From time to
time Herbert relieved him at the helm, and the lad's hand was so firm
that the sailor had not a point to find fault with.

Gideon Spilett chatted sometimes with one, sometimes with the other, if
wanted he lent a hand with the ropes, and Captain Pencroft was perfectly
satisfied with his crew.

In the evening the crescent moon, which would not be in its first
quarter until the 16th, appeared in the twilight and soon set again. The
night was dark but starry, and the next day again promised to be fine.

Pencroft prudently lowered the foresail, not wishing to be caught by
a sudden gust while carrying too much canvas; it was perhaps an
unnecessary precaution on such a calm night, but Pencroft was a prudent
sailor and cannot be blamed for it.

The reporter slept part of the night. Pencroft and Herbert took turns
for a spell of two hours each at the helm. The sailor trusted Herbert as
he would himself, and his confidence was justified by the coolness and
judgment of the lad. Pencroft gave him his directions as a commander to
his steersman, and Herbert never allowed the "Bonadventure" to swerve
even a point. The night passed quickly, as did the day of the 12th of
October. A south-easterly direction was strictly maintained. Unless the
"Bonadventure" fell in with some unknown current she would come exactly
within sight of Tabor Island.

As to the sea over which the vessel was then sailing, it was absolutely
deserted. Now and then a great albatross or frigate bird passed within
gunshot, and Gideon Spilett wondered if it was to one of them that he
had confided his last letter addressed to the New York Herald. These
birds were the only beings that appeared to frequent this part of the
ocean between Tabor and Lincoln Islands.

"And yet," observed Herbert, "this is the time that whalers usually
proceed towards the southern part of the Pacific. Indeed I do not think
there could be a more deserted sea than this."

"It is not quite so deserted as all that," replied Pencroft.

"What do you mean?" asked the reporter.

"We are on it. Do you take our vessel for a wreck and us for porpoises?"

And Pencroft laughed at his joke.

By the evening, according to calculation, it was thought that the
"Bonadventure" had accomplished a distance of a hundred and twenty miles
since her departure from Lincoln Island, that is to say in thirty-six
hours, which would give her a speed of between three and four knots
an hour. The breeze was very slight and might soon drop altogether.
However, it was hoped that the next morning by break of day, if the
calculation had been correct and the course true, they would sight Tabor
Island.

Neither Gideon Spilett, Herbert, nor Pencroft slept that night. In the
expectation of the next day they could not but feel some emotion.
There was so much uncertainty in their enterprise! Were they near Tabor
Island? Was the island still inhabited by the castaway to whose succor
they had come? Who was this man? Would not his presence disturb the
little colony till then so united? Besides, would he be content to
exchange his prison for another? All these questions, which would no
doubt be answered the next day, kept them in suspense, and at the dawn
of day they all fixed their gaze on the western horizon.

"Land!" shouted Pencroft at about six o'clock in the morning.

And it was impossible that Pencroft should be mistaken, it was
evident that land was there. Imagine the joy of the little crew of
the "Bonadventure." In a few hours they would land on the beach of the
island!

The low coast of Tabor Island, scarcely emerging from the sea, was not
more than fifteen miles distant.

The head of the "Bonadventure," which was a little to the south of the
island, was set directly towards it, and as the sun mounted in the east,
its rays fell upon one or two headlands.

"This is a much less important isle than Lincoln Island," observed
Herbert, "and is probably due like ours to some submarine convulsion."

At eleven o'clock the "Bonadventure" was not more than two miles off,
and Pencroft, while looking for a suitable place at which to land,
proceeded very cautiously through the unknown waters. The whole of the
island could now be surveyed, and on it could be seen groups of gum
and other large trees, of the same species as those growing on Lincoln
Island. But the astonishing thing was that no smoke arose to show that
the island was inhabited, no signal whatever appeared on the shore!

And yet the document was clear enough; there was a castaway, and this
castaway should have been on the watch.

In the meanwhile the "Bonadventure" entered the winding channels among
the reefs, and Pencroft observed every turn with extreme care. He had
put Herbert at the helm, posting himself in the bows, inspecting the
water, while he held the halliard in his hand, ready to lower the sail
at a moment's notice. Gideon Spilett with his glass eagerly scanned the
shore, though without perceiving anything.

However, at about twelve o'clock the keel of the "Bonadventure" grated
on the bottom. The anchor was let go, the sails furled, and the crew of
the little vessel landed.

And there was no reason to doubt that this was Tabor Island, since
according to the most recent charts there was no island in this part of
the Pacific between New Zealand and the American Coast.

The vessel was securely moored, so that there should be no danger of
her being carried away by the receding tide; then Pencroft and his
companions, well armed, ascended the shore, so as to gain an elevation
of about two hundred and fifty or three hundred feet which rose at a
distance of half a mile.

"From the summit of that hill," said Spilett, "we can no doubt obtain a
complete view of the island, which will greatly facilitate our search."

"So as to do here," replied Herbert, "that which Captain Harding did the
very first thing on Lincoln Island, by climbing Mount Franklin."

"Exactly so," answered the reporter, "and it is the best plan."

While thus talking the explorers had advanced along a clearing
which terminated at the foot of the hill. Flocks of rock-pigeons and
sea-swallows, similar to those of Lincoln Island, fluttered around them.
Under the woods which skirted the glade on the left they could hear the
bushes rustling and see the grass waving, which indicated the presence
of timid animals, but still nothing to show that the island was
inhabited.

Arrived at the foot of the hill, Pencroft, Spilett, and Herbert climbed
it in a few minutes, and gazed anxiously round the horizon.

They were on an islet, which did not measure more than six miles in
circumference, its shape not much bordered by capes or promontories,
bays or creeks, being a lengthened oval. All around, the lonely sea
extended to the limits of the horizon. No land nor even a sail was in
sight.

This woody islet did not offer the varied aspects of Lincoln Island,
arid and wild in one part, but fertile and rich in the other. On the
contrary this was a uniform mass of verdure, out of which rose two or
three hills of no great height. Obliquely to the oval of the island ran
a stream through a wide meadow falling into the sea on the west by a
narrow mouth.

"The domain is limited," said Herbert.

"Yes," rejoined Pencroft: "It would have been too small for us."

"And moreover," said the reporter, "it appears to be uninhabited."

"Indeed," answered Herbert, "nothing here betrays the presence of man."

"Let us go down," said Pencroft, "and search."

The sailor and his two companions returned to the shore, to the place
where they had left the "Bonadventure."

They had decided to make the tour of the island on foot, before
exploring the interior; so that not a spot should escape their
investigations. The beach was easy to follow, and only in some places
was their way barred by large rocks, which, however, they easily passed
round. The explorers proceeded towards the south, disturbing numerous
flocks of sea-birds and herds of seals, which threw themselves into the
sea as soon as they saw the strangers at a distance.

"Those beasts yonder," observed the reporter, "do not see men for the
first time. They fear them, therefore they must know them."

An hour after their departure they arrived on the southern point of the
islet, terminated by a sharp cape, and proceeded towards the north along
the western coast, equally formed by sand and rocks, the background
bordered with thick woods.

There was not a trace of a habitation in any part, not the print of a
human foot on the shore of the island, which after four hours' walking
had been gone completely round.

It was to say the least very extraordinary, and they were compelled to
believe that Tabor Island was not or was no longer inhabited. Perhaps,
after all the document was already several months or several years old,
and it was possible in this case, either that the castaway had been
enabled to return to his country, or that he had died of misery.

Pencroft, Spilett, and Herbert, forming more or less probable
conjectures, dined rapidly on board the "Bonadventure" so as to be
able to continue their excursion until nightfall. This was done at five
o'clock in the evening, at which hour they entered the wood.

Numerous animals fled at their approach, being principally, one might
say, only goats and pigs, which were obviously European species.

Doubtless some whaler had landed them on the island, where they had
rapidly increased. Herbert resolved to catch one or two living, and take
them back to Lincoln Island.

It was no longer doubtful that men at some period or other had visited
this islet, and this became still more evident when paths appeared
trodden through the forest, felled trees, and everywhere traces of the
hand of man; but the trees were becoming rotten, and had been felled
many years ago; the marks of the axe were velveted with moss, and the
grass grew long and thick on the paths, so that it was difficult to find
them.

"But," observed Gideon Spilett, "this not only proves that men have
landed on the island, but also that they lived on it for some time. Now,
who were these men? How many of them remain?"

"The document," said Herbert, "only spoke of one castaway."

"Well, if he is still on the island," replied Pencroft, "it is
impossible but that we shall find him."

The exploration was continued. The sailor and his companions naturally
followed the route which cut diagonally across the island, and they were
thus obliged to follow the stream which flowed towards the sea.

If the animals of European origin, if works due to a human hand, showed
incontestably that men had already visited the island, several specimens
of the vegetable kingdom did not prove it less. In some places, in the
midst of clearings, it was evident that the soil had been planted with
culinary plants, at probably the same distant period.

What, then, was Herbert's joy, when he recognized potatoes, chicory,
sorrel, carrots, cabbages, and turnips, of which it was sufficient to
collect the seed to enrich the soil of Lincoln Island.

"Capital, jolly!" exclaimed Pencroft. "That will suit Neb as well as us.
Even if we do not find the castaway, at least our voyage will not have
been useless, and God will have rewarded us."

"Doubtless," replied Gideon Spilett, "but to see the state in which we
find these plantations, it is to be feared that the island has not been
inhabited for some time."

"Indeed," answered Herbert, "an inhabitant, whoever he was, could not
have neglected such an important culture!"

"Yes," said Pencroft, "the castaway has gone."

"We must suppose so."

"It must then be admitted that the document has already a distant date?"

"Evidently."

"And that the bottle only arrived at Lincoln Island after having floated
in the sea a long time."

"Why not?" returned Pencroft. "But night is coming on," added he, "and I
think that it will be best to give up the search for the present."

"Let us go on board, and to-morrow we will begin again," said the
reporter.

This was the wisest course, and it was about to be followed when
Herbert, pointing to a confused mass among the trees, exclaimed,--

"A hut!"

All three immediately ran towards the dwelling. In the twilight it was
just possible to see that it was built of planks and covered with a
thick tarpaulin.

The half-closed door was pushed open by Pencroft, who entered with a
rapid step.

The hut was empty!

 

 

Chapter 14

Pencroft, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett remained silent in the midst of
the darkness.

Pencroft shouted loudly.

No reply was made.

The sailor then struck a light and set fire to a twig. This lighted for
a minute a small room, which appeared perfectly empty. At the back was
a rude fireplace, with a few cold cinders, supporting an armful of dry
wood. Pencroft threw the blazing twig on it, the wood crackled and gave
forth a bright light.

The sailor and his two companions then perceived a disordered bed, of
which the damp and yellow coverlets proved that it had not been used for
a long time. In the corner of the fireplace were two kettles, covered
with rust, and an overthrown pot. A cupboard, with a few moldy sailor's
clothes; on the table a tin plate and a Bible, eaten away by damp; in a
corner a few tools, a spade, pickaxe, two fowling-pieces, one of which
was broken; on a plank, forming a shelf, stood a barrel of powder, still
untouched, a barrel of shot, and several boxes of caps, all thickly
covered with dust, accumulated, perhaps, by many long years.

"There is no one here," said the reporter.

"No one," replied Pencroft.

"It is a long time since this room has been inhabited," observed
Herbert.

"Yes, a very long time!" answered the reporter.

"Mr. Spilett," then said Pencroft, "instead of returning on board, I
think that it would be well to pass the night in this hut."

"You are right, Pencroft," answered Gideon Spilett, "and if its owner
returns, well! perhaps he will not be sorry to find the place taken
possession of."

"He will not return," said the sailor, shaking his head.

"You think that he has quitted the island?" asked the reporter.

"If he had quitted the island he would have taken away his weapons and
his tools," replied Pencroft. "You know the value which castaways set
on such articles as these the last remains of a wreck. No! no!" repeated
the sailor, in a tone of conviction; "no, he has not left the island! If
he had escaped in a boat made by himself, he would still less have left
these indispensable and necessary articles. No! he is on the island!"

"Living?" asked Herbert.

"Living or dead. But if he is dead, I suppose he has not buried himself,
and so we shall at least find his remains!"

It was then agreed that the night should be passed in the deserted
dwelling, and a store of wood found in a corner was sufficient to warm
it. The door closed, Pencroft, Herbert and Spilett remained there,
seated on a bench, talking little but wondering much. They were in a
frame of mind to imagine anything or expect anything. They listened
eagerly for sounds outside. The door might have opened suddenly, and
a man presented himself to them without their being in the least
surprised, notwithstanding all that the hut revealed of abandonment,
and they had their hands ready to press the hands of this man, this
castaway, this unknown friend, for whom friends were waiting.

But no voice was heard, the door did not open. The hours thus passed
away.

How long the night appeared to the sailor and his companions! Herbert
alone slept for two hours, for at his age sleep is a necessity. They
were all three anxious to continue their exploration of the day before,
and to search the most secret recesses of the islet! The inferences
deduced by Pencroft were perfectly reasonable, and it was nearly certain
that, as the hut was deserted, and the tools, utensils, and weapons were
still there, the owner had succumbed. It was agreed, therefore, that
they should search for his remains, and give them at least Christian
burial.

Day dawned; Pencroft and his companions immediately proceeded to survey
the dwelling. It had certainly been built in a favorable situation,
at the back of a little hill, sheltered by five or six magnificent
gum-trees. Before its front and through the trees the axe had prepared
a wide clearing, which allowed the view to extend to the sea. Beyond a
lawn, surrounded by a wooden fence falling to pieces, was the shore, on
the left of which was the mouth of the stream.

The hut had been built of planks, and it was easy to see that these
planks had been obtained from the hull or deck of a ship. It was
probable that a disabled vessel had been cast on the coast of the
island, that one at least of the crew had been saved, and that by means
of the wreck this man, having tools at his disposal, had built the
dwelling.

And this became still more evident when Gideon Spilett, after having
walked around the hut, saw on a plank, probably one of those which
had formed the armor of the wrecked vessel, these letters already half
effaced:

 

BR--TAN--A

 

"Britannia," exclaimed Pencroft, whom the reporter had called; "it is
a common name for ships, and I could not say if she was English or
American!"

"It matters very little, Pencroft!"

"Very little indeed," answered the sailor, "and we will save the
survivor of her crew if he is still living, to whatever country he may
belong. But before beginning our search again let us go on board the
'Bonadventure'."

A sort of uneasiness had seized Pencroft upon the subject of his vessel.
Should the island be inhabited after all, and should some one have taken
possession of her? But he shrugged his shoulders at such an unreasonable
supposition. At any rate the sailor was not sorry to go to breakfast on
board. The road already trodden was not long, scarcely a mile. They set
out on their walk, gazing into the wood and thickets through which goats
and pigs fled in hundreds.

Twenty minutes after leaving the hut Pencroft and his companions reached
the western coast of the island, and saw the "Bonadventure" held fast by
her anchor, which was buried deep in the sand.

Pencroft could not restrain a sigh of satisfaction. After all this
vessel was his child, and it is the right of fathers to be often uneasy
when there is no occasion for it.

They returned on board, breakfasted, so that it should not be necessary
to dine until very late; then the repast being ended, the exploration
was continued and conducted with the most minute care. Indeed, it was
very probable that the only inhabitant of the island had perished. It
was therefore more for the traces of a dead than of a living man that
Pencroft and his companions searched. But their searches were vain, and
during the half of that day they sought to no purpose among the thickets
of trees which covered the islet. There was then scarcely any doubt
that, if the castaway was dead, no trace of his body now remained, but
that some wild beast had probably devoured it to the last bone.

"We will set off to-morrow at daybreak," said Pencroft to his two
companions, as about two o'clock they were resting for a few minutes
under the shade of a clump of firs.

"I should think that we might without scruple take the utensils which
belonged to the castaway," added Herbert.

"I think so, too," returned Gideon Spilett, "and these arms and tools
will make up the stores of Granite House. The supply of powder and shot
is also most important."

"Yes," replied Pencroft, "but we must not forget to capture a couple or
two of those pigs, of which Lincoln Island is destitute."

"Nor to gather those seeds," added Herbert, "which will give us all the
vegetables of the Old and the New Worlds."

"Then perhaps it would be best," said the reporter, "to remain a day
longer on Tabor Island, so as to collect all that may be useful to us."

"No, Mr. Spilett," answered Pencroft, "I will ask you to set off
to-morrow at daybreak. The wind seems to me to be likely to shift to the
west, and after having had a fair wind for coming we shall have a fair
wind for going back."

"Then do not let us lose time," said Herbert, rising.

"We won't waste time," returned Pencroft. "You, Herbert, go and gather
the seeds, which you know better than we do. While you do that, Mr.
Spilett and I will go and have a pig hunt, and even without Top I hope
we shall manage to catch a few!"

Herbert accordingly took the path which led towards the cultivated part
of the islet, while the sailor and the reporter entered the forest.

Many specimens of the porcine race fled before them, and these animals,
which were singularly active, did not appear to be in a humor to allow
themselves to be approached.

However, after an hour's chase, the hunters had just managed to get hold
of a couple lying in a thicket, when cries were heard resounding from
the north part of the island, With the cries were mingled terrible
yells, in which there was nothing human.

Pencroft and Gideon Spilett were at once on their feet, and the pigs
by this movement began to run away, at the moment when the sailor was
getting ready the rope to bind them.

"That's Herbert's voice," said the reporter.

"Run!" exclaimed Pencroft.

And the sailor and Spilett immediately ran at full speed towards the
spot from whence the cries proceeded.

They did well to hasten, for at a turn of the path near a clearing they
saw the lad thrown on the ground and in the grasp of a savage being,
apparently a gigantic ape, who was about to do him some great harm.

To rush on this monster, throw him on the ground in his turn, snatch
Herbert from him, then bind him securely, was the work of a minute for
Pencroft and Gideon Spilett. The sailor was of Herculean strength, the
reporter also very powerful, and in spite of the monster's resistance he
was firmly tied so that he could not even move.

"You are not hurt, Herbert?" asked Spilett.

"No, no!"

"Oh, if this ape had wounded him!" exclaimed Pencroft.

"But he is not an ape," answered Herbert.

At these words Pencroft and Gideon Spilett looked at the singular being
who lay on the ground. Indeed it was not an ape; it was a human being,
a man. But what a man! A savage in all the horrible acceptation of the
word, and so much the more frightful that he seemed fallen to the lowest
degree of brutishness!

Shaggy hair, untrimmed beard descending to the chest, the body almost
naked except a rag round the waist, wild eyes, enormous hands with
immensely long nails, skin the color of mahogany, feet as hard as if
made of horn, such was the miserable creature who yet had a claim to be
called a man. But it might justly be asked if there were yet a soul in
this body, or if the brute instinct alone survived in it!

"Are you quite sure that this is a man, or that he has ever been one?"
said Pencroft to the reporter.

"Alas! there is no doubt about it," replied Spilett.

"Then this must be the castaway?" asked Herbert.

"Yes," replied Gideon Spilett, "but the unfortunate man has no longer
anything human about him!"

The reporter spoke the truth. It was evident that if the castaway had
ever been a civilized being, solitude had made him a savage, or worse,
perhaps a regular man of the woods. Hoarse sounds issued from his throat
between his teeth, which were sharp as the teeth of a wild beast made to
tear raw flesh.

Memory must have deserted him long before, and for a long time also he
had forgotten how to use his gun and tools, and he no longer knew how to
make a fire! It could be seen that he was active and powerful, but the
physical qualities had been developed in him to the injury of the moral
qualities. Gideon Spilett spoke to him. He did not appear to understand
or even to hear. And yet on looking into his eyes, the reporter thought
he could see that all reason was not extinguished in him. However, the
prisoner did not struggle, nor even attempt to break his bonds. Was he
overwhelmed by the presence of men whose fellow he had once been? Had he
found in some corner of his brain a fleeting remembrance which recalled
him to humanity? If free, would he attempt to fly, or would he remain?
They could not tell, but they did not make the experiment; and after
gazing attentively at the miserable creature,--

"Whoever he may be," remarked Gideon Spilett, "whoever he may have
been, and whatever he may become, it is our duty to take him with us to
Lincoln Island."

"Yes, yes!" replied Herbert, "and perhaps with care we may arouse in him
some gleam of intelligence."

"The soul does not die," said the reporter, "and it would be a great
satisfaction to rescue one of God's creatures from brutishness."

Pencroft shook his head doubtfully.

"We must try at any rate," returned the reporter; "humanity commands
us."

It was indeed their duty as Christians and civilized beings. All three
felt this, and they well knew that Cyrus Harding would approve of their
acting thus.

"Shall we leave him bound?" asked the sailor.

"Perhaps he would walk if his feet were unfastened," said Herbert.

"Let us try," replied Pencroft.

The cords which shackled the prisoner's feet were cut off, but his arms
remained securely fastened. He got up by himself and did not manifest
any desire to run away. His hard eyes darted a piercing glance at the
three men, who walked near him, but nothing denoted that he recollected
being their fellow, or at least having been so. A continual hissing
sound issued from his lips, his aspect was wild, but he did not attempt
to resist.

By the reporter's advice the unfortunate man was taken to the hut.
Perhaps the sight of the things that belonged to him would make some
impression on him! Perhaps a spark would be sufficient to revive his
obscured intellect, to rekindle his dulled soul. The dwelling was
not far off. In a few minutes they arrived there, but the prisoner
remembered nothing, and it appeared that he had lost consciousness of
everything.

What could they think of the degree of brutishness into which this
miserable being had fallen, unless that his imprisonment on the islet
dated from a very distant period and after having arrived there a
rational being solitude had reduced him to this condition.

The reporter then thought that perhaps the sight of fire would have
some effect on him, and in a moment one of those beautiful flames, that
attract even animals, blazed up on the hearth. The sight of the flame
seemed at first to fix the attention of the unhappy object, but soon
he turned away and the look of intelligence faded. Evidently there was
nothing to be done, for the time at least, but to take him on board
the "Bonadventure." This was done, and he remained there in Pencroft's
charge.

Herbert and Spilett returned to finish their work; and some hours after
they came back to the shore, carrying the utensils and guns, a store of
vegetables, of seeds, some game, and two couple of pigs.

All was embarked, and the "Bonadventure" was ready to weigh anchor and
sail with the morning tide.

The prisoner had been placed in the fore-cabin, where he remained quiet,
silent, apparently deaf and dumb.

Pencroft offered him something to eat, but he pushed away the cooked
meat that was presented to him and which doubtless did not suit him. But
on the sailor showing him one of the ducks which Herbert had killed, he
pounced on it like a wild beast, and devoured it greedily.

"You think that he will recover his senses?" asked Pencroft. "It is
not impossible that our care will have an effect upon him, for it is
solitude that has made him what he is, and from this time forward he
will be no longer alone."

"The poor man must no doubt have been in this state for a long time,"
said Herbert.

"Perhaps," answered Gideon Spilett.

"About what age is he?" asked the lad.

"It is difficult to say," replied the reporter, "for it is impossible to
see his features under the thick beard which covers his face, but he is
no longer young, and I suppose he might be about fifty."

"Have you noticed, Mr. Spilett, how deeply sunk his eyes are?" asked
Herbert.

"Yes, Herbert, but I must add that they are more human than one could
expect from his appearance."

"However, we shall see," replied Pencroft, "and I am anxious to know
what opinion Captain Harding will have of our savage. We went to look
for a human creature, and we are bringing back a monster! After all, we
did what we could."

The night passed, and whether the prisoner slept or not could not be
known, but at any rate, although he had been unbound, he did not
move. He was like a wild animal, which appears stunned at first by its
capture, and becomes wild again afterwards.

 

At daybreak the next morning, the 15th of October, the change of weather
predicted by Pencroft occurred. The wind having shifted to the northwest
favored the return of the "Bonadventure," but at the same time it
freshened, which might render navigation more difficult.

At five o'clock in the morning the anchor was weighed. Pencroft took a
reef in the mainsail, and steered towards the north-east, so as to sail
straight for Lincoln Island.

The first day of the voyage was not marked by any incident. The prisoner
remained quiet in the fore-cabin, and as he had been a sailor it
appeared that the motion of the vessel might produce on him a salutary
reaction. Did some recollection of his former calling return to him?
However that might be, he remained tranquil, astonished rather than
depressed.

The next day the wind increased, blowing more from the north,
consequently in a less favorable direction for the "Bonadventure."
Pencroft was soon obliged to sail close-hauled, and without saying
anything about it he began to be uneasy at the state of the sea, which
frequently broke over the bows. Certainly, if the wind did not moderate,
it would take a longer time to reach Lincoln Island than it had taken to
make Tabor Island.

Indeed, on the morning of the 17th, the "Bonadventure" had been
forty-eight hours at sea, and nothing showed that she was near the
island. It was impossible, besides, to estimate the distance traversed,
or to trust to the reckoning for the direction, as the speed had been
very irregular.

Twenty-four hours after there was yet no land in sight. The wind was
right ahead and the sea very heavy. The sails were close-reefed, and
they tacked frequently. On the 18th, a wave swept completely over the
"Bonadventure"; and if the crew had not taken the precaution of lashing
themselves to the deck, they would have been carried away.

On this occasion Pencroft and his companions, who were occupied with
loosing themselves, received unexpected aid from the prisoner, who
emerged from the hatchway as if his sailor's instinct had suddenly
returned, broke a piece out of the bulwarks with a spar so as to let
the water which filled the deck escape. Then the vessel being clear, he
descended to his cabin without having uttered a word. Pencroft, Gideon
Spilett, and Herbert, greatly astonished, let him proceed.

Their situation was truly serious, and the sailor had reason to fear
that he was lost on the wide sea without any possibility of recovering
his course.

The night was dark and cold. However, about eleven o'clock, the wind
fell, the sea went down, and the speed of the vessel, as she labored
less, greatly increased.

Neither Pencroft, Spilett, nor Herbert thought of taking an hour's
sleep. They kept a sharp look-out, for either Lincoln Island could not
be far distant and would be sighted at daybreak, or the "Bonadventure,"
carried away by currents, had drifted so much that it would be
impossible to rectify her course. Pencroft, uneasy to the last degree,
yet did not despair, for he had a gallant heart, and grasping the tiller
he anxiously endeavored to pierce the darkness which surrounded them.

About two o'clock in the morning he started forward,--

"A light! a light!" he shouted.

Indeed, a bright light appeared twenty miles to the northeast. Lincoln
Island was there, and this fire, evidently lighted by Cyrus Harding,
showed them the course to be followed. Pencroft, who was bearing too
much to the north, altered his course and steered towards the fire,
which burned brightly above the horizon like a star of the first
magnitude.

 

 

Chapter 15

The next day, the 20th of October, at seven o'clock in the morning,
after a voyage of four days, the "Bonadventure" gently glided up to the
beach at the mouth of the Mercy.

Cyrus Harding and Neb, who had become very uneasy at the bad weather and
the prolonged absence of their companions, had climbed at daybreak to
the plateau of Prospect Heights, and they had at last caught sight of
the vessel which had been so long in returning.

"God be praised! there they are!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding.

As to Neb in his joy, he began to dance, to twirl round, clapping his
hands and shouting, "Oh! my master!" A more touching pantomime than the
finest discourse.

The engineer's first idea, on counting the people on the deck of the
"Bonadventure," was that Pencroft had not found the castaway of Tabor
Island, or at any rate that the unfortunate man had refused to leave his
island and change one prison for another.

Indeed Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert were alone on the deck of
the "Bonadventure."

The moment the vessel touched, the engineer and Neb were waiting on
the beach, and before the passengers had time to leap on to the sand,
Harding said: "We have been very uneasy at your delay, my friends! Did
you meet with any accident?"

"No," replied Gideon Spilett; "on the contrary, everything went
wonderfully well. We will tell you all about it."

"However," returned the engineer, "your search has been unsuccessful,
since you are only three, just as you went!"

"Excuse me, captain," replied the sailor, "we are four."

"You have found the castaway?"

"Yes."

"And you have brought him?"

"Yes."

"Living?"

"Yes."

"Where is he? Who is he?"

"He is," replied the reporter, "or rather he was a man! There, Cyrus,
that is all we can tell you!"

The engineer was then informed of all that had passed during the voyage,
and under what conditions the search had been conducted; how the only
dwelling in the island had long been abandoned; how at last a castaway
had been captured, who appeared no longer to belong to the human
species.

"And that's just the point," added Pencroft, "I don't know if we have
done right to bring him here."

"Certainly you have, Pencroft," replied the engineer quickly.

"But the wretched creature has no sense!"

"That is possible at present," replied Cyrus Harding, "but only a few
months ago the wretched creature was a man like you and me. And who
knows what will become of the survivor of us after a long solitude on
this island? It is a great misfortune to be alone, my friends; and it
must be believed that solitude can quickly destroy reason, since you
have found this poor creature in such a state!"

"But, captain," asked Herbert, "what leads you to think that the
brutishness of the unfortunate man began only a few months back?"

"Because the document we found had been recently written," answered the
engineer, "and the castaway alone can have written it."

"Always supposing," observed Gideon Spilett, "that it had not been
written by a companion of this man, since dead."

"That is impossible, my dear Spilett."

"Why so?" asked the reporter.

"Because the document would then have spoken of two castaways," replied
Harding, "and it mentioned only one."

Herbert then in a few words related the incidents of the voyage, and
dwelt on the curious fact of the sort of passing gleam in the prisoner's
mind, when for an instant in the height of the storm he had become a
sailor.

"Well, Herbert," replied the engineer, "you are right to attach great
importance to this fact. The unfortunate man cannot be incurable, and
despair has made him what he is; but here he will find his fellow-men,
and since there is still a soul in him, this soul we shall save!"

The castaway of Tabor Island, to the great pity of the engineer and
the great astonishment of Neb, was then brought from the cabin which he
occupied in the fore part of the "Bonadventure"; when once on land he
manifested a wish to run away.

But Cyrus Harding approaching, placed his hand on his shoulder with a
gesture full of authority, and looked at him with infinite tenderness.
Immediately the unhappy man, submitting to a superior will, gradually
became calm, his eyes fell, his head bent, and he made no more
resistance.

"Poor fellow!" murmured the engineer.

Cyrus Harding had attentively observed him. To judge by his appearance
this miserable being had no longer anything human about him, and
yet Harding, as had the reporter already, observed in his look an
indefinable trace of intelligence.

It was decided that the castaway, or rather the stranger as he was
thenceforth termed by his companions, should live in one of the rooms
of Granite House, from which, however, he could not escape. He was led
there without difficulty, and with careful attention, it might, perhaps,
be hoped that some day he would be a companion to the settlers in
Lincoln Island.

Cyrus Harding, during breakfast, which Neb had hastened to prepare,
as the reporter, Herbert, and Pencroft were dying of hunger, heard in
detail all the incidents which had marked the voyage of exploration to
the islet. He agreed with his friends on this point, that the stranger
must be either English or American, the name Britannia leading them
to suppose this, and, besides, through the bushy beard, and under
the shaggy, matted hair, the engineer thought he could recognize the
characteristic features of the Anglo-Saxon.

"But, by the bye," said Gideon Spilett, addressing Herbert, "you never
told us how you met this savage, and we know nothing, except that you
would have been strangled, if we had not happened to come up in time to
help you!"

"Upon my word," answered Herbert, "it is rather difficult to say how it
happened. I was, I think, occupied in collecting my plants, when I heard
a noise like an avalanche falling from a very tall tree. I scarcely
had time to look round. This unfortunate man, who was without doubt
concealed in a tree, rushed upon me in less time than I take to tell you
about it, and unless Mr. Spilett and Pencroft--"

"My boy!" said Cyrus Harding, "you ran a great danger, but, perhaps,
without that, the poor creature would have still hidden himself from
your search, and we should not have had a new companion."

"You hope, then, Cyrus, to succeed in reforming the man?" asked the
reporter.

"Yes," replied the engineer.

Breakfast over, Harding and his companions left Granite House and
returned to the beach. They there occupied themselves in unloading the
"Bonadventure," and the engineer, having examined the arms and tools,
saw nothing which could help them to establish the identity of the
stranger.

The capture of pigs, made on the islet, was looked upon as being very
profitable to Lincoln Island, and the animals were led to the sty, where
they soon became at home.

The two barrels, containing the powder and shot, as well as the box
of caps, were very welcome. It was agreed to establish a small
powder-magazine, either outside Granite House or in the Upper Cavern,
where there would be no fear of explosion. However, the use of pyroxyle
was to be continued, for this substance giving excellent results, there
was no reason for substituting ordinary powder.

When the unloading of the vessel was finished,--

"Captain," said Pencroft, "I think it would be prudent to put our
'Bonadventure' in a safe place."

"Is she not safe at the mouth of the Mercy?" asked Cyrus Harding.

"No, captain," replied the sailor. "Half of the time she is stranded on
the sand, and that works her. She is a famous craft, you see, and she
behaved admirably during the squall which struck us on our return."

"Could she not float in the river?"

"No doubt, captain, she could; but there is no shelter there, and in the
east winds, I think that the 'Bonadventure' would suffer much from the
surf."

"Well, where would you put her, Pencroft?"

"In Port Balloon," replied the sailor. "That little creek, shut in by
rocks, seems to me to be just the harbor we want."

"Is it not rather far?"

"Pooh! it is not more than three miles from Granite House, and we have a
fine straight road to take us there!"

"Do it then, Pencroft, and take your 'Bonadventure' there," replied
the engineer, "and yet I would rather have her under our more immediate
protection. When we have time, we must make a little harbor for her."

"Famous!" exclaimed Pencroft. "A harbor with a lighthouse, a pier, and
dock! Ah! really with you, captain, everything becomes easy."

"Yes, my brave Pencroft," answered the engineer, "but on condition,
however, that you help me, for you do as much as three men in all our
work."

Herbert and the sailor then re-embarked on board the "Bonadventure,"
the anchor was weighed, the sail hoisted, and the wind drove her rapidly
towards Claw Cape. Two hours after, she was reposing on the tranquil
waters of Port Balloon.

