Conversation on the Subject of the Bullet -- Construction of
a Canoe -- Hunting -- At the Top of a Kauri -- Nothing to
attest the Presence of Man -- Neb and Herbert's Prize --
Turning a Turtle -- The Turtle disappears -- Cyrus Harding's
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
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
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
"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
"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
"In fact, the contrary would be very astonishing," said Herbert.
"But it would be much more astonishing, I should think," observed the
reporter, "that this peccary should have been born with a bullet in
"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
"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 island? It will not do to be
"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, "or 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 neighbourhood of Granite
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 amongst 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?"
"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
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.
Whilst 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 agouties,
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
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?"
"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
"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
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 coniferŠ, 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
From this elevated situation his gaze extended over all the southern
portion of the island, from Claw Cape on the south-east, to Reptile
End on the south-west. To the north-west 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.
Whilst 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 colour 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
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
savoury. At this moment the creature's head could be seen, which was
small, flat, but widened behind by the large temporal fossŠ 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
"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
"Fifteen feet at the most," replied Herbert.
"And the tide was low at the time?"
"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 honour 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.
First Trial of the Canoe -- A Wreck on the Coast -- Towing --
Flotsam Point -- Inventory of the Case: Tools, Weapons,
Instruments, Clothes, Books, Utensils -- What Pencroft misses
-- The Gospel -- A Verse from the Sacred Book.
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 200 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 leapt in directly,
manoeuvred 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.
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 skull.
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
Pencroft afterwards returned towards the mouth of the river. The boat
then skirted the shore, which, extending to the extreme point, hid all
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 note-book in the other,
sketched the coast in bold strokes. Neb, Herbert, and Pencroft
chatted, whilst 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
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 meanwhile, 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 leapt 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
"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
"But, captain, just think! Perhaps there is everything we want in
"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
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
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
"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
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 realised, 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 sand, 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
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.
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--like a nigger. 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 breech-loader
carbines, 5 boarding cutlasses, 4 sabres, 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
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
"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
"But isn't there any mark or direction on these instruments, tools, or
books, which would tell us something about them?" asked Gideon
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 the things had been well considered and arranged with care.
This was also indicated by a second case of metal which had preserved
them from damp, and which could not have been soldered in a moment of
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 in a
typographical point of view, and which appeared to have been often
The atlas was a magnificent work, comprising maps of every country in
the world, and several planispheres arranged upon Mercator's
projection, aid 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
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 some thing 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
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 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
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
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."
The Start -- The rising Tide -- Elms and different Plants --
The Jacamar -- Aspect of the Forest -- Gigantic Eucalypti --
The Reason they are called "Fever Trees" -- Troops of Monkeys
-- A Waterfall -- The Night Encampment.
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
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 half-pound 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
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 centre 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 ulmaceŠ 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, amongst 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 spinage,
belonging to the order of chenopodiaceŠ, and numerous specimens of
cruciferŠ, belonging to the cabbage tribe, which it would certainly
be possible to cultivate by transplanting. There were cresses,
horse-radish, 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 favourite
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
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 south-west and north-east, 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 gallinaceŠ. 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 tinamons, and it was
resolved that they should be the first tenants of their future poultry
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 recognise him!" cried Pencroft, and it seemed as if his gun went
off by itself.
"What do you recognise?" 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
lustre. 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 honour 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 forest 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
extra-tropical 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 furrows containing a red, sweet-smelling gum. Nothing is
more wonderful or more singular than those enormous specimens of the
order of the myrtaceŠ, 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
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
"Pooh!" replied Pencroft. "Of course there are vegetable giants as
well as human giants, and they are no good, except to show themselves
"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 myrtaceŠ, 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?"
"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 neutralise 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 myrtaceŠ. This fact is now
beyond doubt, and it is a happy circumstance for us settlers in
"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 traversing during the night in the midst of unknown
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 quadrumani 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 explorer's 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
"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 dÚtours of the river, which has carried us to the
"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 colours of the rainbow. Beyond that, the
Mercy was lost in the brushwood, 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
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.
Journey to the Coast -- Troops of Monkeys -- A new River --
The Reason the Tide was not felt -- A woody Shore -- Reptile
Promontory -- Herbert envies Gideon Spilett -- Explosion of
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
south-west to reach the western coast. They set out, having first
carefully secured the canoe. Pencroft and Neb carried sufficient
provisions 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 mastick-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 to have 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 kaolas, 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
"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
"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?"
"Very well," replied Cyrus Harding. "Let us follow it as fast as we can
"Still another minute!" said Pencroft.
"What's the matter?" asked the reporter.
"Though hunting is forbidden, fishing is allowed, I suppose," said the
"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 stores.
"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 crustaceŠ, 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
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 neighbourhood.
At half past ten, to the great surprise of Cyrus Harding, Herbert, who
was a little in front, suddenly stopped and exclaimed--
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
The colonists were then on the shore of an unimportant little harbour,
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 of 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
The weather was fine and clear, and from the 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
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 cast
away 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
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,
abounded--jacamars, couroucoos, 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
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. Amongst 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 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 south west, 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
"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
grams 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 colour of its hair was relieved by
streaks and regular oblong spots of black, which contrasted with the
white of its chest. Herbert recognised it as the ferocious rival of the
tiger, as formidable as the puma, which is the rival of the largest
The jaguar advanced and gazed around him with blazing eyes, his hair
bristling as if this was not the first time he had scented man.
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, "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
"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.
Whilst 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
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.
Proposal to return by the Southern Shore -- Configuration of
the Coast -- Searching for the supposed Wreck -- A Wreck in
the Air -- Discovery of a small Natural Port -- At Midnight
on the Banks of the Mercy -- The Canoe Adrift.
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
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 hid the rest of the coast, and even from
the extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula Cape Claw 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
"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
From the point of the peninsula on which the settlers now were their
gaze could extend along the south-west. 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
Such was the development of this part of the island, which the
settlers took in at a glance, whilst 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
"There might be pieces of wood on the rocks, but nothing on the
sands," replied the sailor.
"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
"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
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 shell-fish
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
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 harbour, 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 till 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
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 were 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?"
"And we have lost an opportunity to get back to our country?" said
"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 fire-arms, 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 backwards and
forwards, not like a dog who searches at random, but like a 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, and here we've found one in the air!"
And the sailor pointed to a great white rag, caught in the top of a
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 air-boats 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 fore-sail, 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 whilst 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, the place where they had discovered
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, whilst 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,
"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 onwards, 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 leapt 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
"Strange indeed!" returned Cyrus Handing.
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 have arrived 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
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!
Pencroft's Halloos -- A Night in the Chimneys -- Herbert's
Arrows -- The Captain's Project -- An unexpected Explanation
-- What has happened in Granite House -- How a new Servant
enters the Service of the Colonists.
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 to 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; for weary men,
there is nothing to laugh at that I can see."
Neb could do nothing but cry out, "Oh! oh! oh!"
"I begin to think that very curious things happen in Lincoln Island!"
"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
"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
whilst 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
"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
Some one had entered Granite House--there could be no more doubt about
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.
"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 fašade of Granite
House became illuminated by his 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?"
"It was a monkey, a sapago, an orang-outang, 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 sailors
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 orang-outang, 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 orang-outang.
"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
"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? that is what they were not able to
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 whilst 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
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
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 storeroom. 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
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
"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
"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
"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 orang-outang, 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 proportioned 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 moustache, 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
"Yes, Neb," replied the engineer, smiling. "But you must not be
"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
"And they will be," replied Pencroft, who had forgotten all his
rancour 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
Plans -- A Bridge over the Mercy -- Mode adopted for making
an Island of Prospect Heights -- The Drawbridge -- Harvest --
The Stream -- The Poultry Yard -- A Pigeon-house -- The two
Onagas -- The Cart -- Excursion to Port Balloon.
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 stone-pine 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
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
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 favourable 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
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
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 watercourses,
either artificial or natural. On the north-west, 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 watercourse
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
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 skilfully
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
marvellous 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
skillful was Gideon Spilett, who in dexterity almost equalled 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 labours, and
the weather being magnificent, they only returned to Granite House to
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 raise 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
"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 cornfield!" cried the sailor with a triumphant
In fact, the first cornfield 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
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
south eastern 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 gallinaceŠ, 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
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 who could make the most noise. The
settlers, who were busy at the Chimneys, ran, fearing some vexatious
What did they see? Two fine animals of a large size, who 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-coloured, 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 recognise their future masters.
"These are onagas!" cried Herbert, "animals something between the
zebra and the conaga!"