During the first days passed by the stranger in Granite House, had he
already given them reason to think that his savage nature was becoming
tamed? Did a brighter light burn in the depths of that obscured mind? In
short, was the soul returning to the body?

Yes, to a certainty, and to such a degree, that Cyrus Harding and the
reporter wondered if the reason of the unfortunate man had ever been
totally extinguished. At first, accustomed to the open air, to the
unrestrained liberty which he had enjoyed on Tabor Island, the stranger
manifested a sullen fury, and it was feared that he might throw
himself onto the beach, out of one of the windows of Granite House.
But gradually he became calmer, and more freedom was allowed to his
movements.

They had reason to hope, and to hope much. Already, forgetting his
carnivorous instincts, the stranger accepted a less bestial nourishment
than that on which he fed on the islet, and cooked meat did not produce
in him the same sentiment of repulsion which he had showed on board
the "Bonadventure." Cyrus Harding had profited by a moment when he was
sleeping, to cut his hair and matted beard, which formed a sort of
mane and gave him such a savage aspect. He had also been clothed more
suitably, after having got rid of the rag which covered him. The result
was that, thanks to these attentions, the stranger resumed a more
human appearance, and it even seemed as if his eyes had become milder.
Certainly, when formerly lighted up by intelligence, this man's face
must have had a sort of beauty.

Every day, Harding imposed on himself the task of passing some hours
in his company. He came and worked near him, and occupied himself in
different things, so as to fix his attention. A spark, indeed, would be
sufficient to reillumine that soul, a recollection crossing that brain
to recall reason. That had been seen, during the storm, on board the
"Bonadventure!" The engineer did not neglect either to speak aloud, so
as to penetrate at the same time by the organs of hearing and sight the
depths of that torpid intelligence. Sometimes one of his companions,
sometimes another, sometimes all joined him. They spoke most often of
things belonging to the navy, which must interest a sailor.

At times, the stranger gave some slight attention to what was said,
and the settlers were soon convinced that he partly understood them.
Sometimes the expression of his countenance was deeply sorrowful, a
proof that he suffered mentally, for his face could not be mistaken;
but he did not speak, although at different times, however, they almost
thought that words were about to issue from his lips. At all events, the
poor creature was quite quiet and sad!

But was not his calm only apparent? Was not his sadness only the result
of his seclusion? Nothing could yet be ascertained. Seeing only certain
objects and in a limited space, always in contact with the colonists,
to whom he would soon become accustomed, having no desires to satisfy,
better fed, better clothed, it was natural that his physical nature
should gradually improve; but was he penetrated with the sense of a new
life? or rather, to employ a word which would be exactly applicable
to him, was he not becoming tamed, like an animal in company with his
master? This was an important question, which Cyrus Harding was anxious
to answer, and yet he did not wish to treat his invalid roughly! Would
he ever be a convalescent?

How the engineer observed him every moment! How he was on the watch for
his soul, if one may use the expression! How he was ready to grasp it!
The settlers followed with real sympathy all the phases of the cure
undertaken by Harding. They aided him also in this work of humanity, and
all, except perhaps the incredulous Pencroft, soon shared both his hope
and his faith.

The calm of the stranger was deep, as has been said, and he even showed
a sort of attachment for the engineer, whose influence he evidently
felt. Cyrus Harding resolved then to try him, by transporting him
to another scene, from that ocean which formerly his eyes had been
accustomed to contemplate, to the border of the forest, which might
perhaps recall those where so many years of his life had been passed!

"But," said Gideon Spilett, "can we hope that he will not escape, if
once set at liberty?"

"The experiment must be tried," replied the engineer.

"Well!" said Pencroft. "When that fellow is outside, and feels the fresh
air, he will be off as fast as his legs can carry him!"

"I do not think so," returned Harding.

"Let us try," said Spilett.

"We will try," replied the engineer.

This was on the 30th of October, and consequently the castaway of Tabor
Island had been a prisoner in Granite House for nine days. It was
warm, and a bright sun darted its rays on the island. Cyrus Harding and
Pencroft went to the room occupied by the stranger, who was found lying
near the window and gazing at the sky.

"Come, my friend," said the engineer to him.

The stranger rose immediately. His eyes were fixed on Cyrus Harding, and
he followed him, while the sailor marched behind them, little confident
as to the result of the experiment.

Arrived at the door, Harding and Pencroft made him take his place in
the lift, while Neb, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett waited for them before
Granite House. The lift descended, and in a few moments all were united
on the beach.

The settlers went a short distance from the stranger, so as to leave him
at liberty.

He then made a few steps toward the sea, and his look brightened with
extreme animation, but he did not make the slightest attempt to escape.
He was gazing at the little waves which, broken by the islet, rippled on
the sand.

"This is only the sea," observed Gideon Spilett, "and possibly it does
not inspire him with any wish to escape!"

"Yes," replied Harding, "we must take him to the plateau, on the border
of the forest. There the experiment will be more conclusive."

"Besides, he could not run away," said Neb, "since the bridge is
raised."

"Oh!" said Pencroft, "that isn't a man to be troubled by a stream like
Creek Glycerine! He could cross it directly, at a single bound!"

"We shall soon see," Harding contented himself with replying, his eyes
not quitting those of his patient.

The latter was then led towards the mouth of the Mercy, and all climbing
the left bank of the river, reached Prospect Heights.

Arrived at the spot on which grew the first beautiful trees of the
forest, their foliage slightly agitated by the breeze, the stranger
appeared greedily to drink in the penetrating odor which filled the
atmosphere, and a long sigh escaped from his chest.

The settlers kept behind him, ready to seize him if he made any movement
to escape!

And, indeed, the poor creature was on the point of springing into the
creek which separated him from the forest, and his legs were bent for an
instant as if for a spring, but almost immediately he stepped back, half
sank down, and a large tear fell from his eyes.

"Ah!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding, "you have become a man again, for you can
weep!"

 

 

Chapter 16

Yes! the unfortunate man had wept! Some recollection doubtless had
flashed across his brain, and to use Cyrus Harding's expression, by
those tears he was once more a man.

The colonists left him for some time on the plateau, and withdrew
themselves to a short distance, so that he might feel himself free; but
he did not think of profiting by this liberty, and Harding soon brought
him back to Granite House. Two days after this occurrence, the stranger
appeared to wish gradually to mingle with their common life. He
evidently heard and understood, but no less evidently was he strangely
determined not to speak to the colonists; for one evening, Pencroft,
listening at the door of his room, heard these words escape from his
lips:--

"No! here! I! never!"

The sailor reported these words to his companions.

"There is some painful mystery there!" said Harding.

The stranger had begun to use the laboring tools, and he worked in the
garden. When he stopped in his work, as was often the case, he remained
retired within himself, but on the engineer's recommendation, they
respected the reserve which he apparently wished to keep. If one of the
settlers approached him, he drew back, and his chest heaved with sobs,
as if overburdened!

Was it remorse that overwhelmed him thus? They were compelled to believe
so, and Gideon Spilett could not help one day making this observation,--

"If he does not speak it is because he has, I fear, things too serious
to be told!"

They must be patient and wait.

A few days later, on the 3rd of November, the stranger, working on the
plateau, had stopped, letting his spade drop to the ground, and Harding,
who was observing him from a little distance, saw that tears were again
flowing from his eyes. A sort of irresistible pity led him towards the
unfortunate man, and he touched his arm lightly.

"My friend!" said he.

The stranger tried to avoid his look, and Cyrus Harding having
endeavored to take his hand, he drew back quickly.

"My friend," said Harding in a firmer voice, "look at me, I wish it!"

The stranger looked at the engineer, and seemed to be under his power,
as a subject under the influence of a mesmerist. He wished to run away.
But then his countenance suddenly underwent a transformation. His eyes
flashed. Words struggled to escape from his lips. He could no longer
contain himself! At last he folded his arms; then, in a hollow
voice,--"Who are you?" he asked Cyrus Harding.

"Castaways, like you," replied the engineer, whose emotion was deep. "We
have brought you here, among your fellow-men."

"My fellow-men!.... I have none!"

"You are in the midst of friends."

"Friends!--for me! friends!" exclaimed the stranger, hiding his face in
his hands. "No--never--leave me! leave me!"

Then he rushed to the side of the plateau which overlooked the sea, and
remained there a long time motionless.

Harding rejoined his companions and related to them what had just
happened.

"Yes! there is some mystery in that man's life," said Gideon Spilett,
"and it appears as if he had only re-entered society by the path of
remorse."

"I don't know what sort of a man we have brought here," said the sailor.
"He has secrets--"

"Which we will respect," interrupted Cyrus Harding quickly. "If he has
committed any crime, he has most fearfully expiated it, and in our eyes
he is absolved."

For two hours the stranger remained alone on the shore, evidently under
the influence of recollections which recalled all his past life--a
melancholy life doubtless--and the colonists, without losing sight of
him, did not attempt to disturb his solitude. However, after two hours,
appearing to have formed a resolution, he came to find Cyrus Harding.
His eyes were red with the tears he had shed, but he wept no longer.
His countenance expressed deep humility. He appeared anxious, timorous,
ashamed, and his eyes were constantly fixed on the ground.

"Sir," said he to Harding, "your companions and you, are you English?"

"No," answered the engineer, "we are Americans."

"Ah!" said the stranger, and he murmured, "I prefer that!"

"And you, my friend?" asked the engineer.

"English," replied he hastily.

And as if these few words had been difficult to say, he retreated to the
beach, where he walked up and down between the cascade and the mouth of
the Mercy, in a state of extreme agitation.

Then, passing one moment close to Herbert, he stopped and in a stifled
voice,--

"What month?" he asked.

"December," replied Herbert.

"What year?"

"1866."

"Twelve years! twelve years!" he exclaimed.

Then he left him abruptly.

Herbert reported to the colonists the questions and answers which had
been made.

"This unfortunate man," observed Gideon Spilett, "was no longer
acquainted with either months or years!"

"Yes!" added Herbert, "and he had been twelve years already on the islet
when we found him there!"

"Twelve years!" rejoined Harding. "Ah! twelve years of solitude, after a
wicked life, perhaps, may well impair a man's reason!"

"I am induced to think," said Pencroft, "that this man was not wrecked
on Tabor Island, but that in consequence of some crime he was left
there."

"You must be right, Pencroft," replied the reporter, "and if it is so
it is not impossible that those who left him on the island may return to
fetch him some day!"

"And they will no longer find him," said Herbert.

"But then," added Pencroft, "they must return, and--"

"My friends," said Cyrus Harding, "do not let us discuss this question
until we know more about it. I believe that the unhappy man has
suffered, that he has severely expiated his faults, whatever they may
have been, and that the wish to unburden himself stifles him. Do not let
us press him to tell us his history! He will tell it to us doubtless,
and when we know it, we shall see what course it will be best to follow.
He alone besides can tell us, if he has more than a hope, a certainty,
of returning some day to his country, but I doubt it!"

"And why?" asked the reporter.

"Because that, in the event of his being sure of being delivered at a
certain time, he would have waited the hour of his deliverance and would
not have thrown this document into the sea. No, it is more probable that
he was condemned to die on that islet, and that he never expected to see
his fellow-creatures again!"

"But," observed the sailor, "there is one thing which I cannot explain."

"What is it?"

"If this man had been left for twelve years on Tabor Island, one may
well suppose that he had been several years already in the wild state in
which we found him!"

"That is probable," replied Cyrus Harding.

"It must then be many years since he wrote that document!"

"No doubt," and yet the document appears to have been recently written!

"Besides, how do you know that the bottle which enclosed the document
may not have taken several years to come from Tabor Island to Lincoln
Island?"

"That is not absolutely impossible," replied the reporter.

"Might it not have been a long time already on the coast of the island?"

"No," answered Pencroft, "for it was still floating. We could not even
suppose that after it had stayed for any length of time on the shore, it
would have been swept off by the sea, for the south coast is all rocks,
and it would certainly have been smashed to pieces there!"

"That is true," rejoined Cyrus Harding thoughtfully.

"And then," continued the sailor, "if the document was several years
old, if it had been shut up in that bottle for several years, it would
have been injured by damp. Now, there is nothing of the kind, and it was
found in a perfect state of preservation."

The sailor's reasoning was very just, and pointed out an
incomprehensible fact, for the document appeared to have been recently
written, when the colonists found it in the bottle. Moreover, it gave
the latitude and longitude of Tabor Island correctly, which implied that
its author had a more complete knowledge of hydrography than could be
expected of a common sailor.

"There is in this, again, something unaccountable," said the engineer,
"but we will not urge our companion to speak. When he likes, my
friends, then we shall be ready to hear him!"

During the following days the stranger did not speak a word, and did not
once leave the precincts of the plateau. He worked away, without losing
a moment, without taking a minute's rest, but always in a retired place.
At meal times he never came to Granite House, although invited several
times to do so, but contented himself with eating a few raw vegetables.
At nightfall he did not return to the room assigned to him, but remained
under some clump of trees, or when the weather was bad crouched in some
cleft of the rocks. Thus he lived in the same manner as when he had no
other shelter than the forests of Tabor Island, and as all persuasion
to induce him to improve his life was in vain, the colonists
waited patiently. And the time was near, when, as it seemed, almost
involuntarily urged by his conscience, a terrible confession escaped
him.

On the 10th of November, about eight o'clock in the evening, as night
was coming on, the stranger appeared unexpectedly before the settlers,
who were assembled under the veranda. His eyes burned strangely, and he
had quite resumed the wild aspect of his worst days.

Cyrus Harding and his companions were astounded on seeing that, overcome
by some terrible emotion, his teeth chattered like those of a person
in a fever. What was the matter with him? Was the sight of his
fellow-creatures insupportable to him? Was he weary of this return to a
civilized mode of existence? Was he pining for his former savage
life? It appeared so, as soon he was heard to express himself in these
incoherent sentences:--

"Why am I here?.... By what right have you dragged me from my islet?....
Do you think there could be any tie between you and me?.... Do you know
who I am--what I have done--why I was there--alone? And who told
you that I was not abandoned there--that I was not condemned to die
there?.... Do you know my past?.... How do you know that I have not
stolen, murdered--that I am not a wretch--an accursed being--only fit to
live like a wild beast, far from all--speak--do you know it?"

The colonists listened without interrupting the miserable creature, from
whom these broken confessions escaped, as it were, in spite of himself.
Harding wishing to calm him, approached him, but he hastily drew back.

"No! no!" he exclaimed; "one word only--am I free?"

"You are free," answered the engineer.

"Farewell, then!" he cried, and fled like a madman.

Neb, Pencroft, and Herbert ran also towards the edge of the wood--but
they returned alone.

"We must let him alone!" said Cyrus Harding.

"He will never come back!" exclaimed Pencroft.

"He will come back," replied the engineer.

Many days passed; but Harding--was it a sort of
presentiment?--persisted in the fixed idea that sooner or later the
unhappy man would return.

"It is the last revolt of his wild nature," said he, "which remorse has
touched, and which renewed solitude will terrify."

In the meanwhile, works of all sorts were continued, as well on Prospect
Heights as at the corral, where Harding intended to build a farm. It is
unnecessary to say that the seeds collected by Herbert on Tabor
Island had been carefully sown. The plateau thus formed one immense
kitchen-garden, well laid out and carefully tended, so that the arms of
the settlers were never in want of work. There was always something to
be done. As the esculents increased in number, it became necessary to
enlarge the simple beds, which threatened to grow into regular fields
and replace the meadows. But grass abounded in other parts of the
island, and there was no fear of the onagers being obliged to go on
short allowance. It was well worth while, besides, to turn Prospect
Heights into a kitchen-garden, defended by its deep belt of creeks, and
to remove them to the meadows, which had no need of protection against
the depredations of quadrumana and quadrapeds.

On the 15th of November, the third harvest was gathered in. How
wonderfully had the field increased in extent, since eighteen months
ago, when the first grain of wheat was sown! The second crop of six
hundred thousand grains produced this time four thousand bushels, or
five hundred millions of grains!

The colony was rich in corn, for ten bushels alone were sufficient for
sowing every year to produce an ample crop for the food both of men and
beasts. The harvest was completed, and the last fortnight of the month
of November was devoted to the work of converting it into food for man.
In fact, they had corn, but not flour, and the establishment of a mill
was necessary. Cyrus Harding could have utilized the second fall which
flowed into the Mercy to establish his motive power, the first
being already occupied with moving the felting mill, but, after some
consultation, it was decided that a simple windmill should be built on
Prospect Heights. The building of this presented no more difficulty than
the building of the former, and it was moreover certain that there would
be no want of wind on the plateau, exposed as it was to the sea breezes.

"Not to mention," said Pencroft, "that the windmill will be more lively
and will have a good effect in the landscape!"

They set to work by choosing timber for the frame and machinery of the
mill. Some large stones, found at the north of the lake, could be easily
transformed into millstones, and as to the sails, the inexhaustible case
of the balloon furnished the necessary material.

Cyrus Harding made his model, and the site of the mill was chosen a
little to the right of the poultry-yard, near the shore of the lake. The
frame was to rest on a pivot supported with strong timbers, so that it
could turn with all the machinery it contained according as the wind
required it. The work advanced rapidly. Neb and Pencroft had become
very skilful carpenters, and had nothing to do but to copy the models
provided by the engineer.

Soon a sort of cylindrical box, in shape like a pepper-pot, with a
pointed roof, rose on the spot chosen. The four frames which formed the
sails had been firmly fixed in the center beam, so as to form a certain
angle with it, and secured with iron clamps. As to the different
parts of the internal mechanism, the box destined to contain the two
millstones, the fixed stone and the moving stone, the hopper, a sort of
large square trough, wide at the top, narrow at the bottom, which would
allow the grain to fall on the stones, the oscillating spout intended to
regulate the passing of the grain, and lastly the bolting machine, which
by the operation of sifting, separates the bran from the flour,
were made without difficulty. The tools were good, and the work not
difficult, for in reality, the machinery of a mill is very simple. This
was only a question of time.

Every one had worked at the construction of the mill, and on the 1st
of December it was finished. As usual, Pencroft was delighted with his
work, and had no doubt that the apparatus was perfect.

"Now for a good wind," said he, "and we shall grind our first harvest
splendidly!"

"A good wind, certainly," answered the engineer, "but not too much,
Pencroft."

"Pooh! our mill would only go the faster!"

"There is no need for it to go so very fast," replied Cyrus Harding. "It
is known by experience that the greatest quantity of work is performed
by a mill when the number of turns made by the sails in a minute is six
times the number of feet traversed by the wind in a second. A moderate
breeze, which passes over twenty-four feet to the second, will give
sixteen turns to the sails during a minute, and there is no need of
more."

"Exactly!" cried Herbert, "a fine breeze is blowing from the northeast,
which will soon do our business for us."

There was no reason for delaying the inauguration of the mill, for the
settlers were eager to taste the first piece of bread in Lincoln Island.
On this morning two or three bushels of wheat were ground, and the next
day at breakfast a magnificent loaf, a little heavy perhaps, although
raised with yeast, appeared on the table at Granite House. Every one
munched away at it with a pleasure which may be easily understood.

In the meanwhile, the stranger had not reappeared. Several times Gideon
Spilett and Herbert searched the forest in the neighborhood of Granite
House, without meeting or finding any trace of him. They became
seriously uneasy at this prolonged absence. Certainly, the former
savage of Tabor island could not be perplexed how to live in the forest,
abounding in game, but was it not to be feared that he had resumed his
habits, and that this freedom would revive in him his wild instincts?
However, Harding, by a sort of presentiment, doubtless, always persisted
in saying that the fugitive would return.

"Yes, he will return!" he repeated with a confidence which his
companions could not share. "When this unfortunate man was on Tabor
Island, he knew himself to be alone! Here, he knows that fellow-men are
awaiting him! Since he has partially spoken of his past life, the poor
penitent will return to tell the whole, and from that day he will belong
to us!"

The event justified Cyrus Harding's predictions. On the 3rd of December,
Herbert had left the plateau to go and fish on the southern bank of the
lake. He was unarmed, and till then had never taken any precautions for
defense, as dangerous animals had not shown themselves on that part of
the island.

Meanwhile, Pencroft and Neb were working in the poultry-yard, while
Harding and the reporter were occupied at the Chimneys in making soda,
the store of soap being exhausted.

Suddenly cries resounded,--

"Help! help!"

Cyrus Harding and the reporter, being at too great a distance, had not
been able to hear the shouts. Pencroft and Neb, leaving the poultry-yard
in all haste, rushed towards the lake.

But before then, the stranger, whose presence at this place no one had
suspected, crossed Creek Glycerine, which separated the plateau from the
forest, and bounded up the opposite bank.

Herbert was there face to face with a fierce jaguar, similar to the
one which had been killed on Reptile End. Suddenly surprised, he was
standing with his back against a tree, while the animal gathering itself
together was about to spring.

But the stranger, with no other weapon than a knife, rushed on the
formidable animal, who turned to meet this new adversary.

The struggle was short. The stranger possessed immense strength and
activity. He seized the jaguar's throat with one powerful hand, holding
it as in a vise, without heeding the beast's claws which tore his flesh,
and with the other he plunged his knife into its heart.

The jaguar fell. The stranger kicked away the body, and was about to
fly at the moment when the settlers arrived on the field of battle, but
Herbert, clinging to him, cried,--

"No, no! you shall not go!"

Harding advanced towards the stranger, who frowned when he saw him
approaching. The blood flowed from his shoulder under his torn shirt,
but he took no notice of it.

"My friend," said Cyrus Harding, "we have just contracted a debt of
gratitude to you. To save our boy you have risked your life!"

"My life!" murmured the stranger. "What is that worth? Less than
nothing!"

"You are wounded?"

"It is no matter."

"Will you give me your hand?"

And as Herbert endeavored to seize the hand which had just saved him,
the stranger folded his arms, his chest heaved, his look darkened, and
he appeared to wish to escape, but making a violent effort over himself,
and in an abrupt tone,--

"Who are you?" he asked, "and what do you claim to be to me?"

It was the colonists' history which he thus demanded, and for the first
time. Perhaps this history recounted, he would tell his own.

In a few words Harding related all that had happened since their
departure from Richmond; how they had managed, and what resources they
now had at their disposal.

The stranger listened with extreme attention.

Then the engineer told who they all were, Gideon Spilett, Herbert,
Pencroft, Neb, himself, and, he added, that the greatest happiness they
had felt since their arrival in Lincoln Island was on the return of the
vessel from Tabor Island, when they had been able to include among them
a new companion.

At these words the stranger's face flushed, his head sunk on his breast,
and confusion was depicted on his countenance.

"And now that you know us," added Cyrus Harding, "will you give us your
hand?"

"No," replied the stranger in a hoarse voice; "no! You are honest men!
And I--"

 

 

Chapter 17

These last words justified the colonists' presentiment. There had been
some mournful past, perhaps expiated in the sight of men, but from which
his conscience had not yet absolved him. At any rate the guilty man felt
remorse, he repented, and his new friends would have cordially pressed
the hand which they sought; but he did not feel himself worthy to extend
it to honest men! However, after the scene with the jaguar, he did not
return to the forest, and from that day did not go beyond the enclosure
of Granite House.

What was the mystery of his life? Would the stranger one day speak of
it? Time alone could show. At any rate, it was agreed that his secret
should never be asked from him, and that they would live with him as if
they suspected nothing.

For some days their life continued as before. Cyrus Harding and Gideon
Spilett worked together, sometimes chemists, sometimes experimentalists.
The reporter never left the engineer except to hunt with Herbert, for
it would not have been prudent to allow the lad to ramble alone in the
forest; and it was very necessary to be on their guard. As to Neb
and Pencroft, one day at the stables and poultry-yard, another at the
corral, without reckoning work in Granite House, they were never in want
of employment.

The stranger worked alone, and he had resumed his usual life, never
appearing at meals, sleeping under the trees in the plateau, never
mingling with his companions. It really seemed as if the society of
those who had saved him was insupportable to him!

"But then," observed Pencroft, "why did he entreat the help of his
fellow-creatures? Why did he throw that paper into the sea?"

"He will tell us why," invariably replied Cyrus Harding.

"When?"

"Perhaps sooner than you think, Pencroft."

And, indeed, the day of confession was near.

On the 10th of December, a week after his return to Granite House,
Harding saw the stranger approaching, who, in a calm voice and humble
tone, said to him: "Sir, I have a request to make of you."

"Speak," answered the engineer, "but first let me ask you a question."

At these words the stranger reddened, and was on the point of
withdrawing. Cyrus Harding understood what was passing in the mind of
the guilty man, who doubtless feared that the engineer would interrogate
him on his past life.

Harding held him back.

"Comrade," said he, "we are not only your companions but your friends. I
wish you to believe that, and now I will listen to you."

The stranger pressed his hand over his eyes. He was seized with a
sort of trembling, and remained a few moments without being able to
articulate a word.

"Sir," said he at last, "I have come to beg you to grant me a favor."

"What is it?"

"You have, four or five miles from here, a corral for your domesticated
animals. These animals need to be taken care of. Will you allow me to
live there with them?"

Cyrus Harding gazed at the unfortunate man for a few moments with a
feeling of deep commiseration; then,--

 

"My friend," said he, "the corral has only stables hardly fit for
animals."

"It will be good enough for me, sir."

"My friend," answered Harding, "we will not constrain you in anything.
You wish to live at the corral, so be it. You will, however, be always
welcome at Granite House. But since you wish to live at the corral
we will make the necessary arrangements for your being comfortably
established there."

"Never mind that, I shall do very well."

"My friend," answered Harding, who always intentionally made use of this
cordial appellation, "you must let us judge what it will be best to do
in this respect."

"Thank you, sir," replied the stranger as he withdrew.

The engineer then made known to his companions the proposal which had
been made to him, and it was agreed that they should build a wooden
house at the corral, which they would make as comfortable as possible.

That very day the colonists repaired to the corral with the necessary
tools, and a week had not passed before the house was ready to receive
its tenant. It was built about twenty feet from the sheds, and from
there it was easy to overlook the flock of sheep, which then numbered
more than eighty. Some furniture, a bed, table, bench, cupboard, and
chest were manufactured, and a gun, ammunition, and tools were carried
to the corral.

The stranger, however, had seen nothing of his new dwelling, and he
had allowed the settlers to work there without him, while he occupied
himself on the plateau, wishing, doubtless, to put the finishing stroke
to his work. Indeed, thanks to him, all the ground was dug up and ready
to be sowed when the time came.

It was on the 20th of December that all the arrangements at the corral
were completed. The engineer announced to the stranger that his dwelling
was ready to receive him, and the latter replied that he would go and
sleep there that very evening.

On this evening the colonists were gathered in the diningroom of Granite
House. It was then eight o'clock, the hour at which their companion was
to leave them. Not wishing to trouble him by their presence, and thus
imposing on him the necessity of saying farewells which might perhaps be
painful to him, they had left him alone and ascended to Granite House.

Now, they had been talking in the room for a few minutes, when a light
knock was heard at the door. Almost immediately the stranger entered,
and without any preamble,--

"Gentlemen," said he, "before I leave you, it is right that you should
know my history. I will tell it you."

These simple words profoundly impressed Cyrus Harding and his
companions. The engineer rose.

"We ask you nothing, my friend," said he; "it is your right to be
silent."

"It is my duty to speak."

"Sit down, then."

"No, I will stand."

"We are ready to hear you," replied Harding.

The stranger remained standing in a corner of the room, a little in the
shade. He was bareheaded, his arms folded across his chest, and it
was in this posture that in a hoarse voice, speaking like some one
who obliges himself to speak, he gave the following recital, which his
auditors did not once interrupt:--

"On the 20th of December, 1854, a steam-yacht, belonging to a Scotch
nobleman, Lord Glenarvan, anchored off Cape Bernouilli, on the western
coast of Australia, in the thirty-seventh parallel. On board this yacht
were Lord Glenarvan and his wife, a major in the English army, a French
geographer, a young girl, and a young boy. These two last were the
children of Captain Grant, whose ship, the 'Britannia,' had been lost,
crew and cargo, a year before. The 'Duncan' was commanded by Captain
John Mangles, and manned by a crew of fifteen men.

"This is the reason the yacht at this time lay off the coast of
Australia. Six months before, a bottle, enclosing a document written in
English, German, and French, had been found in the Irish Sea, and picked
up by the 'Duncan.' This document stated in substance that there still
existed three survivors from the wreck of the 'Britannia,' that these
survivors were Captain Grant and two of his men, and that they had found
refuge on some land, of which the document gave the latitude, but of
which the longitude, effaced by the sea, was no longer legible.

"This latitude was 37deg 11' south; therefore, the longitude being
unknown, if they followed the thirty-seventh parallel over continents
and seas, they would be certain to reach the spot inhabited by Captain
Grant and his two companions. The English Admiralty having hesitated to
undertake this search, Lord Glenarvan resolved to attempt everything to
find the captain. He communicated with Mary and Robert Grant, who joined
him. The 'Duncan' yacht was equipped for the distant voyage, in which
the nobleman's family and the captain's children wished to take part,
and the 'Duncan,' leaving Glasgow, proceeded towards the Atlantic,
passed through the Straits of Magellan, and ascended the Pacific as
far as Patagonia, where, according to a previous interpretation of the
document, they supposed that Captain Grant was a prisoner among the
Indians.

"The 'Duncan' disembarked her passengers on the western coast of
Patagonia, and sailed to pick them up again on the eastern coast at
Cape Corrientes. Lord Glenarvan traversed Patagonia, following the
thirty-seventh parallel, and having found no trace of the captain, he
re-embarked on the 13th of November, so as to pursue his search through
the Ocean.

"After having unsuccessfully visited the islands of Tristan d'Acunha and
Amsterdam, situated in her course, the 'Duncan,' as I have said, arrived
at Cape Bernouilli, on the Australian coast, on the 20th of December,
1854.

"It was Lord Glenarvan's intention to traverse Australia as he had
traversed America, and he disembarked. A few miles from the coast was
established a farm, belonging to an Irishman, who offered hospitality to
the travelers. Lord Glenarvan made known to the Irishman the cause
which had brought him to these parts, and asked if he knew whether a
three-masted English vessel, the 'Britannia,' had been lost less than
two years before on the west coast of Australia.

"The Irishman had never heard of this wreck, but, to the great surprise
of the bystanders, one of his servants came forward and said,--

"'My lord, praise and thank God! If Captain Grant is still living, he is
living on the Australian shores.'

"'Who are you?' asked Lord Glenarvan.

"'A Scotchman like yourself, my lord,' replied the man; 'I am one of
Captain Grant's crew--one of the castaways of the "Britannia.'"

"This man was called Ayrton. He was, in fact, the boatswain's mate of
the 'Britannia,' as his papers showed. But, separated from Captain Grant
at the moment when the ship struck upon the rocks, he had till then
believed that the captain with all his crew had perished, and that he,
Ayrton, was the sole survivor of the 'Britannia.'

"'Only,' he added, 'it was not on the west coast, but on the east coast
of Australia that the vessel was lost, and if Captain Grant is still
living, as his document indicates, he is a prisoner among the natives,
and it is on the other coast that he must be looked for.'

"This man spoke in a frank voice and with a confident look; his words
could not be doubted. The irishman, in whose service he had been for
more than a year, answered for his trustworthiness. Lord Glenarvan,
therefore, believed in the fidelity of this man and, by his advice,
resolved to cross Australia, following the thirty-seventh parallel. Lord
Glenarvan, his wife, the two children, the major, the Frenchman, Captain
Mangles, and a few sailors composed the little band under the command
of Ayrton, while the 'Duncan,' under charge of the mate, Tom Austin,
proceeded to Melbourne, there to await Lord Glenarvan's instructions.

"They set out on the 23rd of December, 1854.

"It is time to say that Ayrton was a traitor. He was, indeed, the
boatswain's mate of the 'Britannia,' but, after some dispute with his
captain, he endeavored to incite the crew to mutiny and seize the ship,
and Captain Grant had landed him, on the 8th of April, 1852, on the
west coast of Australia, and then sailed, leaving him there, as was only
just.

"Therefore this wretched man knew nothing of the wreck of the
'Britannia'; he had just heard of it from Glenarvan's account. Since his
abandonment, he had become, under the name of Ben Joyce, the leader of
the escaped convicts; and if he boldly maintained that the wreck had
taken place on the east coast, and led Lord Glenarvan to proceed in that
direction, it was that he hoped to separate him from his ship, seize the
'Duncan,' and make the yacht a pirate in the Pacific."

Here the stranger stopped for a moment. His voice trembled, but he
continued,--

"The expedition set out and proceeded across Australia. It was
inevitably unfortunate, since Ayrton, or Ben Joyce, as he may be
called, guided it, sometimes preceded, sometimes followed by his band of
convicts, who had been told what they had to do.

"Meanwhile, the 'Duncan' had been sent to Melbourne for repairs. It was
necessary, then, to get Lord Glenarvan to order her to leave Melbourne
and go to the east coast of Australia, where it would be easy to seize
her. After having led the expedition near enough to the coast, in the
midst of vast forests with no resources, Ayrton obtained a letter, which
he was charged to carry to the mate of the 'Duncan'--a letter which
ordered the yacht to repair immediately to the east coast, to Twofold
Bay, that is to say a few days' journey from the place where the
expedition had stopped. It was there that Ayrton had agreed to meet his
accomplices, and two days after gaining possession of the letter, he
arrived at Melbourne.

"So far the villain had succeeded in his wicked design. He would be able
to take the 'Duncan' into Twofold Bay, where it would be easy for the
convicts to seize her, and her crew massacred, Ben Joyce would become
master of the seas. But it pleased God to prevent the accomplishment of
these terrible projects.

"Ayrton, arrived at Melbourne, delivered the letter to the mate, Tom
Austin, who read it and immediately set sail, but judge of Ayrton's rage
and disappointment, when the next day he found that the mate was taking
the vessel, not to the east coast of Australia, to Twofold Bay, but to
the east coast of New Zealand. He wished to stop him, but Austin showed
him the letter!... And indeed, by a providential error of the French
geographer, who had written the letter, the east coast of New Zealand
was mentioned as the place of destination.