"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 onagas were
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 onagas 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 onagas 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
In the meantime harness of vegetable fibre had been manufactured, and
some days after the capture of the onagas, 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 onagas 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 onaga, being less refractory than the zebra, is frequently put in
harness in the mountainous regions of Southern Africa, and it has even
been acclimatised 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 onagas 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.
Linen -- Shoes of Seal-leather -- Manufacture of Pyroxyle --
Gardening -- Fishing -- Turtle-eggs -- Improvement of Master
Jup -- The Corral -- Musmon Hunt -- New Animal and Vegetable
Possessions -- Recollections of their Native Land.
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
socks--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
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. Agoutis, peccaries,
capybaras, kangaroos, game of all sorts, actually swarmed there, and
Spilett and Herbert were too good marksmen ever to throw away their
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 saltpetre, 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 fibres 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 caprifoliaceŠ.
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 saltpetre 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 vapours 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 onagas.
Several excursions were made into the Jacamar woods and forests of the
Far West, and they brought back from thence a large collection of wild
vegetables, spinage, 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 savoury. 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 in an alimentary point of view. The turtle soup, flavoured
with aromatic herbs, often gained well-merited praises for its
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 marvellously 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
endeavoured 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 any thing with
It was towards the end of January the colonists began their labours in
the centre 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
At the front of the palisade a large entrance was reserved, and closed
with strong folding-doors.
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 onagas, already well
trained, were ridden by Spilett and Herbert, and were of great use.
The manoeuvre 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, whilst 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 grey-coloured 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 labours 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
anti-scorbutic 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 cruciferŠ. 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
Towards the end of the summer, the poultry-yard was possessed of a
couple of fine bustards, which belonged to the houbara species,
characterised by a sort of feathery mantle; a dozen shovellers, 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
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 verandah, 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-humour
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
for the future.
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!
Bad Weather -- The Hydraulic Lift -- Manufacture of
Glass-ware -- The Bread-tree -- Frequent Visits to the Corral
-- Increase of the Flock -- The Reporter's Question -- Exact
Position of Lincoln Island -- Pencroft's Proposal.
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 still
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 fašade 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
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 gun-rack 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 quarrelling," often repeated
Pencroft, "never any improper reply! What a servant, Neb, what a
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 onaga 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 favourite among these new-comers.
An attempt was also made for the domestication of the peccaries, which
succeeded well. A sty was constructed near the poultry-yard, and soon
contained several young ones in the way to become civilised, 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
"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
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 every thing ready for setting
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 powered 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
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 to it a pendulous
motion, he ended by lengthening the malleable bubble so as to give it
a cylindro-conic 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
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, whilst 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 agoutis 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,
"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
"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
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 fibre, separated by rings of the same substance,
arranged concentrically. With this fecula was mingled a mucilaginous
juice of disagreeable flavour, 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 onaga, 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
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 verandah
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 for the situation of Lincoln Island,--
In west longitude: from 150░ to 155░;
In south latitude: from 30░ to 35░.
The second gave exactly:
In longitude: 150░ 30┤;
In south latitude: 34░ 57┤.
So then, notwithstanding the imperfection of his apparatus, Cyrus
Harding had operated with so much skill that his error did not exceed
"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.
"An important island?"
"No, an islet lost in the Pacific, and which perhaps has never been
"Well, we will visit it," said Pencroft.
"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 north-east," 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.
Boat-building -- Second Crop of Corn -- Hunting Koalas -- A
new Plant, more Pleasant than Useful -- Whale in Sight -- A
Harpoon from the Vineyard -- Cutting up the Whale -- Use for
the Bones -- End of the Month of May -- Pencroft has nothing
left to wish for.
When Pencroft had once got a plan into 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
What wood should be employed? 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 at 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 honour 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
"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 cornfield 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 neighbourhood, 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 odour 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 for ever."
"Is it tobacco?"
"Yes, and though it may not be of the first quality, it is none the
"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
"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
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, the fat, and the
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 vapour, 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
vapour, 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 axe, 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 whilst 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
"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
Pencroft, having torn the harpoon from the animal's side, read this
inscription on it:--
"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!"
 A port in the State of New York.