"All Ayrton's plans were frustrated! He became outrageous. They put him
in irons. He was then taken to the coast of New Zealand, not knowing
what would become of his accomplices, or what would become of Lord
Glenarvan.

"The 'Duncan' cruised about on this coast until the 3rd of March. On
that day Ayrton heard the report of guns. The guns on the 'Duncan' were
being fired, and soon Lord Glenarvan and his companions came on board.

"This is what had happened.

"After a thousand hardships, a thousand dangers, Lord Glenarvan had
accomplished his journey, and arrived on the east coast of Australia, at
Twofold Bay. 'No "Duncan!"' He telegraphed to Melbourne. They answered,
"Duncan" sailed on the 18th instant. Destination unknown.'

"Lord Glenarvan could only arrive at one conclusion; that his honest
yacht had fallen into the hands of Ben Joyce, and had become a pirate
vessel!

"However, Lord Glenarvan would not give up. He was a bold and generous
man. He embarked in a merchant vessel, sailed to the west coast of New
Zealand, traversed it along the thirty-seventh parallel, without
finding any trace of Captain Grant; but on the other side, to his
great surprise, and by the will of Heaven, he found the 'Duncan,' under
command of the mate, who had been waiting for him for five weeks!

"This was on the 3rd of March, 1855. Lord Glenarvan was now on board the
'Duncan,' but Ayrton was there also. He appeared before the nobleman,
who wished to extract from him all that the villain knew about Captain
Grant. Ayrton refused to speak. Lord Glenarvan then told him, that at
the first port they put into, he would be delivered up to the English
authorities. Ayrton remained mute.

"The 'Duncan' continued her voyage along the thirty-seventh parallel.
In the meanwhile, Lady Glenarvan undertook to vanquish the resistance of
the ruffian.

"At last, her influence prevailed, and Ayrton, in exchange for what he
could tell, proposed that Lord Glenarvan should leave him on some island
in the Pacific, instead of giving him up to the English authorities.
Lord Glenarvan, resolving to do anything to obtain information about
Captain Grant, consented.

"Ayrton then related all his life, and it was certain that he knew
nothing from the day on which Captain Grant had landed him on the
Australian coast.

"Nevertheless, Lord Glenarvan kept the promise which he had given. The
'Duncan' continued her voyage and arrived at Tabor Island. It was there
that Ayrton was to be landed, and it was there also that, by a
veritable miracle, they found Captain Grant and two men, exactly on the
thirty-seventh parallel.

"The convict, then, went to take their place on this desert islet, and
at the moment he left the yacht these words were pronounced by Lord
Glenarvan:--

"'Here, Ayrton, you will be far from any land, and without any possible
communication with your fellow-creatures. You cannot escape from this
islet on which the 'Duncan' leaves you. You will be alone, under the eye
of a God who reads the depths of the heart, but you will be neither
lost nor forgotten, as was Captain Grant. Unworthy as you are to be
remembered by men, men will remember you. I know where you are Ayrton,
and I know where to find you. I will never forget it!

"And the 'Duncan,' making sail, soon disappeared. This was 18th of
March, 1855.

(The events which have just been briefly related are taken
from a work which some of our readers have no doubt read,
and which is entitled, "Captain Grant's children." They will
remark on this occasion, as well as later, some discrepancy
in the dates; but later again, they will understand why the
real dates were not at first given.)

"Ayrton was alone, but he had no want of either ammunition, weapons,
tools, or seeds.

"At his, the convict's disposal, was the house built by honest Captain
Grant. He had only to live and expiate in solitude the crimes which he
had committed.

"Gentlemen, he repented, he was ashamed of his crimes and was very
miserable! He said to himself, that if men came some day to take
him from that islet, he must be worthy to return among them! How he
suffered, that wretched man! How he labored to recover himself by work!
How he prayed to be reformed by prayer! For two years, three years, this
went on, but Ayrton, humbled by solitude, always looking for some ship
to appear on the horizon, asking himself if the time of expiation would
soon be complete, suffered as none other suffered! Oh! how dreadful was
this solitude, to a heart tormented by remorse!

"But doubtless Heaven had not sufficiently punished this unhappy man,
for he felt that he was gradually becoming a savage! He felt that
brutishness was gradually gaining on him!

"He could not say if it was after two or three years of solitude, but at
last he became the miserable creature you found!

"I have no need to tell you, gentlemen, that Ayrton, Ben Joyce, and I,
are the same."

Cyrus Harding and his companions rose at the end of this account. It
is impossible to say how much they were moved! What misery, grief, and
despair lay revealed before them!

"Ayrton," said Harding, rising, "you have been a great criminal, but
Heaven must certainly think that you have expiated your crimes! That
has been proved by your having been brought again among your
fellow-creatures. Ayrton, you are forgiven! And now you will be our
companion?"

Ayrton drew back.

"Here is my hand!" said the engineer.

Ayrton grasped the hand which Harding extended to him, and great tears
fell from his eyes.

"Will you live with us?" asked Cyrus Harding.

"Captain Harding, leave me some time longer," replied Ayrton, "leave me
alone in the hut in the corral!"

"As you like, Ayrton," answered Cyrus Harding. Ayrton was going to
withdraw, when the engineer addressed one more question to him:--

"One word more, my friend. Since it was your intention to live alone,
why did you throw into the sea the document which put us on your track?"

"A document?" repeated Ayrton, who did not appear to know what he meant.

"Yes, the document which we found enclosed in a bottle, giving us the
exact position of Tabor Island!"

Ayrton passed his hand over his brow, then after having thought, "I
never threw any document into the sea!" he answered.

"Never?" exclaimed Pencroft.

"Never!"

And Ayrton, bowing, reached the door and departed.

 

 

Chapter 18

"Poor man!" said Herbert, who had rushed to the door, but returned,
having seen Ayrton slide down the rope on the lift and disappear in the
darkness.

"He will come back," said Cyrus Harding.

"Come, now, captain," exclaimed Pencroft, "what does that mean? What!
wasn't it Ayrton who threw that bottle into the sea? Who was it then?"

Certainly, if ever a question was necessary to be made, it was that one!

"It was he," answered Neb, "only the unhappy man was half-mad."

"Yes!" said Herbert, "and he was no longer conscious of what he was
doing."

"It can only be explained in that way, my friends," replied Harding
quickly, "and I understand now how Ayrton was able to point out exactly
the situation of Tabor Island, since the events which had preceded his
being left on the island had made it known to him."

"However," observed Pencroft, "if he was not yet a brute when he wrote
that document, and if he threw it into the sea seven or eight years ago,
how is it that the paper has not been injured by damp?"

"That proves," answered Cyrus Harding, "that Ayrton was deprived of
intelligence at a more recent time than he thinks."

"Of course it must be so," replied Pencroft, "without that the fact
would be unaccountable."

"Unaccountable indeed," answered the engineer, who did not appear
desirous to prolong the conversation.

"But has Ayrton told the truth?" asked the sailor.

"Yes," replied the reporter. "The story which he has told is true in
every point. I remember quite well the account in the newspapers of the
yacht expedition undertaken by Lord Glenarvan, and its result."

"Ayrton has told the truth," added Harding. "Do not doubt it, Pencroft,
for it was painful to him. People tell the truth when they accuse
themselves like that!"

The next day--the 21st of December--the colonists descended to the
beach, and having climbed the plateau they found nothing of Ayrton. He
had reached his house in the corral during the night and the settlers
judged it best not to agitate him by their presence. Time would
doubtless perform what sympathy had been unable to accomplish.

Herbert, Pencroft, and Neb resumed their ordinary occupations. On this
day the same work brought Harding and the reporter to the workshop at
the Chimneys.

"Do you know, my dear Cyrus," said Gideon Spilett, "that the explanation
you gave yesterday on the subject of the bottle has not satisfied me at
all! How can it be supposed that the unfortunate man was able to write
that document and throw the bottle into the sea without having the
slightest recollection of it?"

"Nor was it he who threw it in, my dear Spilett."

"You think then--"

"I think nothing, I know nothing!" interrupted Cyrus Harding. "I am
content to rank this incident among those which I have not been able to
explain to this day!"

"Indeed, Cyrus," said Spilett, "these things are incredible! Your
rescue, the case stranded on the sand, Top's adventure, and lastly this
bottle... Shall we never have the answer to these enigmas?"

"Yes!" replied the engineer quickly, "yes, even if I have to penetrate
into the bowels of this island!"

"Chance will perhaps give us the key to this mystery!"

"Chance! Spilett! I do not believe in chance, any more than I believe in
mysteries in this world. There is a reason for everything unaccountable
which has happened here, and that reason I shall discover. But in the
meantime we must work and observe."

The month of January arrived. The year 1867 commenced. The summer
occupations were assiduously continued. During the days which followed,
Herbert and Spilett having gone in the direction of the corral,
ascertained that Ayrton had taken possession of the habitation which
had been prepared for him. He busied himself with the numerous flock
confided to his care, and spared his companions the trouble of coming
every two or three days to visit the corral. Nevertheless, in order not
to leave Ayrton in solitude for too long a time, the settlers often paid
him a visit.

It was not unimportant either, in consequence of some suspicions
entertained by the engineer and Gideon Spilett, that this part of
the island should be subject to a surveillance of some sort, and that
Ayrton, if any incident occurred unexpectedly, should not neglect to
inform the inhabitants of Granite House of it.

Nevertheless it might happen that something would occur which it would
be necessary to bring rapidly to the engineer's knowledge. Independently
of facts bearing on the mystery of Lincoln Island, many others
might happen, which would call for the prompt interference of the
colonists,--such as the sighting of a vessel, a wreck on the western
coast, the possible arrival of pirates, etc.

Therefore Cyrus Harding resolved to put the corral in instantaneous
communication with Granite House.

It was on the 10th of January that he made known his project to his
companions.

"Why! how are you going to manage that, captain?" asked Pencroft. "Do
you by chance happen to think of establishing a telegraph?"

"Exactly so," answered the engineer.

"Electric?" cried Herbert.

"Electric," replied Cyrus Harding. "We have all the necessary materials
for making a battery, and the most difficult thing will be to stretch
the wires, but by means of a drawplate I think we shall manage it."

"Well, after that," returned the sailor, "I shall never despair of
seeing ourselves some day rolling along on a railway!"

They then set to work, beginning with the most difficult thing, for, if
they failed in that, it would be useless to manufacture the battery and
other accessories.

The iron of Lincoln Island, as has been said, was of excellent quality,
and consequently very fit for being drawn out. Harding commenced by
manufacturing a drawplate, that is to say, a plate of steel, pierced
with conical holes of different sizes, which would successively bring
the wire to the wished-for tenacity. This piece of steel, after having
been tempered, was fixed in as firm a way as possible in a solid
framework planted in the ground, only a few feet from the great fall,
the motive power of which the engineer intended to utilize. In fact as
the fulling-mill was there, although not then in use, its beam moved
with extreme power would serve to stretch out the wire by rolling it
round itself. It was a delicate operation, and required much care. The
iron, prepared previously in long thin rods, the ends of which were
sharpened with the file, having been introduced into the largest hole of
the drawplate, was drawn out by the beam which wound it round itself,
to a length of twenty-five or thirty feet, then unrolled, and the same
operation was performed successively through the holes of a less size.
Finally, the engineer obtained wires from forty to fifty feet long,
which could be easily fastened together and stretched over the distance
of five miles, which separated the corral from the bounds of Granite
House.

It did not take more than a few days to perform this work, and indeed
as soon as the machine had been commenced, Cyrus Harding left his
companions to follow the trade of wiredrawers, and occupied himself with
manufacturing his battery.

It was necessary to obtain a battery with a constant current. It is
known that the elements of modern batteries are generally composed of
retort coal, zinc, and copper. Copper was absolutely wanting to the
engineer, who, notwithstanding all his researches, had never been able
to find any trace of it in Lincoln Island, and was therefore obliged to
do without it. Retort coal, that is to say, the hard graphite which
is found in the retorts of gas manufactories, after the coal has
been dehydrogenized, could have been obtained, but it would have been
necessary to establish a special apparatus, involving great labor. As
to zinc, it may be remembered that the case found at Flotsam Point was
lined with this metal, which could not be better utilized than for this
purpose.

Cyrus Harding, after mature consideration, decided to manufacture a
very simple battery, resembling as nearly as possible that invented
by Becquerel in 1820, and in which zinc only is employed. The other
substances, azotic acid and potash, were all at his disposal.

The way in which the battery was composed was as follows, and the
results were to be attained by the reaction of acid and potash on each
other. A number of glass bottles were made and filled with azotic acid.
The engineer corked them by means of a stopper through which passed a
glass tube, bored at its lower extremity, and intended to be plunged
into the acid by means of a clay stopper secured by a rag. Into this
tube, through its upper extremity, he poured a solution of potash,
previously obtained by burning and reducing to ashes various plants,
and in this way the acid and potash could act on each other through the
clay.

Cyrus Harding then took two slips of zinc, one of which was plunged
into azotic acid, the other into a solution of potash. A current was
immediately produced, which was transmitted from the slip of zinc in the
bottle to that in the tube, and the two slips having been connected by a
metallic wire the slip in the tube became the positive pole, and that in
the bottle the negative pole of the apparatus. Each bottle, therefore,
produced as many currents as united would be sufficient to produce all
the phenomena of the electric telegraph. Such was the ingenious and very
simple apparatus constructed by Cyrus Harding, an apparatus which would
allow them to establish a telegraphic communication between Granite
House and the corral.

On the 6th of February was commenced the planting along the road to
the corral, of posts furnished with glass insulators, and intended to
support the wire. A few days after, the wire was extended, ready to
produce the electric current at a rate of twenty thousand miles a
second.

Two batteries had been manufactured, one for Granite House, the other
for the corral; for if it was necessary the corral should be able to
communicate with Granite House it might also be useful that Granite
House should be able to communicate with the corral.

As to the receiver and manipulator, they were very simple. At the two
stations the wire was wound round a magnet, that is to say, round a
piece of soft iron surrounded with a wire. The communication was thus
established between the two poles; the current, starting from the
positive pole, traversed the wire, passed through the magnet which was
temporarily magnetized, and returned through the earth to the negative
pole. If the current was interrupted, the magnet immediately became
unmagnetized. It was sufficient to place a plate of soft iron before the
magnet, which, attracted during the passage of the current, would fall
back when the current was interrupted. This movement of the plate thus
obtained, Harding could easily fasten to it a needle arranged on a dial,
bearing the letters of the alphabet, and in this way communicate from
one station to the other.

All was completely arranged by the 12th of February. On this day,
Harding, having sent the current through the wire, asked if all
was going on well at the corral, and received in a few moments a
satisfactory reply from Ayrton. Pencroft was wild with joy, and every
morning and evening he sent a telegram to the corral, which always
received an answer.

This mode of communication presented two very real advantages: firstly,
because it enabled them to ascertain that Ayrton was at the corral; and
secondly, that he was thus not left completely isolated. Besides, Cyrus
Harding never allowed a week to pass without going to see him, and
Ayrton came from time to time to Granite House, where he always found a
cordial welcome.

The fine season passed away in the midst of the usual work. The
resources of the colony, particularly in vegetables and corn, increased
from day to day, and the plants brought from Tabor Island had succeeded
perfectly.

The plateau of Prospect Heights presented an encouraging aspect. The
fourth harvest had been admirable and it may be supposed that no one
thought of counting whether the four hundred thousand millions of grains
duly appeared in the crop. However, Pencroft had thought of doing so,
but Cyrus Harding having told him that even if he managed to count three
hundred grains a minute, or nine thousand an hour, it would take him
nearly five thousand five-hundred years to finish his task, the honest
sailor considered it best to give up the idea.

The weather was splendid, the temperature very warm in the day time, but
in the evening the sea-breezes tempered the heat of the atmosphere and
procured cool nights for the inhabitants of Granite House. There were,
however, a few storms, which, although they were not of long duration,
swept over Lincoln Island with extraordinary fury. The lightning blazed
and the thunder continued to roll for some hours.

At this period the little colony was extremely prosperous.

The tenants of the poultry-yard swarmed, and they lived on the surplus,
but it became necessary to reduce the population to a more moderate
number. The pigs had already produced young, and it may be understood
that their care for these animals absorbed a great part of Neb and
Pencroft's time. The onagers, who had two pretty colts, were most often
mounted by Gideon Spilett and Herbert, who had become an excellent rider
under the reporter's instruction, and they also harnessed them to the
cart either for carrying wood and coal to Granite House, or different
mineral productions required by the engineer.

Several expeditions were made about this time into the depths of the Far
West Forests. The explorers could venture there without having anything
to fear from the heat, for the sun's rays scarcely penetrated through
the thick foliage spreading above their heads. They thus visited all the
left bank of the Mercy, along which ran the road from the corral to the
mouth of Falls River.

But in these excursions the settlers took care to be well armed, for
they met with savage wild boars, with which they often had a tussle.
They also, during this season, made fierce war against the jaguars.
Gideon Spilett had vowed a special hatred against them, and his pupil
Herbert seconded him well. Armed as they were, they no longer feared
to meet one of those beasts. Herbert's courage was superb, and the
reporter's sang-froid astonishing. Already twenty magnificent skins
ornamented the dining-room of Granite House, and if this continued, the
jaguar race would soon be extinct in the island, the object aimed at by
the hunters.

The engineer sometimes took part in the expeditions made to the unknown
parts of the island, which he surveyed with great attention. It was for
other traces than those of animals that he searched the thickets of the
vast forest, but nothing suspicious ever appeared. Neither Top nor Jup,
who accompanied him, ever betrayed by their behavior that there was
anything strange there, and yet more than once again the dog barked at
the mouth of the well, which the engineer had before explored without
result.

At this time Gideon Spilett, aided by Herbert, took several views of
the most picturesque parts of the island, by means of the photographic
apparatus found in the cases, and of which they had not as yet made any
use.

This apparatus, provided with a powerful object-glass, was very
complete. Substances necessary for the photographic reproduction,
collodion for preparing the glass plate, nitrate of silver to render it
sensitive, hyposulfate of soda to fix the prints obtained, chloride of
ammonium in which to soak the paper destined to give the positive proof,
acetate of soda and chloride of gold in which to immerse the paper,
nothing was wanting. Even the papers were there, all prepared,
and before laying in the printing-frame upon the negatives, it was
sufficient to soak them for a few minutes in the solution of nitrate of
silver.

The reporter and his assistant became in a short time very skilful
operators, and they obtained fine views of the country, such as the
island, taken from Prospect Heights with Mount Franklin in the distance,
the mouth of the Mercy, so picturesquely framed in high rocks, the glade
and the corral, with the spurs of the mountain in the background, the
curious development of Claw Cape, Flotsam Point, etc.

Nor did the photographers forget to take the portraits of all the
inhabitants of the island, leaving out no one.

"It multiplies us," said Pencroft.

And the sailor was enchanted to see his own countenance, faithfully
reproduced, ornamenting the walls of Granite House, and he stopped
as willingly before this exhibition as he would have done before the
richest shop-windows in Broadway.

But it must be acknowledged that the most successful portrait was
incontestably that of Master Jup. Master Jup had sat with a gravity not
to be described, and his portrait was lifelike!

"He looks as if he was just going to grin!" exclaimed Pencroft.

And if Master Jup had not been satisfied, he would have been very
difficult to please; but he was quite contented and contemplated his own
countenance with a sentimental air which expressed some small amount of
conceit.

The summer heat ended with the month of March. The weather was sometimes
rainy, but still warm. The month of March, which corresponds to the
September of northern latitudes, was not so fine as might have been
hoped. Perhaps it announced an early and rigorous winter.

It might have been supposed one morning--the 21 st--that the first snow
had already made its appearance. In fact Herbert looking early from one
of the windows of Granite House, exclaimed,--

"Hallo! the islet is covered with snow!"

"Snow at this time?" answered the reporter, joining the boy.

Their companions were soon beside them, but could only ascertain one
thing, that not only the islet but all the beach below Granite House was
covered with one uniform sheet of white.

"It must be snow!" said Pencroft.

"Or rather it's very like it!" replied Neb.

"But the thermometer marks fifty-eight degrees!" observed Gideon
Spilett.

Cyrus Harding gazed at the sheet of white without saying anything, for
he really did not know how to explain this phenomenon, at this time of
year and in such a temperature.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Pencroft, "all our plants will be frozen!"

And the sailor was about to descend, when he was preceded by the nimble
Jup, who slid down to the sand.

But the orang had not touched the ground, when the snowy sheet arose and
dispersed in the air in such innumerable flakes that the light of the
sun was obscured for some minutes.

"Birds!" cried Herbert.

They were indeed swarms of sea-birds, with dazzling white plumage.
They had perched by thousands on the islet and on the shore, and they
disappeared in the distance, leaving the colonists amazed as if they
had been present at some transformation scene, in which summer succeeded
winter at the touch of a fairy's wand. Unfortunately the change had been
so sudden, that neither the reporter nor the lad had been able to bring
down one of these birds, of which they could not recognize the species.

A few days after came the 26th of March, the day on which, two years
before, the castaways from the air had been thrown upon Lincoln Island.

 

 

Chapter 19

Two years already! and for two years the colonists had had no
communication with their fellow-creatures! They were without news from
the civilized world, lost on this island, as completely as if they had
been on the most minute star of the celestial hemisphere!

What was now happening in their country? The picture of their native
land was always before their eyes, the land torn by civil war at the
time they left it, and which the Southern rebellion was perhaps still
staining with blood! It was a great sorrow to them, and they often
talked together of these things, without ever doubting however that
the cause of the North must triumph, for the honor of the American
Confederation.

During these two years not a vessel had passed in sight of the island;
or, at least, not a sail had been seen. It was evident that Lincoln
Island was out of the usual track, and also that it was unknown,--as was
besides proved by the maps,--for though there was no port, vessels might
have visited it for the purpose of renewing their store of water. But
the surrounding ocean was deserted as far as the eye could reach, and
the colonists must rely on themselves for regaining their native land.

However, one chance of rescue existed, and this chance was discussed
one day on the first week of April, when the colonists were gathered
together in the dining-room of Granite House.

They had been talking of America, of their native country, which they
had so little hope of ever seeing again.

"Decidedly we have only one way," said Spilett, "one single way for
leaving Lincoln Island, and that is, to build a vessel large enough to
sail several hundred miles. It appears to me, that when one has built a
boat it is just as easy to build a ship!"

"And in which we might go to the Pomoutous," added Herbert, "just as
easily as we went to Tabor Island."

"I do not say no," replied Pencroft, who had always the casting vote
in maritime questions; "I do not say no, although it is not exactly the
same thing to make a long as a short voyage! If our little craft had
been caught in any heavy gale of wind during the voyage to Tabor Island,
we should have known that land was at no great distance either way; but
twelve hundred miles is a pretty long way, and the nearest land is at
least that distance!"

"Would you not, in that case, Pencroft, attempt the adventure?" asked
the reporter.

"I will attempt anything that is desired, Mr. Spilett," answered the
sailor, "and you know well that I am not a man to flinch!"

"Remember, besides, that we number another sailor amongst us now,"
remarked Neb.

"Who is that?" asked Pencroft.

"Ayrton."

"If he will consent to come," said Pencroft.

"Nonsense!" returned the reporter; "do you think that if Lord
Glenarvan's yacht had appeared at Tabor Island, while he was still
living there, Ayrton would have refused to depart?"

"You forget, my friends," then said Cyrus Harding, "that Ayrton was not
in possession of his reason during the last years of his stay there. But
that is not the question. The point is to know if we may count among
our chances of being rescued, the return of the Scotch vessel. Now,
Lord Glenarvan promised Ayrton that he would return to take him off from
Tabor Island when he considered that his crimes were expiated, and I
believe that he will return."

"Yes," said the reporter, "and I will add that he will return soon, for
it is twelve years since Ayrton was abandoned."

"Well!" answered Pencroft, "I agree with you that the nobleman will
return, and soon too. But where will he touch? At Tabor Island, and not
at Lincoln Island."

"That is the more certain," replied Herbert, "as Lincoln Island is not
even marked on the map."

"Therefore, my friends," said the engineer, "we ought to take the
necessary precautions for making our presence and that of Ayrton on
Lincoln Island known at Tabor Island."

"Certainly," answered the reporter, "and nothing is easier than to place
in the hut, which was Captain Grant's and Ayrton's dwelling, a notice
which Lord Glenarvan and his crew cannot help finding, giving the
position of our island."

"It is a pity," remarked the sailor, "that we forgot to take that
precaution on our first visit to Tabor Island."

"And why should we have done it?" asked Herbert. "At that time we did
not know Ayrton's history; we did not know that any one was likely to
come some day to fetch him, and when we did know his history, the season
was too advanced to allow us to return then to Tabor Island."

"Yes," replied Harding, "it was too late, and we must put off the voyage
until next spring."

"But suppose the Scotch yacht comes before that," said Pencroft.

"That is not probable," replied the engineer, "for Lord Glenarvan would
not choose the winter season to venture into these seas. Either he has
already returned to Tabor Island, since Ayrton has been with us, that is
to say, during the last five months and has left again; or he will not
come till later, and it will be time enough in the first fine October
days to go to Tabor Island, and leave a notice there."

"We must allow," said Neb, "that it will be very unfortunate if the
'Duncan' has returned to these parts only a few months ago!"

"I hope that it is not so," replied Cyrus Harding, "and that Heaven has
not deprived us of the best chance which remains to us."

"I think," observed the reporter, "that at any rate we shall know what
we have to depend on when we have been to Tabor Island, for if the yacht
has returned there, they will necessarily have left some traces of their
visit."

"That is evident," answered the engineer. "So then, my friends, since
we have this chance of returning to our country, we must wait patiently,
and if it is taken from us we shall see what will be best to do."

"At any rate," remarked Pencroft, "it is well understood that if we
do leave Lincoln Island, it will not be because we were uncomfortable
there!"

"No, Pencroft," replied the engineer, "it will be because we are far
from all that a man holds dearest in the world, his family, his friends,
his native land!"

Matters being thus decided, the building of a vessel large enough to
sail either to the Archipelagoes in the north, or to New Zealand in
the west, was no longer talked of, and they busied themselves in their
accustomed occupations, with a view to wintering a third time in Granite
House.

However, it was agreed that before the stormy weather came on, their
little vessel should be employed in making a voyage round the island.
A complete survey of the coast had not yet been made, and the colonists
had but an imperfect idea of the shore to the west and north, from the
mouth of Falls River to the Mandible Capes, as well as of the narrow bay
between them, which opened like a shark's jaws.

The plan of this excursion was proposed by Pencroft, and Cyrus Harding
fully acquiesced in it, for he himself wished to see this part of his
domain.

The weather was variable, but the barometer did not fluctuate by sudden
movements, and they could therefore count on tolerable weather. However,
during the first week of April, after a sudden barometrical fall, a
renewed rise was marked by a heavy gale of wind, lasting five or six
days; then the needle of the instrument remained stationary at a
height of twenty-nine inches and nine-tenths, and the weather appeared
propitious for an excursion.

The departure was fixed for the 16th of April, and the "Bonadventure,"
anchored in Port Balloon, was provisioned for a voyage which might be of
some duration.

Cyrus Harding informed Ayrton of the projected expedition, and proposed
that he should take part in it, but Ayrton preferring to remain on
shore, it was decided that he should come to Granite House during the
absence of his companions. Master Jup was ordered to keep him company,
and made no remonstrance.

On the morning of the 16th of April all the colonists, including Top,
embarked. A fine breeze blew from the south-west, and the "Bonadventure"
tacked on leaving Port Balloon so as to reach Reptile End. Of the ninety
miles which the perimeter of the island measured, twenty included the
south coast between the port and the promontory. The wind being right
ahead it was necessary to hug the shore.

It took the whole day to reach the promontory, for the vessel on leaving
port had only two hours of ebb tide and had therefore to make way for
six hours against the flood. It was nightfall before the promontory was
doubled.

The sailor then proposed to the engineer that they should continue
sailing slowly with two reefs in the sail. But Harding preferred to
anchor a few cable-lengths from the shore, so as to survey that part of
the coast during the day. It was agreed also that as they were anxious
for a minute exploration of the coast they should not sail during the
night, but would always, when the weather permitted it, be at anchor
near the shore.

The night was passed under the promontory, and the wind having fallen,
nothing disturbed the silence. The passengers, with the exception of the
sailor, scarcely slept as well on board the "Bonadventure" as they would
have done in their rooms at Granite House, but they did sleep however.
Pencroft set sail at break of day, and by going on the larboard tack
they could keep close to the shore.

The colonists knew this beautiful wooded coast, since they had already
explored it on foot, and yet it again excited their admiration. They
coasted along as close in as possible, so as to notice everything,
avoiding always the trunks of trees which floated here and there.
Several times also they anchored, and Gideon Spilett took photographs of
the superb scenery.

About noon the "Bonadventure" arrived at the mouth of Falls River.
Beyond, on the left bank, a few scattered trees appeared, and three
miles further even these dwindled into solitary groups among the western
spurs of the mountain, whose arid ridge sloped down to the shore.

What a contrast between the northern and southern part of the coast!
In proportion as one was woody and fertile so was the other rugged and
barren! It might have been designated as one of those iron coasts, as
they are called in some countries, and its wild confusion appeared to
indicate that a sudden crystallization had been produced in the yet
liquid basalt of some distant geological sea. These stupendous masses
would have terrified the settlers if they had been cast at first on
this part of the island! They had not been able to perceive the sinister
aspect of this shore from the summit of Mount Franklin, for they
overlooked it from too great a height, but viewed from the sea it
presented a wild appearance which could not perhaps be equaled in any
corner of the globe.

The "Bonadventure" sailed along this coast for the distance of half a
mile. It was easy to see that it was composed of blocks of all sizes,
from twenty to three hundred feet in height, and of all shapes, round
like towers, prismatic like steeples, pyramidal like obelisks, conical
like factory chimneys. An iceberg of the Polar seas could not have been
more capricious in its terrible sublimity! Here, bridges were thrown
from one rock to another; there, arches like those of a wave, into the
depths of which the eye could not penetrate; in one place, large vaulted
excavations presented a monumental aspect; in another, a crowd of
columns, spires, and arches, such as no Gothic cathedral ever
possessed. Every caprice of nature, still more varied than those of the
imagination, appeared on this grand coast, which extended over a length
of eight or nine miles.

Cyrus Harding and his companions gazed, with a feeling of surprise
bordering on stupefaction. But, although they remained silent, Top,
not being troubled with feelings of this sort, uttered barks which were
repeated by the thousand echoes of the basaltic cliff. The engineer
even observed that these barks had something strange in them, like those
which the dog had uttered at the mouth of the well in Granite House.

"Let us go close in," said he.

And the "Bonadventure" sailed as near as possible to the rocky shore.
Perhaps some cave, which it would be advisable to explore, existed
there? But Harding saw nothing, not a cavern, not a cleft which could
serve as a retreat to any being whatever, for the foot of the cliff was
washed by the surf. Soon Top's barks ceased, and the vessel continued
her course at a few cables-length from the coast.

In the northwest part of the island the shore became again flat and
sandy. A few trees here and there rose above a low, marshy ground, which
the colonists had already surveyed, and in violent contrast to the other
desert shore, life was again manifested by the presence of myriads of
water-fowl. That evening the "Bonadventure" anchored in a small bay
to the north of the island, near the land, such was the depth of water
there. The night passed quietly, for the breeze died away with the last
light of day, and only rose again with the first streaks of dawn.

As it was easy to land, the usual hunters of the colony, that is to say,
Herbert and Gideon Spilett, went for a ramble of two hours or so, and
returned with several strings of wild duck and snipe. Top had
done wonders, and not a bird had been lost, thanks to his zeal and
cleverness.

At eight o'clock in the morning the "Bonadventure" set sail, and ran
rapidly towards North Mandible Cape, for the wind was right astern and
freshening rapidly.

"However," observed Pencroft, "I should not be surprised if a gale came
up from the west. Yesterday the sun set in a very red-looking horizon,
and now, this morning, those mares-tails don't forbode anything good."

These mares-tails are cirrus clouds, scattered in the zenith, their
height from the sea being less than five thousand feet. They look like
light pieces of cotton wool, and their presence usually announces some
sudden change in the weather.

"Well," said Harding, "let us carry as much sail as possible, and run
for shelter into Shark Gulf. I think that the 'Bonadventure' will be
safe there."

"Perfectly," replied Pencroft, "and besides, the north coast is merely
sand, very uninteresting to look at."

"I shall not be sorry," resumed the engineer, "to pass not only to-night
but to-morrow in that bay, which is worth being carefully explored."

"I think that we shall be obliged to do so, whether we like it or not,"
answered Pencroft, "for the sky looks very threatening towards the west.
Dirty weather is coming on!"

"At any rate we have a favorable wind for reaching Cape Mandible,"
observed the reporter.

"A very fine wind," replied the sailor; "but we must tack to enter the
gulf, and I should like to see my way clear in these unknown quarters."

"Quarters which appear to be filled with rocks," added Herbert, "if we
judge by what we saw on the south coast of Shark Gulf."

"Pencroft," said Cyrus Harding, "do as you think best, we will leave it
to you."

"Don't make your mind uneasy, captain," replied the sailor, "I shall not
expose myself needlessly! I would rather a knife were run into my ribs
than a sharp rock into those of my 'Bonadventure!'"

That which Pencroft called ribs was the part of his vessel under water,
and he valued it more than his own skin.

"What o'clock is it?" asked Pencroft.

"Ten o'clock," replied Gideon Spilett.

"And what distance is it to the Cape, captain?"

"About fifteen miles," replied the engineer.

"That's a matter of two hours and a half," said the sailor, "and we
shall be off the Cape between twelve and one o'clock. Unluckily, the
tide will be turning at that moment, and will be ebbing out of the gulf.
I am afraid that it will be very difficult to get in, having both wind
and tide against us."

"And the more so that it is a full moon to-day," remarked Herbert, "and
these April tides are very strong."

"Well, Pencroft," asked Harding, "can you not anchor off the Cape?"