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, colour, 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, of which the teeth, six feet long, served to retain the
thousands of animalculŠ, little fish, and molluscs, on which the whale
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
"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 ardour, and only a sturdy frame
could have borne such fatigue; but his companions were preparing in
secret a reward for his labours, and on the 31st of May he was to meet
with one of the greatest joy's 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
"Well a cup of coffee, my friend?"
"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 endeavoured 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
"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
recognised 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."
Winter -- Felling Wood -- The Mill -- Pencroft's fixed Idea
-- The Bones -- To what Use an Albatross may be put -- Fuel
for the Future -- Top and Jup -- Storms -- Damage to the
Poultry-yard -- Excursion to the Marsh -- Cyrus Harding alone
-- Exploring the Well
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
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
The engineer, aided by his companions, including Pencroft, who was
once more obliged to leave his boat, commenced the preliminary
operations, the object 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 centre 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 woollen 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
"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."
"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
"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 some one 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
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
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 authorised
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 Honourable John Benett!
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, amongst others
making the sails for their vessel, which were cut from the
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 whilst 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, elder-berry
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
"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 crystallised."
"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 civilisation!"
"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 law, 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 coal-rooms 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
"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
"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 disappearing 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 south-eastern 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
re-made 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
for ever. 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 south-eastern 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
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
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 sub-soil 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 dining-room, saying to himself,--
"I have seen nothing, and yet there is something there!"
The Rigging of the Vessel -- An Attack from Foxes -- Jup
wounded -- Jup cured -- Completion of the Boat -- Pencroft's
Triumph -- The Bonadventure's trial Trip to the South of
the Island -- An unexpected Document.
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 receipts 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
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 appetising odours, 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
During this week Pencroft, aided by Herbert, who handled the
sail-maker's needle with much skill, worked with such energy that the
sails of that vessel were finished. There was no want of cordage.
Thanks to the rigging which had been recovered 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 halliards, 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 colours 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 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
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.
"Hallo, 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 grey 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 to have 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 to have already heard them during his first
visit to the sources of the Red Creek.
"They are culpeux 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.
Culpeux 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 cornfield. But
as the invasion of the plateau could only be made by the left bank of
the Mercy, it was sufficient to oppose the culpeux 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 culpeux 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 culpeux
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 culpeux 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 endeavoured 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 culpeux, 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
Every one set out in search of Jup, trembling lest he should be found
amongst 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
culpeux, 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 leant 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 sympathising 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
discussed with great relish, for if he had a pet failing it was that
of being somewhat of a gourmand, 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 having taken 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
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 cross-legged like a
Turk at the entrance to Granite House!
"My pipe," cried Pencroft. "He has taken my pipe! Hallo, 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
"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 mould.
As there was no want of wood, Pencroft proposed to the engineer to
give a double lining to the hull, so as to completely 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
finished 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
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, amidst 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
favour 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 north-west.
"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
mast-head, and the Bonadventure, steered by Pencroft, stood out to
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 honour of their
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
"She appears to behave well," replied the engineer.
"Good! And do you think now that she could undertake a voyage of some
"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 neighbours," returned the sailor, who was
obstinate in his idea. "Tabor Island is our neighbour, 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
"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
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 harbour.
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
"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,--
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
"Castaway ... Tabor Island: 153░ W long, 37░ 11┤ S lat."
Departure decided upon -- Conjectures -- Preparations -- The
three Passengers -- First Night -- Second Night -- Tabor
Island -- Searching the Shore -- Searching the Wood -- No
one -- Animals -- Plants -- A Dwelling -- Deserted.
"A castaway!" exclaimed Pencroft; "left on this Tabor Island not two
hundred miles from us! Ah, Captain Harding, you won't now oppose my
"No, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding; "and you shall set out as soon
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
"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?"
"It is difficult to say, and besides we shall soon know," replied
During this conversation Pencroft had not remained in-active. 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 succour.
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 favour 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
The evening was occupied in transporting on board the Bonadventure
articles of bedding, utensils, arms, ammunition, a compass, provisions
for a week, and this business being rapidly accomplished 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
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 for
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 centre. 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 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
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 quietly, 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 gun-shot, 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 Island.
"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
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
succour 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
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, his 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, whilst 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, not a signal appeared on any point of the
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, whilst 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
"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 of
Whilst 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
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
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
"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
"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 it was easy to see belonged to
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
"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
What, then, was Herbert's joy, when he recognised 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
"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
This was the wisest course, and it was about to be followed when
Herbert, pointing to a confused mass among the trees, exclaimed,--
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
The half-closed door was pushed open by Pencroft, who entered with a
The hut was empty!
The Inventory -- Night -- A few Letters -- Continuation of
the Search -- Plants and Animals -- Herbert in great Danger
-- On Board -- The Departure -- Bad Weather -- A Gleam of
Reason -- Lost on the Sea -- A timely Light.
Pencroft, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett remained silent in the midst of
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 cracked 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
mouldy 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
"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
"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
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 favourable
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
And this became still more evident when Gideon Spilett, after having
walked round the hut, saw on a plank, probably one of those which had
formed the armour of the wrecked vessel, these letters already half
"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
"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
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
"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. Whilst 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, whilst the sailor and the reporter entered the
Many specimens of the porcine race fled before them, and these
animals, which were singularly active, did not appear to be in a
humour 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
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.
"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 colour 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 civilised 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
"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
It was indeed their duty as Christians and civilised 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
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
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,"
"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
"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
north-west favoured the return of the Bonadventure, but at the same
time it freshened, which would 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
The next day the wind increased, blowing more from the north,
consequently in a less favourable 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
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 laboured
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 endeavoured 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 north-east.
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
The Return -- Discussion -- Cyrus Harding and the Stranger --
Port Balloon -- The Engineer's Devotion -- A touching
Incident -- Tears flow.
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 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?"
"And you have brought him?"
"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
"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
"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 recognise 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
"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
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
"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
"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 harbour 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 harbour
"Famous!" exclaimed Pencroft. "A harbour with a lighthouse, a pier,
and a 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
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 on to the beach, out of one of the windows of Granite
House. But gradually he became calmer, and more freedom was allowed to
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
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
"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 his 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, whilst 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, whilst 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 towards 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
"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 odour 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
A Mystery to be cleared up -- The Stranger's first Words --
Twelve Years on the Islet -- Avowal which escapes him -- The
Disappearance -- Cyrus Harding's Confidence -- Construction
of a Mill -- The first Bread -- An Act of Devotion -- Honest
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 labouring 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 overburthened!
Was it remorse that overwhelmed him thus? They were compelled to
believe so, and Gideon Spilett could not help one day making this
"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
endeavoured 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"What month?" he asked.
"December," replied Herbert.
"Twelve years! twelve years!" he exclaimed.
Then he left him abruptly.
Herbert reported to the colonists the questions and answers which had
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"That is not absolutely impossible," replied the reporter.
"Might it not have been a long time already on the coast of the
"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 verandah. 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 civilised mode of existence? Was he pining for his former savage
life? It appeared so, as soon he was heard to express himself in these
"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
"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 onagas 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 quadrupeds.
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 utilised 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 pepperpot, with a
pointed roof, rose on the spot chosen. The four frames which formed
the sails had been firmly fixed in the centre 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
"A good wind, certainly," answered the engineer, "but not too much,
"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
north-east, 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
In the meanwhile, the stranger had not reappeared. Several times
Gideon Spilett and Herbert searched the forest in the neighbourhood 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 defence as dangerous animals had not shown themselves
on that part of the island.
Meanwhile, Pencroft and Neb were working in the poultry-yard, whilst
Harding and the reporter were occupied at the Chimneys in making soda,
the store of soap being exhausted.
Suddenly cries resounded,--
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 them, 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, whilst 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 vice, 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
"You are wounded!"
"It is no matter."
"Will you give me your hand?"
And as Herbert endeavoured 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
amongst 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
"No," replied the stranger in a hoarse voice; "no! You are honest men,
you! And I--"
Still alone -- The Stranger's Request -- The Farm established
at the Corral -- Twelve Years ago -- The Boatswain's Mate of
the Britannia -- Left on Tabor Island -- Cyrus Harding's
Hand -- The mysterious Document.
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.
"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 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 favour."
"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
"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
"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, whilst 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 dining-room 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
The engineer rose.