"Anchor near land, with bad weather coming on!" exclaimed the sailor.
"What are you thinking of, captain? We should run aground, of a
certainty!"

"What will you do then?"

"I shall try to keep in the offing until the flood, that is to say, till
about seven in the evening, and if there is still light enough I will
try to enter the gulf; if not, we must stand off and on during the
night, and we will enter to-morrow at sunrise."

"As I told you, Pencroft, we will leave it to you," answered Harding.

"Ah!" said Pencroft, "if there was only a lighthouse on the coast, it
would be much more convenient for sailors."

"Yes," replied Herbert, "and this time we shall have no obliging
engineer to light a fire to guide us into port!"

"Why, indeed, my dear Cyrus," said Spilett, "we have never thanked you;
but frankly, without that fire we should never have been able--"

"A fire?" asked Harding, much astonished at the reporter's words.

"We mean, captain," answered Pencroft, "that on board the 'Bonadventure'
we were very anxious during the few hours before our return, and we
should have passed to windward of the island, if it had not been for the
precaution you took of lighting a fire the night of the 19th of October,
on Prospect Heights."

"Yes, yes! That was a lucky idea of mine!" replied the engineer.

"And this time," continued the sailor, "unless the idea occurs to
Ayrton, there will be no one to do us that little service!"

"No! No one!" answered Cyrus Harding.

A few minutes after, finding himself alone in the bows of the vessel,
with the reporter, the engineer bent down and whispered,--

"If there is one thing certain in this world, Spilett, it is that I
never lighted any fire during the night of the 19th of October, neither
on Prospect Heights nor on any other part of the island!"

 

 

Chapter 20

Things happened as Pencroft had predicted, he being seldom mistaken in
his prognostications. The wind rose, and from a fresh breeze it soon
increased to a regular gale; that is to say, it acquired a speed of from
forty to forty-five miles an hour, before which a ship in the open sea
would have run under close-reefed topsails. Now, as it was nearly six
o'clock when the "Bonadventure" reached the gulf, and as at that
moment the tide turned, it was impossible to enter. They were therefore
compelled to stand off, for even if he had wished to do so, Pencroft
could not have gained the mouth of the Mercy. Hoisting the jib to the
mainmast by way of a storm-sail, he hove to, putting the head of the
vessel towards the land.

Fortunately, although the wind was strong the sea, being sheltered by
the land, did not run very high. They had then little to fear from
the waves, which always endanger small craft. The "Bonadventure" would
doubtlessly not have capsized, for she was well ballasted, but enormous
masses of water falling on the deck might injure her if her timbers
could not sustain them. Pencroft, as a good sailor, was prepared
for anything. Certainly, he had great confidence in his vessel, but
nevertheless he awaited the return of day with some anxiety.

During the night, Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett had no opportunity
for talking together, and yet the words pronounced in the reporter's
ear by the engineer were well worth being discussed, together with the
mysterious influence which appeared to reign over Lincoln Island. Gideon
Spilett did not cease from pondering over this new and inexplicable
incident, the appearance of a fire on the coast of the island. The fire
had actually been seen! His companions, Herbert and Pencroft, had seen
it with him! The fire had served to signalize the position of the island
during that dark night, and they had not doubted that it was lighted by
the engineer's hand; and here was Cyrus Harding expressly declaring that
he had never done anything of the sort! Spilett resolved to recur to
this incident as soon as the "Bonadventure" returned, and to urge Cyrus
Harding to acquaint their companions with these strange facts. Perhaps
it would be decided to make in common a complete investigation of every
part of Lincoln Island.

However that might be, on this evening no fire was lighted on these yet
unknown shores, which formed the entrance to the gulf, and the little
vessel stood off during the night.

When the first streaks of dawn appeared in the western horizon, the
wind, which had slightly fallen, shifted two points, and enabled
Pencroft to enter the narrow gulf with greater ease. Towards seven
o'clock in the morning, the "Bonadventure," weathering the North
Mandible Cape, entered the strait and glided on to the waters, so
strangely enclosed in the frame of lava.

"Well," said Pencroft, "this bay would make admirable roads, in which a
whole fleet could lie at their ease!"

"What is especially curious," observed Harding, "is that the gulf
has been formed by two rivers of lava, thrown out by the volcano, and
accumulated by successive eruptions. The result is that the gulf is
completely sheltered on all sides, and I believe that even in the
stormiest weather, the sea here must be as calm as a lake."

"No doubt," returned the sailor, "since the wind has only that narrow
entrance between the two capes to get in by, and, besides, the north
cape protects that of the south in a way which would make the entrance
of gusts very difficult. I declare our 'Bonadventure' could stay here
from one end of the year to the other, without even dragging at her
anchor!"

"It is rather large for her!" observed the reporter.

"Well! Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "I agree that it is too large
for the 'Bonadventure,' but if the fleets of the Union were in want of a
harbor in the Pacific, I don't think they would ever find a better place
than this!"

"We are in the shark's mouth," remarked Neb, alluding to the form of the
gulf.

"Right into its mouth, my honest Neb!" replied Herbert, "but you are not
afraid that it will shut upon us, are you?"

"No, Mr. Herbert," answered Neb, "and yet this gulf here doesn't please
me much! It has a wicked look!"

"Hallo!" cried Pencroft, "here is Neb turning up his nose at my gulf,
just as I was thinking of presenting it to America!"

"But, at any rate, is the water deep enough?" asked the engineer, "for a
depth sufficient for the keel of the 'Bonadventure' would not be enough
for those of our iron-clads."

"That is easily found out," replied Pencroft.

And the sailor sounded with a long cord, which served him as a
lead-line, and to which was fastened a lump of iron. This cord measured
nearly fifty fathoms, and its entire length was unrolled without finding
any bottom.

"There," exclaimed Pencroft, "our iron-clads can come here after all!
They would not run aground!"

"Indeed," said Gideon Spilett, "this gulf is a regular abyss, but,
taking into consideration the volcanic origin of the island, it is not
astonishing that the sea should offer similar depressions."

"One would say too," observed Herbert, "that these cliffs were perfectly
perpendicular; and I believe that at their foot, even with a line five
or six times longer, Pencroft would not find bottom."

"That is all very well," then said the reporter, "but I must point out
to Pencroft that his harbor is wanting in one very important respect!"

"And what is that, Mr. Spilett?"

"An opening, a cutting of some sort, to give access to the interior of
the island. I do not see a spot on which we could land." And, in
fact, the steep lava cliffs did not afford a single place suitable for
landing. They formed an insuperable barrier, recalling, but with more
wildness, the fiords of Norway. The "Bonadventure," coasting as close
as possible along the cliffs, did not discover even a projection which
would allow the passengers to leave the deck.

Pencroft consoled himself by saying that with the help of a mine they
could soon open out the cliff when that was necessary, and then, as
there was evidently nothing to be done in the gulf, he steered his
vessel towards the strait and passed out at about two o'clock in the
afternoon.

"Ah!" said Neb, uttering a sigh of satisfaction.

One might really say that the honest Negro did not feel at his ease in
those enormous jaws.

The distance from Mandible Cape to the mouth of the Mercy was not more
than eight miles. The head of the "Bonadventure" was put towards Granite
House, and a fair wind filling her sails, she ran rapidly along the
coast.

To the enormous lava rocks succeeded soon those capricious sand dunes,
among which the engineer had been so singularly recovered, and which
seabirds frequented in thousands.

About four o'clock, Pencroft leaving the point of the islet on his
left, entered the channel which separated it from the coast, and at five
o'clock the anchor of the "Bonadventure" was buried in the sand at the
mouth of the Mercy.

The colonists had been absent three days from their dwelling. Ayrton
was waiting for them on the beach, and Jup came joyously to meet them,
giving vent to deep grunts of satisfaction.

A complete exploration of the coast of the island had now been made,
and no suspicious appearances had been observed. If any mysterious being
resided on it, it could only be under cover of the impenetrable forest
of the Serpentine Peninsula, to which the colonists had not yet directed
their investigations.

Gideon Spilett discussed these things with the engineer, and it was
agreed that they should direct the attention of their companions to the
strange character of certain incidents which had occurred on the island,
and of which the last was the most unaccountable.

However, Harding, returning to the fact of a fire having been kindled on
the shore by an unknown hand, could not refrain from repeating for the
twentieth time to the reporter,--

"But are you quite sure of having seen it? Was it not a partial eruption
of the volcano, or perhaps some meteor?"

"No, Cyrus," answered the reporter, "it was certainly a fire lighted by
the hand of man. Besides; question Pencroft and Herbert. They saw it as
I saw it myself, and they will confirm my words."

In consequence, therefore, a few days after, on the 25th of April, in
the evening, when the settlers were all collected on Prospect Heights,
Cyrus Harding began by saying,--

"My friends, I think it my duty to call your attention to certain
incidents which have occurred in the island, on the subject of which I
shall be happy to have your advice. These incidents are, so to speak,
supernatural--"

"Supernatural!" exclaimed the sailor, emitting a volume of smoke from
his mouth. "Can it be possible that our island is supernatural?"

"No, Pencroft, but mysterious, most certainly," replied the engineer;
"unless you can explain that which Spilett and I have until now failed
to understand."

"Speak away, captain," answered the sailor.

"Well, have you understood," then said the engineer, "how was it that
after falling into the sea, I was found a quarter of a mile into the
interior of the island, and that, without my having any consciousness of
my removal there?"

"Unless, being unconscious--" said Pencroft.

"That is not admissible," replied the engineer. "But to continue. Have
you understood how Top was able to discover your retreat five miles from
the cave in which I was lying?"

"The dog's instinct--" observed Herbert.

"Singular instinct!" returned the reporter, "since notwithstanding the
storm of rain and wind which was raging during that night, Top arrived
at the Chimneys, dry and without a speck of mud!"

"Let us continue," resumed the engineer. "Have you understood how our
dog was so strangely thrown up out of the water of the lake, after his
struggle with the dugong?"

"No! I confess, not at all," replied Pencroft, "and the wound which the
dugong had in its side, a wound which seemed to have been made with a
sharp instrument; that can't be understood, either."

"Let us continue again," said Harding. "Have you understood, my friends,
how that bullet got into the body of the young peccary; how that case
happened to be so fortunately stranded, without there being any trace
of a wreck; how that bottle containing the document presented itself
so opportunely, during our first sea-excursion; how our canoe, having
broken its moorings, floated down the current of the Mercy and rejoined
us at the very moment we needed it; how after the ape invasion the
ladder was so obligingly thrown down from Granite House; and lastly, how
the document, which Ayrton asserts was never written by him, fell into
our hands?"

As Cyrus Harding thus enumerated, without forgetting one, the singular
incidents which had occurred in the island, Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft
stared at each other, not knowing what to reply, for this succession of
incidents, grouped thus for the first time, could not but excite their
surprise to the highest degree.

"'Pon my word," said Pencroft at last, "you are right, captain, and it
is difficult to explain all these things!"

"Well, my friends," resumed the engineer, "a last fact has just been
added to these, and it is no less incomprehensible than the others!"

"What is it, captain?" asked Herbert quickly.

"When you were returning from Tabor Island, Pencroft," continued the
engineer, "you said that a fire appeared on Lincoln Island?"

"Certainly," answered the sailor.

"And you are quite certain of having seen this fire?"

"As sure as I see you now."

"You also, Herbert?"

"Why, captain," cried Herbert, "that fire was blazing like a star of the
first magnitude!"

"But was it not a star?" urged the engineer.

"No," replied Pencroft, "for the sky was covered with thick clouds, and
at any rate a star would not have been so low on the horizon. But Mr.
Spilett saw it as well as we, and he will confirm our words."

"I will add," said the reporter, "that the fire was very bright, and
that it shot up like a sheet of lightning."

"Yes, yes! exactly," added Herbert, "and it was certainly placed on the
heights of Granite House."

"Well, my friends," replied Cyrus Harding, "during the night of the 19th
of October, neither Neb nor I lighted any fire on the coast."

"You did not!" exclaimed Pencroft, in the height of his astonishment,
not being able to finish his sentence.

"We did not leave Granite House," answered Cyrus Harding, "and if a fire
appeared on the coast, it was lighted by another hand than ours!"

Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb were stupefied. No illusion could be
possible, and a fire had actually met their eyes during the night of the
19th of October. Yes! they had to acknowledge it, a mystery existed! An
inexplicable influence, evidently favorable to the colonists, but very
irritating to their curiosity, was executed always in the nick of time
on Lincoln Island. Could there be some being hidden in its profoundest
recesses? It was necessary at any cost to ascertain this.

Harding also reminded his companions of the singular behavior of Top and
Jup when they prowled round the mouth of the well, which placed Granite
House in communication with the sea, and he told them that he had
explored the well, without discovering anything suspicious. The final
resolve taken, in consequence of this conversation, by all the members
of the colony, was that as soon as the fine season returned they would
thoroughly search the whole of the island.

But from that day Pencroft appeared to be anxious. He felt as if the
island which he had made his own personal property belonged to him
entirely no longer, and that he shared it with another master, to
whom, willing or not, he felt subject. Neb and he often talked of those
unaccountable things, and both, their natures inclining them to the
marvelous, were not far from believing that Lincoln Island was under the
dominion of some supernatural power.

In the meanwhile, the bad weather came with the month of May, the
November of the northern zones. It appeared that the winter would
be severe and forward. The preparations for the winter season were
therefore commenced without delay.

Nevertheless, the colonists were well prepared to meet the winter,
however hard it might be. They had plenty of felt clothing, and the
musmons, very numerous by this time, had furnished an abundance of wool
necessary for the manufacture of this warm material.

It is unnecessary to say that Ayrton had been provided with this
comfortable clothing. Cyrus Harding proposed that he should come to
spend the bad season with them in Granite House, where he would be
better lodged than at the corral, and Ayrton promised to do so, as soon
as the last work at the corral was finished. He did this towards the
middle of April. From that time Ayrton shared the common life, and made
himself useful on all occasions; but still humble and sad, he never took
part in the pleasures of his companions.

For the greater part of this, the third winter which the settlers passed
in Lincoln Island, they were confined to Granite House. There were many
violent storms and frightful tempests, which appeared to shake the rocks
to their very foundations. Immense waves threatened to overwhelm the
island, and certainly any vessel anchored near the shore would have
been dashed to pieces. Twice, during one of these hurricanes, the Mercy
swelled to such a degree as to give reason to fear that the bridges
would be swept away, and it was necessary to strengthen those on the
shore, which disappeared under the foaming waters, when the sea beat
against the beach.

It may well be supposed that such storms, comparable to water-spouts in
which were mingled rain and snow, would cause great havoc on the
plateau of Prospect Heights. The mill and the poultry-yard particularly
suffered. The colonists were often obliged to make immediate repairs,
without which the safety of the birds would have been seriously
threatened.

During the worst weather, several jaguars and troops of quadrumana
ventured to the edge of the plateau, and it was always to be feared that
the most active and audacious would, urged by hunger, manage to cross
the stream, which besides, when frozen, offered them an easy passage.
Plantations and domestic animals would then have been infallibly
destroyed, without a constant watch, and it was often necessary to
make use of the guns to keep those dangerous visitors at a respectful
distance. Occupation was not wanting to the colonists, for without
reckoning their out-door cares, they had always a thousand plans for the
fitting up of Granite House.

They had also some fine sporting excursions, which were made during the
frost in the vast Tadorn Marsh. Gideon Spilett and Herbert, aided by
Jup and Top, did not miss a shot in the midst of myriads of wild-duck,
snipe, teal, and others. The access to these hunting-grounds was easy;
besides, whether they reached them by the road to Port Balloon, after
having passed the Mercy Bridge, or by turning the rocks from Flotsam
Point, the hunters were never distant from Granite House more than two
or three miles.

Thus passed the four winter months, which were really rigorous, that is
to say, June, July, August, and September. But, in short, Granite House
did not suffer much from the inclemency of the weather, and it was
the same with the corral, which, less exposed than the plateau, and
sheltered partly by Mount Franklin, only received the remains of the
hurricanes, already broken by the forests and the high rocks of the
shore. The damages there were consequently of small importance, and the
activity and skill of Ayrton promptly repaired them, when some time in
October he returned to pass a few days in the corral.

During this winter, no fresh inexplicable incident occurred. Nothing
strange happened, although Pencroft and Neb were on the watch for the
most insignificant facts to which they attached any mysterious cause.
Top and Jup themselves no longer growled round the well or gave any
signs of uneasiness. It appeared, therefore, as if the series of
supernatural incidents was interrupted, although they often talked of
them during the evenings in Granite House, and they remained thoroughly
resolved that the island should be searched, even in those parts the
most difficult to explore. But an event of the highest importance, and
of which the consequences might be terrible, momentarily diverted from
their projects Cyrus Harding and his companions.

It was the month of October. The fine season was swiftly returning.
Nature was reviving; and among the evergreen foliage of the coniferae
which formed the border of the wood, already appeared the young leaves
of the banksias, deodars, and other trees.

It may be remembered that Gideon Spilett and Herbert had, at different
times, taken photographic views of Lincoln Island.

Now, on the 17th of this month of October, towards three o'clock in
the afternoon, Herbert, enticed by the charms of the sky, thought of
reproducing Union Bay, which was opposite to Prospect Heights, from Cape
Mandible to Claw Cape.

The horizon was beautifully clear, and the sea, undulating under a soft
breeze, was as calm as the waters of a lake, sparkling here and there
under the sun's rays.

The apparatus had been placed at one of the windows of the dining-room
at Granite House, and consequently overlooked the shore and the bay.
Herbert proceeded as he was accustomed to do, and the negative obtained,
he went away to fix it by means of the chemicals deposited in a dark
nook of Granite House.

Returning to the bright light, and examining it well, Herbert perceived
on his negative an almost imperceptible little spot on the sea horizon.
He endeavored to make it disappear by reiterated washing, but could not
accomplish it.

"It is a flaw in the glass," he thought.

And then he had the curiosity to examine this flaw with a strong
magnifier which he unscrewed from one of the telescopes.

But he had scarcely looked at it, when he uttered a cry, and the glass
almost fell from his hands.

Immediately running to the room in which Cyrus Harding then was, he
extended the negative and magnifier towards the engineer, pointing out
the little spot.

Harding examined it; then seizing his telescope he rushed to the window.

The telescope, after having slowly swept the horizon, at last stopped on
the looked-for spot, and Cyrus Harding, lowering it, pronounced one word
only,--

"A vessel!"

And in fact a vessel was in sight, off Lincoln Island!

 

 

 

 

PART 3

THE SECRET OF THE ISLAND

 

 

Chapter 1

It was now two years and a half since the castaways from the balloon had
been thrown on Lincoln Island, and during that period there had been no
communication between them and their fellow-creatures. Once the reporter
had attempted to communicate with the inhabited world by confiding to
a bird a letter which contained the secret of their situation, but that
was a chance on which it was impossible to reckon seriously. Ayrton,
alone, under the circumstances which have been related, had come to
join the little colony. Now, suddenly, on this day, the 17th of October,
other men had unexpectedly appeared in sight of the island, on that
deserted sea!

There could be no doubt about it! A vessel was there! But would she
pass on, or would she put into port? In a few hours the colonists would
definitely know what to expect.

Cyrus Harding and Herbert having immediately called Gideon Spilett,
Pencroft, and Neb into the dining-room of Granite House, told them
what had happened. Pencroft, seizing the telescope, rapidly swept the
horizon, and stopping on the indicated point, that is to say, on
that which had made the almost imperceptible spot on the photographic
negative,--

"I'm blessed but it is really a vessel!" he exclaimed, in a voice which
did not express any great amount of satisfaction.

"Is she coming here?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"Impossible to say anything yet," answered Pencroft, "for her rigging
alone is above the horizon, and not a bit of her hull can be seen."

"What is to be done?" asked the lad.

"Wait," replied Harding.

And for a considerable time the settlers remained silent, given up to
all the thoughts, and the emotions, all the fears, all the hopes, which
were aroused by this incident--the most important which had occurred
since their arrival in Lincoln Island. Certainly, the colonists were not
in the situation of castaways abandoned on a sterile islet, constantly
contending against a cruel nature for their miserable existence, and
incessantly tormented by the longing to return to inhabited countries.
Pencroft and Neb, especially, who felt themselves at once so happy and
so rich, would not have left their island without regret. They were
accustomed, besides, to this new life in the midst of the domain which
their intelligence had as it were civilized. But at any rate this ship
brought news from the world, perhaps even from their native land. It was
bringing fellow-creatures to them, and it may be conceived how deeply
their hearts were moved at the sight!

From time to time Pencroft took the glass and rested himself at the
window. From thence he very attentively examined the vessel, which was
at a distance of twenty miles to the east. The colonists had as yet,
therefore, no means of signalizing their presence. A flag would not have
been perceived; a gun would not have been heard; a fire would not have
been visible. However, it was certain that the island, overtopped by
Mount Franklin, could not escape the notice of the vessel's lookout. But
why was the ship coming there? Was it simple chance which brought it to
that part of the Pacific, where the maps mentioned no land except Tabor
Island, which itself was out of the route usually followed by vessels
from the Polynesian Archipelagoes, from New Zealand, and from the
American coast? To this question, which each one asked himself, a reply
was suddenly made by Herbert.

"Can it be the 'Duncan'?" he cried.

The "Duncan," as has been said, was Lord Glenarvan's yacht, which had
left Ayrton on the islet, and which was to return there someday to fetch
him. Now, the islet was not so far distant from Lincoln Island, but
that a vessel, standing for the one, could pass in sight of the other. A
hundred and fifty miles only separated them in longitude, and seventy in
latitude.

"We must tell Ayrton," said Gideon Spilett, "and send for him
immediately. He alone can say if it is the 'Duncan.'"

This was the opinion of all, and the reporter, going to the telegraphic
apparatus which placed the corral in communication with Granite House,
sent this telegram:--"Come with all possible speed."

In a few minutes the bell sounded.

"I am coming," replied Ayrton.

Then the settlers continued to watch the vessel.

"If it is the 'Duncan,'" said Herbert, "Ayrton will recognize her
without difficulty, since he sailed on board her for some time."

"And if he recognizes her," added Pencroft, "it will agitate him
exceedingly!"

"Yes," answered Cyrus Harding; "but now Ayrton is worthy to return on
board the 'Duncan,' and pray Heaven that it is indeed Lord Glenarvan's
yacht, for I should be suspicious of any other vessel. These are
ill-famed seas, and I have always feared a visit from Malay pirates to
our island."

"We could defend it,', cried Herbert.

"No doubt, my boy," answered the engineer smiling, "but it would be
better not to have to defend it."

"A useless observation," said Spilett. "Lincoln Island is unknown to
navigators, since it is not marked even on the most recent maps. Do
you think, Cyrus, that that is a sufficient motive for a ship, finding
herself unexpectedly in sight of new land, to try and visit rather than
avoid it?"

"Certainly," replied Pencroft.

"I think so too," added the engineer. "It may even be said that it is
the duty of a captain to come and survey any land or island not yet
known, and Lincoln Island is in this position."

"Well," said Pencroft, "suppose this vessel comes and anchors there a
few cables-lengths from our island, what shall we do?"

This sudden question remained at first without any reply. But Cyrus
Harding, after some moments' thought, replied in the calm tone which was
usual to him,--

"What we shall do, my friends? What we ought to do is this:--we will
communicate with the ship, we will take our passage on board her, and we
will leave our island, after having taken possession of it in the name
of the United States. Then we will return with any who may wish to
follow us to colonize it definitely, and endow the American Republic
with a useful station in this part of the Pacific Ocean!"

"Hurrah!" exclaimed Pencroft, "and that will be no small present
which we shall make to our country! The colonization is already almost
finished; names are given to every part of the island; there is
a natural port, fresh water, roads, a telegraph, a dockyard, and
manufactories; and there will be nothing to be done but to inscribe
Lincoln Island on the maps!"

"But if anyone seizes it in our absence?" observed Gideon Spilett.

"Hang it!" cried the sailor. "I would rather remain all alone to guard
it: and trust to Pencroft, they shouldn't steal it from him, like a
watch from the pocket of a swell!"

For an hour it was impossible to say with any certainty whether the
vessel was or was not standing towards Lincoln Island. She was
nearer, but in what direction was she sailing? This Pencroft could not
determine. However, as the wind was blowing from the northeast, in all
probability the vessel was sailing on the starboard tack. Besides, the
wind was favorable for bringing her towards the island, and, the sea
being calm, she would not be afraid to approach although the shallows
were not marked on the chart.

Towards four o'clock--an hour after he had been sent for--Ayrton arrived
at Granite House. He entered the dining-room saying,--

"At your service, gentlemen."

Cyrus Harding gave him his hand, as was his custom to do, and, leading
him to the window,--

"Ayrton," said he, "we have begged you to come here for an important
reason. A ship is in sight of the island."

Ayrton at first paled slightly, and for a moment his eyes became dim;
then, leaning out the window, he surveyed the horizon, but could see
nothing.

"Take this telescope," said Spilett, "and look carefully, Ayrton, for
it is possible that this ship may be the 'Duncan' come to these seas for
the purpose of taking you home again."

"The 'Duncan!'" murmured Ayrton. "Already?" This last word escaped
Ayrton's lips as if involuntarily, and his head drooped upon his hands.

Did not twelve years' solitude on a desert island appear to him a
sufficient expiation? Did not the penitent yet feel himself pardoned,
either in his own eyes or in the eyes of others?

"No," said he, "no! it cannot be the 'Duncan'!"

"Look, Ayrton," then said the engineer, "for it is necessary that we
should know beforehand what to expect."

Ayrton took the glass and pointed it in the direction indicated. During
some minutes he examined the horizon without moving, without uttering a
word. Then,--

"It is indeed a vessel," said he, "but I do not think she is the
'Duncan.'"

"Why do you not think so?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"Because the 'Duncan' is a steam-yacht, and I cannot perceive any trace
of smoke either above or near that vessel."

"Perhaps she is simply sailing," observed Pencroft. "The wind is
favorable for the direction which she appears to be taking, and she may
be anxious to economize her coal, being so far from land."

"It is possible that you may be right, Mr. Pencroft," answered Ayrton,
"and that the vessel has extinguished her fires. We must wait until she
is nearer, and then we shall soon know what to expect."

So saying, Ayrton sat down in a corner of the room and remained silent.
The colonists again discussed the strange ship, but Ayrton took no
part in the conversation. All were in such a mood that they found it
impossible to continue their work. Gideon Spilett and Pencroft were
particularly nervous, going, coming, not able to remain still in one
place. Herbert felt more curiosity. Neb alone maintained his usual
calm manner. Was not his country that where his master was? As to the
engineer, he remained plunged in deep thought, and in his heart feared
rather than desired the arrival of the ship. In the meanwhile, the
vessel was a little nearer the island. With the aid of the glass, it was
ascertained that she was a brig, and not one of those Malay proas, which
are generally used by the pirates of the Pacific. It was, therefore,
reasonable to believe that the engineer's apprehensions would not be
justified, and that the presence of this vessel in the vicinity of the
island was fraught with no danger.

Pencroft, after a minute examination, was able positively to affirm that
the vessel was rigged as a brig, and that she was standing obliquely
towards the coast, on the starboard tack, under her topsails and
top-gallant-sails. This was confirmed by Ayrton. But by continuing in
this direction she must soon disappear behind Claw Cape, as the wind
was from the southwest, and to watch her it would be then necessary
to ascend the height of Washington Bay, near Port Balloon--a provoking
circumstance, for it was already five o'clock in the evening, and the
twilight would soon make any observation extremely difficult.

"What shall we do when night comes on?" asked Gideon Spilett. "Shall we
light a fire, so as to signal our presence on the coast?"

This was a serious question, and yet, although the engineer still
retained some of his presentiments, it was answered in the affirmative.
During the night the ship might disappear and leave for ever, and, this
ship gone, would another ever return to the waters of Lincoln Island?
Who could foresee what the future would then have in store for the
colonists?

"Yes," said the reporter, "we ought to make known to that vessel,
whoever she may be, that the island is inhabited. To neglect the
opportunity which is offered to us might be to create everlasting
regrets."

It was therefore decided that Neb and Pencroft should go to Port
Balloon, and that there, at nightfall, they should light an immense
fire, the blaze of which would necessarily attract the attention of the
brig.

But at the moment when Neb and the sailor were preparing to leave
Granite House, the vessel suddenly altered her course, and stood
directly for Union Bay. The brig was a good sailer, for she approached
rapidly. Neb and Pencroft put off their departure, therefore, and the
glass was put into Ayrton's hands, that he might ascertain for certain
whether the ship was or was not the "Duncan." The Scotch yacht was also
rigged as a brig. The question was, whether a chimney could be discerned
between the two masts of the vessel, which was now at a distance of only
five miles.

The horizon was still very clear. The examination was easy, and Ayrton
soon let the glass fall again, saying--

"It is not the 'Duncan'! It could not be!"

Pencroft again brought the brig within the range of the telescope, and
could see that she was of between three and four hundred tons burden,
wonderfully narrow, well-masted, admirably built, and must be a very
rapid sailer. But to what nation did she belong? That was difficult to
say.

"And yet," added the sailor, "a flag is floating from her peak, but I
cannot distinguish the colors of it."

"In half an hour we shall be certain about that," answered the reporter.
"Besides, it is very evident that the intention of the captain of this
ship is to land, and, consequently, if not today, to-morrow at the
latest, we shall make his acquaintance."

"Never mind!" said Pencroft. "It is best to know whom we have to deal
with, and I shall not be sorry to recognize that fellow's colors!"

And, while thus speaking, the sailor never left the glass. The day began
to fade, and with the day the breeze fell also. The brig's ensign hung
in folds, and it became more and more difficult to observe it.

"It is not the American flag," said Pencroft from time to time, "nor the
English, the red of which could be easily seen, nor the French or German
colors, nor the white flag of Russia, nor the yellow of Spain. One would
say it was all one color. Let's see: in these seas, what do we generally
meet with? The Chilean flag?--but that is tri-color. Brazilian?--it is
green. Japanese?--it is yellow and black, while this--"

At that moment the breeze blew out the unknown flag. Ayrton seizing the
telescope which the sailor had put down, put it to his eye, and in a
hoarse voice,--

"The black flag!" he exclaimed.

And indeed the somber bunting was floating from the mast of the brig,
and they had now good reason for considering her to be a suspicious
vessel!

Had the engineer, then, been right in his presentiments? Was this a
pirate vessel? Did she scour the Pacific, competing with the Malay proas
which still infest it? For what had she come to look at the shores of
Lincoln Island? Was it to them an unknown island, ready to become
a magazine for stolen cargoes? Had she come to find on the coast a
sheltered port for the winter months? Was the settlers' honest domain
destined to be transformed into an infamous refuge--the headquarters of
the piracy of the Pacific?

All these ideas instinctively presented themselves to the colonists'
imaginations. There was no doubt, besides, of the signification which
must be attached to the color of the hoisted flag. It was that of
pirates! It was that which the "Duncan" would have carried, had the
convicts succeeded in their criminal design! No time was lost before
discussing it.

"My friends," said Cyrus Harding, "perhaps this vessel only wishes to
survey the coast of the island. Perhaps her crew will not land. There is
a chance of it. However that may be, we ought to do everything we can to
hide our presence here. The windmill on Prospect Heights is too easily
seen. Let Ayrton and Neb go and take down the sails. We must also
conceal the windows of Granite House with thick branches. All the fires
must be extinguished, so that nothing may betray the presence of men on
the island."

"And our vessel?" said Herbert.

"Oh," answered Pencroft, "she is sheltered in Port Balloon, and I defy
any of those rascals there to find her!"

The engineer's orders were immediately executed. Neb and Ayrton
ascended the plateau, and took the necessary precautions to conceal
any indication of a settlement. While they were thus occupied, their
companions went to the border of Jacamar Wood, and brought back a large
quantity of branches and creepers, which would at some distance appear
as natural foliage, and thus disguise the windows in the granite cliff.
At the same time, the ammunition and guns were placed ready so as to be
at hand in case of an unexpected attack.

When all these precautions had been taken,--

"My friends," said Harding, and his voice betrayed some emotion, "if the
wretches endeavor to seize Lincoln Island, we shall defend it--shall we
not?"

"Yes, Cyrus," replied the reporter, "and if necessary we will die to
defend it!"

The engineer extended his hand to his companions, who pressed it warmly.
Ayrton remained in his corner, not joining the colonists. Perhaps he,
the former convict, still felt himself unworthy to do so!

Cyrus Harding understood what was passing in Ayrton's mind, and going to
him--

"And you, Ayrton," he asked, "what will you do?"

"My duty," answered Ayrton.

He then took up his station near the window and gazed through the
foliage.

It was now half-past seven. The sun had disappeared twenty minutes ago
behind Granite House. Consequently the Eastern horizon was becoming
obscured. In the meanwhile the brig continued to advance towards Union
Bay. She was now not more than two miles off, and exactly opposite the
plateau of Prospect Heights, for after having tacked off Claw Cape, she
had drifted towards the north in the current of the rising tide. One
might have said that at this distance she had already entered the vast
bay, for a straight line drawn from Claw Cape to Cape Mandible would
have rested on her starboard quarter.

Was the brig about to penetrate far into the bay? That was the first
question. When once in the bay, would she anchor there? That was the
second. Would she not content herself with only surveying the coast, and
stand out to sea again without landing her crew? They would know this in
an hour. The colonists could do nothing but wait.

Cyrus Harding had not seen the suspected vessel hoist the black flag
without deep anxiety. Was it not a direct menace against the work which
he and his companions had till now conducted so successfully? Had these
pirates--for the sailors of the brig could be nothing else--already
visited the island, since on approaching it they had hoisted their
colors. Had they formerly invaded it, so that certain unaccountable
peculiarities might be explained in this way? Did there exist in the as
yet unexplored parts some accomplice ready to enter into communication
with them?

To all these questions which he mentally asked himself, Harding knew not
what to reply; but he felt that the safety of the colony could not but
be seriously threatened by the arrival of the brig.

However, he and his companions were determined to fight to the last
gasp. It would have been very important to know if the pirates
were numerous and better armed than the colonists. But how was this
information to be obtained?

Night fell. The new moon had disappeared. Profound darkness enveloped
the island and the sea. No light could pierce through the heavy piles
of clouds on the horizon. The wind had died away completely with the
twilight. Not a leaf rustled on the trees, not a ripple murmured on
the shore. Nothing could be seen of the ship, all her lights being
extinguished, and if she was still in sight of the island, her
whereabouts could not be discovered.

"Well! who knows?" said Pencroft. "Perhaps that cursed craft will stand
off during the night, and we shall see nothing of her at daybreak."

As if in reply to the sailor's observation, a bright light flashed in
the darkness, and a cannon-shot was heard.

The vessel was still there and had guns on board.

Six seconds elapsed between the flash and the report.

Therefore the brig was about a mile and a quarter from the coast.

At the same time, the chains were heard rattling through the
hawse-holes.

The vessel had just anchored in sight of Granite House!

 

 

Chapter 2

There was no longer any doubt as to the pirates' intentions. They had
dropped anchor at a short distance from the island, and it was evident
that the next day by means of their boats they purposed to land on the
beach!

Cyrus Harding and his companions were ready to act, but, determined
though they were, they must not forget to be prudent. Perhaps their
presence might still be concealed in the event of the pirates contenting
themselves with landing on the shore without examining the interior of
the island. It might be, indeed, that their only intention was to obtain
fresh water from the Mercy, and it was not impossible that the bridge,
thrown across a mile and a half from the mouth, and the manufactory at
the Chimneys might escape their notice.

But why was that flag hoisted at the brig's peak? What was that shot
fired for? Pure bravado doubtless, unless it was a sign of the act of
taking possession. Harding knew now that the vessel was well armed. And
what had the colonists of Lincoln Island to reply to the pirates' guns?
A few muskets only.

"However," observed Cyrus Harding, "here we are in an impregnable
position. The enemy cannot discover the mouth of the outlet, now that it
is hidden under reeds and grass, and consequently it would be impossible
for them to penetrate into Granite House."

"But our plantations, our poultry-yard, our corral, all, everything!"
exclaimed Pencroft, stamping his foot. "They may spoil everything,
destroy everything in a few hours!"

"Everything, Pencroft," answered Harding, "and we have no means of
preventing them."

"Are they numerous? that is the question," said the reporter. "If they
are not more than a dozen, we shall be able to stop them, but forty,
fifty, more perhaps!"

"Captain Harding," then said Ayrton, advancing towards the engineer,
"will you give me leave?"

"For what, my friend?"

"To go to that vessel to find out the strength of her crew."

"But Ayrton--" answered the engineer, hesitating, "you will risk your
life--"

"Why not, sir?"

"That is more than your duty."

"I have more than my duty to do," replied Ayrton.

"Will you go to the ship in the boat?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"No, sir, but I will swim. A boat would be seen where a man may glide
between wind and water."

"Do you know that the brig is a mile and a quarter from the shore?" said
Herbert.

"I am a good swimmer, Mr. Herbert."

"I tell you it is risking your life," said the engineer.

"That is no matter," answered Ayrton. "Captain Harding, I ask this as a
favor. Perhaps it will be a means of raising me in my own eyes!"

"Go, Ayrton," replied the engineer, who felt sure that a refusal would
have deeply wounded the former convict, now become an honest man.

"I will accompany you," said Pencroft.

"You mistrust me!" said Ayrton quickly.

Then more humbly,--

"Alas!"

"No! no!" exclaimed Harding with animation, "no, Ayrton, Pencroft does
not mistrust you. You interpret his words wrongly."

"Indeed," returned the sailor, "I only propose to accompany Ayrton as
far as the islet. It may be, although it is scarcely possible, that one
of these villains has landed, and in that case two men will not be too
many to hinder him from giving the alarm. I will wait for Ayrton on the
islet, and he shall go alone to the vessel, since he has proposed to do
so." These things agreed to, Ayrton made preparations for his departure.
His plan was bold, but it might succeed, thanks to the darkness of the
night. Once arrived at the vessel's side, Ayrton, holding on to the main
chains, might reconnoiter the number and perhaps overhear the intentions
of the pirates.

Ayrton and Pencroft, followed by their companions, descended to the
beach. Ayrton undressed and rubbed himself with grease, so as to suffer
less from the temperature of the water, which was still cold. He might,
indeed, be obliged to remain in it for several hours.

Pencroft and Neb, during this time, had gone to fetch the boat, moored
a few hundred feet higher up, on the bank of the Mercy, and by the time
they returned, Ayrton was ready to start. A coat was thrown over his
shoulders, and the settlers all came round him to press his hand.

Ayrton then shoved off with Pencroft in the boat.

It was half-past ten in the evening when the two adventurers disappeared
in the darkness. Their companions returned to wait at the Chimneys.

The channel was easily traversed, and the boat touched the opposite
shore of the islet. This was not done without precaution, for fear lest
the pirates might be roaming about there. But after a careful survey,
it was evident that the islet was deserted. Ayrton then, followed by
Pencroft, crossed it with a rapid step, scaring the birds nestled in the
holes of the rocks; then, without hesitating, he plunged into the sea,
and swam noiselessly in the direction of the ship, in which a few lights
had recently appeared, showing her exact situation. As to Pencroft,
he crouched down in a cleft of the rock, and awaited the return of his
companion.

In the meanwhile, Ayrton, swimming with a vigorous stroke, glided
through the sheet of water without producing the slightest ripple. His
head just emerged above it and his eyes were fixed on the dark hull of
the brig, from which the lights were reflected in the water. He thought
only of the duty which he had promised to accomplish, and nothing of the
danger which he ran, not only on board the ship, but in the sea, often
frequented by sharks. The current bore him along and he rapidly receded
from the shore.

Half an hour afterwards, Ayrton, without having been either seen or
heard, arrived at the ship and caught hold of the main-chains. He took
breath, then, hoisting himself up, he managed to reach the extremity of
the cutwater. There were drying several pairs of sailors' trousers. He
put on a pair. Then settling himself firmly, he listened. They were not
sleeping on board the brig. On the contrary, they were talking, singing,
laughing. And these were the sentences, accompanied with oaths, which
principally struck Ayrton:--

"Our brig is a famous acquisition."

"She sails well, and merits her name of the 'Speedy.'"

"She would show all the navy of Norfolk a clean pair of heels."

"Hurrah for her captain!"

"Hurrah for Bob Harvey!"

What Ayrton felt when he overheard this fragment of conversation may be
understood when it is known that in this Bob Harvey he recognized one
of his old Australian companions, a daring sailor, who had continued his
criminal career. Bob Harvey had seized, on the shores of Norfolk Island
this brig, which was loaded with arms, ammunition, utensils, and tools
of all sorts, destined for one of the Sandwich Islands. All his gang had
gone on board, and pirates after having been convicts, these wretches,
more ferocious than the Malays themselves, scoured the Pacific,
destroying vessels, and massacring their crews.

The convicts spoke loudly, they recounted their deeds, drinking deeply
at the same time, and this is what Ayrton gathered. The actual crew
of the "Speedy" was composed solely of English prisoners, escaped from
Norfolk Island.

Here it may be well to explain what this island was. In 29deg 2' south
latitude, and 165deg 42' east longitude, to the east of Australia, is
found a little island, six miles in circumference, overlooked by Mount
Pitt, which rises to a height of 1,100 feet above the level of the sea.
This is Norfolk Island, once the seat of an establishment in which were
lodged the most intractable convicts from the English penitentiaries.
They numbered 500, under an iron discipline, threatened with terrible
punishments, and were guarded by 150 soldiers, and 150 employed
under the orders of the governor. It would be difficult to imagine
a collection of greater ruffians. Sometimes,--although very
rarely,--notwithstanding the extreme surveillance of which they were
the object, many managed to escape, and seizing vessels which they
surprised, they infested the Polynesian Archipelagoes.

Thus had Bob Harvey and his companions done. Thus had Ayrton formerly
wished to do. Bob Harvey had seized the brig "Speedy," anchored in sight
of Norfolk Island; the crew had been massacred; and for a year this ship
had scoured the Pacific, under the command of Harvey, now a pirate, and
well known to Ayrton!

The convicts were, for the most part, assembled under the poop; but a
few, stretched on the deck, were talking loudly.

The conversation still continued amid shouts and libations. Ayrton
learned that chance alone had brought the "Speedy" in sight of Lincoln
Island; Bob Harvey had never yet set foot on it; but, as Cyrus Harding
had conjectured, finding this unknown land in his course, its position
being marked on no chart, he had formed the project of visiting it, and,
if he found it suitable, of making it the brig's headquarters.

As to the black flag hoisted at the "Speedy's" peak, and the gun which
had been fired, in imitation of men-of-war when they lower their
colors, it was pure piratical bravado. It was in no way a signal, and no
communication yet existed between the convicts and Lincoln Island.

The settlers' domain was now menaced with terrible danger. Evidently
the island, with its water, its harbor, its resources of all kinds so
increased in value by the colonists, and the concealment afforded by
Granite House, could not but be convenient for the convicts; in their
hands it would become an excellent place of refuge, and, being unknown,
it would assure them, for a long time perhaps, impunity and security.
Evidently, also, the lives of the settlers would not be respected, and
Bob Harvey and his accomplices' first care would be to massacre them
without mercy. Harding and his companions had, therefore, not even the
choice of flying and hiding themselves in the island, since the convicts
intended to reside there, and since, in the event of the "Speedy"
departing on an expedition, it was probable that some of the crew would
remain on shore, so as to settle themselves there. Therefore, it
would be necessary to fight, to destroy every one of these scoundrels,
unworthy of pity, and against whom any means would be right. So thought
Ayrton, and he well knew that Cyrus Harding would be of his way of
thinking.

But was resistance and, in the last place, victory possible? That would
depend on the equipment of the brig, and the number of men which she
carried.

This Ayrton resolved to learn at any cost, and as an hour after his
arrival the vociferations had begun to die away, and as a large number
of the convicts were already buried in a drunken sleep, Ayrton did not
hesitate to venture onto the "Speedy's" deck, which the extinguished
lanterns now left in total darkness. He hoisted himself onto the
cutwater, and by the bowsprit arrived at the forecastle. Then, gliding
among the convicts stretched here and there, he made the round of the
ship, and found that the "Speedy" carried four guns, which would throw
shot of from eight to ten pounds in weight. He found also, on touching
them that these guns were breech-loaders. They were therefore, of modern
make, easily used, and of terrible effect.

As to the men lying on the deck, they were about ten in number, but
it was to be supposed that more were sleeping down below. Besides, by
listening to them, Ayrton had understood that there were fifty on
board. That was a large number for the six settlers of Lincoln Island to
contend with! But now, thanks to Ayrton's devotion, Cyrus Harding would
not be surprised, he would know the strength of his adversaries, and
would make his arrangements accordingly.

There was nothing more for Ayrton to do but to return, and render to his
companions an account of the mission with which he had charged himself,
and he prepared to regain the bows of the brig, so that he might let
himself down into the water. But to this man, whose wish was, as he had
said, to do more than his duty, there came an heroic thought. This was
to sacrifice his own life, but save the island and the colonists. Cyrus
Harding evidently could not resist fifty ruffians, all well armed, who,
either by penetrating by main force into Granite House, or by starving
out the besieged, could obtain from them what they wanted. And then he
thought of his preservers--those who had made him again a man, and an
honest mm, those to whom he owed all--murdered without pity, their works
destroyed, their island turned into a pirates' den! He said to himself
that he, Ayrton, was the principal cause of so many disasters, since his
old companion, Bob Harvey, had but realized his own plans, and a
feeling of horror took possession of him. Then he was seized with an
irresistible desire to blow up the brig and with her, all whom she had
on board. He would perish in the explosion, but he would have done his
duty.

Ayrton did not hesitate. To reach the powder-room, which is always
situated in the after-part of a vessel, was easy. There would be no want
of powder in a vessel which followed such a trade, and a spark would be
enough to destroy it in an instant.

Ayrton stole carefully along the between-decks, strewn with numerous
sleepers, overcome more by drunkenness than sleep. A lantern was lighted
at the foot of the mainmast, round which was hung a gun-rack, furnished
with weapons of all sorts.

Ayrton took a revolver from the rack, and assured himself that it was
loaded and primed. Nothing more was needed to accomplish the work of
destruction. He then glided towards the stern, so as to arrive under the
brig's poop at the powder-magazine.

It was difficult to proceed along the dimly lighted deck without
stumbling over some half-sleeping convict, who retorted by oaths and
kicks. Ayrton was, therefore, more than once obliged to halt. But at
last he arrived at the partition dividing the aftercabin, and found the
door opening into the magazine itself.

Ayrton, compelled to force it open, set to work. It was a difficult
operation to perform without noise, for he had to break a padlock. But
under his vigorous hand, the padlock broke, and the door was open.

At that moment a hand was laid on Ayrton's shoulder.

"What are you doing here?" asked a tail man, in a harsh voice, who,
standing in the shadow, quickly threw the light of a lantern in Ayrton's
face.

Ayrton drew beck. In the rapid flash of the lantern, he had recognized
his former accomplice, Bob Harvey, who could not have known him, as he
must have thought Ayrton long since dead.

"What are you doing here?" again said Bob Harvey, seizing Ayrton by the
waistband.

But Ayrton, without replying, wrenched himself from his grasp and
attempted to rush into the magazine. A shot fired into the midst of the
powder-casks, and all would be over!

"Help, lads!" shouted Bob Harvey.

At his shout two or three pirates awoke, jumped up, and, rushing on
Ayrton, endeavored to throw him down. He soon extricated himself from
their grasp. He fired his revolver, and two of the convicts fell, but
a blow from a knife which he could not ward off made a gash in his
shoulder.

Ayrton perceived that he could no longer hope to carry out his project.
Bob Harvey had reclosed the door of the powder-magazine, and a movement
on the deck indicated a general awakening of the pirates. Ayrton must
reserve himself to fight at the side of Cyrus Harding. There was nothing
for him but flight!

But was flight still possible? It was doubtful, yet Ayrton resolved to
dare everything in order to rejoin his companions.

Four barrels of the revolver were still undischarged. Two were
fired--one, aimed at Bob Harvey, did not wound him, or at any rate
only slightly, and Ayrton, profiting by the momentary retreat of his
adversaries, rushed towards the companion-ladder to gain the deck.
Passing before the lantern, he smashed it with a blow from the butt of
his revolver. A profound darkness ensued, which favored his flight. Two
or three pirates, awakened by the noise, were descending the ladder at
the same moment.

A fifth shot from Ayrton laid one low, and the others drew back, not
understanding what was going on. Ayrton was on deck in two bounds, and
three seconds later, having discharged his last barrel in the face of
a pirate who was about to seize him by the throat, he leaped over the
bulwarks into the sea.

Ayrton had not made six strokes before shots were splashing around him
like hail.

What were Pencroft's feelings, sheltered under a rock on the islet! What
were those of Harding, the reporter, Herbert, and Neb, crouched in the
Chimneys, when they heard the reports on board the brig! They rushed out
on to the beach, and, their guns shouldered, they stood ready to repel
any attack.

They had no doubt about it themselves! Ayrton, surprised by the pirates,
had been murdered, and, perhaps, the wretches would profit by the night
to make a descent on the island!

Half an hour was passed in terrible anxiety. The firing had ceased, and
yet neither Ayrton nor Pencroft had reappeared. Was the islet invaded?
Ought they not to fly to the help of Ayrton and Pencroft? But how? The
tide being high at that time, rendered the channel impassable. The boat
was not there! We may imagine the horrible anxiety which took possession
of Harding and his companions!

At last, towards half-past twelve, a boat, carrying two men, touched the
beach. It was Ayrton, slightly wounded in the shoulder, and Pencroft,
safe and sound, whom their friends received with open arms.

All immediately took refuge in the Chimneys. There Ayrton recounted all
that had passed, even to his plan for blowing up the brig, which he had
attempted to put into execution.

All hands were extended to Ayrton, who did not conceal from them that
their situation was serious. The pirates had been alarmed. They knew
that Lincoln Island was inhabited. They would land upon it in numbers
and well armed. They would respect nothing. Should the settlers fall
into their hands, they must expect no mercy!

"Well, we shall know how to die!" said the reporter.

"Let us go in and watch," answered the engineer.

"Have we any chance of escape, captain?" asked the sailor.

"Yes, Pencroft."

"Hum! six against fifty!"

"Yes! six! without counting--"

"Who?" asked Pencroft.

Cyrus did not reply, but pointed upwards.

 

 

Chapter 3

The night passed without incident. The colonists were on the qui vive,
and did not leave their post at the Chimneys. The pirates, on their
side, did not appear to have made any attempt to land. Since the last
shots fired at Ayrton not a report, not even a sound, had betrayed the
presence of the brig in the neighborhood of the island. It might have
been fancied that she had weighed anchor, thinking that she had to deal
with her match, and had left the coast.

But it was no such thing, and when day began to dawn the settlers could
see a confused mass through the morning mist. It was the "Speedy."

"These, my friends," said the engineer, "are the arrangements which
appear to me best to make before the fog completely clears away. It
hides us from the eyes of the pirates, and we can act without attracting
their attention. The most important thing is, that the convicts
should believe that the inhabitants of the island are numerous, and
consequently capable of resisting them. I therefore propose that we
divide into three parties. The first of which shall be posted at the
Chimneys, the second at the mouth of the Mercy. As to the third, I think
it would be best to place it on the islet, so as to prevent, or at all
events delay, any attempt at landing. We have the use of two rifles and
four muskets. Each of us will be armed, and, as we are amply provided
with powder and shot, we need not spare our fire. We have nothing to
fear from the muskets nor even from the guns of the brig. What can they
do against these rocks? And, as we shall not fire from the windows of
Granite House, the pirates will not think of causing irreparable damage
by throwing shell against it. What is to be feared is, the necessity of
meeting hand-to-hand, since the convicts have numbers on their side. We
must therefore try to prevent them from landing, but without discovering
ourselves. Therefore, do not economize the ammunition. Fire often, but
with a sure aim. We have each eight or ten enemies to kill, and they
must be killed!"

Cyrus Harding had clearly represented their situation, although he spoke
in the calmest voice, as if it was a question of directing a piece
of work and not ordering a battle. His companions approved these
arrangements without even uttering a word. There was nothing more to be
done but for each to take his place before the fog should be completely
dissipated. Neb and Pencroft immediately ascended to Granite House and
brought back a sufficient quantity of ammunition. Gideon Spilett and
Ayrton, both very good marksmen, were armed with the two rifles,
which carried nearly a mile. The four other muskets were divided among
Harding, Neb, Pencroft, and Herbert.

The posts were arranged in the following manner:--

Cyrus Harding and Herbert remained in ambush at the Chimneys, thus
commanding the shore to the foot of Granite House.

Gideon Spilett and Neb crouched among the rocks at the mouth of the
Mercy, from which the drawbridges had been raised, so as to prevent any
one from crossing in a boat or landing on the opposite shore.

As to Ayrton and Pencroft, they shoved off in the boat, and prepared to
cross the channel and to take up two separate stations on the islet.
In this way, shots being fired from four different points at once,
the convicts would be led to believe that the island was both largely
peopled and strongly defended.

In the event of a landing being effected without their having been able
to prevent it, and also if they saw that they were on the point of being
cut off by the brig's boat, Ayrton and Pencroft were to return in their
boat to the shore and proceed towards the threatened spot.

Before starting to occupy their posts, the colonists for the last time
wrung each other's hands.

Pencroft succeeded in controlling himself sufficiently to suppress his
emotion when he embraced Herbert, his boy! and then they separated.

In a few moments Harding and Herbert on one side, the reporter and Neb
on the other, had disappeared behind the rocks, and five minutes later
Ayrton and Pencroft, having without difficulty crossed the channel,
disembarked on the islet and concealed themselves in the clefts of its
eastern shore.

None of them could have been seen, for they themselves could scarcely
distinguish the brig in the fog.

It was half-past six in the morning.

Soon the fog began to clear away, and the topmasts of the brig issued
from the vapor. For some minutes great masses rolled over the surface of
the sea, then a breeze sprang up, which rapidly dispelled the mist.

The "Speedy" now appeared in full view, with a spring on her cable, her
head to the north, presenting her larboard side to the island. Just as
Harding had calculated, she was not more than a mile and a quarter from
the coast.

The sinister black flag floated from the peak.

The engineer, with his telescope, could see that the four guns on board
were pointed at the island. They were evidently ready to fire at a
moment's notice.

In the meanwhile the "Speedy" remained silent. About thirty pirates
could be seen moving on the deck. A few more on the poop; two others
posted in the shrouds, and armed with spyglasses, were attentively
surveying the island.

Certainly, Bob Harvey and his crew would not be able easily to give an
account of what had happened during the night on board the brig. Had
this half-naked man, who had forced the door of the powder-magazine, and
with whom they had struggled, who had six times discharged his revolver
at them, who had killed one and wounded two others, escaped their shot?
Had he been able to swim to shore? Whence did he come? What had been his
object? Had his design really been to blow up the brig, as Bob Harvey
had thought? All this must be confused enough to the convicts' minds.
But what they could no longer doubt was that the unknown island before
which the "Speedy" had cast anchor was inhabited, and that there was,
perhaps, a numerous colony ready to defend it. And yet no one was to be
seen, neither on the shore, nor on the heights. The beach appeared to be
absolutely deserted. At any rate, there was no trace of dwellings. Had
the inhabitants fled into the interior? Thus probably the pirate captain
reasoned, and doubtless, like a prudent man, he wished to reconnoiter
the locality before he allowed his men to venture there.

During an hour and a half, no indication of attack or landing could be
observed on board the brig. Evidently Bob Harvey was hesitating. Even
with his strongest telescopes he could not have perceived one of the
settlers crouched among the rocks. It was not even probable that his
attention had been awakened by the screen of green branches and creepers
hiding the windows of Granite House, and showing rather conspicuously on
the bare rock. Indeed, how could he imagine that a dwelling was hollowed
out, at that height, in the solid granite? From Claw Cape to the
Mandible Capes, in all the extent of Union Bay, there was nothing to
lead him to suppose that the island was or could be inhabited.

At eight o'clock, however, the colonists observed a movement on board
the "Speedy." A boat was lowered, and seven men jumped into her. They
were armed with muskets; one took the yoke-lines, four others the oars,
and the two others, kneeling in the bows, ready to fire, reconnoitered
the island. Their object was no doubt to make an examination but not to
land, for in the latter case they would have come in larger numbers. The
pirates from their look-out could have seen that the coast was sheltered
by an islet, separated from it by a channel half a mile in width.
However, it was soon evident to Cyrus Harding, on observing the
direction followed by the boat, that they would not attempt to penetrate
into the channel, but would land on the islet.

Pencroft and Ayrton, each hidden in a narrow cleft of the rock, saw them
coming directly towards them, and waited till they were within range.

The boat advanced with extreme caution. The oars only dipped into the
water at long intervals. It could now be seen that one of the convicts
held a lead-line in his hand, and that he wished to fathom the depth of
the channel hollowed out by the current of the Mercy. This showed that
it was Bob Harvey's intention to bring his brig as near as possible
to the coast. About thirty pirates, scattered in the rigging, followed
every movement of the boat, and took the bearings of certain landmarks
which would allow them to approach without danger. The boat was not more
than two cables-lengths off the islet when she stopped. The man at the
tiller stood up and looked for the best place at which to land.

At that moment two shots were heard. Smoke curled up from among the
rocks of the islet. The man at the helm and the man with the lead-line
fell backwards into the boat. Ayrton's and Pencroft's balls had struck
them both at the same moment.

Almost immediately a louder report was heard, a cloud of smoke issued
from the brig's side, and a ball, striking the summit of the rock which
sheltered Ayrton and Pencroft, made it fly in splinters, but the two
marksmen remained unhurt.

Horrible imprecations burst from the boat, which immediately continued
its way. The man who had been at the tiller was replaced by one of his
comrades, and the oars were rapidly plunged into the water. However,
instead of returning on board as might have been expected, the boat
coasted along the islet, so as to round its southern point. The pirates
pulled vigorously at their oars that they might get out of range of the
bullets.

They advanced to within five cables-lengths of that part of the
shore terminated by Flotsam Point, and after having rounded it in a
semicircular line, still protected by the brig's guns, they proceeded
towards the mouth of the Mercy.

Their evident intention was to penetrate into the channel, and cut off
the colonists posted on the islet, in such a way, that whatever their
number might be, being placed between the fire from the boat and the
fire from the brig, they would find themselves in a very disadvantageous
position.

A quarter of an hour passed while the boat advanced in this direction.
Absolute silence, perfect calm reigned in the air and on the water.

Pencroft and Ayrton, although they knew they ran the risk of being
cut off, had not left their post, both that they did not wish to show
themselves as yet to their assailants, and expose themselves to the
"Speedy's" guns, and that they relied on Neb and Gideon Spilett,
watching at the mouth of the river, and on Cyrus Harding and Herbert, in
ambush among the rocks at the Chimneys.

Twenty minutes after the first shots were fired, the boat was less than
two cables-lengths off the Mercy. As the tide was beginning to rise with
its accustomed violence, caused by the narrowness of the straits, the
pirates were drawn towards the river, and it was only by dint of hard
rowing that they were able to keep in the middle of the channel. But, as
they were passing within good range of the mouth of the Mercy, two balls
saluted them, and two more of their number were laid in the bottom of
the boat. Neb and Spilett had not missed their aim.

The brig immediately sent a second ball on the post betrayed by the
smoke, but without any other result than that of splintering the rock.

The boat now contained only three able men. Carried on by the current,
it shot through the channel with the rapidity of an arrow, passed before
Harding and Herbert, who, not thinking it within range, withheld their
fire, then, rounding the northern point of the islet with the two
remaining oars, they pulled towards the brig.

Hitherto the settlers had nothing to complain of. Their adversaries
had certainly had the worst of it. The latter already counted four men
seriously wounded if not dead; they, on the contrary, unwounded, had not
missed a shot. If the pirates continued to attack them in this way, if
they renewed their attempt to land by means of a boat, they could be
destroyed one by one.

It was now seen how advantageous the engineer's arrangements had
been. The pirates would think that they had to deal with numerous and
well-armed adversaries, whom they could not easily get the better of.

Half an hour passed before the boat, having to pull against the current,
could get alongside the "Speedy." Frightful cries were heard when they
returned on board with the wounded, and two or three guns were fired
with no results.

But now about a dozen other convicts, maddened with rage, and possibly
by the effect of the evening's potations, threw themselves into the
boat. A second boat was also lowered, in which eight men took their
places, and while the first pulled straight for the islet, to dislodge
the colonists from thence the second maneuvered so as to force the
entrance of the Mercy.

The situation was evidently becoming very dangerous for Pencroft and
Ayrton, and they saw that they must regain the mainland.

However, they waited till the first boat was within range, when two
well-directed balls threw its crew into disorder. Then, Pencroft and
Ayrton, abandoning their posts, under fire from the dozen muskets, ran
across the islet at full speed, jumped into their boat, crossed the
channel at the moment the second boat reached the southern end, and ran
to hide themselves in the Chimneys.

They had scarcely rejoined Cyrus Harding and Herbert, before the islet
was overrun with pirates in every direction. Almost at the same moment,
fresh reports resounded from the Mercy station, to which the second boat
was rapidly approaching. Two, out of the eight men who manned her,
were mortally wounded by Gideon Spilett and Neb, and the boat herself,
carried irresistibly onto the reefs, was stove in at the mouth of the
Mercy. But the six survivors, holding their muskets above their heads to
preserve them from contact with the water, managed to land on the right
bank of the river. Then, finding they were exposed to the fire of the
ambush there, they fled in the direction of Flotsam Point, out of range
of the balls.

The actual situation was this: on the islet were a dozen convicts,
of whom some were no doubt wounded, but who had still a boat at their
disposal; on the island were six, but who could not by any possibility
reach Granite House, as they could not cross the river, all the bridges
being raised.

"Hallo," exclaimed Pencroft as he rushed into the Chimneys, "hallo,
captain! What do you think of it, now?"

"I think," answered the engineer, "that the combat will now take a new
form, for it cannot be supposed that the convicts will be so foolish as
to remain in a position so unfavorable for them!"

"They won't cross the channel," said the sailor. "Ayrton and Mr.
Spilett's rifles are there to prevent them. You know that they carry
more than a mile!"

"No doubt," replied Herbert; "but what can two rifles do against the
brig's guns?"

"Well, the brig isn't in the channel yet, I fancy!" said Pencroft.

"But suppose she does come there?" said Harding.

"That's impossible, for she would risk running aground and being lost!"

"It is possible," said Ayrton. "The convicts might profit by the high
tide to enter the channel, with the risk of grounding at low tide, it
is true; but then, under the fire from her guns, our posts would be no
longer tenable."

"Confound them!" exclaimed Pencroft, "it really seems as if the
blackguards were preparing to weigh anchor."

"Perhaps we shall be obliged to take refuge in Granite House!" observed
Herbert.

"We must wait!" answered Cyrus Harding.

"But Mr. Spilett and Neb?" said Pencroft.

"They will know when it is best to rejoin us. Be ready, Ayrton. It is
yours and Spilett's rifles which must speak now."

It was only too true. The "Speedy" was beginning to weigh her anchor,
and her intention was evidently to approach the islet. The tide would
be rising for an hour and a half, and the ebb current being already
weakened, it would be easy for the brig to advance. But as to entering
the channel, Pencroft, contrary to Ayrton's opinion, could not believe
that she would dare to attempt it.

In the meanwhile, the pirates who occupied the islet had gradually
advanced to the opposite shore, and were now only separated from the
mainland by the channel.

Being armed with muskets alone, they could do no harm to the settlers,
in ambush at the Chimneys and the mouth of the Mercy; but, not knowing
the latter to be supplied with long-range rifles, they on their side did
not believe themselves to be exposed. Quite uncovered, therefore, they
surveyed the islet, and examined the shore.

Their illusion was of short duration. Ayrton's and Gideon Spilett's
rifles then spoke, and no doubt imparted some very disagreeable
intelligence to two of the convicts, for they fell backwards.

Then there was a general helter-skelter. The ten others, not even
stopping to pick up their dead or wounded companions, fled to the other
side of the islet, tumbled into the boat which had brought them, and
pulled away with all their strength.

"Eight less!" exclaimed Pencroft. "Really, one would have thought that
Mr. Spilett and Ayrton had given the word to fire together!"

"Gentlemen," said Ayrton, as he reloaded his gun, "this is becoming more
serious. The brig is making sail!"

"The anchor is weighed!" exclaimed Pencroft.

"Yes, and she is already moving."

In fact, they could distinctly hear the creaking of the windlass. The
"Speedy" was at first held by her anchor; then, when that had been
raised, she began to drift towards the shore. The wind was blowing
from the sea; the jib and the foretopsail were hoisted, and the vessel
gradually approached the island.

From the two posts of the Mercy and the Chimneys they watched her
without giving a sign of life, but not without some emotion. What
could be more terrible for the colonists than to be exposed, at a short
distance, to the brig's guns, without being able to reply with any
effect? How could they then prevent the pirates from landing?

Cyrus Harding felt this strongly, and he asked himself what it would
be possible to do. Before long, he would be called upon for his
determination. But what was it to be? To shut themselves up in Granite
House, to be besieged there, to remain there for weeks, for months even,
since they had an abundance of provisions? So far good! But after that?
The pirates would not the less be masters of the island, which they
would ravage at their pleasure, and in time, they would end by having
their revenge on the prisoners in Granite House.

However, one chance yet remained; it was that Bob Harvey, after all,
would not venture his ship into the channel, and that he would keep
outside the islet. He would be still separated from the coast by half a
mile, and at that distance his shot could not be very destructive.

"Never!" repeated Pencroft, "Bob Harvey will never, if he is a good
seaman, enter that channel! He knows well that it would risk the brig,
if the sea got up ever so little! And what would become of him without
his vessel?"

In the meanwhile the brig approached the islet, and it could be seen
that she was endeavoring to make the lower end. The breeze was light,
and as the current had then lost much of its force, Bob Harvey had
absolute command over his vessel.

The route previously followed by the boats had allowed her to
reconnoiter the channel, and she boldly entered it.

The pirate's design was now only too evident; he wished to bring her
broadside to bear on the Chimneys and from there to reply with shell and
ball to the shot which had till then decimated her crew.

Soon the "Speedy" reached the point of the islet; she rounded it with
ease; the mainsail was braced up, and the brig hugging the wind, stood
across the mouth of the Mercy.

"The scoundrels! they are coming!" said Pencroft.

At that moment, Cyrus Harding, Ayrton, the sailor, and Herbert, were
rejoined by Neb and Gideon Spilett.

The reporter and his companion had judged it best to abandon the post at
the Mercy, from which they could do nothing against the ship, and they
had acted wisely. It was better that the colonists should be together at
the moment when they were about to engage in a decisive action. Gideon
Spilett and Neb had arrived by dodging behind the rocks, though not
without attracting a shower of bullets, which had not, however, reached
them.

"Spilett! Neb!" cried the engineer. "You are not wounded?"

"No," answered the reporter, "a few bruises only from the ricochet! But
that cursed brig has entered the channel!"

"Yes," replied Pencroft, "and in ten minutes she will have anchored
before Granite House!"

"Have you formed any plan, Cyrus?" asked the reporter.

"We must take refuge in Granite House while there is still time, and the
convicts cannot see us."

"That is, my opinion, too," replied Gideon Spilett, "but once shut up--"

"We must be guided by circumstances," said the engineer.

"Let us be off, then, and make haste!" said the reporter.

"Would you not wish, captain, that Ayrton and I should remain here?"
asked the sailor.

"What would be the use of that, Pencroft?" replied Harding. "No. We will
not separate!"

There was not a moment to be lost. The colonists left the Chimneys. A
bend of the cliff prevented them from being seen by those in the brig,
but two or three reports, and the crash of bullets on the rock, told
them that the "Speedy" was at no great distance.