"We ask you nothing, my friend," said he, "it is your right to be
"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 Bermouilli, 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
"This latitude was 37░ 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 Bermouilli, on the Australian coast, on the 20th of
"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 travellers. 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
"'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,' added he, '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, whilst the Duncan, under charge of the mate, Tom
Austin, proceeded to Melbourne, there to await Lord Glenarvan's
"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 had endeavoured 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
Here the stranger stopped for a moment. His voice trembled, but he
"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
"The Duncan cruised about on this coast until the 3rd of March. On
that day Ayrton heard the report of guns. The guns of the Duncan
were being fired, and soon Lord Glenarvan and his companions came on
"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
"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
"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
"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
"'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 on the 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
"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 amongst them! How he
suffered, that wretched man! How he laboured 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 ever
suffered! Oh! how dreadful was this solitude, to a heart tormented by
"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
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
"A document?" repeated Ayrton, who did not appear to know what he
"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.
And Ayrton, bowing, reached the door and departed.
Conversation -- Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett -- An Idea
of the Engineer's -- The Electric Telegraph -- The Wires --
The Battery -- The Alphabet -- Fine Season -- Prosperity of
the Colony -- Photography -- An Appearance of Snow -- Two
Years in Lincoln Island.
"Poor man!" said Herbert, who had rushed to the door, but returned,
having seen Ayrton slide down the rope of the lift and disappear in
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 draw-plate I think we shall
"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 draw-plate, 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 utilise. 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 draw-plate, 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 wire-drawers, 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 graphyte which
is found in the retorts of gas manufactories, after the coal has been
dehydrogenised, could have been obtained, but it would have been
necessary to establish a special apparatus, involving great labour. As
to zinc, it may be remembered that the case found at Flotsam Point was
lined with this metal, which could not be better utilised than for
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
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 magnetised, and returned through the earth to the negative
pole. If the current was interrupted the magnet immediately became
unmagnetised. 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 those animals absorbed a great part of
Neb and Pencroft's time. The onagas, 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
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 frequently 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
thickest of the vast forest, but nothing suspicious ever appeared.
Neither Top nor Jup, who accompanied him, ever betrayed by their
behaviour 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
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, hyposulphate 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 21st--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
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
recognise 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
Recollections of their Native Land -- Probable Future --
Project for surveying the Coasts of the Island -- Departure
on the 16th of April -- Sea-view of Reptile End -- The
basaltic Rocks of the Western Coast -- Bad Weather -- Night
comes on -- New Incident.
Two years already! and for two years the colonists had had no
communication with their fellow-creatures! They were without news from
the civilised 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 honour of the American
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
However, one chance of rescue existed, and this chance was discussed
one day in 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 Pomatous," 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
"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,"
"Who is that?" asked Pencroft.
"That is true," replied Herbert.
"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, whilst 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 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
"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
"At any rate," remarked Pencroft, "it is well understood that if we do
leave Lincoln Island in some way or another, 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 this world, his family, his
friends, his native land!"
Matters being thus decided, the building of a vessel large enough to
sail either to the Archipelagos 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
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
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 the 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
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 crystallisation 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 equalled 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
"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 cable-lengths from the coast.
In the north-west 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
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
"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 forebode
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
"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
"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 favourable 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 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 Cyrus Harding, "can you not anchor off the
"Anchor near land, with bad weather coming on!" exclaimed the sailor.
"What are you thinking of, captain? We should run aground to a
"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 light-house 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
for it, 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 in 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!"
A Night at Sea -- Shark Gulf -- Confidences -- Preparations
for Winter -- Forwardness of the bad Season -- Severe Cold --
Work in the Interior -- In six Months -- A photographic
Negative -- Unexpected Incident.
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
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 signalise 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
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
"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 harbour 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
"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 the bottom."
"That is all very well," then said the reporter; "but I must point out
to Pencroft that his harbour is wanting in one very important
"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
"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
sea-birds 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!" 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
"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 waters 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 precisely 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 Pencraft
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!"
Pencraft, 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 were obliged to acknowledge it, a mystery existed! An
inexplicable influence, evidently favourable 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 behaviour 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
whether willing or not, he felt subject. Neb and he often talked of
those unaccountable things, and both, their natures inclining them to
the marvellous, 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 the
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 the 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 consequence might be terrible,
momentarily diverted from their projects Cyrus Harding and his
It was the month of October. The fine season was swiftly returning.
Nature was reviving; and among the evergreen foliage of the coniferŠ
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 endeavoured 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
The telescope, after having slowly swept the horizon, at last stopped
on the looked-for spot, and Cyrus Harding lowering it, pronounced one
And in fact a vessel was in sight, off Lincoln Island!
THE TEMPLE PRESS, PRINTERS, LETCHWORTH