To spring into the lift, hoist themselves up to the door of Granite
House, where Top and Jup had been shut up since the evening before, to
rush into the large room, was the work of a minute only.

It was quite time, for the settlers, through the branches, could see the
"Speedy," surrounded with smoke, gliding up the channel. The firing was
incessant, and shot from the four guns struck blindly, both on the Mercy
post, although it was not occupied, and on the Chimneys. The rocks were
splintered, and cheers accompanied each discharge. However, they
were hoping that Granite House would be spared, thanks to Harding's
precaution of concealing the windows when a shot, piercing the door,
penetrated into the passage.

"We are discovered!" exclaimed Pencroft.

The colonists had not, perhaps, been seen, but it was certain that Bob
Harvey had thought proper to send a ball through the suspected foliage
which concealed that part of the cliff. Soon he redoubled his attack,
when another ball having torn away the leafy screen, disclosed a gaping
aperture in the granite.

The colonists' situation was desperate. Their retreat was discovered.
They could not oppose any obstacle to these missiles, nor protect the
stone, which flew in splinters around them. There was nothing to be
done but to take refuge in the upper passage of Granite House, and leave
their dwelling to be devastated, when a deep roar was heard, followed by
frightful cries!

Cyrus Harding and his companions rushed to one of the windows--

The brig, irresistibly raised on a sort of water-spout, had just split
in two, and in less than ten seconds she was swallowed up with all her
criminal crew!

 

 

Chapter 4

"She has blown up!" cried Herbert.

"Yes! blown up, just as if Ayrton had set fire to the powder!" returned
Pencroft, throwing himself into the lift together with Neb and the lad.

"But what has happened?" asked Gideon Spilett, quite stunned by this
unexpected catastrophe.

"Oh! this time, we shall know--" answered the engineer quickly.

"What shall we know?--"

"Later! later! Come, Spilett. The main point is that these pirates have
been exterminated!"

And Cyrus Harding, hurrying away the reporter and Ayrton, joined
Pencroft, Neb, and Herbert on the beach.

Nothing could be seen of the brig, not even her masts. After having been
raised by the water-spout, she had fallen on her side, and had sunk in
that position, doubtless in consequence of some enormous leak. But as
in that place the channel was not more than twenty feet in depth, it
was certain that the sides of the submerged brig would reappear at low
water.

A few things from the wreck floated on the surface of the water, a raft
could be seen consisting of spare spars, coops of poultry with their
occupants still living, boxes and barrels, which gradually came to the
surface, after having escaped through the hatchways, but no pieces of
the wreck appeared, neither planks from the deck, nor timber from the
hull,--which rendered the sudden disappearance of the "Speedy" perfectly
inexplicable.

However, the two masts, which had been broken and escaped from the
shrouds and stays came up, and with their sails, some furled and the
others spread. But it was not necessary to wait for the tide to bring
up these riches, and Ayrton and Pencroft jumped into the boat with the
intention of towing the pieces of wreck either to the beach or to the
islet. But just as they were shoving off, an observation from Gideon
Spilett arrested them.

"What about those six convicts who disembarked on the right bank of the
Mercy?" said he.

In fact, it would not do to forget that the six men whose boat had gone
to pieces on the rocks had landed at Flotsam Point.

They looked in that direction. None of the fugitives were visible. It
was probable that, having seen their vessel engulfed in the channel,
they had fled into the interior of the island.

"We will deal with them later," said Harding. "As they are armed, they
will still be dangerous; but as it is six against six, the chances are
equal. To the most pressing business first."

Ayrton and Pencroft pulled vigorously towards the wreck.

The sea was calm and the tide very high, as there had been a new moon
but two days before. A whole hour at least would elapse before the hull
of the brig could emerge from the water of the channel.

Ayrton and Pencroft were able to fasten the masts and spars by means of
ropes, the ends of which were carried to the beach. There, by the united
efforts of the settlers the pieces of wreck were hauled up. Then the
boat picked up all that was floating, coops, barrels, and boxes, which
were immediately carried to the Chimneys.

Several bodies floated also. Among them, Ayrton recognized that of
Bob Harvey, which he pointed out to his companion, saying with some
emotion,--

"That is what I have been, Pencroft."

"But what you are no longer, brave Ayrton!" returned the sailor warmly.

It was singular enough that so few bodies floated. Only five or six were
counted, which were already being carried by the current towards the
open sea. Very probably the convicts had not had time to escape, and
the ship lying over on her side, the greater number of them had remained
below. Now the current, by carrying the bodies of these miserable men
out to sea, would spare the colonists the sad task of burying them in
some corner of their island.

For two hours, Cyrus Harding and his companions were solely occupied
in hauling up the spars on to the sand, and then in spreading the sails
which were perfectly uninjured, to dry. They spoke little, for they were
absorbed in their work, but what thoughts occupied their minds!

The possession of this brig, or rather all that she contained, was
a perfect mine of wealth. In fact, a ship is like a little world in
miniature, and the stores of the colony would be increased by a large
number of useful articles. It would be, on a large scale, equivalent to
the chest found at Flotsam Point.

"And besides," thought Pencroft, "why should it be impossible to refloat
the brig? If she has only a leak, that may be stopped up; a vessel from
three to four hundred tons, why she is a regular ship compared to our
'Bonadventure'! And we could go a long distance in her! We could go
anywhere we liked! Captain Harding, Ayrton and I must examine her! She
would be well worth the trouble!"

In fact, if the brig was still fit to navigate, the colonists' chances
of returning to their native land were singularly increased. But, to
decide this important question, it was necessary to wait until the tide
was quite low, so that every part of the brig's hull might be examined.

When their treasures had been safely conveyed on shore, Harding and his
companions agreed to devote some minutes to breakfast. They were almost
famished; fortunately, the larder was not far off, and Neb was noted
for being an expeditious cook. They breakfasted, therefore, near the
Chimneys, and during their repast, as may be supposed, nothing was
talked of but the event which had so miraculously saved the colony.

"Miraculous is the word," repeated Pencroft, "for it must be
acknowledged that those rascals blew up just at the right moment!
Granite House was beginning to be uncomfortable as a habitation!"

"And can you guess, Pencroft," asked the reporter, "how it happened, or
what can have occasioned the explosion?"

"Oh! Mr. Spilett, nothing is more simple," answered Pencroft. "A convict
vessel is not disciplined like a man-of-war! Convicts are not sailors.
Of course the powder-magazine was open, and as they were firing
incessantly, some careless or clumsy fellow just blew up the vessel!"

"Captain Harding," said Herbert, "what astonishes me is that the
explosion has not produced more effect. The report was not loud, and
besides there are so few planks and timbers torn out. It seems as if the
ship had rather foundered than blown up."

"Does that astonish you, my boy?" asked the engineer.

"Yes, captain."

"And it astonishes me also, Herbert," replied he, "but when we visit the
hull of the brig, we shall no doubt find the explanation of the matter."

"Why, captain," said Pencroft, "you don't suppose that the 'Speedy'
simply foundered like a ship which has struck on a rock?"

"Why not," observed Neb, "if there are rocks in the channel?"

"Nonsense, Neb," answered Pencroft, "you did not look at the right
moment. An instant before she sank, the brig, as I saw perfectly well,
rose on an enormous wave, and fell back on her larboard side. Now, if
she had only struck, she would have sunk quietly and gone to the bottom
like an honest vessel."

"It was just because she was not an honest vessel!" returned Neb.

"Well, we shall soon see, Pencroft," said the engineer.

"We shall soon see," rejoined the sailor, "but I would wager my
head there are no rocks in the channel. Look here, captain, to speak
candidly, do you mean to say that there is anything marvelous in the
occurrence?"

Cyrus Harding did not answer.

"At any rate," said Gideon Spilett, "whether rock or explosion, you will
agree, Pencroft, that it occurred just in the nick of time!"

"Yes! yes!" replied the sailor, "but that is not the question. I ask
Captain Harding if he sees anything supernatural in all this."

"I cannot say, Pencroft," said the engineer. "That is all the answer I
can make."

A reply which did not satisfy Pencroft at all. He stuck to "an
explosion," and did not wish to give it up. He would never consent
to admit that in that channel, with its fine sandy bed, just like
the beach, which he had often crossed at low water, there could be an
unknown rock.

And besides, at the time the brig foundered, it was high water, that is
to say, there was enough water to carry the vessel clear over any rocks
which would not be uncovered at low tide. Therefore, there could not
have been a collision. Therefore, the vessel had not struck. So she had
blown up.

And it must be confessed that the sailor's arguments were reasonable.

Towards half-past one, the colonists embarked in the boat to visit the
wreck. It was to be regretted that the brig's two boats had not been
saved; but one, as has been said, had gone to pieces at the mouth of the
Mercy, and was absolutely useless; the other had disappeared when the
brig went down, and had not again been seen, having doubtless been
crushed.

The hull of the "Speedy" was just beginning to issue from the water.
The brig was lying right over on her side, for her masts being broken,
pressed down by the weight of the ballast displaced by the shock, the
keel was visible along her whole length. She had been regularly turned
over by the inexplicable but frightful submarine action, which had been
at the same time manifested by an enormous water-spout.

The settlers rowed round the hull, and in proportion as the tide went
down, they could ascertain, if not the cause which had occasioned the
catastrophe, at least the effect produced.

Towards the bows, on both sides of the keel, seven or eight feet from
the beginning of the stem, the sides of the brig were frightfully torn.
Over a length of at least twenty feet there opened two large leaks,
which would be impossible to stop up. Not only had the copper sheathing
and the planks disappeared, reduced, no doubt, to powder, but also the
ribs, the iron bolts, and treenails which united them. From the entire
length of the hull to the stern the false keel had been separated with
an unaccountable violence, and the keel itself, torn from the carline in
several places, was split in all its length.

"I've a notion!" exclaimed Pencroft, "that this vessel will be difficult
to get afloat again."

"It will be impossible," said Ayrton.

"At any rate," observed Gideon Spilett to the sailor, "the explosion,
if there has been one, has produced singular effects! It has split the
lower part of the hull, instead of blowing up the deck and topsides!
These great rents appear rather to have been made by a rock than by the
explosion of a powder-magazine."

"There is not a rock in the channel!" answered the sailor. "I will admit
anything you like, except the rock."

"Let us try to penetrate into the interior of the brig," said the
engineer; "perhaps we shall then know what to think of the cause of her
destruction."

This was the best thing to be done, and it was agreed, besides, to
take an inventory of all the treasures on board, and to arrange their
preservation.

Access to the interior of the brig was now easy. The tide was still
going down and the deck was practicable. The ballast, composed of heavy
masses of iron, had broken through in several places. The noise of the
sea could be heard as it rushed out at the holes in the hull.

Cyrus Harding and his companions, hatchets in hand, advanced along the
shattered deck. Cases of all sorts encumbered it, and, as they had
been but a very short time in the water, their contents were perhaps
uninjured.

They then busied themselves in placing all this cargo in safety. The
water would not return for several hours, and these hours must be
employed in the most profitable way. Ayrton and Pencroft had, at the
entrance made in the hull, discovered tackle, which would serve to hoist
up the barrels and chests. The boat received them and transported them
to the shore. They took the articles as they came, intending to sort
them afterwards.

At any rate, the settlers saw at once, with extreme satisfaction, that
the brig possessed a very varied cargo--an assortment of all sorts of
articles, utensils, manufactured goods, and tools--such as the ships
which make the great coasting-trade of Polynesia are usually laden with.
It was probable that they would find a little of everything, and they
agreed that it was exactly what was necessary for the colony of Lincoln
Island.

However--and Cyrus Harding observed it in silent astonishment--not only,
as has been said, had the hull of the brig enormously suffered from the
shock, whatever it was, that had occasioned the catastrophe, but the
interior arrangements had been destroyed, especially towards the bows.
Partitions and stanchions were smashed, as if some tremendous shell had
burst in the interior of the brig. The colonists could easily go fore
and aft, after having removed the cases as they were extricated. They
were not heavy bales, which would have been difficult to remove,
but simple packages, of which the stowage, besides, was no longer
recognizable.

The colonists then reached the stern of the brig--the part formerly
surmounted by the poop. It was there that, following Ayrton's
directions, they must look for the powder-magazine. Cyrus Harding
thought that it had not exploded; that it was possible some barrels
might be saved, and that the powder, which is usually enclosed in metal
coverings might not have suffered from contact with the water.

This, in fact, was just what had happened. They extricated from among
a large number of shot twenty barrels, the insides of which were lined
with copper. Pencroft was convinced by the evidence of his own eyes that
the destruction of the "Speedy" could not be attributed to an explosion.
That part of the hull in which the magazine was situated was, moreover,
that which had suffered least.

"It may be so," said the obstinate sailor; "but as to a rock, there is
not one in the channel!"

"Then, how did it happen?" asked Herbert.

"I don't know," answered Pencroft, "Captain Harding doesn't know, and
nobody knows or ever will know!"

Several hours had passed during these researches, and the tide began to
flow. Work must be suspended for the present. There was no fear of the
brig being carried away by the sea, for she was already fixed as firmly
as if moored by her anchors.

They could, therefore, without inconvenience, wait until the next day to
resume operations; but, as to the vessel itself, she was doomed, and it
would be best to hasten to save the remains of her hull, as she would
not be long in disappearing in the quicksands of the channel.

It was now five o'clock in the evening. It had been a hard day's work
for the men. They ate with good appetite, and notwithstanding their
fatigue, they could not resist, after dinner, their desire of inspecting
the cases which composed the cargo of the "Speedy."

Most of them contained clothes, which, as may be believed, was well
received. There were enough to clothe a whole colony--linen for every
one's use, shoes for every one's feet.

"We are too rich!" exclaimed Pencroft, "But what are we going to do with
all this?"

And every moment burst forth the hurrahs of the delighted sailor when he
caught sight of the barrels of gunpowder, firearms and sidearms,
balls of cotton, implements of husbandry, carpenter's, joiner's, and
blacksmith's tools, and boxes of all kinds of seeds, not in the least
injured by their short sojourn in the water. Ah, two years before,
how these things would have been prized! And now, even though the
industrious colonists had provided themselves with tools, these
treasures would find their use.

There was no want of space in the store-rooms of Granite House, but that
daytime would not allow them to stow away the whole. It would not do
also to forget that the six survivors of the "Speedy's" crew had landed
on the island, for they were in all probability scoundrels of the
deepest dye, and it was necessary that the colonists should be on their
guard against them. Although the bridges over the Mercy were raised,
the convicts would not be stopped by a river or a stream and, rendered
desperate, these wretches would be capable of anything.

They would see later what plan it would be best to follow; but in the
meantime it was necessary to mount guard over cases and packages heaped
up near the Chimneys, and thus the settlers employed themselves in turn
during the night.

The morning came, however, without the convicts having attempted any
attack. Master Jup and Top, on guard at the foot of Granite House, would
have quickly given the alarm. The three following days--the 19th, 20th,
and 21st of October--were employed in saving everything of value, or of
any use whatever, either from the cargo or rigging of the brig. At low
tide they overhauled the hold--at high tide they stowed away the rescued
articles. A great part of the copper sheathing had been torn from the
hull, which every day sank lower. But before the sand had swallowed the
heavy things which had fallen through the bottom, Ayrton and Pencroft,
diving to the bed of the channel, recovered the chains and anchors of
the brig, the iron of her ballast, and even four guns, which, floated by
means of empty casks, were brought to shore.

It may be seen that the arsenal of the colony had gained by the
wreck, as well as the storerooms of Granite House. Pencroft, always
enthusiastic in his projects, already spoke of constructing a battery
to command the channel and the mouth of the river. With four guns,
he engaged to prevent any fleet, "however powerful it might be," from
venturing into the waters of Lincoln Island!

In the meantime, when nothing remained of the brig but a useless hulk,
bad weather came on, which soon finished her. Cyrus Harding had intended
to blow her up, so as to collect the remains on the shore, but a strong
gale from the northeast and a heavy sea compelled him to economize his
powder.

In fact, on the night of the 23rd, the hull entirely broke up, and some
of the wreck was cast up on the beach.

As to the papers on board, it is useless to say that, although he
carefully searched the lockers of the poop, Harding did not discover
any trace of them. The pirates had evidently destroyed everything that
concerned either the captain or the owners of the "Speedy," and, as the
name of her port was not painted on her counter, there was nothing which
would tell them her nationality. However, by the shape of her boats
Ayrton and Pencroft believed that the brig was of English build.

A week after the castrophe--or, rather, after the fortunate, though
inexplicable, event to which the colony owed its preservation--nothing
more could be seen of the vessel, even at low tide. The wreck had
disappeared, and Granite House was enriched by nearly all it had
contained.

However, the mystery which enveloped its strange destruction would
doubtless never have been cleared away if, on the 30th of November, Neb,
strolling on the beach, had not found a piece of a thick iron cylinder,
bearing traces of explosion. The edges of this cylinder were twisted and
broken, as if they had been subjected to the action of some explosive
substance.

Neb brought this piece of metal to his master, who was then occupied
with his companions in the workshop of the Chimneys.

Cyrus Harding examined the cylinder attentively, then, turning to
Pencroft,--

"You persist, my friend," said he, "in maintaining that the 'Speedy' was
not lost in consequence of a collision?"

"Yes, captain," answered the sailor. "You know as well as I do that
there are no rocks in the channel."

"But suppose she had run against this piece of iron?" said the engineer,
showing the broken cylinder.

"What, that bit of pipe!" exclaimed Pencroft in a tone of perfect
incredulity.

"My friends," resumed Harding, "you remember that before she foundered
the brig rose on the summit of a regular waterspout?"

"Yes, captain," replied Herbert.

"Well, would you like to know what occasioned that waterspout? It was
this," said the engineer, holding up the broken tube.

"That?" returned Pencroft.

"Yes! This cylinder is all that remains of a torpedo!"

"A torpedo!" exclaimed the engineer's companions.

"And who put the torpedo there?" demanded Pencroft, who did not like to
yield.

"All that I can tell you is, that it was not I," answered Cyrus Harding;
"but it was there, and you have been able to judge of its incomparable
power!"

 

 

Chapter 5

So, then, all was explained by the submarine explosion of this torpedo.
Cyrus Harding could not be mistaken, as, during the war of the Union,
he had had occasion to try these terrible engines of destruction. It
was under the action of this cylinder, charged with some explosive
substance, nitro-glycerine, picrate, or some other material of the same
nature, that the water of the channel had been raised like a dome, the
bottom of the brig crushed in, and she had sunk instantly, the damage
done to her hull being so considerable that it was impossible to refloat
her. The "Speedy" had not been able to withstand a torpedo that would
have destroyed an ironclad as easily as a fishing-boat!

Yes! all was explained, everything--except the presence of the torpedo
in the waters of the channel!

"My friends, then," said Cyrus Harding, "we can no longer be in doubt
as to the presence of a mysterious being, a castaway like us, perhaps,
abandoned on our island, and I say this in order that Ayrton may be
acquainted with all the strange events which have occurred during these
two years. Who this beneficent stranger is, whose intervention has, so
fortunately for us, been manifested on many occasions, I cannot imagine.
What his object can be in acting thus, in concealing himself after
rendering us so many services, I cannot understand: But his services are
not the less real, and are of such a nature that only a man possessed of
prodigious power, could render them. Ayrton is indebted to him as much
as we are, for, if it was the stranger who saved me from the waves after
the fall from the balloon, evidently it was he who wrote the document,
who placed the bottle in the channel, and who has made known to us the
situation of our companion. I will add that it was he who guided that
chest, provided with everything we wanted, and stranded it on Flotsam
Point; that it was he who lighted that fire on the heights of the
island, which permitted you to land; that it was he who fired that
bullet found in the body of the peccary; that it was he who plunged that
torpedo into the channel, which destroyed the brig; in a word, that all
those inexplicable events, for which we could not assign a reason, are
due to this mysterious being. Therefore, whoever he may be, whether
shipwrecked, or exiled on our island, we shall be ungrateful, if we
think ourselves freed from gratitude towards him. We have contracted a
debt, and I hope that we shall one day pay it."

"You are right in speaking thus, my dear Cyrus," replied Gideon Spilett.
"Yes, there is an almost all-powerful being, hidden in some part of the
island, and whose influence has been singularly useful to our colony.
I will add that the unknown appears to possess means of action which
border on the supernatural, if in the events of practical life the
supernatural were recognizable. Is it he who is in secret communication
with us by the well in Granite House, and has he thus a knowledge of all
our plans? Was it he who threw us that bottle, when the vessel made her
first cruise? Was it he who threw Top out of the lake, and killed the
dugong? Was it he, who as everything leads us to believe, saved you from
the waves, and that under circumstances in which any one else would not
have been able to act? If it was he, he possesses a power which renders
him master of the elements."

The reporter's reasoning was just, and every one felt it to be so.

"Yes," rejoined Cyrus Harding, "if the intervention of a human being is
not more questionable for us, I agree that he has at his disposal means
of action beyond those possessed by humanity. There is a mystery still,
but if we discover the man, the mystery will be discovered also. The
question, then, is, ought we to respect the incognito of this generous
being, or ought we to do everything to find him out? What is your
opinion on the matter?"

"My opinion," said Pencroft, "is that, whoever he may be, he is a brave
man, and he has my esteem!"

"Be it so," answered Harding, "but that is not an answer, Pencroft."

"Master," then said Neb, "my idea is, that we may search as long as we
like for this gentleman whom you are talking about, but that we shall
not discover him till he pleases."

"That's not bad, what you say, Neb," observed Pencroft.

"I am of Neb's opinion," said Gideon Spilett, "but that is no reason for
not attempting the adventure. Whether we find this mysterious being or
not, we shall at least have fulfilled our duty towards him."

"And you, my boy, give us your opinion," said the engineer, turning to
Herbert.

"Oh," cried Herbert, his countenance full of animation, "how I should
like to thank him, he who saved you first, and who has now saved us!"

"Of course, my boy," replied Pencroft, "so would I and all of us. I am
not inquisitive, but I would give one of my eyes to see this individual
face to face! It seems to me that he must be handsome, tall, strong,
with a splendid beard, radiant hair, and that he must be seated on
clouds, a great ball in his hands!"

"But, Pencroft," answered Spilett, "you are describing a picture of the
Creator."

"Possibly, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "but that is how I imagine
him!"

"And you, Ayrton?" asked the engineer.

"Captain Harding," replied Ayrton, "I can give you no better advice in
this matter. Whatever you do will be best; when you wish me to join you
in your researches, I am ready to follow you.

"I thank you, Ayrton," answered Cyrus Harding, "but I should like a more
direct answer to the question I put to you. You are our companion; you
have already endangered your life several times for us, and you, as
well as the rest, ought to be consulted in the matter of any important
decision. Speak, therefore."

"Captain Harding," replied Ayrton, "I think that we ought to do
everything to discover this unknown benefactor. Perhaps he is alone.
Perhaps he is suffering. Perhaps he has a life to be renewed. I, too,
as you said, have a debt of gratitude to pay him. It was he, it could be
only he who must have come to Tabor Island, who found there the wretch
you knew, and who made known to you that there was an unfortunate man
there to be saved. Therefore it is, thanks to him, that I have become a
man again. No, I will never forget him!"

"That is settled, then," said Cyrus Harding. "We will begin our
researches as soon as possible. We will not leave a corner of the island
unexplored. We will search into its most secret recesses, and will
hope that our unknown friend will pardon us in consideration of our
intentions!"

For several days the colonists were actively employed in haymaking and
the harvest. Before putting their project of exploring the yet unknown
parts of the island into execution, they wished to get all possible work
finished. It was also the time for collecting the various vegetables
from the Tabor Island plants. All was stowed away, and happily there was
no want of room in Granite House, in which they might have housed all
the treasures of the island. The products of the colony were there,
methodically arranged, and in a safe place, as may be believed,
sheltered as much from animals as from man.

There was no fear of damp in the middle of that thick mass of granite.
Many natural excavations situated in the upper passage were enlarged
either by pick-axe or mine, and Granite House thus became a general
warehouse, containing all the provisions, arms, tools, and spare
utensils--in a word, all the stores of the colony.

As to the guns obtained from the brig, they were pretty pieces of
ordnance, which, at Pencroft's entreaty, were hoisted by means of tackle
and pulleys, right up into Granite House; embrasures were made between
the windows, and the shining muzzles of the guns could soon be seen
through the granite cliff. From this height they commanded all Union
Bay. It was like a little Gibraltar, and any vessel anchored off the
islet would inevitably be exposed to the fire of this aerial battery.

"Captain," said Pencroft one day, it was the 8th of November, "now that
our fortifications are finished, it would be a good thing if we tried
the range of our guns."

"Do you think that is useful?" asked the engineer.

"It is more than useful, it is necessary! Without that how are we to
know to what distance we can send one of those pretty shot with which we
are provided?"

"Try them, Pencroft," replied the engineer. "However, I think that in
making the experiment, we ought to employ, not the ordinary powder,
the supply of which, I think, should remain untouched, but the pyroxyle
which will never fail us."

"Can the cannon support the shock of the pyroxyle?" asked the reporter,
who was not less anxious than Pencroft to try the artillery of Granite
House.

"I believe so. However," added the engineer, "we will be prudent." The
engineer was right in thinking that the guns were of excellent make.
Made of forged steel, and breech-loaders, they ought consequently to be
able to bear a considerable charge, and also have an enormous range.
In fact, as regards practical effect, the transit described by the ball
ought to be as extended as possible, and this tension could only be
obtained under the condition that the projectile should be impelled with
a very great initial velocity.

"Now," said Harding to his companions, "the initial velocity is in
proportion to the quantity of powder used. In the fabrication of
these pieces, everything depends on employing a metal with the highest
possible power of resistance, and steel is incontestably that metal of
all others which resists the best. I have, therefore, reason to believe
that our guns will bear without risk the expansion of the pyroxyle gas,
and will give excellent results."

"We shall be a great deal more certain of that when we have tried them!"
answered Pencroft.

It is unnecessary to say that the four cannons were in perfect order.
Since they had been taken from the water, the sailor had bestowed great
care upon them. How many hours he had spent, in rubbing, greasing, and
polishing them, and in cleaning the mechanism! And now the pieces were
as brilliant as if they had been on board a frigate of the United States
Navy.

On this day, therefore, in presence of all the members of the colony,
including Master Jup and Top, the four cannon were successively tried.
They were charged with pyroxyle, taking into consideration its explosive
power, which, as has been said, is four times that of ordinary powder:
the projectile to be fired was cylindroconic.

Pencroft, holding the end of the quick-match, stood ready to fire.

At Harding's signal, he fired. The shot, passing over the islet,
fell into the sea at a distance which could not be calculated with
exactitude.

The second gun was pointed at the rocks at the end of Flotsam Point, and
the shot striking a sharp rock nearly three miles from Granite House,
made it fly into splinters. It was Herbert who had pointed this gun and
fired it, and very proud he was of his first shot. Pencroft only was
prouder than he! Such a shot, the honor of which belonged to his dear
boy.

The third shot, aimed this time at the downs forming the upper side
of Union Bay, struck the sand at a distance of four miles, then having
ricocheted: was lost in the sea in a cloud of spray.

For the fourth piece Cyrus Harding slightly increased the charge, so
as to try its extreme range. Then, all standing aside for fear of its
bursting, the match was lighted by means of a long cord.

A tremendous report was heard, but the piece had held good, and the
colonists rushing to the windows, saw the shot graze the rocks of
Mandible Cape, nearly five miles from Granite House, and disappear in
Shark Gulf.

"Well, captain," exclaimed Pencroft, whose cheers might have rivaled the
reports themselves, "what do you say of our battery? All the pirates in
the Pacific have only to present themselves before Granite House! Not
one can land there now without our permission!"

"Believe me, Pencroft," replied the engineer, "it would be better not to
have to make the experiment."

"Well," said the sailor, "what ought to be done with regard to those
six villains who are roaming about the island? Are we to leave them
to overrun our forests, our fields, our plantations? These pirates are
regular jaguars, and it seems to me we ought not to hesitate to treat
them as such! What do you think, Ayrton?" added Pencroft, turning to his
companion.

Ayrton hesitated at first to reply, and Cyrus Harding regretted that
Pencroft had so thoughtlessly put this question. And he was much moved
when Ayrton replied in a humble tone,--

"I have been one of those jaguars, Mr. Pencroft. I have no right to
speak."

And with a slow step he walked away.

Pencroft understood.

"What a brute I am!" he exclaimed. "Poor Ayrton! He has as much right to
speak here as any one!"

"Yes," said Gideon Spilett, "but his reserve does him honor, and it is
right to respect the feeling which he has about his sad past."

"Certainly, Mr. Spilett," answered the sailor, "and there is no fear of
my doing so again. I would rather bite my tongue off than cause Ayrton
any pain! But to return to the question. It seems to me that these
ruffians have no right to any pity, and that we ought to rid the island
of them as soon as possible."

"Is that your opinion, Pencroft?" asked the engineer.

"Quite my opinion."

"And before hunting them mercilessly, you would not wait until they had
committed some fresh act of hostility against us?"

"Isn't what they have done already enough?" asked Pencroft, who did not
understand these scruples.

"They may adopt other sentiments!" said Harding, "and perhaps repent."

"They repent!" exclaimed the sailor, shrugging his shoulders.

"Pencroft, think of Ayrton!" said Herbert, taking the sailor's hand. "He
became an honest man again!"

Pencroft looked at his companions one after the other. He had never
thought of his proposal being met with any objection. His rough nature
could not allow that they ought to come to terms with the rascals who
had landed on the island with Bob Harvey's accomplices, the murderers of
the crew of the "Speedy," and he looked upon them as wild beasts which
ought to be destroyed without delay and without remorse.

"Come!" said be. "Everybody is against me! You wish to be generous to
those villains! Very well; I hope we mayn't repent it!"

"What danger shall we run," said Herbert, "if we take care to be always
on our guard?"

"Hum!" observed the reporter, who had not given any decided opinion.
"They are six and well armed. If they each lay hid in a corner, and each
fired at one of us, they would soon be masters of the colony!"

"Why have they not done so?" said Herbert. "No doubt because it was not
their interest to do it. Besides, we are six also."

"Well, well!" replied Pencroft, whom no reasoning could have convinced.
"Let us leave these good people to do what they like, and don't think
anything more about them!"

"Come, Pencroft," said Neb, "don't make yourself out so bad as all that!
Suppose one of these unfortunate men were here before you, within good
range of your guns, you would not fire."

"I would fire on him as I would on a mad dog, Neb," replied Pencroft
coldly.

"Pencroft," said the engineer, "you have always shown much deference to
my advice; will you, in this matter, yield to me?"

"I will do as you please, Captain Harding," answered the sailor, who was
not at all convinced.

"Very well, wait, and we will not attack them unless we are attacked
first."

Thus their behavior towards the pirates was agreed upon, although
Pencroft augured nothing good from it. They were not to attack them, but
were to be on their guard. After all, the island was large and fertile.
If any sentiment of honesty yet remained in the bottom of their hearts,
these wretches might perhaps be reclaimed. Was it not their interest in
the situation in which they found themselves to begin a new life? At
any rate, for humanity's sake alone, it would be right to wait. The
colonists would no longer as before, be able to go and come without
fear. Hitherto they had only wild beasts to guard against, and now six
convicts of the worst description, perhaps, were roaming over their
island. It was serious, certainly, and to less brave men, it would have
been security lost! No matter! At present, the colonists had reason on
their side against Pencroft. Would they be right in the future? That
remained to be seen.

 

 

Chapter 6

However, the chief business of the colonists was to make that complete
exploration of the island which had been decided upon, and which would
have two objects: to discover the mysterious being whose existence was
now indisputable, and at the same time to find out what had become of
the pirates, what retreat they had chosen, what sort of life they were
leading, and what was to be feared from them. Cyrus Harding wished
to set out without delay; but as the expedition would be of some days
duration, it appeared best to load the cart with different materials and
tools in order to facilitate the organization of the encampments. One
of the onagers, however, having hurt its leg, could not be harnessed
at present, and a few days' rest was necessary. The departure was,
therefore, put off for a week, until the 20th of November. The month
of November in this latitude corresponds to the month of May in the
northern zones. It was, therefore, the fine season. The sun was entering
the tropic of Capricorn, and gave the longest days in the year. The time
was, therefore, very favorable for the projected expedition, which,
if it did not accomplish its principal object, would at any rate be
fruitful in discoveries, especially of natural productions, since
Harding proposed to explore those dense forests of the Far West, which
stretched to the extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula.

During the nine days which preceded their departure, it was agreed that
the work on Prospect Heights should be finished off.

Moreover, it was necessary for Ayrton to return to the corral, where the
domesticated animals required his care. It was decided that he should
spend two days there, and return to Granite House after having liberally
supplied the stables.

As he was about to start, Harding asked him if he would not like one
of them to accompany him, observing that the island was less safe than
formerly. Ayrton replied that this was unnecessary, as he was enough
for the work, and that besides he apprehended no danger. If anything
occurred at the corral, or in the neighborhood, he could instantly warn
the colonists by sending a telegram to Granite House.

Ayrton departed at dawn on the 9th, taking the cart drawn by one onager,
and two hours after, the electric wire announced that he had found all
in order at the corral.

During these two days Harding busied himself in executing a project
which would completely guard Granite House against any surprise. It was
necessary to completely conceal the opening of the old outlet, which
was already walled up and partly hidden under grass and plants, at the
southern angle of Lake Grant. Nothing was easier, since if the level
of the lake was raised two or three feet, the opening would be quite
beneath it. Now, to raise this level they had only to establish a dam at
the two openings made by the lake, and by which were fed Creek Glycerine
and Falls River.

The colonists worked with a will, and the two dams which besides did not
exceed eight feet in width by three in height, were rapidly erected by
means of well-cemented blocks of stone.

This work finished, it would have been impossible to guess that at that
part of the lake, there existed a subterranean passage through which the
overflow of the lake formerly escaped.

Of course the little stream which fed the reservoir of Granite House and
worked the lift, had been carefully preserved, and the water could not
fail. The lift once raised, this sure and comfortable retreat would be
safe from any surprise.

This work had been so quickly done, that Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and
Herbert found time to make an expedition to Port Balloon, The sailor was
very anxious to know if the little creek in which the "Bonadventure" was
moored, had been visited by the convicts.

"These gentlemen," he observed, "landed on the south coast, and if they
followed the shore, it is to be feared that they may have discovered the
little harbor, and in that case, I wouldn't give half-a-dollar for our
'Bonadventure.'"

Pencroft's apprehensions were not without foundation, and a visit
to Port Balloon appeared to be very desirable. The sailor and his
companions set off on the 10th of November, after dinner, well armed.
Pencroft, ostentatiously slipping two bullets into each barrel of his
rifle, shook his head in a way which betokened nothing good to any one
who approached too near him, whether "man or beast," as he said. Gideon
Spilett and Herbert also took their guns, and about three o'clock all
three left Granite House.

Neb accompanied them to the turn of the Mercy, and after they had
crossed, he raised the bridge. It was agreed that a gunshot should
announce the colonists' return, and that at the signal Neb should return
and reestablish the communication between the two banks of the river.

The little band advanced directly along the road which led to the
southern coast of the island. This was only a distance of three miles
and a half, but Gideon Spilett and his companions took two hours to
traverse it. They examined all the border of the road, the thick forest,
as well as Tabor Marsh. They found no trace of the fugitives who, no
doubt, not having yet discovered the number of the colonists, or the
means of defense which they had at their disposal, had gained the less
accessible parts of the island.

Arrived at Port Balloon, Pencroft saw with extreme satisfaction that
the "Bonadventure" was tranquilly floating in the narrow creek. However,
Port Balloon was so well hidden among high rocks, that it could scarcely
be discovered either from the land or the sea.

"Come," said Pencroft, "the blackguards have not been there yet. Long
grass suits reptiles best, and evidently we shall find them in the Far
West."

"And it's very lucky, for if they had found the 'Bonadventure'," added
Herbert, "they would have gone off in her, and we should have been
prevented from returning to Tabor Island."

"Indeed," remarked the reporter, "it will be important to take a
document there which will make known the situation of Lincoln Island,
and Ayrton's new residence, in case the Scotch yacht returns to fetch
him."

"Well, the 'Bonadventure' is always there, Mr. Spilett," answered the
sailor. "She and her crew are ready to start at a moment's notice!"

"I think, Pencroft, that that is a thing to be done after our
exploration of the island is finished. It is possible after all that the
stranger, if we manage to find him, may know as much about Tabor Island
as about Lincoln Island. Do not forget that he is certainly the author
of the document, and he may, perhaps, know how far we may count on the
return of the yacht!"

"But!" exclaimed Pencroft, "who in the world can he be? The fellow knows
us and we know nothing about him! If he is a simple castaway, why should
he conceal himself! We are honest men, I suppose, and the society of
honest men isn't unpleasant to any one. Did he come here voluntarily?
Can he leave the island if he likes? Is he here still? Will he remain
any longer?"

Chatting thus, Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert got on board and
looked about the deck of the "Bonadventure." All at once, the sailor
having examined the bitts to which the cable of the anchor was
secured,--

"Hallo," he cried, "this is queer!"

"What is the matter, Pencroft?" asked the reporter.

"The matter is, that it was not I who made this knot!"

And Pencroft showed a rope which fastened the cable to the bitt itself.

"What, it was not you?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"No! I can swear to it. This is a reef knot, and I always make a running
bowline."

"You must be mistaken, Pencroft."

"I am not mistaken!" declared the sailor. "My hand does it so naturally,
and one's hand is never mistaken!"

"Then can the convicts have been on board?" asked Herbert.

"I know nothing about that," answered Pencroft, "but what is certain,
is that some one has weighed the 'Bonadventure's' anchor and dropped it
again! And look here, here is another proof! The cable of the anchor has
been run out, and its service is no longer at the hawse-hole. I repeat
that some one has been using our vessel!"

"But if the convicts had used her, they would have pillaged her, or
rather gone off with her."

"Gone off! where to--to Tabor Island?" replied Pencroft. "Do you think,
they would risk themselves in a boat of such small tonnage?"

"We must, besides, be sure that they know of the islet," rejoined the
reporter.

"However that may be," said the sailor, "as sure as my name is
Bonadventure Pencroft, of the Vineyard, our 'Bonadventure' has sailed
without us!"

The sailor was positive that neither Gideon Spilett nor Herbert could
dispute his statement. It was evident that the vessel had been moved,
more or less, since Pencroft had brought her to Port Balloon. As to the
sailor, he had not the slightest doubt that the anchor had been raised
and then dropped again. Now, what was the use of these two maneuvers,
unless the vessel had been employed in some expedition?

"But how was it we did not see the 'Bonadventure' pass in the sight of
the island?" observed the reporter, who was anxious to bring forward
every possible objection.

"Why, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "they would only have to start
in the night with a good breeze, and they would be out of sight of the
island in two hours."

"Well," resumed Gideon Spilett, "I ask again, what object could the
convicts have had in using the 'Bonadventure,' and why, after they had
made use of her, should they have brought her back to port?"

"Why, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "we must put that among the
unaccountable things, and not think anything more about it. The chief
thing is that the 'Bonadventure' was there, and she is there now. Only,
unfortunately, if the convicts take her a second time, we shall very
likely not find her again in her place!"

"Then, Pencroft," said Herbert, "would it not be wisest to bring the
'Bonadventure' off to Granite House?"

"Yes and no," answered Pencroft, "or rather no. The mouth of the Mercy
is a bad place for a vessel, and the sea is heavy there."

"But by hauling her up on the sand, to the foot of the Chimneys?"

"Perhaps yes," replied Pencroft. "At any rate, since we must leave
Granite House for a long expedition, I think the 'Bonadventure' will be
safer here during our absence, and we shall do best to leave her here
until the island is rid of these blackguards."

"That is exactly my opinion," said the reporter. "At any rate in the
event of bad weather, she will not be exposed here as she would be at
the mouth of the Mercy."

"But suppose the convicts pay her another visit," said Herbert.

"Well, my boy," replied Pencroft, "not finding her here, they would not
be long in finding her on the sands of Granite House, and, during our
absence, nothing could hinder them from seizing her! I agree, therefore,
with Mr. Spilett, that she must be left in Port Balloon. But, if on our
return we have not rid the island of those rascals, it will be prudent
to bring our boat to Granite House, until the time when we need not fear
any unpleasant visits."

"That's settled. Let us be off," said the reporter.

Pencroft, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett, on their return to Granite House,
told the engineer all that had passed, and the latter approved of their
arrangements both for the present and the future. He also promised the
sailor that he would study that part of the channel situated between the
islet and the coast, so as to ascertain if it would not be possible
to make an artificial harbor there by means of dams. In this way, the
"Bonadventure" would be always within reach, under the eyes of the
colonists, and if necessary, under lock and key.

That evening a telegram was sent to Ayrton, requesting him to bring from
the corral a couple of goats, which Neb wished to acclimatize to the
plateau. Singularly enough, Ayrton did not acknowledge the receipt of
the despatch, as he was accustomed to do. This could not but astonish
the engineer. But it might be that Ayrton was not at that moment in the
corral, or even that he was on his way back to Granite House. In fact,
two days had already passed since his departure, and it had been decided
that on the evening of the 10th or at the latest the morning of the
11th, he should return. The colonists waited, therefore, for Ayrton to
appear on Prospect Heights. Neb and Herbert even watched at the bridge
so as to be ready to lower it the moment their companion presented
himself.

But up to ten in the evening, there were no signs of Ayrton. It was,
therefore, judged best to send a fresh despatch, requiring an immediate
reply.

The bell of the telegraph at Granite House remained mute.

The colonists' uneasiness was great. What had happened? Was Ayrton no
longer at the corral, or if he was still there, had he no longer control
over his movements? Could they go to the corral in this dark night?

They consulted. Some wished to go, the others to remain.

"But," said Herbert, "perhaps some accident has happened to the
telegraphic apparatus, so that it works no longer?"

"That may be," said the reporter.

"Wait till to-morrow," replied Cyrus Harding. "It is possible, indeed,
that Ayrton has not received our despatch, or even that we have not
received his."

They waited, of course not without some anxiety.

At dawn of day, the 11th of November, Harding again sent the electric
current along the wire and received no reply.

He tried again: the same result.

"Off to the corral," said he.

"And well armed!" added Pencroft.

It was immediately decided that Granite House should not be left alone
and that Neb should remain there. After having accompanied his friends
to Creek Glycerine, he raised the bridge; and waiting behind a tree he
watched for the return of either his companions or Ayrton.

In the event of the pirates presenting themselves and attempting to
force the passage, he was to endeavor to stop them by firing on them,
and as a last resource he was to take refuge in Granite House, where,
the lift once raised, he would be in safety.

Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Pencroft were to repair
to the corral, and if they did not find Ayrton, search the neighboring
woods.

At six o'clock in the morning, the engineer and his three companions
had passed Creek Glycerine, and Neb posted himself behind a small mound
crowned by several dragon trees, on the left bank of the stream.

The colonists, after leaving the plateau of Prospect Heights,
immediately took the road to the corral. They shouldered their guns,
ready to fire on the slightest hostile demonstration. The two rifles and
the two guns had been loaded with ball.

The wood was thick on each side of the road and might easily have
concealed the convicts, who owing to their weapons would have been
really formidable.

The colonists walked rapidly and in silence. Top preceded them,
sometimes running on the road, sometimes taking a ramble into the wood,
but always quiet and not appearing to fear anything unusual. And
they could be sure that the faithful dog would not allow them to be
surprised, but would bark at the least appearance of danger.

Cyrus Harding and his companions followed beside the road the wire which
connected the corral with Granite House. After walking for nearly two
miles, they had not as yet discovered any explanation of the difficulty.
The posts were in good order, the wire regularly extended. However, at
that moment the engineer observed that the wire appeared to be slack,
and on arriving at post No. 74, Herbert, who was in advance stopped,
exclaiming,--

"The wire is broken!"

His companions hurried forward and arrived at the spot where the lad
was standing. The post was rooted up and lying across the path. The
unexpected explanation of the difficulty was here, and it was evident
that the despatches from Granite House had not been received at the
corral, nor those from the corral at Granite House.

"It wasn't the wind that blew down this post," observed Pencroft.

"No," replied Gideon Spilett. "The earth has been dug up round its foot,
and it has been torn up by the hand of man."

"Besides, the wire is broken," added Herbert, showing that the wire had
been snapped.

"Is the fracture recent?" asked Harding.

"Yes," answered Herbert, "it has certainly been done quite lately."

"To the corral! to the corral!" exclaimed the sailor.

The colonists were now half way between Granite House and the corral,
having still two miles and a half to go. They pressed forward with
redoubled speed.

Indeed, it was to be feared that some serious accident had occurred in
the corral. No doubt, Ayrton might have sent a telegram which had not
arrived, but this was not the reason why his companions were so uneasy,
for, a more unaccountable circumstance, Ayrton, who had promised to
return the evening before, had not reappeared. In short, it was not
without a motive that all communication had been stopped between the
corral and Granite House, and who but the convicts could have any
interest in interrupting this communication?

The settlers hastened on, their hearts oppressed with anxiety. They were
sincerely attached to their new companion. Were they to find him struck
down by the hands of those of whom he was formerly the leader?

Soon they arrived at the place where the road led along the side of the
little stream which flowed from the Red Creek and watered the meadows
of the corral. They then moderated their pace so that they should not
be out of breath at the moment when a struggle might be necessary. Their
guns were in their hands ready cocked. The forest was watched on every
side. Top uttered sullen groans which were rather ominous.

At last the palisade appeared through the trees. No trace of any damage
could be seen. The gate was shut as usual. Deep silence reigned in the
corral. Neither the accustomed bleating of the sheep nor Ayrton's voice
could be heard.

"Let us enter," said Cyrus Harding.

And the engineer advanced, while his companions, keeping watch about
twenty paces behind him, were ready to fire at a moment's notice.

Harding raised the inner latch of the gate and was about to push it
back, when Top barked loudly. A report sounded and was responded to by a
cry of pain.

Herbert, struck by a bullet, lay stretched on the ground.

 

 

Chapter 7

At Herbert's cry, Pencroft, letting his gun fall, rushed towards him.

"They have killed him!" he cried. "My boy! They have killed him!"

Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett ran to Herbert.

The reporter listened to ascertain if the poor lad's heart was still
beating.

"He lives," said he, "but he must be carried--"

"To Granite House? that is impossible!" replied the engineer.

"Into the corral, then!" said Pencroft.

"In a moment," said Harding.

And he ran round the left corner of the palisade. There he found a
convict, who aiming at him, sent a ball through his hat. In a few
seconds, before he had even time to fire his second barrel, he fell,
struck to the heart by Harding's dagger, more sure even than his gun.

During this time, Gideon Spilett and the sailor hoisted themselves over
the palisade, leaped into the enclosure, threw down the props which
supported the inner door, ran into the empty house, and soon, poor
Herbert was lying on Ayrton's bed. In a few moments, Harding was by his
side.

On seeing Herbert senseless, the sailor's grief was terrible.

He sobbed, he cried, he tried to beat his head against the wall.

Neither the engineer nor the reporter could calm him. They themselves
were choked with emotion. They could not speak.

However, they knew that it depended on them to rescue from death the
poor boy who was suffering beneath their eyes. Gideon Spilett had not
passed through the many incidents by which his life had been checkered
without acquiring some slight knowledge of medicine. He knew a little
of everything, and several times he had been obliged to attend to wounds
produced either by a sword-bayonet or shot. Assisted by Cyrus Harding,
he proceeded to render the aid Herbert required.

The reporter was immediately struck by the complete stupor in which
Herbert lay, a stupor owing either to the hemorrhage, or to the shock,
the ball having struck a bone with sufficient force to produce a violent
concussion.

Herbert was deadly pale, and his pulse so feeble that Spilett only felt
it beat at long intervals, as if it was on the point of stopping.

These symptoms were very serious.

Herbert's chest was laid bare, and the blood having been stanched with
handkerchiefs, it was bathed with cold water.

The contusion, or rather the contused wound appeared,--an oval below the
chest between the third and fourth ribs. It was there that Herbert had
been hit by the bullet.

Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett then turned the poor boy over; as they
did so, he uttered a moan so feeble that they almost thought it was his
last sigh.

Herberts back was covered with blood from another contused wound, by
which the ball had immediately escaped.

"God be praised!" said the reporter, "the ball is not in the body, and
we shall not have to extract it."

"But the heart?" asked Harding.

"The heart has not been touched; if it had been, Herbert would be dead!"

"Dead!" exclaimed Pencroft, with a groan.

The sailor had only heard the last words uttered by the reporter.

"No, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding, "no! He is not dead. His pulse
still beats. He has even uttered a moan. But for your boy's sake, calm
yourself. We have need of all our self-possession."

"Do not make us lose it, my friend."

Pencroft was silent, but a reaction set in, and great tears rolled down
his cheeks.

In the meanwhile, Gideon Spilett endeavored to collect his ideas, and
proceed methodically. After his examination he had no doubt that the
ball, entering in front, between the seventh and eighth ribs, had issued
behind between the third and fourth. But what mischief had the ball
committed in its passage? What important organs had been reached? A
professional surgeon would have had difficulty in determining this at
once, and still more so the reporter.

However, he knew one thing, this was that he would have to prevent the
inflammatory strangulation of the injured parts, then to contend with
the local inflammation and fever which would result from the wound,
perhaps mortal! Now, what styptics, what antiphlogistics ought to be
employed? By what means could inflammation be prevented?

At any rate, the most important thing was that the two wounds should
be dressed without delay. It did not appear necessary to Gideon Spilett
that a fresh flow of blood should be caused by bathing them in tepid
water, and compressing their lips. The hemorrhage had been very
abundant, and Herbert was already too much enfeebled by the loss of
blood.

The reporter, therefore, thought it best to simply bathe the two wounds
with cold water.

Herbert was placed on his left side, and was maintained in that
position.

"He must not be moved." said Gideon Spilett. "He is in the most
favorable position for the wounds in his back and chest to suppurate
easily, and absolute rest is necessary."

"What! can't we carry him to Granite House?" asked Pencroft.

"No, Pencroft," replied the reporter.

"I'll pay the villains off!" cried the sailor, shaking his fist in a
menacing manner.

"Pencroft!" said Cyrus Harding.

Gideon Spilett had resumed his examination of the wounded boy. Herbert
was still so frightfully pale, that the reporter felt anxious.

"Cyrus," said he, "I am not a surgeon. I am in terrible perplexity. You
must aid me with your advice, your experience!"

"Take courage, my friend," answered the engineer, pressing the
reporter's hand. "Judge coolly. Think only of this: Herbert must be
saved!"

These words restored to Gideon Spilett that self-possession which he had
lost in a moment of discouragement on feeling his great responsibility.
He seated himself close to the bed. Cyrus Harding stood near. Pencroft
had torn up his shirt, and was mechanically making lint.

Spilett then explained to Cyrus Harding that he thought he ought first
of all to stop the hemorrhage, but not close the two wounds, or cause
their immediate cicatrization, for there had been internal perforation,
and the suppuration must not be allowed to accumulate in the chest.

Harding approved entirely, and it was decided that the two wounds should
be dressed without attempting to close them by immediate coaptation.

And now did the colonists possess an efficacious agent to act against
the inflammation which might occur?

Yes. They had one, for nature had generously lavished it. They had cold
water, that is to say, the most powerful sedative that can be employed
against inflammation of wounds, the most efficacious therapeutic agent
in grave cases, and the one which is now adopted by all physicians.
Cold water has, moreover, the advantage of leaving the wound in absolute
rest, and preserving it from all premature dressing, a considerable
advantage, since it has been found by experience that contact with the
air is dangerous during the first days.

Gideon Spilett and Cyrus Harding reasoned thus with their simple good
sense, and they acted as the best surgeon would have done. Compresses
of linen were applied to poor Herbert's two wounds, and were kept
constantly wet with cold water.

The sailor had at first lighted a fire in the hut, which was not wanting
in things necessary for life. Maple sugar, medicinal plants, the same
which the lad had gathered on the banks of Lake Grant, enabled them to
make some refreshing drinks, which they gave him without his taking any
notice of it. His fever was extremely high, and all that day and night
passed without his becoming conscious.

Herbert's life hung on a thread, and this thread might break at any
moment. The next day, the 12th of November, the hopes of Harding and his
companions slightly revived. Herbert had come out of his long stupor.
He opened his eyes, he recognized Cyrus Harding, the reporter, and
Pencroft. He uttered two or three words. He did not know what had
happened. They told him, and Spilett begged him to remain perfectly
still, telling him that his life was not in danger, and that his wounds
would heal in a few days. However, Herbert scarcely suffered at all,
and the cold water with which they were constantly bathed, prevented any
inflammation of the wounds. The suppuration was established in a regular
way, the fever did not increase, and it might now be hoped that this
terrible wound would not involve any catastrophe. Pencroft felt the
swelling of his heart gradually subside. He was like a sister of mercy,
like a mother by the bed of her child.

Herbert dozed again, but his sleep appeared more natural.

"Tell me again that you hope, Mr. Spilett," said Pencroft. "Tell me
again that you will save Herbert!"

"Yes, we will save him!" replied the reporter. "The wound is serious,
and, perhaps, even the ball has traversed the lungs, but the perforation
of this organ is not fatal."

"God bless you!" answered Pencroft.

As may be believed, during the four-and-twenty hours they had been in
the corral, the colonists had no other thought than that of nursing
Herbert. They did not think either of the danger which threatened them
should the convicts return, or of the precautions to be taken for the
future.

But on this day, while Pencroft watched by the sick-bed, Cyrus Harding
and the reporter consulted as to what it would be best to do.

First of all they examined the corral. There was not a trace of Ayrton.
Had the unhappy man been dragged away by his former accomplices? Had he
resisted, and been overcome in the struggle? This last supposition was
only too probable. Gideon Spilett, at the moment he scaled the palisade,
had clearly seen some one of the convicts running along the southern
spur of Mount Franklin, towards whom Top had sprung. It was one of those
whose object had been so completely defeated by the rocks at the mouth
of the Mercy. Besides, the one killed by Harding, and whose body was
found outside the enclosure, of course belonged to Bob Harvey's crew.

As to the corral, it had not suffered any damage. The gates were closed,
and the animals had not been able to disperse in the forest. Nor could
they see traces of any struggle, any devastation, either in the hut,
or in the palisade. The ammunition only, with which Ayrton had been
supplied, had disappeared with him.

"The unhappy man has been surprised," said Harding, "and as he was a man
to defend himself, he must have been overpowered."

"Yes, that is to be feared!" said the reporter. "Then, doubtless, the
convicts installed themselves in the corral where they found plenty of
everything, and only fled when they saw us coming. It is very evident,
too, that at this moment Ayrton, whether living or dead, is not here!"

"We shall have to beat the forest," said the engineer, "and rid the
island of these wretches. Pencroft's presentiments were not mistaken,
when he wished to hunt them as wild beasts. That would have spared us
all these misfortunes!"

"Yes," answered the reporter, "but now we have the right to be
merciless!"

"At any rate," said the engineer, "we are obliged to wait some time,
and to remain at the corral until we can carry Herbert without danger to
Granite House."

"But Neb?" asked the reporter.

"Neb is in safety."

"But if, uneasy at our absence, he would venture to come?"

"He must not come!" returned Cyrus Harding quickly. "He would be
murdered on the road!"

"It is very probable, however, that he will attempt to rejoin us!"

"Ah, if the telegraph still acted, he might be warned! But that is
impossible now! As to leaving Pencroft and Herbert here alone, we could
not do it! Well, I will go alone to Granite House."

"No, no! Cyrus," answered the reporter, "you must not expose yourself!
Your courage would be of no avail. The villains are evidently watching
the corral, they are hidden in the thick woods which surround it, and if
you go we shall soon have to regret two misfortunes instead of one!"

"But Neb?" repeated the engineer. "It is now four-and-twenty hours since
he has had any news of us! He will be sure to come!"

"And as he will be less on his guard than we should be ourselves," added
Spilett, "he will be killed!"

"Is there really no way of warning him?"

While the engineer thought, his eyes fell on Top, who, going backwards
and forwards seemed to say,--

"Am not I here?"

"Top!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding.

The animal sprang at his master's call.

"Yes, Top will go," said the reporter, who had understood the engineer.

"Top can go where we cannot! He will carry to Granite House the news of
the corral, and he will bring back to us that from Granite House!"

"Quick!" said Harding. "Quick!"

Spilett rapidly tore a leaf from his note-book, and wrote these words:--

"Herbert wounded. We are at the corral. Be on your guard. Do not leave
Granite House. Have the convicts appeared in the neighborhood? Reply by
Top."

This laconic note contained all that Neb ought to know, and at the same
time asked all that the colonists wished to know. It was folded and
fastened to Top's collar in a conspicuous position.

"Top, my dog," said the engineer, caressing the animal, "Neb, Top! Neb!
Go, go!"

Top bounded at these words. He understood, he knew what was expected of
him. The road to the corral was familiar to him. In less than an hour he
could clear it, and it might be hoped that where neither Cyrus Harding
nor the reporter could have ventured without danger, Top, running among
the grass or in the wood, would pass unperceived.

The engineer went to the gate of the corral and opened it.

"Neb, Top! Neb!" repeated the engineer, again pointing in the direction
of Granite House.

Top sprang forwards, then almost immediately disappeared.

"He will get there!" said the reporter.

"Yes, and he will come back, the faithful animal!"

"What o'clock is it?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"Ten."

"In an hour he may be here. We will watch for his return."

The gate of the corral was closed. The engineer and the reporter
re-entered the house. Herbert was still in a sleep. Pencroft kept the
compresser always wet. Spilett, seeing there was nothing he could do
at that moment, busied himself in preparing some nourishment, while
attentively watching that part of the enclosure against the hill, at
which an attack might be expected.

The settlers awaited Top's return with much anxiety. A little before
eleven o'clock, Cyrus Harding and the reporter, rifle in hand, were
behind the gate, ready to open it at the first bark of their dog.

They did not doubt that if Top had arrived safely at Granite House, Neb
would have sent him back immediately.

They had both been there for about ten minutes, when a report was heard,
followed by repeated barks.

The engineer opened the gate, and seeing smoke a hundred feet off in the
wood, he fired in that direction.

Almost immediately Top bounded into the corral, and the gate was quickly
shut.

"Top, Top!" exclaimed the engineer, taking the dog's great honest head
between his hands.

A note was fastened to his neck, and Cyrus Harding read these words,
traced in Neb's large writing:--"No pirates in the neighborhood of
Granite House. I will not stir. Poor Mr. Herbert!"

 

 

Chapter 8

So the convicts were still there, watching the corral, and determined to
kill the settlers one after the other. There was nothing to be done but
to treat them as wild beasts. But great precautions must be taken, for
just now the wretches had the advantage on their side, seeing, and not
being seen, being able to surprise by the suddenness of their attack,
yet not to be surprised themselves. Harding made arrangements,
therefore, for living in the corral, of which the provisions would last
for a tolerable length of time. Ayrton's house had been provided with
all that was necessary for existence, and the convicts, scared by
the arrival of the settlers, had not had time to pillage it. It was
probable, as Gideon Spilett observed, that things had occurred as
follows:

The six convicts, disembarking on the island, had followed the southern
shore, and after having traversed the double shore of the Serpentine
Peninsula, not being inclined to venture into the Far West woods, they
had reached the mouth of Falls River. From this point, by following the
right bank of the watercourse, they would arrive at the spurs of Mount
Franklin, among which they would naturally seek a retreat, and they
could not have been long in discovering the corral, then uninhabited.
There they had regularly installed themselves, awaiting the moment
to put their abominable schemes into execution. Ayrton's arrival had
surprised them, but they had managed to overpower the unfortunate man,
and--the rest may be easily imagined!

Now, the convicts,--reduced to five, it is true, but well armed,--were
roaming the woods, and to venture there was to expose themselves to
their attacks, which could be neither guarded against nor prevented.

"Wait! There is nothing else to be done!" repeated Cyrus Harding. "When
Herbert is cured, we can organize a general battle of the island, and
have satisfaction of these convicts. That will be the object of our
grand expedition at the same time--"

"As the search for our mysterious protector," added Gideon Spilett,
finishing the engineer's sentence. "And it must be acknowledged, my dear
Cyrus, that this time his protection was wanting at the very moment when
it was most necessary to us!"

"Who knows?" replied the engineer.

"What do you mean?" asked the reporter.

"That we are not at the end of our trouble yet, my dear Spilett,
and that his powerful intervention may have another opportunity of
exercising itself. But that is not the question now. Herbert's life
before everything."

This was the colonists' saddest thought. Several days passed, and the
poor boy's state was happily no worse. Cold water, always kept at a
suitable temperature, had completely prevented the inflammation of the
wounds. It even seemed to the reporter that this water, being slightly
sulphurous,--which was explained by the neighborhood of the volcano,
had a more direct action on the healing. The suppuration was much
less abundant, and thanks to the incessant care by which he was
surrounded!--Herbert returned to life, and his fever abated. He was
besides subjected to a severe diet, and consequently his weakness was
and would be extreme; but there was no want of refreshing drinks, and
absolute rest was of the greatest benefit to him. Cyrus Harding, Gideon
Spilett, and Pencroft had become very skilful in dressing the lad's
wounds. All the linen in the house had been sacrificed. Herbert's
wounds, covered with compresses and lint, were pressed neither too much
nor too little, so as to cause their cicatrization without effecting any
inflammatory reaction. The reporter used extreme care in the dressing,
knowing well the importance of it, and repeating to his companions that
which most surgeons willingly admit, that it is perhaps rarer to see a
dressing well done than an operation well performed.

In ten days, on the 22nd of November, Herbert was considerably better.
He had begun to take some nourishment.

The color was returning to his cheeks, and his bright eyes smiled at
his nurses. He talked a little, notwithstanding Pencroft's efforts, who
talked incessantly to prevent him from beginning to speak, and told him
the most improbable stories. Herbert had questioned him on the subject
of Ayrton, whom he was astonished not to see near him, thinking that
he was at the corral. But the sailor, not wishing to distress Herbert,
contented himself by replying that Ayrton had rejoined Neb, so as to
defend Granite House.

"Humph!" said Pencroft, "these pirates! they are gentlemen who have
no right to any consideration! And the captain wanted to win them by
kindness! I'll send them some kindness, but in the shape of a good
bullet!"

"And have they not been seen again?" asked Herbert.

"No, my boy," answered the sailor, "but we shall find them, and when
you are cured we shall see if the cowards who strike us from behind will
dare to meet us face to face!"

"I am still very weak, my poor Pencroft!"

"Well! your strength will return gradually! What's a ball through the
chest? Nothing but a joke! I've seen many, and I don't think much of
them!"

At last things appeared to be going on well, and if no complication
occurred, Herbert's recovery might be regarded as certain. But what
would have been the condition of the colonists if his state had been
aggravated,--if, for example, the ball had remained in his body, if his
arm or his leg had had to be amputated?

"No," said Spilett more than once, "I have never thought of such a
contingency without shuddering!"

"And yet, if it had been necessary to operate," said Harding one day to
him, "you would not have hesitated?"

"No, Cyrus!" said Gideon Spilett, "but thank God that we have been
spared this complication!"

As in so many other conjectures, the colonists had appealed to the logic
of that simple good sense of which they had made use so often, and once
more, thanks to their general knowledge, it had succeeded! But might not
a time come when all their science would be at fault? They were alone
on the island. Now, men in all states of society are necessary to each
other. Cyrus Harding knew this well, and sometimes he asked if some
circumstance might not occur which they would be powerless to surmount.
It appeared to him besides, that he and his companions, till then so
fortunate, had entered into an unlucky period. During the two years and
a half which had elapsed since their escape from Richmond, it might
be said that they had had everything their own way. The island had
abundantly supplied them with minerals, vegetables, animals, and as
Nature had constantly loaded them, their science had known how to take
advantage of what she offered them.

The wellbeing of the colony was therefore complete. Moreover, in certain
occurrences an inexplicable influence had come to their aid!... But all
that could only be for a time.

In short, Cyrus Harding believed that fortune had turned against them.

In fact, the convicts' ship had appeared in the waters of the island,
and if the pirates had been, so to speak, miraculously destroyed, six of
them, at least, had escaped the catastrophe. They had disembarked on the
island, and it was almost impossible to get at the five who survived.
Ayrton had no doubt been murdered by these wretches, who possessed
firearms, and at the first use that they had made of them, Herbert had
fallen, wounded almost mortally. Were these the first blows aimed by
adverse fortune at the colonists? This was often asked by Harding. This
was often repeated by the reporter; and it appeared to him also that the
intervention, so strange, yet so efficacious, which till then had served
them so well, had now failed them. Had this mysterious being, whatever
he was, whose existence could not be denied, abandoned the island? Had
he in his turn succumbed?

No reply was possible to these questions. But it must not be imagined
that because Harding and his companions spoke of these things, they were
men to despair. Far from that. They looked their situation in the face,
they analyzed the chances, they prepared themselves for any event, they
stood firm and straight before the future, and if adversity was at last
to strike them, it would find in them men prepared to struggle against
it.

 

 

Chapter 9

The convalescence of the young invalid was regularly progressing. One
thing only was now to be desired, that his state would allow him to be
brought to Granite House. However well built and supplied the corral
house was, it could not be so comfortable as the healthy granite
dwelling. Besides, it did not offer the same security, and its tenants,
notwithstanding their watchfulness, were here always in fear of some
shot from the convicts. There, on the contrary, in the middle of that
impregnable and inaccessible cliff, they would have nothing to fear, and
any attack on their persons would certainly fail. They therefore waited
impatiently for the moment when Herbert might be moved without danger
from his wound, and they were determined to make this move, although the
communication through Jacamar Wood was very difficult.

They had no news from Neb, but were not uneasy on that account. The
courageous Negro, well entrenched in the depths of Granite House, would
not allow himself to be surprised. Top had not been sent again to him,
as it appeared useless to expose the faithful dog to some shot which
might deprive the settlers of their most useful auxiliary.

They waited, therefore, although they were anxious to be reunited at
Granite House. It pained the engineer to see his forces divided, for it
gave great advantage to the pirates. Since Ayrton's disappearance they
were only four against five, for Herbert could not yet be counted, and
this was not the least care of the brave boy, who well understood the
trouble of which he was the cause.

The question of knowing how, in their condition, they were to act
against the pirates, was thoroughly discussed on the 29th of November
by Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, and Pencroft, at a moment when Herbert
was asleep and could not hear them.

"My friends," said the reporter, after they had talked of Neb and of the
impossibility of communicating with him, "I think,--like you, that to
venture on the road to the corral would be to risk receiving a gunshot
without being able to return it. But do you not think that the best
thing to be done now is to openly give chase to these wretches?"

"That is just what I was thinking," answered Pencroft. "I believe we're
not fellows to be afraid of a bullet, and as for me, if Captain Harding
approves, I'm ready to dash into the forest! Why, hang it, one man is
equal to another!"

"But is he equal to five?" asked the engineer.

"I will join Pencroft," said the reporter, "and both of us, well-armed
and accompanied by Top--"

"My dear Spilett, and you, Pencroft," answered Harding, "let us reason
coolly. If the convicts were hid in one spot of the island, if we knew
that spot, and had only to dislodge them, I would undertake a direct
attack; but is there not occasion to fear, on the contrary, that they
are sure to fire the first shot?"

"Well, captain," cried Pencroft, "a bullet does not always reach its
mark."

"That which struck Herbert did not miss, Pencroft," replied the
engineer. "Besides, observe that if both of you left the corral I should
remain here alone to defend it. Do you imagine that the convicts will
not see you leave it, that they will not allow you to enter the forest,
and that they will not attack it during your absence, knowing that there
is no one here but a wounded boy and a man?"

"You are right, captain," replied Pencroft, his chest swelling with
sullen anger. "You are right; they will do all they can to retake the
corral, which they know to be well stored; and alone you could not hold
it against them."

"Oh, if we were only at Granite House!"

"If we were at Granite House," answered the engineer, "the case would be
very different. There I should not be afraid to leave Herbert with one,
while the other three went to search the forests of the island. But we
are at the corral, and it is best to stay here until we can leave it
together."

Cyrus Harding's reasoning was unanswerable, and his companions
understood it well.

"If only Ayrton was still one of us!" said Gideon Spilett. "Poor fellow!
his return to social life will have been but of short duration."

"If he is dead," added Pencroft, in a peculiar tone.

"Do you hope, then, Pencroft, that the villains have spared him?" asked
Gideon Spilett.

"Yes, if they had any interest in doing so."

"What! you suppose that Ayrton finding his old companions, forgetting
all that he owes us--"

"Who knows?" answered the sailor, who did not hazard this shameful
supposition without hesitating.

"Pencroft," said Harding, taking the sailor's arm, "that is a wicked
idea of yours, and you will distress me much if you persist in speaking
thus. I will answer for Ayrton's fidelity."

"And I also," added the reporter quickly.

"Yes, yes, captain, I was wrong," replied Pencroft; "it was a wicked
idea indeed that I had, and nothing justifies it. But what can I do? I'm
not in my senses. This imprisonment in the corral wearies me horribly,
and I have never felt so excited as I do now.

"Be patient, Pencroft," replied the engineer. "How long will it be, my
dear Spilett, before you think Herbert may be carried to Granite House?"

"That is difficult to say, Cyrus," answered the reporter, "for any
imprudence might involve terrible consequences. But his convalescence
is progressing, and if he continues to gain strength, in eight days from
now--well, we shall see."

Eight days! That would put off the return to Granite House until the
first days of December. At this time two months of spring had already
passed. The weather was fine, and the heat began to be great. The
forests of the island were in full leaf, and the time was approaching
when the usual crops ought to be gathered. The return to the plateau of
Prospect Heights would, therefore, be followed by extensive agricultural
labors, interrupted only by the projected expedition through the island.

It can, therefore, be well understood how injurious this seclusion in
the corral must have been to the colonists.

But if they were compelled to bow before necessity, they did not do so
without impatience.

Once or twice the reporter ventured out into the road and made the
tour of the palisade. Top accompanied him, and Gideon Spilett, his gun
cocked, was ready for any emergency.

He met with no misadventure and found no suspicious traces. His dog
would have warned him of any danger, and, as Top did not bark, it might
be concluded that there was nothing to fear at the moment at least, and
that the convicts were occupied in another part of the island.

However, on his second sortie, on the 27th of November, Gideon Spilett,
who had ventured a quarter of a mile into the woods, towards the south
of the mountain, remarked that Top scented something. The dog had no
longer his unconcerned manner; he went backwards and forwards, ferreting
among the grass and bushes as if his smell had revealed some suspicious
object to him.

Gideon Spilett followed Top, encouraged him, excited him by his voice,
while keeping a sharp look-out, his gun ready to fire, and sheltering
himself behind the trees. It was not probable that Top scented the
presence of man, for in that case, he would have announced it by
half-uttered, sullen, angry barks. Now, as he did not growl, it was
because danger was neither near nor approaching.

Nearly five minutes passed thus, Top rummaging, the reporter following
him prudently when, all at once, the dog rushed towards a thick bush,
and drew out a rag.

It was a piece of cloth, stained and torn, which Spilett immediately
brought back to the corral. There it was examined by the colonists,
who found that it was a fragment of Ayrton's waistcoat, a piece of that
felt, manufactured solely by the Granite House factory.

"You see, Pencroft," observed Harding, "there has been resistance on the
part of the unfortunate Ayrton. The convicts have dragged him away in
spite of himself! Do you still doubt his honesty?"

"No, captain," answered the sailor, "and I repented of my suspicion a
long time ago! But it seems to me that something may be learned from the
incident."

"What is that?" asked the reporter.

"It is that Ayrton was not killed at the corral! That they dragged him
away living, since he has resisted. Therefore, perhaps, he is still
living!"

"Perhaps, indeed," replied the engineer, who remained thoughtful.

This was a hope, to which Ayrton's companions could still hold. Indeed,
they had before believed that, surprised in the corral, Ayrton had
fallen by a bullet, as Herbert had fallen. But if the convicts had not
killed him at first, if they had brought him living to another part of
the island, might it not be admitted that he was still their prisoner?
Perhaps, even, one of them had found in Ayrton his old Australian
companion Ben Joyce, the chief of the escaped convicts. And who knows
but that they had conceived the impossible hope of bringing back Ayrton
to themselves? He would have been very useful to them, if they had been
able to make him turn traitor!

This incident was, therefore, favorably interpreted at the corral, and
it no longer appeared impossible that they should find Ayrton again.
On his side, if he was only a prisoner, Ayrton would no doubt do all
he could to escape from the hands of the villains, and this would be a
powerful aid to the settlers!

"At any rate," observed Gideon Spilett, "if happily Ayrton did manage to
escape, he would go directly to Granite House, for he could not know
of the attempted assassination of which Herbert has been a victim, and
consequently would never think of our being imprisoned in the corral."

"Oh! I wish that he was there, at Granite House!" cried Pencroft, "and
that we were there, too! For, although the rascals can do nothing to our
house, they may plunder the plateau, our plantations, our poultry-yard!"

Pencroft had become a thorough farmer, heartily attached to his crops.
But it must be said that Herbert was more anxious than any to return
to Granite House, for he knew how much the presence of the settlers
was needed there. And it was he who was keeping them at the corral!
Therefore, one idea occupied his mind--to leave the corral, and when!
He believed he could bear removal to Granite House. He was sure his
strength would return more quickly in his room, with the air and sight
of the sea!

Several times he pressed Gideon Spilett, but the latter, fearing, with
good reason, that Herbert's wounds, half healed, might reopen on the
way, did not give the order to start.

However, something occurred which compelled Cyrus Harding and his
two friends to yield to the lad's wish, and God alone knew that this
determination might cause them grief and remorse.

It was the 29th of November, seven o'clock in the evening. The three
settlers were talking in Herbert's room, when they heard Top utter quick
barks.

Harding, Pencroft, and Spilett seized their guns and ran out of the
house. Top, at the foot of the palisade, was jumping, barking, but it
was with pleasure, not anger.

"Some one is coming."

"Yes."

"It is not an enemy!"

"Neb, perhaps?"

"Or Ayrton?"

These words had hardly been exchanged between the engineer and his two
companions when a body leaped over the palisade and fell on the ground
inside the corral.

It was Jup, Master Jup in person, to whom Top immediately gave a most
cordial reception.

"Jup!" exclaimed Pencroft.

 

"Neb has sent him to us," said the reporter.

"Then," replied the engineer, "he must have some note on him."

Pencroft rushed up to the orang. Certainly if Neb had any important
matter to communicate to his master he could not employ a more sure or
more rapid messenger, who could pass where neither the colonists could,
nor even Top himself.

Cyrus Harding was not mistaken. At Jup's neck hung a small bag, and in
this bag was found a little note traced by Neb's hand.

The despair of Harding and his companions may be imagined when they read
these words:--

 

"Friday, six o'clock in the morning.

"Plateau invaded by convicts.

"Neb."

 

They gazed at each other without uttering a word, then they re-entered
the house. What were they to do? The convicts on Prospect Heights! that
was disaster, devastation, ruin.

Herbert, on seeing the engineer, the reporter, and Pencroft re-enter,
guessed that their situation was aggravated, and when he saw Jup, he no
longer doubted that some misfortune menaced Granite House.

"Captain Harding," said he, "I must go; I can bear the journey. I must
go."

Gideon Spilett approached Herbert; then, having looked at him,--

"Let us go, then!" said he.

The question was quickly decided whether Herbert should be carried on a
litter or in the cart which had brought Ayrton to the corral. The motion
of the litter would have been more easy for the wounded lad, but it
would have necessitated two bearers, that is to say, there would have
been two guns less for defense if an attack was made on the road. Would
they not, on the contrary, by employing the cart leave every arm free?
Was it impossible to place the mattress on which Herbert was lying in
it, and to advance with so much care that any jolt should be avoided? It
could be done.

The cart was brought. Pencroft harnessed the onager. Cyrus Harding and
the reporter raised Herbert's mattress and placed it on the bottom of
the cart. The weather was fine. The sun's bright rays glanced through
the trees.

"Are the guns ready?" asked Cyrus Harding.

They were. The engineer and Pencroft, each armed with a double-barreled
gun, and Gideon Spilett carrying his rifle, had nothing to do but start.

"Are you comfortable, Herbert?" asked the engineer.

"Ah, captain," replied the lad, "don't be uneasy, I shall not die on the
road!"

While speaking thus, it could be seen that the poor boy had called up
all his energy, and by the energy of a powerful will had collected his
failing strength.

The engineer felt his heart sink painfully. He still hesitated to
give the signal for departure; but that would have driven Herbert to
despair--killed him perhaps.

"Forward!" said Harding.

The gate of the corral was opened. Jup and Top, who knew when to be
silent, ran in advance. The cart came out, the gate was reclosed, and
the onager, led by Pencroft, advanced at a slow pace.

Certainly, it would have been safer to have taken a different road than
that which led straight from the corral to Granite House, but the cart
would have met with great difficulties in moving under the trees. It was
necessary, therefore, to follow this way, although it was well known to
the convicts.

Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett walked one on each side of the cart,
ready to answer to any attack. However, it was not probable that the
convicts would have yet left the plateau of Prospect Heights.

Neb's note had evidently been written and sent as soon as the convicts
had shown themselves there. Now, this note was dated six o'clock in
the morning, and the active orang, accustomed to come frequently to the
corral, had taken scarcely three quarters of an hour to cross the five
miles which separated it from Granite House. They would, therefore, be
safe at that time, and if there was any occasion for firing, it would
probably not be until they were in the neighborhood of Granite House.
However, the colonists kept a strict watch. Top and Jup, the latter
armed with his club, sometimes in front, sometimes beating the wood at
the sides of the road, signalized no danger.

The cart advanced slowly under Pencroft's guidance. It had left the
corral at half-past seven. An hour after, four out of the five miles
had been cleared, without any incident having occurred. The road was
as deserted as all that part of the Jacamar Wood which lay between the
Mercy and the lake. There was no occasion for any warning. The wood
appeared as deserted as on the day when the colonists first landed on
the island.

They approached the plateau. Another mile and they would see the bridge
over Creek Glycerine. Cyrus Harding expected to find it in its place;
supposing that the convicts would have crossed it, and that, after
having passed one of the streams which enclosed the plateau, they
would have taken the precaution to lower it again, so as to keep open a
retreat.

At length an opening in the trees allowed the sea-horizon to be seen.
But the cart continued its progress, for not one of its defenders
thought of abandoning it.

At that moment Pencroft stopped the onager, and in a hoarse voice,--

"Oh! the villains!" he exclaimed.

And he pointed to a thick smoke rising from the mill, the sheds, and the
buildings at the poultry-yard.

A man was moving about in the midst of the smoke. It was Neb.

His companions uttered a shout. He heard, and ran to meet them.

The convicts had left the plateau nearly half-an-hour before, having
devastated it!

"And Mr. Herbert?" asked Neb.

Gideon Spilett returned to the cart.

Herbert had lost consciousness!

 

 

Chapter 10

Of the convicts, the dangers which menaced Granite House, the ruins
with which the plateau was covered, the colonists thought no longer.
Herbert's critical state outweighed all other considerations. Would the
removal prove fatal to him by causing some internal injury? The reporter
could not affirm it, but he and his companions almost despaired of
the result. The cart was brought to the bend of the river. There some
branches, disposed as a liner, received the mattress on which lay the
unconscious Herbert. Ten minutes after, Cyrus Harding, Spilett, and
Pencroft were at the foot of the cliff, leaving Neb to take the cart
on to the plateau of Prospect Heights. The lift was put in motion, and
Herbert was soon stretched on his bed in Granite House.

What cares were lavished on him to bring him back to life! He smiled for
a moment on finding himself in his room, but could scarcely even murmur
a few words, so great was his weakness. Gideon Spilett examined his
wounds. He feared to find them reopened, having been imperfectly healed.
There was nothing of the sort. From whence, then, came this prostration?
why was Herbert so much worse? The lad then fell into a kind of feverish
sleep, and the reporter and Pencroft remained near the bed. During this
time, Harding told Neb all that had happened at the corral, and Neb
recounted to his master the events of which the plateau had just been
the theater.

It was only during the preceding night that the convicts had appeared on
the edge of the forest, at the approaches to Creek Glycerine. Neb, who
was watching near the poultry-yard, had not hesitated to fire at one of
the pirates, who was about to cross the stream; but in the darkness he
could not tell whether the man had been hit or not. At any rate, it was
not enough to frighten away the band, and Neb had only just time to get
up to Granite House, where at least he was in safety.

But what was he to do there? How prevent the devastations with which the
convicts threatened the plateau? Had Neb any means by which to warn
his master? And, besides, in what situation were the inhabitants of the
corral themselves? Cyrus Harding and his companions had left on the 11th
of November, and it was now the 29th. It was, therefore, nineteen days
since Neb had had other news than that brought by Top--disastrous news:
Ayrton disappeared, Herbert severely wounded, the engineer, reporter,
and sailor, as it were, imprisoned in the corral!

What was he to do? asked poor Neb. Personally he had nothing to
fear, for the convicts could not reach him in Granite House. But the
buildings, the plantations, all their arrangements at the mercy of the
pirates! Would it not be best to let Cyrus Harding judge of what he
ought to do, and to warn him, at least, of the danger which threatened
him?

Neb then thought of employing Jup, and confiding a note to him. He knew
the orang's great intelligence, which had been often put to the proof.
Jup understood the word corral, which had been frequently pronounced
before him, and it may be remembered, too, that he had often driven
the cart thither in company with Pencroft. Day had not yet dawned. The
active orang would know how to pass unperceived through the woods, of
which the convicts, besides, would think he was a native.

Neb did not hesitate. He wrote the note, he tied it to Jup's neck, he
brought the ape to the door of Granite House, from which he let down a
long cord to the ground; then, several times he repeated these words,--

"Jup Jup! corral, corral!"

The creature understood, seized the cord, glided rapidly down the beach,
and disappeared in the darkness without the convicts' attention having
been in the least excited.

"You did well, Neb," said Harding, "but perhaps in not warning us you
would have done still better!"

And, in speaking thus, Cyrus Harding thought of Herbert, whose recovery
the removal had so seriously checked.

Neb ended his account. The convicts had not appeared at all on the
beach. Not knowing the number of the island's inhabitants, they might
suppose that Granite House was defended by a large party. They must have
remembered that during the attack by the brig numerous shot had been
fired both from the lower and upper rocks, and no doubt they did not
wish to expose themselves. But the plateau of Prospect Heights was
open to them, and not covered by the fire of Granite House. They gave
themselves up, therefore, to their instinct of destruction,--plundering,
burning, devastating everything,--and only retiring half an hour before
the arrival of the colonists, whom they believed still confined in the
corral.

On their retreat, Neb hurried out. He climbed the plateau at the risk
of being perceived and fired at, tried to extinguish the fire which was
consuming the buildings of the poultry-yard, and had struggled, though
in vain, against it until the cart appeared at the edge of the wood.

Such had been these serious events. The presence of the convicts
constituted a permanent source of danger to the settlers in Lincoln
Island, until then so happy, and who might now expect still greater
misfortunes.

Spilett remained in Granite House with Herbert and Pencroft, while
Cyrus Harding, accompanied by Neb, proceeded to judge for himself of the
extent of the disaster.

It was fortunate that the convicts had not advanced to the foot of
Granite House. The workshop at the Chimneys would in that case not
have escaped destruction. But after all, this evil would have been more
easily reparable than the ruins accumulated on the plateau of Prospect
Heights. Harding and Neb proceeded towards the Mercy, and ascended its
left bank without meeting with any trace of the convicts; nor on the
other side of the river, in the depths of the wood, could they perceive
any suspicious indications.

Besides, it might be supposed that in all probability either the
convicts knew of the return of the settlers to Granite House, by having
seen them pass on the road from the corral, or, after the devastation of
the plateau, they had penetrated into Jacamar Wood, following the course
of the Mercy, and were thus ignorant of their return.

In the former case, they must have returned towards the corral, now
without defenders, and which contained valuable stores.

In the latter, they must have regained their encampment, and would wait
on opportunity to recommence the attack.

It was, therefore, possible to prevent them, but any enterprise to clear
the island was now rendered difficult by reason of Herbert's condition.
Indeed, their whole force would have been barely sufficient to cope with
the convicts, and just now no one could leave Granite House.

The engineer and Neb arrived on the plateau. Desolation reigned
everywhere. The fields had been trampled over; the ears of wheat, which
were nearly full-grown, lay on the ground. The other plantations had not
suffered less.

The kitchen-garden was destroyed. Happily, Granite House possessed a
store of seed which would enable them to repair these misfortunes.

As to the wall and buildings of the poultry-yard and the onagers stable,
the fire had destroyed all. A few terrified creatures roamed over the
plateau. The birds, which during the fire had taken refuge on the waters
of the lake, had already returned to their accustomed spot, and were
dabbling on the banks. Everything would have to be reconstructed.

Cyrus Harding's face, which was paler than usual, expressed an internal
anger which he commanded with difficulty, but he did not utter a word.
Once more he looked at his devastated fields, and at the smoke which
still rose from the ruins, then he returned to Granite House.

The following days were the saddest of any that the colonists had passed
on the island! Herbert's weakness visibly increased. It appeared that
a more serious malady, the consequence of the profound physiological
disturbance he had gone through, threatened to declare itself, and
Gideon Spilett feared such an aggravation of his condition that he would
be powerless to fight against it!

In fact, Herbert remained in an almost continuous state of drowsiness,
and symptoms of delirium began to manifest themselves. Refreshing drinks
were the only remedies at the colonists' disposal. The fever was not
as yet very high, but it soon appeared that it would probably recur at
regular intervals. Gideon Spilett first recognized this on the 6th of
December.

The poor boy, whose fingers, nose, and ears had become extremely
pale, was at first seized with slight shiverings, horripilations, and
tremblings. His pulse was weak and irregular, his skin dry, his thirst
intense. To this soon succeeded a hot fit; his face became flushed; his
skin reddened; his pulse quick; then a profuse perspiration broke out
after which the fever seemed to diminish. The attack had lasted nearly
five hours.

Gideon Spilett had not left Herbert, who, it was only too certain, was
now seized by an intermittent fever, and this fever must be cured at any
cost before it should assume a more serious aspect.

"And in order to cure it," said Spilett to Cyrus Harding, "we need a
febrifuge."

"A febrifuge--" answered the engineer. "We have neither Peruvian bark,
nor sulphate of quinine."

"No," said Gideon Spilett, "but there are willows on the border of
the lake, and the bark of the willow might, perhaps, prove to be a
substitute for quinine."

"Let us try it without losing a moment," replied Cyrus Harding.

The bark of the willow has, indeed, been justly considered as a
succedaneum for Peruvian bark, as has also that of the horse-chestnut
tree, the leaf of the holly, the snake-root, etc. It was evidently
necessary to make trial of this substance, although not so valuable as
Peruvian bark, and to employ it in its natural state, since they had no
means for extracting its essence.

Cyrus Harding went himself to cut from the trunk of a species of black
willow, a few pieces of bark; he brought them back to Granite House, and
reduced them to a powder, which was administered that same evening to
Herbert.

The night passed without any important change. Herbert was somewhat
delirious, but the fever did not reappear in the night, and did not
return either during the following day.

Pencroft again began to hope. Gideon Spilett said nothing. It might be
that the fever was not quotidian, but tertian, and that it would return
next day. Therefore, he awaited the next day with the greatest anxiety.

It might have been remarked besides that during this period Herbert
remained utterly prostrate, his head weak and giddy. Another symptom
alarmed the reporter to the highest degree. Herbert's liver became
congested, and soon a more intense delirium showed that his brain was
also affected.

Gideon Spilett was overwhelmed by this new complication. He took the
engineer aside.

"It is a malignant fever," said he.

"A malignant fever!" cried Harding. "You are mistaken, Spilett. A
malignant fever does not declare itself spontaneously; its germ must
previously have existed."

"I am not mistaken," replied the reporter. "Herbert no doubt contracted
the germ of this fever in the marshes of the island. He has already had
one attack; should a second come on and should we not be able to prevent
a third, he is lost."

"But the willow bark?"

"That is insufficient," answered the reporter, "and the third attack of
a malignant fever, which is not arrested by means of quinine, is always
fatal."

Fortunately, Pencroft heard nothing of this conversation or he would
have gone mad.

It may be imagined what anxiety the engineer and the reporter suffered
during the day of the 7th of December and the following night.

Towards the middle of the day the second attack came on. The crisis was
terrible. Herbert felt himself sinking. He stretched his arms towards
Cyrus Harding, towards Spilett, towards Pencroft. He was so young to
die! The scene was heart-rending. They were obliged to send Pencroft
away.

The fit lasted five hours. It was evident that Herbert could not survive
a third.

The night was frightful. In his delirium Herbert uttered words which
went to the hearts of his companions. He struggled with the convicts,
he called to Ayrton, he poured forth entreaties to that mysterious
being,--that powerful unknown protector,--whose image was stamped upon
his mind; then he again fell into a deep exhaustion which completely
prostrated him. Several times Gideon Spilett thought that the poor boy
was dead.

The next day, the 8th of December, was but a succession of the fainting
fits. Herbert's thin hands clutched the sheets. They had administered
further doses of pounded bark, but the reporter expected no result from
it.

"If before tomorrow morning we have not given him a more energetic
febrifuge," said the reporter, "Herbert will be dead."

Night arrived--the last night, it was too much to be feared, of the
good, brave, intelligent boy, so far in advance of his years, and who
was loved by all as their own child. The only remedy which existed
against this terrible malignant fever, the only specific which could
overcome it, was not to be found in Lincoln Island.

During the night of the 8th of December, Herbert was seized by a more
violent delirium. His liver was fearfully congested, his brain affected,
and already it was impossible for him to recognize any one.

Would he live until the next day, until that third attack which
must infallibly carry him off? It was not probable. His strength was
exhausted, and in the intervals of fever he lay as one dead.

Towards three o'clock in the morning Herbert uttered a piercing cry.
He seemed to be torn by a supreme convulsion. Neb, who was near him,
terrified, ran into the next room where his companions were watching.

Top, at that moment, barked in a strange manner.

All rushed in immediately and managed to restrain the dying boy, who was
endeavoring to throw himself out of his bed, while Spilett, taking his
arm, felt his pulse gradually quicken.

It was five in the morning. The rays of the rising sun began to shine in
at the windows of Granite House. It promised to be a fine day, and this
day was to be poor Herbert's last!

A ray glanced on the table placed near the bed.

Suddenly Pencroft, uttering a cry, pointed to the table.

On it lay a little oblong box, of which the cover bore these
words:--"SULPHATE OF QUININE."

 

 

Chapter 11

Gideon Spilett took the box and opened it. It contained nearly two
hundred grains of a white powder, a few particles of which he carried to
his lips. The extreme bitterness of the substance precluded all doubt;
it was certainly the precious extract of quinine, that pre-eminent
antifebrile.

This powder must be administered to Herbert without delay. How it came
there might be discussed later.

"Some coffee!" said Spilett.

In a few moments Neb brought a cup of the warm infusion. Gideon Spilett
threw into it about eighteen grains of quinine, and they succeeded in
making Herbert drink the mixture.

There was still time, for the third attack of the malignant fever had
not yet shown itself. How they longed to be able to add that it would
not return!

Besides, it must be remarked, the hopes of all had now revived. The
mysterious influence had been again exerted, and in a critical moment,
when they had despaired of it.

In a few hours Herbert was much calmer. The colonists could now discuss
this incident. The intervention of the stranger was more evident than
ever. But how had he been able to penetrate during the night into
Granite House? It was inexplicable, and, in truth, the proceedings of
the genius of the island were not less mysterious than was that genius
himself. During this day the sulphate of quinine was administered to
Herbert every three hours.

The next day some improvement in Herbert's condition was apparent.
Certainly, he was not out of danger, intermittent fevers being subject
to frequent and dangerous relapses, but the most assiduous care was
bestowed on him. And besides, the specific was at hand; nor, doubtless,
was he who had brought it far distant! And the hearts of all were
animated by returning hope.

This hope was not disappointed. Ten days after, on the 20th of December,
Herbert's convalescence commenced.

He was still weak, and strict diet had been imposed upon him, but no
access of fever supervened. And then, the poor boy submitted with such
docility to all the prescriptions ordered him! He longed so to get well!

Pencroft was as a man who has been drawn up from the bottom of an abyss.
Fits of joy approaching delirium seized him. When the time for the third
attack had passed by, he nearly suffocated the reporter in his embrace.
Since then, he always called him Dr. Spilett.

The real doctor, however, remained undiscovered.

"We will find him!" repeated the sailor.

Certainly, this man, whoever he was, might expect a somewhat too
energetic embrace from the worthy Pencroft!

The month of December ended, and with it the year 1867, during which
the colonists of Lincoln Island had of late been so severely tried.
They commenced the year 1868 with magnificent weather, great heat, and
a tropical temperature, delightfully cooled by the sea-breeze. Herbert's
recovery progressed, and from his bed, placed near one of the windows of
Granite House, he could inhale the fresh air, charged with ozone, which
could not fail to restore his health. His appetite returned, and what
numberless delicate, savory little dishes Neb prepared for him!

"It is enough to make one wish to have a fever oneself!" said Pencroft.

During all this time, the convicts did not once appear in the vicinity
of Granite House. There was no news of Ayrton, and though the engineer
and Herbert still had some hopes of finding him again, their companions
did not doubt but that the unfortunate man had perished. However, this
uncertainty could not last, and when once the lad should have recovered,
the expedition, the result of which must be so important, would be
undertaken. But they would have to wait a month, perhaps, for all
the strength of the colony must be put into requisition to obtain
satisfaction from the convicts.

However, Herbert's convalescence progressed rapidly. The congestion of
the liver had disappeared, and his wounds might be considered completely
healed.

During the month of January, important work was done on the plateau
of Prospect Heights; but it consisted solely in saving as much as was
possible from the devastated crops, either of corn or vegetables. The
grain and the plants were gathered, so as to provide a new harvest for
the approaching half-season. With regard to rebuilding the poultry-yard,
wall, or stables, Cyrus Harding preferred to wait. While he and his
companions were in pursuit of the convicts, the latter might very
probably pay another visit to the plateau, and it would be useless to
give them an opportunity of recommencing their work of destruction. When
the island should be cleared of these miscreants, they would set about
rebuilding. The young convalescent began to get up in the second week of
January, at first for one hour a day, then two, then three. His strength
visibly returned, so vigorous was his constitution. He was now eighteen
years of age. He was tall, and promised to become a man of noble and
commanding presence. From this time his recovery, while still requiring
care,--and Dr. Spilett was very strict,--made rapid progress. Towards
the end of the month, Herbert was already walking about on Prospect
Heights, and the beach.

He derived, from several sea-baths, which he took in company with
Pencroft and Neb, the greatest possible benefit. Cyrus Harding thought
he might now settle the day for their departure, for which the 15th of
February was fixed. The nights, very clear at this time of year, would
be favorable to the researches they intended to make all over the
island.

The necessary preparations for this exploration were now commenced, and
were important, for the colonists had sworn not to return to Granite
House until their twofold object had been achieved; on the one hand, to
exterminate the convicts, and rescue Ayrton, if he was still living; on
the other, to discover who it was that presided so effectually over the
fortunes of the colony.

Of Lincoln Island, the settlers knew thoroughly all the eastern coast
from Claw Cape to the Mandible Capes, the extensive Tadorn Marsh, the
neighborhood of Lake Grant, Jacamar Wood, between the road to the corral
and the Mercy, the courses of the Mercy and Red Creek, and lastly, the
spurs of Mount Franklin, among which the corral had been established.

They had explored, though only in an imperfect manner, the vast shore
of Washington Bay from Claw Cape to Reptile End, the woody and marshy
border of the west coast, and the interminable downs, ending at the open
mouth of Shark Gulf. But they had in no way surveyed the woods which
covered the Serpentine Peninsula, all to the right of the Mercy, the
left bank of Falls River, and the wilderness of spurs and valleys which
supported three quarters of the base of Mount Franklin, to the east, the
north, and the west, and where doubtless many secret retreats existed.
Consequently, many millions of acres of the island had still escaped
their investigations.

It was, therefore, decided that the expedition should be carried through
the Far West, so as to include all that region situated on the right of
the Mercy.

It might, perhaps, be better worth while to go direct to the corral,
where it might be supposed that the convicts had again taken refuge,
either to pillage or to establish themselves there. But either the
devastation of the corral would have been an accomplished fact by
this time, and it would be too late to prevent it, or it had been the
convicts' interest to entrench themselves there, and there would be
still time to go and turn them out on their return.

Therefore, after some discussion, the first plan was adhered to, and the
settlers resolved to proceed through the wood to Reptile End. They would
make their way with their hatchets, and thus lay the first draft of a
road which would place Granite House in communication with the end of
the peninsula for a length of from sixteen to seventeen miles.

The cart was in good condition. The onagers, well rested, could go a
long journey. Provisions, camp effects, a portable stove, and various
utensils were packed in the cart, as also weapons and ammunition,
carefully chosen from the now complete arsenal of Granite House. But it
was necessary to remember that the convicts were, perhaps, roaming about
the woods, and that in the midst of these thick forests a shot might
quickly be fired and received. It was therefore resolved that the little
band of settlers should remain together and not separate under any
pretext whatever.

It was also decided that no one should remain at Granite House. Top
and Jup themselves were to accompany the expedition; the inaccessible
dwelling needed no guard. The 14th of February, eve of the departure,
was consecrated entirely to repose, and--thanksgiving addressed by the
colonists to the Creator. A place in the cart was reserved for Herbert,
who, though thoroughly convalescent, was still a little weak. The next
morning, at daybreak, Cyrus Harding took the necessary measures to
protect Granite House from any invasion. The ladders, which were
formerly used for the ascent, were brought to the Chimneys and buried
deep in the sand, so that they might be available on the return of the
colonists, for the machinery of the lift had been taken to pieces, and
nothing of the apparatus remained. Pencroft stayed the last in Granite
House in order to finish this work, and he then lowered himself down
by means of a double rope held below, and which, when once hauled down,
left no communication between the upper landing and the beach.

The weather was magnificent.

"We shall have a warm day of it," said the reporter, laughing.

"Pooh! Dr. Spilett," answered Pencroft, "we shall walk under the shade
of the trees and shan't even see the sun!"

"Forward!" said the engineer.

The cart was waiting on the beach before the Chimneys. The reporter
made Herbert take his place in it during the first hours at least of the
journey, and the lad was obliged to submit to his doctor's orders.

Neb placed himself at the onagers' heads. Cyrus Harding, the reporter,
and the sailor, walked in front. Top bounded joyfully along. Herbert
offered a seat in his vehicle to Jup, who accepted it without ceremony.
The moment for departure had arrived, and the little band set out.

The cart first turned the angle of the mouth of the Mercy, then, having
ascended the left bank for a mile, crossed the bridge, at the other side
of which commenced the road to Port Balloon, and there the explorers,
leaving this road on their left, entered the cover of the immense woods
which formed the region of the Far West.

For the first two miles the widely scattered trees allowed the cart to
pass with ease; from time to time it became necessary to cut away a few
creepers and bushes, but no serious obstacle impeded the progress of the
colonists.

The thick foliage of the trees threw a grateful shade on the ground.
Deodars, Douglas firs, casuarinas, banksias, gum-trees, dragon-trees,
and other well-known species, succeeded each other far as the eye could
reach. The feathered tribes of the island were all represented--grouse,
jacamars, pheasants, lories, as well as the chattering cockatoos,
parrots, and paroquets. Agouties, kangaroos, and capybaras fled swiftly
at their approach; and all this reminded the settlers of the first
excursions they had made on their arrival at the island.

"Nevertheless," observed Cyrus Harding, "I notice that these creatures,
both birds and quadrupeds, are more timid than formerly. These woods
have, therefore, been recently traversed by the convicts, and we shall
certainly find some traces of them."

And, in fact, in several places they could distinguish traces, more or
less recent, of the passage of a band of men--here branches broken off
the trees, perhaps to mark out the way; there the ashes of a fire, and
footprints in clayey spots; but nothing which appeared to belong to a
settled encampment.

The engineer had recommended his companions to refrain from hunting. The
reports of the firearms might give the alarm to the convicts, who
were, perhaps, roaming through the forest. Moreover, the hunters would
necessarily ramble some distance from the cart, which it was dangerous
to leave unguarded.

In the afterpart of the day, when about six miles from Granite House,
their progress became much more difficult. In order to make their way
through some thickets, they were obliged to cut down trees. Before
entering such places Harding was careful to send in Top and Jup, who
faithfully accomplished their commission, and when the dog and orang
returned without giving any warning, there was evidently nothing to
fear, either from convicts or wild beasts, two varieties of the animal
kingdom, whose ferocious instincts placed them on the same level. On the
evening of the first day the colonists encamped about nine miles from
Granite House, on the border of a little stream falling into the Mercy,
and of the existence of which they had till then been ignorant; it
evidently, however, belonged to the hydiographical system to which the
soil owed its astonishing fertility. The settlers made a hearty meal,
for their appetites were sharpened, and measures were then taken that
the night might be passed in safety. If the engineer had had only to
deal with wild beasts, jaguars or others, he would have simply lighted
fires all around his camp, which would have sufficed for its defense;
but the convicts would be rather attracted than terrified by the flames,
and it was, therefore, better to be surrounded by the profound darkness
of night.

The watch was, however, carefully organized. Two of the settlers were
to watch together, and every two hours it was agreed that they should
be relieved by their comrades. And so, notwithstanding his wish to the
contrary, Herbert was exempted from guard. Pencroft and Gideon Spilett
in one party, the engineer and Neb in another, mounted guard in turns
over the camp.

The night, however, was but of few hours.